Chiang Mai is Thailand's second city and it was our second stop in our Thailand adventure. After 5 days in Bangkok, I was very happy to be moving on and had high hopes for Chiang Mai. I'm very pleased to say that it definitely didn't disappoint and I loved every minute in the city, it's been my favourite place so far!
We took a sleeper train from Bangkok, leaving at 7.30pm and arriving in Chiang Mai (Thailand's second city) at about 11am the next morning, as demonstrated by the photo above (please excuse my general face/hair/tourist style front-backpack...). It was meant to be much quicker, only taking about 14 hours, however it seemed to be running on what Josh and I call 'Thai time' and then decided to stop at one station for almost two hours for some unknown reason. I actually really enjoyed the sleeper train, we started off in little armchair-like seats, then a little while into the journey the staff came round to convert the seats into beds. We had pillows and blankets fresh from the packets and the staff were always on hand to order food and drinks from, I thought it was a really good service. Seeing as you sleep for most the journey, the time passes quickly and soon enough you've arrived at the station!
As soon as we left the train we knew Chiang Mai would be so much nicer than Bangkok, we instantly noticed how much less 'hassle' there was from tuk tuk drivers and sales people. It took us a while to get our heads around how friendly the people were, people would just stop for a chat in the street, but we were always wondering how they were going to turn the conversation into selling us something... but it never happened. Bangkok had turned us into paranoid/dubious travellers. In my first few days in Chiang Mai I had three separate conversations with Thai ladies about how pale my skin is... pretty surreal that they were stroking my arms and telling me how much they liked it! It's so different to the UK where most people want to be tanned.
There's so much to do in Chiang Mai, even if you just wander round the streets and take in all the temples and buildings. We hired bicycles one day and just cycled round to see the sights. We also went on a Thai cooking course which was such a good day! We booked the course through our hostel's tour service, pretty much every hotel in Thailand provides this service which is pretty handy, and we were picked up from our door for a 5 hour course. We were taken around the local food market to learn about the different fruit and veg, then taken to the cooking school where everyone had their own little gas burner and wok to learn the recipes! We were lucky to be on the course with some really fun people, so that made it even better :) I'm really looking forward to making some of my favourite Thai dishes when I'm back at home... if I can remember how!
Chiang Mai has an amazing Night Bazaar, which again, I just wanted to buy everything from! It's a massive street market, lined with stalls, selling everything you could possibly want. It also has a large food court full of portable vendors and restaurants, at the back of this food court we came across a Ladyboy cabaret show which we were lured into. It was such a good show, they were amazing dancers and so beautiful too. Put me to shame with my minimal travelling makeup! Josh got accosted by one too, which was pretty funny!
Chiang Mai also hosts two 'Walking Street' markets on both Saturdays and Sundays every week, which are great and are renowned for locally made and handmade products. It's the perfect place to pick up souvenirs and gifts, I definitely recommend the Sunday Market - I picked up loads of gifts, fairy lights and also a cute handmade skirt for only 2GBP (I don't have a pound sign on this keyboard!).
We also went to The Elephant Nature Park while in Chiang Mai, but I want to write a whole post on that as I have so many pictures, so I'll leave that for another day :)
I would really recommend visiting Chiang Mai if you're ever travelling Thailand, or even want to go there on holiday. There's so many nice food stalls, restaurants and bars too as well as the numerous day trips you can take from the city. If you ever want to know any good places and hotels to stay in Thailand, just let me know and I can try my best to recommend!