Thailand is probably on everyone's bucket list. I spent 10 days in the Chiang Mai area and the Bangkok area. Here is some simple advice so you Don't make the same mistakes, and are sure to take advantage of the rad things things to Do in this country.
Food is ridiculous in Thailand. For a paltry sum you can dine at some really excellent spots. For a little more, like what you would pay for a medium priced sushi meal in Tokyo, you can have some of the best food in the world. Do eat a lot in Thailand. The above, a young coconut filled with massaman curry, was eaten at the Riverside something-or-other in Chiang Mai. It's in all the guidebooks. Probably my favorite of the area.
Chiang Mai is a sprawling city in the north of Thailand. Sprawling, yes, but most of the good spots for tourists are in a very centralized area, surrounded by a moat. Our hotel was a 20-30 minute walk from this moat. Tuk tuks will take you anywhere for about 100 baht, which I realize is paying too much, but whatever. $3 to ride a taxi is kind of cheap.
You might want to try and stay somewhere in the moat area, though. There are about a thousand guesthouses ranging from dirt cheap to nice.
Do take a cooking class.
The cooking classes are all similar in Chiang Mai, with some minor, yet important, differences. All of them take you to the market for explanations.
Do try some fried grubs with kaffir lime.
Do go to the Thai Farm Cooking School.
Wait! That's not the Thai Farm Cooking School. Is what we said when we arrived.
So all of the schools have hotel pickup. When the dude showed up a few minutes early and announced "Cooking school!" we just jumped on. There was no sign, just a nondescript van. Maybe Don't get into nondescript vans. After the market tour, we arrived here, at the Siam Rice cooking school.
Confusion followed, until we finally deduced that someone else at our hotel had made the reservation for this spot, and we probably just switched.
I have no qualms with Siam Rice, but I heard some rad things about Thai Farm, namely that it is on a farm.
Do check out the Wats. There are a bunch within walking distance of Wat Chiang Man. People often complain about becoming watted out fairly quickly, so take your time.
Do save some baht coins to donate, paper bills if you ballin. Ballin! This gold leafed Buddha doesn't pay for itself!
Do get a massage at the women's prison.
Say what? So right in the middle of Chiang Mai is a low security women's correctional facility. Part of the rehabilitation process is to teach them massage. So for about $5 you can get an hour long Thai massage from an inmate.
Traditional Thai massage is mega relaxing. In fact, Do get a massage every freaking day you are in Thailand.
Do get out of Chiang Mai for a minute. Do so on motorcycle. I highly recommend Pai, about 150km north of the city. Tony's Big Bikes is a legit rental service in central Chiang Mai.
I got this Ninja 250 for about $20 a day. Fun bike. The road from Chiang Mai to Pai, Route 1095, is quite well known for it's 762 curves. Most visitors will remember this because they are barfing out of the tour bus window. On a Ninja, it is pure joy.
I'm no expert on the weather, and I'm too lazy to look it up on wikipedia, but maybe Don't go in March.
This is what the views from the mountains look like. The fuck? It looks like there is some sort of forest fire.
Turns out that is exactly correct. Myanmar and the northern area of Thailand straight up burn their farm fields and forests every year. It is kind of nasty. I heard November is the best time to come.
Pai! Pai is kind of a hippie drop-out town. Why? Why would such an area be the go-to for dread-locked European chicks looking to unwind.
Sitting at a bar one night in Pai, and it all made sense. The two dudes next to me were speaking in some strange language. German? Random French dialect? Albanian? Nope, straight up heroin slur.
Pai is part of the infamous Golden Triangle, competing for number one spot in the world opium trade. So, yeah, this is probably a good spot to come and chase the dragon for a few weeks if that is what you are into. Some of the dudes here, it looked more like years.
Internet is everywhere.
As are delicious, healthy restaurants.
Don't buy a dumb ass Pai t-shirt. Seriously, Pai has the world's largest ratio of people to locally branded t-shirts. Is this a thing that hippies buy?
I don't get it!
No more Pai t-shirts!!!!!
