Chiang Mai was an incredible city. With a population of about 400 000, it’s small enough to walk everywhere but big enough to keep us entertained. Great food (and local coffee!), friendly people, and incredible outdoors.
A highlight for me was getting back on a mountain bike with Mountian Biking Chiang Mai (the mountain biking capital of SE Asia, who knew!) to do some xc/technical downhill on Don Pui Mountain. The trails were great, we met some fun people, and it was really nice to get to know the local guides. We spent some time on a trail called the Old Smuggler’s Route- it looped through an old opium plantation that had switched over to coffee about 40 years ago through a government program.
We did a two-day trek with Chris and friend we met mountain biking. Our guide, Mr. T, took us through the mountains on a 5 hour hike to a local village, stopping to feed us bananas, cucumber, pomelo, and lemongrass. We slept in raised bamboo huts in what I thought would be a tranquil setting, before I realized that we had two families of pigs and three families of chickens roaming under our hut. Not so quiet- but it was a great time either way. We played cards (er, card houses) with a little girl from the village, rode elephants, and did a bit of white water rafting.
Chiang Mai has incredible shopping – we didn’t buy much but enjoyed the fabric markets, the amazing Sunday night market, and great specialty stores (one being a compound of boutiques called House – really neat, like an Thailand Anthropologie).
Another highlight was a local bar called The Riverside for cheap whiskey (SangSom) and a local cover band who did Adele exceptionally well. Or was that the whiskey? Either way, a really fun night.