The last time I traveled somewhere new was in 2014. I went to Bangkok and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. I remember it all so clearly. I hated the city, the pollution and all the noise. I also remember that I would’ve tolerated Bangkok a lot more if I wasn’t in so much pain. My body felt strange, it ached everywhere, it just didn’t feel right.
By the end of the year, I knew what was wrong.
Fast forward to present time, I am still in treatment but it is not as hard as the years before. I go to the hospital every two months for an antibody infusion. Since this infusion does not have heavy side effects, I am able to lead a somewhat “normal life”.
One day my sister suggested a holiday for the whole family to relax and unwind, after all there was no doubt we needed it. When I asked her where, she wasn’t sure so we searched for options. I didn’t want to go too far as I didn’t want to overtire myself with long distance flight. After much searching, I suggested Chiang Mai in Thailand. I read that the city is relaxed (unlike Bangkok) and there are lots of cafes and restaurants. We all agreed.
As we landed in Chiang Mai, we were welcomed with a slight drizzle and cloudy sky. Since it was rainy season, the weather was humid but not too hot. From the airport we took Grab to the apartment we rented down town.
From the window of the car I could see Chiang Mai, vibrant with tourists walking here and there. There was a gate and a small river that seemed to go around the city. I noticed everything was tidy, from the plants surrounding the river to the sidewalks. There were people selling street food but they didn’t overcrowd the street. I saw red trucks or songthaew lining up by the side of the road, waiting for passengers. I had a feeling I was going to like this city.
The apartment I found was tucked in a small aisle or soi as the locals call it. In front of it was some traditional Lanna houses. The apartment was only three floors and though it was not far from the main road, it was peaceful and quiet. Inside, everything was clean, spacious with lots of natural light. I was in fact rather surprised at how nice the apartment was, the pictures shown on Airbnb certainly didn’t do it justice.
Since we arrived late in the afternoon, we decided to rest and freshen up before heading for an early dinner.
Being a person who loves to plan things, I had already made a Google map of all the places to visit and of course where to eat beforehand so we could use it during the trip. We were in Thailand after all and tasting local food was definitely something we intended to do. I saw on my map, there was a restaurant that I highlighted near where we stayed. The restaurant, called Lemongrass, boasted of its delicious Thai cuisine. We couldn’t wait.
It turned out we weren’t the only ones planning on dishing out at this place. When we arrived, there was already a line forming in front of the restaurant. A lively young lady was already writing down numbers to give out to the people in the queue. After a few minutes waiting, it was our turn. Finally!
We were tired and hungry, so we picked out some delicious looking dishes on the menu and patiently waited for our food to be delivered to the table. I think we ordered vegetable spring rolls, curry and vegetable stir fry. I honestly don’t remember much since we savoured all the food within minutes. I remember though the taste being subtle, despite the many spices it uses, but not any less delightful, it was just right.
After the meal, we walked down the street and there was a night market nearby. There were lots of vendors selling all kinds of things from food to handmade goods. I was ready to get offers from them but I never got any. What I realised was that be it vendors in night markets or songthaew drivers, they were never pushy. This was unexpected since I was used to pushy vendors in touristy places like Jogja and Bali. With this realisation, I immediately dropped my usual defensive mode and let myself enjoy the buzz of the night market.
We wandered for a while before deciding to take a rest.
On my first day in Chiang Mai, I felt an instant connection with the city and I wanted to absorb as much as I could while I was here.