48 hours after arriving in Thailand, I embarked on a journey through my second city—Chiang Mai. Although I enjoyed running around Bangkok sweating out my perm from 5 year ago, I was glad to finally reach a city that housed both a lively center city and a sprawling rural landscape. Again, my travel wife Sophia and I had no true itinerary, so each day we researched something new to do and tried to stay alive (we both have weak immune systems, shout out to my mother for not breast feeding me). Most of my time was spent outside of the city engaging in nature activities that left me vulnerable to all types of infections and diseases, none of which I got vaccines for, but I thugged it out.
Chiang Mai's charm is almost exclusively found in the neighboring towns that served as the main distributors of Thai culture and outdoor activities. In the spirit of a true, bougie, fake nature chick, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the various forests I encountered and thought, 'hey maybe outside isn't the most terrible place after all'. During my five days in Chiang Mai I visited temples, went zip lining, played with elephants, and enjoyed a meal at Sizzler (Thai food gets annoying after a while). I have yet to decide whether or not this was my favorite city in Thailand, but it sure made for some of my favorite memories.
1. Yellow Fever and Malaria are still very much a thing.
So basically your girl didn't get her shots. Why? Because I'm borderline ignorant and figured modern medicine cured everything white people are vulnerable to contract. Apparently vaccines are encouraged for those who plan to venture into rural areas, eat street food, and interact with live animals. I engaged in all of these activities without vaccines and for the most part it appears I'm still in good health. If you don't feel like dropping the cash for vaccinations don't fret, I met an American black women who's been living and playing with elephants for months without vaccines and she appeared fine (she was also walking around the elephant sanctuary with no shoes on though, so.....)
2. Locals will play American trap, rock, electronic, country, and salsa music (and maybe even your cousins new mixtape) before they play traditional Thai music.
You would think all a girl has to do is fly to Thailand to enjoy native Thai music, but it appears shit just ain't that simple. I can distinctly remember hearing two traditional Thai songs during my trip and both of them were bonus tracks on my taxi driver's CD. Thai people are strangely infatuated with latin and country music, specifically the type you hear during award shows prompting you to take a bathroom break. This is not the first time I've recognized the extensive impact American music has on the world; I've experience similar situations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. As a music lover this is largely disappointing, however, I have hope that locals will stop discounting the value of their native music, and support more local artists.
3. Don't ride elephants, they are not ponies.
I honestly don't see the appeal in riding animals in general so when Sophia advised that we would visit an elephant sanctuary instead of an elephant riding facility, I was down. Chiang Mai has several elephant sanctuaries that offer visitors the opportunity to feed, bathe, and pet elephants without the harm and risk of riding them. This was one of my favorite activities in Thailand and I highly suggest it for anyone who visits the area and isn't afraid of a little mud (I was really on my Eliza Thornberry). Side note: they had my black ass out in fields with no shoes and worn linen clothing, cutting sugar cane for the elephants with machete knives; that shit was extremely triggering.
4. Air Asia is the Asian equivalent of Soul Plane (if you haven't watched the movie turn to BET right now, I'm sure it's on).
After that flight I'm lucky to still have an eyeball. I'm assuming the pilot was a trainee (or simply not a pilot at all) because for 10 minutes during our descent we cruised at an altitude that gave Sophia a head ache, me the joy of piercing eye pain, and the lady sitting directly next to me three to four barf-bags full of memories. Not to mention, I think Kevin Hart did a better job landing his plane than my captain did (spoiler alert). To make matters worst, the airline made me repurchase my ticket at a hirer cost after I missed my original flight (due to a terrorist attack in Bangkok holding traffic). Although Asia Air is extremely cheap I suggest steering clear of budget airlines like this one, it's simply not worth it in the end.
5. Chiang Mai is the perfect place for zip lining.
Who said Black women aren't adventurous? Ya'll, I was out there flying through the sky, climbing wooden ladders, and crossing plank bridges. While abroad I always make a conscious effort to engage in at least one physical activity that will jolt me out of my comfort zone. I highly recommend taking in the views and adrenalin of a zip lining adventure at one of the many sites in the area. Now would I recommend you spending an extra 1000 baht for the photographers to take your pictures? No. All of my pictures were blurry and I'm still mad.
6. A lot of time is spent in cars.
I guess motorbikes are an option to, but as someone who's clumsy and values my life, I stuck with Uber. Unlike Bangkok, Chiang Mai does not have an advanced public transport system and activities and landmarks are very spread out, so be prepared for several long rides. Good thing is these drives give you the opportunity to see the city in full and learn interesting facts and events from your drivers.
7. Hot Chili's Thai food is some of the best in the city.
It's rare that I visit a restaurant twice in the same trip but for Hot Chili I made an exception. Aside from the fact that it looks like Valentine's Day everyday in there, it also offers an expansive menu of traditional Thai food that do not disappoint. I suggest you order the Crab Thai Fried Rice for an appetizer and the duck, YOU HAVE TO TRY THE DUCK.
8. There are stray dogs everywhere, and they have no chill.
There are an innumerable amount of dogs running around Thailand with they titties poking out trying to give me whatever the hell Tea Cake got in Zora Neal Hurston's The Eyes Are Watching God. Unlike stray dogs in other countries, Thai dogs like to play and don't understand I don't want to, 1) because they don't have shots and, 2) because I don't like dogs. The situation got so bad that my phone screen cracked during an incident where Sophia and I were cornered by two evil dogs. Apparently the country has a real issue with animal control, somebody better call Craig daddy from Friday.
9. Hiring a guide to walk through the temples enhances the experience.
I was too cheap to hire a guide, but I wish I did. Although the tour guides were fairly inexpensive my hesitancy stemmed from the language barrier, considering many of those we came in contact with possessed only a basic knowledge of English. Without a guide expect your experience to be purely surface level. The gold temples made for nice backdrops but I definitely feel like I missed out on a valuable learning experience. I plan to hire a tour guide the next time I visit Thailand.
10. It's worth it to reserve 1-2 days for full-day trips.
Because I didn't plan ahead I missed an opportunity to visit, Wat Rong Khun, a very popular all white temple 3 hours away from Chiang Mai (I even had a powder pink Issey Miyake two-piece set to match it *rolls eyes*). Aside from Wat Rong Khun, there are several other historic neighborhoods worth visiting that are 3-4 hours away from the main city. I suggest doing your research before you arrive and book a tour with a group to ensure you see all the best Chiang Mai has to offer.