Last December 8-12, I was fortunate to visit Thailand for the first time and I had the most amazing time. We stayed in Chiang Mai for five days and it exceeded all my expectations. It did not hurt at all that we caught the Chiang Mai Design Week 2016 and the city was bustling with all kinds of creativity, hospitality and inspiration. Even the weather was very welcoming because of the right balance between chilly air and warm sunshine. From tuktuk rides to fried ice cream to the bustling night market to Buddhist monks walking down the street – everything about Thailand left an indelible mark in my memory pockets and I couldn’t be more thankful.
We flew via Thai Airways and I got upgraded to business class. Such comfort, it actually made me uncomfortable because I felt like, “What did I do to deserve this?” Thank you so much to Ate Elo for always expanding my world. Ate Elo came from China that time and we were to meet in Chiang Mai. I flew with her colleagues, Yankee and Carla, who are both the friendliest, funniest architects I know. I only met them both on the day of our flight but we clicked so well and hit it off right from the start. It certainly made the trip more fun!
As far as I know, there is no direct flight from Manila to Chiang Mai so we had to take connecting flight to Bangkok. We didn’t know that Thailand time is behind by one hour from Manila time so when we were still in transit by 4PM (Manila time), I was panicking deep inside because I knew that our flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was scheduled at 4:50PM. Apparently, it was Thailand time. Hehe.
It took an hour’s plane ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Immigration, baggage counter and finding our airport-hotel transfer were fairly easy. We waited for Ate Elo at the airport because her flight from Guangzhou got delayed. While waiting, we went outside and we picked some small flowers (illegally, perhaps) and played silly games. It was hilarious.
And then Ate Elo finally arrived and we went to check in to our hotels. Ate Elo and I stayed at Tamarind Village while Yankee and Carla stayed at Chompor Lanna. Our hotels were a 3-minute walk away from each other so it was very convenient.
We went to Chompor Lanna before checking in. It was a quaint and beautiful boutique hotel.
We arrived at Tamarind Village at around 9PM. The place was serene and very calming. We were told that it was fully booked, but we barely came across any other guests. Here’s a picture of the courtyard, courtesy of Trip Advisor.
The hotel got its name from the 200-year-old tamarind tree which they built the structure around. I love that it was mankind who adjusted to nature, and not nature being manipulated for mankind.
After checking in, we just dropped our bags and headed outside to have some welcome Thai dinner. Ate Elo’s friend, Jacques, who is from Singapore and is currently on a 55-day backpacking journey in Thailand, met us at the hotel lobby and toured us around the neighborhood.
I read that Chiang Mai is the largest and most culturally significant province of Northern Thailand. The area we stayed at is within the city center which was literally surrounded with walls, similar to the Philippines’ Intramuros. Our room came with a complimentary brochure on Chiang Mai and an invitation to a weekly Village Walk in the walled city.
We walked towards Tha Phae Gate while walking for a place to eat and we ended up having late dinner at a hole-in-the-wall diner. Of course we had the mandatory Thai staple of the spicy tom yum soup and some other local dishes. Yankee, Karla and I also shared one bottle of beer just to add to taste their local flavor.
On our way back to the hotel, I saw this coffee shop and I just had to take a photo because I thought it was the same coffee chain featured in the Korean drama The Heirs.
Back in the hotel, I Googled it immediately to confirm my hunch but it turns out, I was wrong. The coffee shop featured in The Heirs was actually called Mango Six. Hehehe.
After two plane rides in one day, no doubt I slept soundly that night.
The next day, we started with the complimentary breakfast buffet at Rue Tamarind, the hotel’s in-house restaurant. You gotta admit, one of the things you look forward to during vacations are the breakfast buffets. Hehe.
After breakfast, we explored the hotel a bit before going out to join the activities of Chiang Mai Design Week (which deserves an entry of its own). Tamarind Village is unlike western-type hotels of modern buildings and art deco facilities. Instead, it’s like a huge rest house in the province, the kind of place that automatically calms your restless soul.
Right above Rue Tamarind was a photo exhibit featuring some of the locals of Northern Thailand. We went inside and the four of us had the place to ourselves.
Rue Tamarind is actually a 2-storey house with the ground floor converted into a restaurant with a view of the hotel’s swimming pool. When I looked out the window from upstairs, this view greeted me.
During our five-day stay, I probably had 5o cups of coffee in total, no kidding. That’s how good their coffee is.
As I grow older, I realize that coffee is playing a larger role in my life. During our Chiang Mai trip, we frequented one specialty coffee shop which became our hang-out place after breakfast. Ladies and gentlemen, if ever you’re in the area, please do check out Akha Ama Coffee for a no-nonsense straight-to-goodness coffee (and the occasional cake).
Somehow our stay at Akha Ama served as our pre-game conditioning because right after, we ventured into the many activities of Chiang Mai Design Week. From exhibits, installations, lectures, we managed to experience it all and we were all so pumped up from everything around us, caffeine included of course.
Chiang Mai, you are beautiful! ❤