Shelley and I arrived in เชียงใหม่ (Chiang Mai) on Wednesday, December 13th. We checked into our hotel and did a little exploring of the city.
Old City Chiang Mai has a really cool layout for historically defensive reasons. The city is a square grid surrounded by a moat. Some portions of the wall and gates have been preserved or restored and the city is a mish-mash of ancient and modern infrastructure.
It’s so much quieter than Bangkok. It’s just chill. I can definitely see why this is a digital nomad hub just in that it would be a lot easier to be productive here than in Bangkok. Still, the place was totally white-washed again. I later found out that the locals don’t walk, which explains why I was able to predict with considerably high certainty, as we sat at a restaurant looking out at the street, that the next pedestrian would be caucasian.
Early the next morning we headed over to Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures Co. I have to hand it to this organization. They have done a lot to encourage conservation and respect throughout the development of Crazy Horse. The trails are well maintained and infrastructure has been put in to mitigate erosion. Drinking water is also provided in order to stop this endless build up of waste from disposable water bottles. Nice work guys!
A Day pass is $7.50 and the tiny bouldering wall leaves something to be desired, but that isn’t why we came here anyway. We hopped into a red truck (the typical taxi service here) and chatted with some fellow travelers on our way up to the crag, which is about a 45 minute drive.
We arrived at Jira Homestay & Restaurant, just across the street from the crag and dropped of our things at our new home! I forget now…but it was somewhere around $3-4 a night.
Okay, let’s go climbing! Here’s Shelley at the famous Crazy Horse. Do you see it?!
The climbing here was a bit underwhelming at first. It wasn’t bad, but it was about as generic of climbing as you could imagine. This is quintessential rock climbing without any buzz that would make it a destination worth going out of your way to visit.
We knocked down lunch and then headed to a different crag, Heart Wall, which is a more recent development at Crazy Horse.
Now this was cool! Crazy features were just begging to be climbed up. I couldn’t flake my rope fast enough. I onsighted a pumpy 6c and then enjoyed a beautiful 6a+ cruiser with wild knobs to grab and other funky features to grab onto.
I still wouldn’t consider Crazy Horse to be a travelers climbing destination the way Tonsai or many of the other crags I have visited are. That being said, it makes it possible for me to imagine staying in Chiang Mai for a while. The city is relaxing and there’s a chill and fun crag not far away.
Unfortunately, that night I came down with an absolutely horrible stomach bug. I was running to the bathroom to vacate my bowels and borderline vomiting the entire night. Fortunately I was feeling better the next morning. Still, we called it quits early and headed into town. Shelley and I spent the rest of the day at the hospital.
I was surprised at how many staff members were standing around idle, compared to an American hospital. But this also meant that I was able to book a same-day appointment with a specialist. I got a few vaccines while I was there as well as Larium, an anti-malarial. Don’t take this drug!!! More on that later…
So two vaccines, two antibiotics and an anti-malarial, plus a visit with a specialist. The total: $212. I wasn’t stoked to pay this, but that being said, without insurance and with the same day treatment that I received it wasn’t bad. I think it goes without saying that this is astronomically better than in the US.
I think the Thai medical system is trigger-happy when it comes to antibiotics. They seem like an important part of the system given the food parasites and travelers diarrhea that plagues tourists, but I think they also will just throw antibiotics at you without critical consideration as to whether or not they’re really necessary.
I’ll save you the wait. I’m nice and healthy now. Done with antibiotics. No more fevers. No more cough. No more diarrhea. No more Larium…that stuff fucked with me hard. I took a single pill. (It’s once a week while you’re in the risk area and for a month after). I got all dissociated with my body. I felt uncoordinated. My stomach felt awful in a very different way from how the food had made it feel. I was miserable. The scariest part was one particularly bad day where I actually had really dark thoughts running through my mind. I wanted to hurt someone. Shelley said she was legitimately scared when she just saw the look in my eyes. I have never had a drug mess with my mental state like that before. Just another example of how modern medicine can do more harm than good. I dumped the rest of the prescription in the garbage. I’ll take the risk of malaria any day over that.
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Next day we hit up an elephant sanctuary. It was rather expensive, at $50 per person, but it’s also the essential Chiang Mai experience, so I’m glad that I did it.
Those elephants can eat! So many bananas!
We got back and checked out the city for the rest of the day.
We hit up Wat Chedi Luang, an ancient temple in the middle of town. The town was hit by an earthquake in 1551, just six years after its completion, which did significant damage to the temple. Beautiful images inside a small temple nearby depict the earthquake and the temple before and after.
We met up with Susan a relative of a friend of mine in Albuquerque. (Thanks for the connection Dannie!) She treated us to an excellent dinner at Riverside Restaurant which is…on the riverside. Thanks Susan! It was a pleasure meeting you!
Susan had mentioned a quote while we were discussing travels that I thought was really funny. It pertains to peoples impressions of an area and how we make false generalizations given our limited experiences. The quote goes something along the lines of:
Given a week in a particular location, one could write a book about it. Stay for a month and it will only be an article. After living somewhere for a year one can write a sentence about it.
It reminded me of a particular example I had observed where two people sitting next to me had both been to Paris. The one brought up the city, and started describing how awful people were there. The other, utterly confused, argued that people in Paris were some of the nicest she’d ever met. Of course, each of them had been there a handful of days and one was clearly more fortunate with their interactions than the other.
The night was wrapped up by exploring the Sunday night market which, by chance, lined up perfectly with our schedule. This market was packed, but I liked it so much more than Khao san, the closest place I could compare it to, thus far. Things were actually unique and mostly handmade. In Khao san, after about three shops you will very quickly start noticing that everyone is selling the same stuff.
The highlight was by far an out-of-this-world psychedelic band jamming out in the middle of the street. The band consisted of two massive didgeridoos, a high-octane djembe drummer and the funniest little man on guitar. This man must have weight all of 80 lbs, he wore dark John Lennon glasses, and had long dreadlocks wrapped up in a bun twice the size of his head that bobbled back in forth as he rocked out. So much fun!