Chiang Mai is not that exciting after all. Positioned as one the most thrilling places in Thailand, Chiang Mai is just like a mini-version of Bangkok but without all that energy. The city itself is rather bleak and despite its rich history there is nothing much to see. There are a bunch of ancient temples, but once you see one, you have seen them all (with a rare exception). On the other hand Chiang Mai is not about seeing places, but rather doing things. There are plenty of activities to do in and around the city, but unfortunately most of them are aimed at extracting money from tourists. You can choose between a cooking school course ✓, a Thai massage course ✓, zip lining either at Jungle Flight ✓ or The Flight of the Gibbon, jungle trekking, a bungie jump, rock climbing, excursions to nearby sights and a bunch of other things. Other than that, it is all about eating, drinking and shopping. Celebrating St. Patrik’s Day in an Irish bar was an interesting experience. The place full of Irish all wearing green, drinking like there is no tomorrow and singing traditional Irish songs. Almost made me forget that I was still in Thailand.
I thoroughly enjoyed cooking and massage courses, now the only thing needed to keep memory fresh is a lot of practice. Jungle Flight, zip lining through the jungle, was rather unexciting and not too mention expensivish and overhyped. First couple of rides were enjoyable, but after that it was all along “been there, done that” lines. There is a similar thing in Laos, Gibbon Experience, which I had tentatively planned to do first. The difference is the price is considerable higher(more than 200€ for three days), it lasts several days and you spend all that time up in the trees. Certainly not this time. As for shopping, Chiang Mai is known as the city for fashion in Thailand with plenty of things designed locally. Plus Northern Thailand is considerably cheaper than southern parts. One of my peak experiences in Chiang Mai was Sunday Market. On Sundays they close one of the streets for traffic and turn it into a night market extravaganza. Instead of buying things, I went for some photoshopping (in a literal way). As the result, I saved money and backpack space and snapped some decent shoots. I enjoy markets mostly for the food experience, as you get a chance to taste something different without going into the pricey gourmet territory. Small and cheap portions allow to taste several meals too. Plus things like fried grasshoppers, cicadas and silkworms are always a bonus. Oily, salty and crunchy just like chips.
I spent five (or six?) days in Chiang Mai. It rained on the first two and got bitten by a dog right in the beginning, which might explain my non-excitement about Chiang Mai. Things got more on a bright side, though. Met cool people from different countries and finally rendezvoused with Noora ja Ilmari after half a year of traveling around same parts of Asia. Michael and Saara arrived too, fresh from Finland. On my last day I met Data, a traveller from Georgia. Data is the real name, it is Georgian Georgia, not the American one and he was from vipassana.He guided me through a hitchhike ride to Pai. It took three and half hours and three cars. Saved 150 baht saved and made new acquaintances along the way. Lovely. Should do it more often.
On my first day in Chiang Mai, I got bitten by a temple
god dog wearing a muzzle (must be Khao San quality). No teasing, no provokation, it just approached me and bit me lightly on my leg, as if it was its duty. The bite was nothing serious and I was going to dismiss it, as long as it did not show signs of infections as per usual. But a quick googling revealed that dog bites are not something to be taken lightly and the reason is rabies. Rabies is a virus with a 100% fatal outcome if left untreated and the thing is that it is symptomless until it is too late. Once symptoms manifest themselves, you will most likely die. Simple as that. According to wikipedia, some of the symptoms include hydrophobia and aerophobia. Now it would be interesting to see what a fear of air feels like, but given a fatal outcome I would rather not. So a small bite, which is hardly visible at all resulted in a trip to a hospital and a course of five vaccinations over one month.
Some comments about Thai medical services are in order. The service is quick, professional and efficient. They speak decent English too. Medical services are rather inexpensive – around 200 baht for a doctor consultation and another 200 baht for the nurse services (taking blood pressure and temperature, performing an injection etc). In contrast the price of one VeroRab vaccination is 635 baht. No Thailand discount on this front unfortunately, thanks to the global pharmaceutical cartel.