That was our weekend. How was yours? Show us by linking up below or at Communal Global!
How did you spend your weekend? Join in at Communal Global!
In the two and a half years we’ve lived here in Thailand, we’ve hosted close to 40 different visitors. And of course, we love to introduce family and friends to our new home. Sure, we hit up the tourist hot spots like the Night Bazaar and the day market at Warorot, do a stint at some famous temples, and ride elephants through the jungle. But my favorite things about Chiang Mai aren’t necessarily the ones you’ll find in The Lonely Planet.
What I love about Chiang Mai is that it is both exotic and cosmopolitan: between elephant rides and bamboo rafting, you can sip a world class cappuccino and nibble on macarons; after careening around in a tuk tuk and shopping for handicrafts, you can say cheers over a fabulous cocktail or a variety of fresh fruit smoothies; when you’ve finished your hour-and-a-half Thai massage (for $8), you can make a dinner selection between homestyle street food served from an old woman slinging bags from a cart, upper-crust Thai curries and fresh steamed fish at fine dining over the river, Burmese delicacies by the Sunday market, Korean BBQ, the freshest sushi you’ve ever tasted, French…Italian…Mexican…you name it. You need only know where to go.
My favorite thing to do, when friends come to town, is to share with them some hidden gems, off the tourist track. If you were to come to visit, here are 5 of my favorite things to show you:
Outside of Thailand, it’s a little known secret that coffee has become both a fad and a high art in the north here. Just a few years ago, the best coffee you could hope for in most areas of Thailand would have been Nescafe. But the king has been developing a royal project to get local farmers off of growing opium, and helped them learn how to cultivate other cash crops instead like strawberries, avocados…and coffee. Now there are large regions in the north devoted to growing, harvesting, and roasting coffee beans, and Thai beans are quickly beginning to rival Central American and African beans. A tiny little shop, called Ponganes, just off Moon Muang Road is one of our favorites–and they have excellent croissants as well.
Not only are the beans gaining recognition, so are the baristas. Our absolute favorite shop to frequent is called Ristr8o, run by a young aficionado, Arnon, and his girlfriend, Jem. They’re super friendly and humble. You’d never know he’s a world-champion latte artist who trained internationally, learning coffee from masters, if it weren’t for the superior quality of every single cup of cappuccino, latte, or macchiato he makes. His coffees seriously rival the ones I’ve had in Florence and Rome.
I probably don’t have to tell you that Thai food is amazing. And that Thai food in Thailand is even more amazing. If I haven’t already piqued your interest with the sheer variety of cuisines that are on offer here in Chiang Mai, I would whet your appetite with the boundless variety of flavors, served fresh and cheap, available within Thai cuisine itself. Everything from fresh fruit (mangos, pineapple, lychees, rambutans, papayas, guavas, custard apples, passion fruit, mangosteens, etc., often peeled and cut up for your convenience) to fresh fish (served deep fried, steamed, in curries or in soups, with countless sauces), noodle or veggie stir-fries, cool meat salads in chili, mint, and lime, coconut delights, roasted duck, and more kinds of snacks than one could possibly count.
When we take our friends out, we eat until stuffed, and rarely spend more than $20 for 4 people.
Tiger Kingdom is one of the tourist destinations, but not one you always hear about until you actually get here. But really, who can resist the opportunity to bottle feed a baby tiger?
Or watch them play…
If you’re extra brave, you can go make friends with the big boys too.
No joke, the north of Thailand is gorgeous. The beaches in the south get all the attention, but for me, nothing beats the view of a couple on a motorcycle tootling past rice paddies, with the mountains in the distance. All kinds of tropical flora and fauna present themselves throughout the year, though rainy season is when everything gets seriously lush and colorful. Most people try to come during the cool season, thinking they’ll beat the heat. But when my best friends ask me when they should come, unless they’re hoping to catch a particular festival, I always say rainy season, hands down. The rains, which are warm and tropical (not cold like in Europe or America) keep the weather on the cooler side, and help make everything smell green and fresh. Scenery-wise, I think that’s when northern Thailand is at its best. Plus, there usually aren’t quite as many tourists since everybody else came during cold season.
