I ran out of catchy Thai phrases to title my post with. Sorry.
We took a flight to Chiang Mai from Bangkok. It was quick and easy. Upon arriving at the Chiang Mai airport, we were picked up by our hotel. It felt very VIP to have someone there waiting for me hold a sign with my name. That’s right, I am moving up in this world.
For the first three nights in Chiang Mai, we actually stayed about an hour north of the city at a hotel called Panviman Resort. It was tucked away in the mountainous, forest area and had the most breathtaking views.
Our room was amazing. It reminded me of the cabin from the movie Dirty Dancing. All of the cabins were spread throughout the resort, which added to the element of privacy and seclusion. Just outside our cabin was a cat, which Kassandra quickly proclaimed to be “our cabin cat” and named it Oreo.
On our first day, we just spent time wandering around the huge resort – discovering all of the little things tucked away. The resort is quite big, so they have golf carts that can take guests to various parts of the resort. We chose to walk it and explore. Probably because it was cold, the resort wasn’t very crowded. Although there were other people milling around, especially in the restaurant, we could explore the outside areas pretty much uninterrupted. There was a “health street” which was a path with odd wooden exercise machines along the way. The pool was enormous, but it was too cold to go swimming. There was also a weird swing like thing and a derby cart that we sneaked onto.
Our favorite area was the game zone. Yes, the games were a bit worn, but we had fun anyways. We played pool, darts, foosball, giant sized chess, archery, table tennis, and boxing. We decided the winner of each game would have to have her picture taken for the occasion.
The second day was our adventure to the Tiger Kingdom. We had the option of seeing the Big, Medium, Small, and Smallest tigers. We chose to see the three smaller sizes because there was a very long wait to see the big cats. First up were the medium cats (which seemed pretty big to me). They were awesome. I had read online that people were concerned that the tigers were drugged at these types of places. I didn’t see evidence of that. In fact, the tigers were up jumping around and playing with a giant stick with string tied on it. The animal keepers were very good at gently keeping the tigers in line.
The small cats reminded me of my own cats back in the States. Two of them in particular because of the way they were playing and sleeping. They looked just like giant versions of Eva and Jay-Z (my cats). I took about a million pictures of the tigers.
The smallest cats were very cuddly. I fell in love with them! The rest of the vacation (okay to be honest, even since then) I keep whining to Kassandra that I want a pet tiger, but just a baby one, and one that never gets bigger. Maybe I just need some cuddle time with my own cats.
The next day we just chilled around the resort. We got massages again (but no boobs this time). We spent a lot of time just trying to stay warm. The temperature up there was pretty chilly. We had to call a couple of time to ask the front desk to bring us more blankets.
For Christmas Eve dinner, we ate at the hotel restaurant. I wanted it to be a special dinner, but they kept messing up our orders. Well, actually the whole time we were at this resort they were unable to get our orders correct, but in the spirit of Christmas Eve I actually complained this time and made them fix it. Not my usual style, but come on! It was Christmas Eve dinner. I was in Thailand. I wasn’t with my family. I was listening to a horrible singer doing what he thought were Christmas carols. If nothing else, I at least deserved to have my order as requested, right?
On Christmas morning, we checked out of the hotel and headed into Chiang Mai. Our hotel, Raminglodge, was in a good location, but it was my least favorite of the hotels that we stayed at. We couldn’t get hot water for the shower, the front desk wasn’t helpful, and the breakfast wasn’t very good. However we were very close to the Night Bazaar area, shops, restaurants, and bars. Yes, we were basically on bar street. This didn’t make much of a difference during the day, but at night, we got to see lots of fun things. The best being that on Christmas night, all of the women were wearing skimpy Mrs. Claus outfits. Kassandra asked why all of these different customers at different bars would be wearing the same outfit. I explained that I was pretty sure they were all prostitutes. From that point on, anytime we saw a prostitute, we called her a ‘Mrs. Claus’.
We went to the night bazaar only a 10 minute walk (at most) from our hotel. It had a lot of the same stuff that we had already seen at the markets in Bangkok, but we were able to find the last of our souvenirs. Plus anything was better than staying in our hotel room and being forced to watch Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter or Oz the Great and Powerful again and again. It just seemed like these were the only movies on anytime we turned on our TV. While in Chiang Mai, Kassandra got her hair cut. She was quite pleased with the result, and for 200 baht (~$6 US), I was pleased too. Getting our hair done in the UAE is always expensive and never turns out how we would like it to.
On the thirteenth day of our vacation we took a cooking class at Asia Scenic Cooking School in Chiang Mai. This was a lot of fun. We ended up in a group of all Americans. The funny part was that none of us are actually currently living in the States. One couple is living in Australia and the other couple (and three month old baby) is living in Japan. As we cooked, we were able to share stories about being expats. We made some great tasting food! Since we have been back in the UAE, we have tried to cook a few of the things from the class, but it has been hard because of the different ingredients available here. However, I do believe that my Pad Thai has improved thanks to this class.
The next day we took the overnight train back to Bangkok. This was my least favorite part of this whole vacation. If I could do it all again, I would have just flown. The train took ~15 hours. Yes, we had our own sleeping room, but it was uncomfortable. The train stopped so frequently that it felt like we were constantly getting jostled. I am not one for getting motion sickness, but even I was beginning to feel queasy by the end. I didn’t get much sleep at all, so by the time we arrived back in Bangkok, I was really wishing I could take a nap. Unfortunately our room at the hotel wasn’t ready, so we couldn’t do that.
Although we were staying in a different area, we were still fairly close to the places that we had stayed in at the start of our trip. This was good because I felt like I could navigate the trains and find places I wanted to go fairly easily (even on no sleep). We spent the day shopping and just walking around the malls. I ended up getting my hair cut. I guess I should have done it in Chiang Mai when Kassandra did because I ended up paying 1000 baht (~$30US), but still cheaper than in the UAE and I thought they did a decent job.
The next day was the ‘waiting to leave’ day. I hate taking night flights at the end of a vacation. You can’t really do much other than wait to leave. By this time, I think both of us were ready to go home. We filled the time by getting 60 minute foot massages and trying to find things to waste the last of our bahts on. It is amazing what you can do with a few thousand bahts, and yet by this point of the trip, we just could not think of anything else we wanted.
It was a really great vacation. One of the best that Kass and I have ever taken together. Thailand met both of our needs, which is not always easy to do since we enjoy different things. This was a very different vacation than our Europe trip where I felt like it was two weeks of rushing, feeling stressed, and being lost. Instead, in Thailand, we could just relax while still exploring a new place. Everything just seemed to come together. Maybe with any luck, the good experience of Thailand will have converted my daughter into a vacation lover.
— Nope guess not, I just mentioned to her that we are going to Sri Lanka in April and my news was met with a groan of displeasure and the familiar complaint of “Can’t we just stay home during the vacation??!!”