Ok, the cloud vomiting a rainbow is kind of cool.
Do, if you have a chance, get out and see the hill tribes of Northern Thailand. From Pai, I took the Ninja 250 up to Mae Hong Son, another mountain town about 100km from Pai, with about triple the number of curves. This road was epic. The route from Chiang Mai to Pai is a little beat up, though still first world standards. Pai to Mae Hong Son is empty, fast, and smooth.
Except for the 5km of off-roading I had to do to get to the longneck's village.
Don't eat street sushi in Thailand. C'mon people!
I've heard Don't eat ground meat of any kind, but nuts to that. Do do do! I later spoke to a chef who learned how to make Chiang Mai sausage from one of the most famous spots in the country. And . . . ummmm . . . yolo I guess.
Hey, I made a shit map.
Gotta explain the red line.
So I was feeling restless, walking all over town, and rented a bicycle. Figured a burn down along the river would be some good late night exercise. I'm going along, business being all minded to oneself, when out of nowhere comes a wild dog. Scratch that, a pack of fucking rabid wild dogs. Dogs with a taste for white meat.I shift my rusty, 30 baht a day children sized bicycle into top gear and let adrenalin do what it does. For the next what felt like 10 minutes, I'm booking it. Finally, they give up, and a tuk tuk driver pulls up along side me. He had seen the whole thing. High fives were exchanged.
Don't get murdered by dogs in Chiang Mai.
Maybe Don't get a tattoo in Thailand. All the tattoo shops I saw were above bars. It is like that.
By the way, we're now in Bangkok. You mean the place from that one song and that Hangover movie? Yeah, that place.
Don't complain about the weather, don't complain about the weather, don't complain about the weather!
Fuck it! In late March it was 40 degrees.
Maybe Don't go between February and Summer if you aren't a fan of the heat.
Do go to the palace and Wat Pho. And in the palace, Do check out the Queen's silk museum. For some reason, there were a few thousand people outside in the heat, and no on in the excellent air-conditioned museum. It is free, by the way.
Gourmet food. Bangkok has it. I gotta say, Don't go to the Blue Elephant. I was very underwhelmed with this world famous restaurant.
Very normal. The course menu is kind of a mess. They bring out too much at once, and all the flavors get mixed up into a Thai flavor cornucopia.
I'd read that the durian cheesecake was epic, but it wasn't.
If you do go, just order something simple a la carte. But Don't go in the first place.
Nahm, on the other hand. Do go to Nahm.
Chef David Thompson really brings it. Everything here was on another level.
Don't have $80 to spend on dinner?
Cabbages and Condoms was excellent, in both the cuisine and the atmosphere.
Still got some baht in your pocket? Looking for somewhere to spend it? How about . . .
. . . at the movies!
Movies in 4-D (4-D spoken in a booking dramatic voice to make it seem all kinds of epic). 4DX is some only-in-Asia-but-not-Japan thing. Sensory stimulation devices make the movie more real, I guess. The seats are full on Disneyland Star Tours. Plus there are massive wind turbines in the room (it feels like flying!). Plus there are tiny air jets that shoot at you (bullets in your face!). Plus lumbar support shaky things (getting kicked in the back by ninjas!). Plus smoke machines (fire!). Plus flashing lights (epileptic seizures!).
Do try it out, once at least.
Don't see G.I. Joe 2. It suuuuuucks. Actually, I think 4DX only shows one movie at a time, so expect it to be whatever Hollywood blockbuster the kids are into. Fast and the Furious 6, anyone?
Do check out the rooftop bar scene. There are a dozen or so that push past the 50th floor. You'll pay $20 for a drink, but the views are legit.
Cheers Bangkok! It's hot as fuck in March, and I will never come back this time of year, but it was a good time.
If you go to the Lebua Sky Bar, you can have the official Hangover 2 martini. The Hangovertini! How lame is that!
And lastly, Do fly Air Asia. Hella cheap. Bangkok to Tokyo was less than $250. The seats and service are kind of sparse, but just deal with it for a few hours.