If you came to visit and had a little extra time on your hands, I’d take you to one of our favorite spots on the lake, nestled just below the mountains: a restaurant with little private huts that sit right out on the water (you have to walk up bamboo planks to get to the huts), where you can spend hours just lounging around, munching, and sipping beers. No time limit, no one hurrying you along. And each dish will run you only about a dollar or two.
If you’re in the mood for a little hike in the jungle, I’d take you to Wat Pa-Laad, a little temple hidden up on the mountains, just below Doi Suthep, the really famous temple in Chiang Mai. All the tourists go to Doi Suthep, but I would tell you that you can skip that temple and go to Wat Pa-Laad instead. It’s far quieter, more meditative, you don’t get jostled by a plethora of touts selling their wares, and the views are equally, if not more, stunning. If you don’t like the hike idea, it’s possible to drive straight there too. But if you’re in the mood for a tiny bit of adventure, the approach from the hike leads you up to a waterfall that opens out at the top, just at the base of temple. When you turn around from that vantage point, you see all of Chiang Mai spread out below you. It’s hard to beat that.
It’s hard to convey just how Chiang Mai feels in pictures, or even in words. It’s much like the rest of Thailand, in that the people are generous, polite, patient, kind, and they love to eat and they love to laugh. Even though Chiang Mai is a fairly large city, it differs from Bangkok in that it has still managed to retain a laid back, easy-going nature. Life moves more slowly here. Friends and family who come to visit are unfailingly impressed by how livable Chiang Mai is. There’s something for just about everyone: fun shopping, cinemas, and restaurants if you’re in the mood for city life, yoga and temples for quiet meditation, rock climbing, camping, zip lining, and hiking if you want to get back to nature, and jazz clubs for anyone wanting to get their groove on.
The part I really love about Chiang Mai is the pastiche of old and new: fancy resort malls springing up amidst the ruins of the old city, tradition living side by side with modernity. Chiang Mai is growing, and with that growth has come a vibrant, youthful, experimental spirit, where young artists and entrepreneurs are trying out food fusions, a burgeoning wine & beer scene, coffee, local farm-to-table organic farming, and international fashions. There’s almost always something new to try out, and still you can always count on that soft Thai smile and bow to welcome you.
I’ve lived here for over 2 years now and I still love every minute of life here.
I came across this image pinned on Pinterest and felt instantly both happy and guilty. I felt happy because, ever since I was about 20 years old or so, I’ve made it my life’s goal to travel someplace new every year. For me, travel is an essential part of a life lived with intention: it exposes me to new sights, sounds, people, cultures…ways of thinking, ways of interacting, and ways of being, so I can be more intentional about my habits of thought and action, choosing which ones are worth keeping and which are worth sloughing away. I’m the kind of person who gravitates towards friends I admire because I love to learn from them. It’s my friends who help me be more generous, more kind, more complimentary, more willing to stand up for myself, more funny, more open, more creative, and more courageous than I would have been, if left to my own devices.
Travel does that for me too. While others might worship power, money, status, or prestige, I bow to the altars of Freedom and Experience. I choose an unfettered life in which I can continually explore and learn and grow. I chose a lifestyle that affords me opportunities to do so, even if it means being far from people we love and that I roam outside the box, fall off the corporate ladder, and don’t fit in anyone’s pigeonhole.
I couldn’t always afford travel, of course. The greatest irony, I discovered when I graduated from college and started working at a publishing company, is that the college life afforded plenty of time to travel, but no money. I started working and had plenty of money, but no time. Nevertheless, I made my resolution stick. By hook or by crook, I would see some place new every year. It didn’t have to be exotic and it didn’t have to be fancy, or even comfortable. Sure, flying off to Greece would be lovely, but there were plenty of things to explore in my vicinity.
