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Chiang Mai | Toobin’ and Temples

With El Niño delaying Bali’s rainy season for 2+ months already, the sauna-like conditions at our home-away-from-home had us longing for a reprieve. Northern Thailand did not let us down! A trip to Chiang Mai was especially exciting for us, in that Tara and I had both been decades earlier as careless 20-somethings – and were now returning with a preschooler in tow. A slightly different experience to say the least!

One thing that didn’t change, however, was the timeless charm of Chiang Mai’s Old City. Chock full of ancient temples, golden Buddhas, and orange-robed monks, it often feels like you’ve stepped back in time here. As parents overly obsessed with our kid, however, our favorite memory from this trip to the Old City was watching Andy sign Wat Chedi Luang’s guest book! He really loved it here, asking us multiple times if we were “having so much fun” because he was too. The prayers being recited inside Wat Phan Tao really captivated him too and he didn’t want to leave.

With morning temperatures in the low 60’s, we were all thrilled to be walking around the Old City – aimlessly and without sweating for a change. We even stumbled across a great city park called Buak Haad. Andy quickly found a local BFF and spent the day feeding fish and pigeons with her. Such cross-cultural bonds among kiddos, with no common spoken language, are so always amazing to see. It was here that we sent Andy on his first ever “errand”, giving him and his bud 20 baht for the fish food vendor barely within eyesight of mom and dad. He felt so proud coming back with a bag of it and his 10 baht in change.

To really get a taste of the cooler climate, we hired a driver for a day trip up to Doi Inthanon- the highest point in the country. The summit had a great boardwalk trail through a mossy forest and we were glad we packed our jackets! Slightly below the peak, there was a pair of super cool pagodas offering sweeping views of the mountains as ominous grey clouds whipped right by us. Definitely worth the effort to get here, even the tuk-tuk ride from the parking lot was fun. As an added bonus, we stopped by a surprisingly impressive waterfall with an equally impressive cafe – among the best versions Tom Kha Gai we’ve ever had.

Despite all the good chow we had, we realized too late that we’d taken almost no food pictures. Guess we were too busy stuffing our fat faces? One of the more memorable feeding frenzies was at a little spot called 294 Bistro, where we got piles of soft shelled crab, pad thai, and an insanely delicious leek & oyster sauce beef cheek dish that I truly hope to have again someday. Then there was the Riverside Bar & Grill – with a fun line-up of local beers, riverboats, and a Burmese curry so good it made me wanna go back to Burma. S&P chicken, a constantly packed local rotisserie joint, didn’t disappoint either. Heck, even our breakfasts at the Rendezvous Classic House were great. Take home point, if you like to eat, go to Thailand!

Andy’s favorite day though was probably our outing to the Night Safari. He’d been talking about the one in Singapore for months so we couldn’t pass up a chance to do it again here. It’s actually pretty well set up, with tons of outdoor displays scattered around a pretty lake that made for a peaceful sunset stroll- mostly devoid of other visitors. Porcupines, meerkats, and a baby white tiger were among our faves. As with Singapore’s night safari, most of the nocturnal animals were quite active too – unlike a typical zoo experience. The real fun begins after dark, however, when trams take you through free-ranging megafauna habitats. Our guide even gave Andy some bananas to feed a giraffe that really went for it! Onboard, per usual, Andy made another BFF – a slightly older local girl named Melin. He heard “melon” and loudly asked “melon’s mom” if they could ride together on the next tram while holding her hand. We laughed pretty much the whole night. To wrap up the evening, we attended the “predator show” on a really cool stage with a deep pool to watch tigers dive for snacks – we had no idea tigers could even dive until tonight.

Back in the city, we had a blast at Art in Paradise – an illusion museum with tons of creative settings to take pictures at. Andy was a good sport and posed for more shots than a 4 year old could reasonably expect to put up with, he earned his ice cream that day for sure.

Being the die-hard Texan toobers that we are, we couldn’t resist a chance to float down the Mae Taeng river with ELEPHANTS! Gotta say, I never expected to see an elephant while holding a beer in a toob. The scenery of the river itself was also pretty stunning, a wide but brisk current that we could have stayed in all day. Our new amigos on the float were hesitant to head down the river with a young kid, but his toob training since the age of 5 months quickly alleviated any concerns! The owner/guide named “Bang” brought along great music, an extra cooler of Beer Chang, and took us to a 20 ft high slick-rock waterslide at the end. Andy loved every minute on the river, as did we – an epic toob run for sure.

To wrap up our time in Thailand, we hopped on the train to Bangkok- an all day adventure clear across the country. Views of the mountains and rice paddies along the way made for a pleasant travel experience, and like everywhere elsewhere in Thailand, even the $1 dinner onboard was tasty. After a few good meals in Bangkok, we set off towards Penang for Xmas – with the displays at Don Mueang airport setting a welcome holiday tone for the week to come.

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