Show & Tell in Chiang Mai

After much hulabaloo with the bus out of Bangkok, including several almost-misses and me yelling down the dark streets of a Bangkok alleyway “STUUU!!! STUUUU!!! WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?!”, we finally got out of Bangkok on Sunday  night.

The overnight bus ride was actually quite good.  The blaring of the movie Karate Kid (2010, not 1984) didn’t keep me up at all, and I kept up my streak of sleeping like a baby in a moving vehicle.

The midnight rest stop confirmed what I really should have known all along – always take your own toilet paper – and we got to Chiang Mai at around 6am.  Made our way to Alam’s place (nice to have a free place to stay for a few nights), and then went to check out the city I’d heard so much about over the past two and a half years.  Alam has loved living here so much, I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.  And to tell you the truth – I just didn’t see it.  Not at first.

Chaing Mai is so different from Bangkok, it was almost like culture shock all over again.  Where were all the street vendors?  Where was the $1 pad thai and the $3 t-shirts?  Alam’s street is nice, even a little swanky, but at 9am, I was expecting the vendors to be out in full force, and they weren’t.

So we had to walk a bit to find food (not that far really) and after our $1 rice and curry breakfast (typically Thai and so delicious) we made our way down to the “old city” – the area of Chiang Mai enclosed by a wall that houses many a temple as well as the backpacker area of the city.

The wall itself is pretty cool – I wasn’t sure if we were allowed to climb it to take pictures, but…ya know…

The day was pretty quiet, and to be honest, I was starting to miss the hustle and bustle of Bangkok a bit, but all that changed that evening.

We took a Song Tow up the mountain to have dinner with Alam and his friends from school, (a ride that Alam said would be 40 minutes but was actually took us 2 hours), and were greeted by a screaming Alam and his friends on the dark mountain roadside (sreaming because our little red taxi van went barreling right by them).  But we found them, we had a wonderful dinner and decided that we should spend a few days in the mountains.

So the next day, we packed up our stuff from Alam’s apartment, and made our way back up the mountain for a few days at the Suan Bua Hotel & Resort.  And yes, it’s as beautiful as it looks.

Our first day there was spent with Alam at his school, and it was kind of like being on Show & Tell.  Everywhere we went, people wanted to meet us.  I’m sure the fact that Alam had been telling everyone for the past month that his big sister was coming for a visit didn’t hurt.  It was nice to hear him say, with pride, over and over, “Meet my sister”.  Followed several times by “And my step brother”. ?!?!?!  We had a good laugh over that misspeak for a while.

One of the most fun things I did that day was guest lecture in Alam’s social studies class.  Twenty 12-year-olds were going to start learning about Mahatma Gandhi.  I know quite a bit about his life, having taken a class on him way back in University (and, ya know, I saw the movie, yo) so Alam gave me the first half hour to give a little lesson on MG.  And honestly, it was a lot of fun.  By the end of it, Alam had the whole class screaming that I should be a teacher.  Not necessarily something I’m considering, but it felt good.

In the afternoon, we took a ride on Alam’s scooter.  Driving a manual scooter for the first time on a bumpy, windy, mountain road is not necessarily the best introduction to the vehicle, but Stu did a bang up job.  And doesn’t he look cute in a helmet?

After dinner, we had drinks at a bar up on the mountain near the school called Best View.  It really does have the best view.  And, I’m very very happy to report that the music of Stone Road is now on the permanent playlist at the Best View Bar. 🙂


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