So, sometimes that new place involved a flight overseas (my 25th birthday present to myself was a trip, all by myself, to Germany). Some years it was as exotic as South Carolina. Or it was a festival in the desert, like Burning Man. Or just a new city in my home state. And I’ve bunked on couches, camped in tents, shared rooms in hostels, and even spent nights sleeping in a car to make it possible.
When I came across that pin, I felt so happy because this one life goal has brought me so many experiences and a life that I already feel has been so enriched.
But I felt guilty too. Because this whole living life with intention thing is an ongoing process. I’ve flown halfway around the world and landed in the tropics on the other side, but that grand gesture doesn’t let me off the hook. Just because I did it once, doesn’t mean I get to be complacent. If I want to still learn and see and experience and grow, I can’t forget my life goal.
And this year, I almost had–might have entirely, if I hadn’t seen that quote. Since getting pregnant, I’ve lain low. We had talked about going to Bangkok for a shopping & eating expedition at our favorite shops and restaurants, but I mentally shoved it aside, feeling uncomfortable with too much exertion when I felt I should focus on the baby. This year we’re celebrating our 5th wedding anniversary not by jetting off like we did last year, but by staying at an uber-fancy resort right here in town. (Turns out, when you don’t have to pay for transcontinental flights, you can put that money towards some swank accommodations!) And maybe that’s okay. The Parent ‘Hood is definitely new territory for us–a whole new wealth of experience and learning that I can only begin to imagine.
Now that I’m thinking about it again, we’ll probably work in a day or weekend getaway to one of the little towns near us that we haven’t yet seen. I hear Chiang Dao is beautiful, and it’s only a few hours’ drive away. I do wonder though, whether a new place in life constitutes a new place for being and seeing. Maybe, as Proust has said, it’s about seeing things with new eyes more than it’s about just seeing new things period.
Either way, every now and again, it helps to get that reminder to stay open.
This is probably stretching the definition of a weekend, including pictures from our flight home last week, but touching down in Tokyo was just so gorgeous at sunset, I just had to share. One day, I will actually visit this city. I’ve traveled through here six or eight times, but I’ve never actually stayed. One day, I will.
The rest of the photos include:
roses my parents bought to welcome us home
a ghetto-ass plastic bottle turned vase, thanks to Pinterest inspiration
home brewed tea + old shirt
to create a tea-stained (on purpose) shirt
and my new favorite funky vegetable: wing beans.
Slice them up raw and toss them in salad, they’re like crunchy stars.
(Also good in soup.)
Linking up with Communal Global
Today, I am sipping coffee out of my favorite Harry Potter mug. It’s one with a picture of Hagrid on it, carrying baby Harry on the flying motorbike – funnily apropos, given that tomorrow, our adventures in America will come to an end, and we’ll be flying back to Thailand.
I’m not looking forward to the long, long flight. I’m also getting a little sick (surprise, surprise, considering, in the past month, we haven’t lit in one city for more than five days at a time). I’m hoping I can stave off the bug so I’m not too miserable on the plane.
In the last few days I’ve been at home, I dug up some old photos of me as a baby, and my family when they were younger. I chose several favorites to make sure I have a digital copy of – because who knows what will happen to the hardcopies in the future, right? It’s good to have a back up.
Here’s one of my dad, back when he was a soldier:
And my mom (she’s the one on the right):
And here’s me as a baby:
Actually, I’m pretty sure I was trying to be some kind of Venus fly trap when I was a kid
because I sure did spend a lot of time with my mouth wide open.
I was agape.
Anyway, today we’re going to spend packing (i.e., shoving all the new stuff we’ve acquired into every crook, cranny, and pocket and praying that we’re still under the weight limit). And we’ll pick up my nieces from school and take them skating one last time and maybe have one last game of baseball together before we go. And then, in the morning, we shall begin the long trek back.
I probably won’t be able to have a Bigger Picture Moment post up this week since we’ll be in transit until late on Friday, so I’ll catch up with you all next week. I hope everyone affected by Sandy stays safe and dry and that this storm passes quickly.
