With only 3 weeks left in my trip, I decided to bypass the beaches of southern Thailand and head straight for Chiang Mai in the north. I was afraid if I went south that I would encounter the oh-so-troublesome “I’ve seen better” syndrome that is an unfortunate side effect of regular travel. I had just recently visited some hard-to-top beaches around Australia and Indonesia and figured I’d see what else Thailand has to offer.
I flew into Bangkok, the massive, hectic capital city famous with backpackers for the mental, non-stop parties found on Khao San Road.
My flight arrived late at night, and I got to the airport and realized I hadn’t really thought about where I was going to stay or how I was going to get there. After about two hours spent wandering the airport investigating different transportation options, I finally got on the newly built Skytrain and reluctantly headed towards Khao San because I knew I’d have no trouble finding a place to stay.
The next morning I made my way past the Zombies still wandering the streets at 6 am on my way to catch my train to Chiang Mai. Due to the flooding, they had to re-route transportation and my train ride turned into a bus ride. I had heard horror stories of friends traveling Asia and getting stuck on long, hot, crowded bus rides with upset stomachs. I was dreading this 10 hour trip, expecting it to be smelly and run-down, and picturing myself getting a sick stomach again and being trapped.
I could not have been more wrong. What I got was the flashest bus ride of my life. I had a super comfortable seat that reclined almost 45 degrees with more leg room than an exit row. It had all the amenities of an over-seas flight, with built in adjustable head-rests, a pillow and blanket waiting on my seat, and in-drive entertainment. Already impressed, I was shocked when a transvestite bus stewardess started her rounds, bringing snack boxes, iced coffee, and cold cloths for our faces throughout the journey. To be clear, I was not shocked about the tranny (“ladyboys”, as they call them, are infamous in Thailand), I was shocked by the fact that my bus had a stewardess. And he/she was bringing me snack boxes labeled “Your Best Friend Companion” with sugary treats and buns filled with a confusing yet delicious green or purple paste/jelly hybrid substance. Then about ten minutes into the ride I was wondering how the person behind could be kneeing my seat with all the legroom we had, at which point I realized oh, that’s just my massage chair. Casually.
But then it got better. I’m not sure if I was more excited about the massage chair or the fact that there was a toilet. A real toilet, with a seat, and a flush, and, oh it was almost too wonderful for words…toilet paper!!! I almost didn’t want the ride to end, but I arrived in Chiang Mai ready to have some adventures.
The next day I headed out with a group of Australian boys from my guesthouse to do something called “Flight of the Gibbon.” It’s 2km of zip lines broken up by 18 treetop platforms through the rainforest. Quite a change from the overly cautious safety regulations you’d find on trips like this in the West, we were quickly strapped into harnesses upon arrival, received a safety briefing that went something like “lots of safety, lots of funny” and then ran after our guides to the start point where they literally grabbed our carabiners and pushed us off the first platform before we could say “Sawatdee kaa” (hello in Thai).
Chiang Mai was off to a flying start (I couldn’t help myself). I had so much zen time in Indonesia I was craving some adrenaline, so after spending the day being thrown off treetops 1300 m above sea level, I was still just getting started on the adventures…