Fruits, Bus Bar and The Bridge
Coming into Chiang Mai from Buti’s farm, the first thing I saw when Katie and I got off at Warorot Markets was the fruit – passionfruit, jackfruit, durian, apples, pears, bananas, mangosteen, tamarind, and – what I’d been desperately craving – coconuts, kept in buckets of ice so that they were wonderfully refreshing to drink in the hot sun. This was a good omen, I thought. Finding coconuts at the start of my time here – when I’d had to hunt for them in Bangkok – definitely made me see the city in a positive light.
Katie had already been in Chiang Mai for two weeks so she knew where everything was, and walked me to my hostel, then checked in to a cheaper/better one down the road where they had free bananas. I was jealous. At my hostel, which I’d already paid the deposit for, I somehow got into a conversation with a bunch of arrogant Americans who were going on about how travel insurance was for untravelled, over cautious wimps. I was not a fan.
Luckily, I had a good escape plan. My tablet’s keyboard case had broken just before I left Bangkok so that I couldn’t type up my blog anymore, and Katie had been an absolute darling and offered to come along with me to look for a new one.
You’d assume that the second largest city in Thailand would have things like this, but our search for a tablet keyboard case was akin to going on the quest for the Holy Grail, except that instead of finding what we were looking for at the end, we were told that you couldn’t find a keyboard case anywhere in Thailand except Bangkok.
I comforted myself with cheesecake instead, which didn’t solve the problem but it did make me feel better. “Feel like going out tonight?” I asked Katie as we headed back forlornly. “Nah, I might have a quiet night in,” she said, which was fair enough as she was leaving the next day. Of course, 45 minutes later I messaged her again “Some of my room-mates want to go out, feel like coming?” and she replied back “I’ll be there in 10.”
Thank goodness Katie came. My roomies were lovely – Chris and Cat, a couple from the UK, Andrew, a Canadian chef, and some guy who wasn’t actually in our room but had been talking to Andrew, named Jim – but we had a totally awkward dynamic at first, until Katie came along. Katie’s one of those people who’s incredibly bubbly and funny and gets everyone talking. I could totally understand how she’d been a really successful promo girl back home.
We didn’t have a big night, but we did go to this cool little place called Bus Bar which was an open air place right on the water with two actual buses which they’d gutted out and turned into bars, and then meandered on to a little live music place where they were playing classic rock covers.
The highlight of the night, however, was when we tried to get shots of ourselves in mid-air on this pretty little bridge. There were Chinese tourists lining up to take photos of themselves doing it, and after watching them for a while Katie decided we needed to copy them. As you can see, we totally nailed it….not. (Admittedly, that might have been my fault.)
Cafes, Secondhand Bookstores and ATVs
The next day, Katie left but Anton arrived, and we spent the afternoon cruising around cafes – Chiang Mai has an awesome cafe scene – drinking Thai Iced Tea (a condensed milk based concoction that’s more or less saturated with sugar) and visiting second hand bookshops.
Chiang Mai is fantastic for second hand bookshops – the best are Gecko Books, The Lost Bookshop, and Backstreet Books, and you generally buy a book for around 200 THB (8 AUD) and they’ll buy it back for half the price. The bookshops were fun to spend time in, the owners were really chilled and friendly, and I ended up starting on the Wheel of Time Series, which was a mistake as it’s 14 books long, and it was a pain running around between stores trying to hunt down each subsequent book in the series.
I didn’t just spend my time reading though – I also got out of town on an ATV, which was meant to be a three hour trip but ended up going for five hours. My butt was not used to spending five hours on an ATV. By around the 3hr mark my glutes were struggling. When I got off after 5 hours, I felt like I never wanted to sit on anything ever again.
The pain in my derrière aside, it was lovely. The mountains around Chiang Mai are gorgeous, especially just as the sun’s coming down. They’re so serene and it’s lovely to stop along the way at the little roadside stalls to eat freshly barbecued skewers. Even better are the strawberry stalls, where you can get fresh and dried strawberries, strawberry liqueur, strawberry wine and strawberry syrup – all really cheap.
There’s also a wealth of entertainment to be had if you park your ATV and wait a while. You’ll get flocks of young Asian couples coming by and taking selfies of themselves sitting on it, and even more girls asking bystanders to take a photo of them doing sexy movie poses, butts and boobs out and lips pouted.
Seeing a live Muay Thai fight, for some reason that I can’t quite fathom, is one of those ‘must-do’ things in Chiang Mai, so one evening Anton and I booked two tickets and meandered down to the Thapae Boxing Stadium to have a squiz.
The good bits about it were the warming up sessions they had in between rounds, where some of the fighters would do these strange dances to limber up that reminded me a little of Hawaiian hula girls and looked just as funny as you might imagine. I was also fairly amused by the headgear they had going, which looked like they’d taken the net out of a tennis racket and stuck the racket around their head (handle at the back).
The actual fighting though, was incredibly mediocre. They spend most of their time latched in each other’s embraces, which just felt kind of homoerotic to me, but not very fierce or entertaining. In fact, I found the fighting bits really boring, and mainly looked forward to the warm ups in between when they’d put the tennis rackets on their heads and do their hula girl dances again.
They did have some great half time entertainment however, where they blindfolded a group of Muay Thai students, stuck them in the ring together, and they tried to beat each other up. The best part was when they’d occasionally accidentally get the referee, who would then retaliate by roundhouse kicking the offender with an immense amount of glee.
Lady Boy Cabaret and Zoe In Yellow
My absolute favourite part of being in Chiang Mai was the Lady Boy Cabaret at Anusarn Market. It was 200 THB, you got a free drink, and the show was fantastic. The girls were really hot, and I would never have been able to tell that they were trans. They were also incredibly cheeky, and loved to come over and mess with anyone who seemed uncomfortable with the whole thing.
The costumes were gorgeous, with lots of feathers, sequins, lace and mesh, the dances were lascivious and sultry, and at one point one of them came over (in the middle of a song) and kissed me, and at the end of the show Anton and I got up and joined them dancing on the stage.
Incidentally, Anton’s hostel was also owned by a lady boy, who’d invited him to come out with her that night, to Zoe in Yellow. Zoe in Yellow is the place to go out in Chiang Mai. There’s heaps of small places that are okay, but Zoe’s where you go if you want to have a big night. We totally wanted to have a big night, and we’d heard that partying with her was wild, so we were pretty keen.
We popped back to his hostel to drop off our stuff, ran into his new dorm mates (a bunch of 19 year olds from Leeds who were cool despite their age), and all headed to Zoe’s together. It didn’t disappoint. Anton’s lady boy (I feel bad for referring to her by that title but I never got her name) was there with friends and a couple of bottles of rum which she kept refilling our cups with. The music was decent, the place was banging, and we ended up having a rocking time.
At the end of it I went back to Anton’s hostel with the bunch of them, not wanting to walk back to mine alone in the middle of the night, commandeered a bed for a little nap, and then headed back to my place as soon as the sun came up.
Having to pack and move after a big night is hard, but I managed to get the packing part done and got all ready to head to Pai before I started vomiting…. and then kept vomiting at regular intervals for the rest of the day.
Needless to say, I did not end up making it to Pai until the next day, and because my hostel had no more vacancies, I had to switch to another one, all while running regularly to the bathroom to throw up my insides.
On the plus side, Anton was lovely enough to keep bringing me fruit and cheering me up. And he let me take a photo of him with a light up headband on, sprawled across the cushions pouting like the girls in Thai music videos. That almost made it all worth it.