Till next time!
A visit with Toby’s colleague – whose apartment has a fantastic aesthetic
and a fabulous pooch named Henri.
A pumpkin spice latte
because if you’re Stateside in the fall, it’s practically a requirement.
More coastal scenery on the drive from the OC to San Diego
An early dinner at Stone Brewery
and their smoked porter with vanilla beans
and Toby’s new camera.
Also linking up with Communal Global
As I write this, I’m rocking out to Fun.’s “Some Nights” and “Home” by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes. Those two songs have become the soundtrack to my trip home and the epic time we’ve been having with our friends. The latter was playing while we were folding pinwheels and making bouquets out of succulents. And the bride and I grabbed each other and belted out “Home, home is whenever I’m with you” as we danced in celebration of their union and our reunion.
I’m going to remember that forever.
Toby & I drove down the coast route, the Pacific Coast Highway, our favorite way to get from Santa Barbara to L.A.
We had the top down on the convertible. The ocean was candescent with greens and blues. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
I asked Toby what top three qualities he appreciated most in people. He said an adventurous spirit or drive, self-sufficiency, and being unpretentious about who you are is what he valued most.
My top three are: loyalty, compassion, and an approach to life with a healthy sense of humor.
What are your top three?
Travel has expanded my definition of home. It’s not one place or one scene or one idea. But it’s a large, beautiful home. And my heart overflows.
That right there is some red velvet bread pudding. It looks like dessert, but it was my breakfast. If we were sitting down for coffee and a chat right now, I’d have a ton of stories to tell you. It’s been an action-packed week, in which we’ve rolled sets of silverware into napkins, folded pinwheels until our fingerprints near wore off, made bouquets of succulents, eaten more red meat and drank more malty & hoppy beer than we have in the past year, partaken in deep fried Snickers and cornbread Kielbasa sausage pops (seriously), watched grannies dance Gangnam style, and shuddered at the “chill” of 60-degree weather. (We’re wusses.)
I’d tell you about the cousins of the bride, who, during the wedding, took a Slip ‘n Slide down to the beach and set it up to slide right into the ocean, but when one cousin slid down, the tide went out and he slid right down and rolled over into sand. He did it in his under-britches and another cousin stole his clothes, so he had to run half-naked back to the reception to get his clothes.
I’d also show you the video of the opening dance and the bride & groom’s first dance. (Skip ahead past the first minute, and be sure to stick around for the bride & groom’s dance.)
So that happened. I also love how none of us went to help them up.
The wedding was a blast, but it wasn’t all we did. I joined my boss from SOLD and, together, we gave a presentation at Westmont. My best friend from college and her husband came down from San Francisco drove all the way down to see us, so every moment not dedicated to wedding stuff, I spent with them. Other friends from college were in town for the wedding, so we caught up with them too. Toby and I also enjoyed driving around and seeing old familiar sights.
I had kind of forgotten how freakin’ scenic Santa Barbara is. Mountains, ocean, palm trees…crisp fall weather.
Having a convertible to drive around in is also fun. (Thanks, Mom!)
It’s been a great weekend. Tonight, we’ll drive back down to LA to hang out with Toby’s colleague & his wife. We need to stop at the embassy again on Wednesday morning, then we’ll head back to Orange County. I want to soak up as much time as possible with my nieces and nephew before we leave. But there are dinner plans with family friends and a trip to San Diego in the mix, so we’ll pretty much just keep on hopping until we fly out.
How has your week been? Thanks for stopping by for the coffee and the chat! Hope you’re enjoying some fabulous fall weather too!
Toby driving down the coast; me peeking out of the convertible
red velvet bread pudding, more dessert than breakfast
An October wedding
a gift trunk
succulent centerpieces; the opening dance
the view from the reception area
bride & groom; candy wedding favors
guests on the dance floor
pies for dessert & a neglected glass for wine.
It was a jubilant weekend and a sweet & fun wedding.
Also linking up with Communal Global