Lions, Tigers and Lady Boys… O My!

I love me some Chiang Mai. What a cool place to visit and a fun place to hang around for a week. Marina and me were only supposed to be in chiang mai for a couple of days, but after checking the weather down in the islands, we decided to stay longer. The weather was supposed to be pretty ugly and considering the only real things to do in the islands is water related, I decided I would hang in Chiang Mai.

thailand-chiang-mai-tigers-baby-payI have a friend living in CM who I met last december when I was here last so I was looking forward to seeing him and also just looking forward to staying in one place for a little while. We’ve been constantly moving and only spending a few days in any given city. I was really happy to just hang in CM and spend some time with my friend, Phil, and just relax for the last part of my trip.

It’s a good thing we were staying in CM too, because on our first night I got really sick. I don’t know what happened, but I was feeling a little chilly (feverish) the first day. I took some ibuprofen and didn’t think much of it. I went to meet phil at the Red Lion (British Pub) which is right by our hotel (Le Meridian) and with Marina we had a few drinks and just chatted a bit. I went back to the room a bit earlier as I wasn’t feeling great. By the time marina got back around 1130, the fever was in full effect. I was shivering to an extent I never have before. My whole body was shaking and I was almost to the point of convulsing.

Marina called down to the concierge to see what they recommended and while they (and she) said I should go to the hospital, I decided I would tough it out. It was a MISERABLE night and had it not been for marina helping take care of me, I could have been much worse. I made it through the night and the hotel nurse came to see me the next day. She gave me some medication, ruled out a couple life threatening diseases and told me to just relax.

Relax I did. The beds in the Le Meridians in Thailand are easily the most comfortable beds in any hotel that Ive been to in the entire world. The bed is great, the pillows are awesome, the sheets are nice. It’s an all around excellent bed experience. The Le Meridian in Chiang Mai is located right next to the night market and a short (5 minute) tuk tuk ride away from the main entrances to the city. It’s the perfect place to stay and using cash and points (2000 points and 35$ per night) makes it extremely affordable. The hotel has a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the city, a really nice spa and fitness center and, as a starwoods preferred guest, we are giving a 19th floor room with a mountain view. The staff is really friendly and their english is above average. The staff is so top notch, in fact, that they called me the day after my fever episode to see how I was feeling, if I wanted to see the nurse again, or if I needed anything else at all, The only down side to the hotel is the food. The room service is shit (and expensive) and the morning buffet is lacking significantly (about 20$). It’s too bad that they can’t get the food right here because if they could, this hotel would rank as one of my all around favorites.

Back to beautiful Chiang Mai…. There’s plenty of things to do in this city and there are plenty of day trips that you can book for things just an hour or two by car. There’s plenty of elephant camps, tiger excursions, hiking, zip lining, visiting hill tribes, and more. And, if you are planning on visiting CM, just let me know and I’ll connect you with phil.

Phil’s my guy. Ive sent several people to him since I met him back in december. Phil is from england and was a professional goalie (soccer) in his younger days. He’s a super cool and kind guy and has been living in CM for about 9 months. He is opening a Muy Thai gym with a friend of his (chris, who is a pro Muy Thai fighter) and we even got to train with them for a day and got a great workout. Their plan is to open the gym at a spa resort and offer boot camp workouts and also muy thai training classes and such. Its a great idea and well situated in the location it’s at.

Phil spent the whole week with us. Taking us around, showing us the hot spots (although we showed him some of our own), taking care of us and just being an all around great guy. If you plan on visiting thailand, you should STRONGLY consider making it to CM and certainly have me introduce you to Phil.

I didn’t take many photos while in Chiang Mai this time. If you want to see the temples (there’s lots of them) or some of the other scenery, you can take a look at my post about CM from december. Its a real cool city but I just wanted to relax and often left my camera back at the hotel.

As Im writing this Im realizing this post isn’t taking the normal form that most of my other ones do. I didn’t keep notes as I normally do so, if you don’t mind, Im just gonna jump around a bit here.

Once I was feeling a bit recovered from the fever ordeal, me and marina wanted to see some wildlife. I did the elephant camp last year so phil and marina jumped in a car (we rented a car and driver for the whole day for about $20) and went to see the elephants. There are plenty to choose from (I went to RanTong Elephant Camp last year) but just trip advisor it, you’ll find a good one. I met up with them when they were done and we went over to Tiger Kingdom. The cost was about $45 per person and that allowed us to see the little baby tigers (just a month or two old) as well as the really big 2+ year olds. It went as  you would expect. The babies were super cute and cuddly, and the big ones were fucking scary. I mean you’re in the habit with them and your only protection is this little thai guy with a 2 foot stick. Not very safe or reassuring, but its an experience. I was more interested in getting a few good picks of them and got pretty close to a couple of the big ones. I exchanged a glance or two with one of the big cats and he let out a little growl…. OK mister tiger… I’m all set here. see ya later.

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After the tigers, phil took us to see his new buy thai facility which was just down the street. We came back there the next day and got a proper work out and training from chris. We learned the basic stance, how to throw punches, elbows, knees and of course kicks. Chris kicked our ass a little bit with a good workout, but it was totally worth it. I think chris and phil have a great concept here and I think, if positioned/marketed properly, it could be something that’ll be very lucrative for them.

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We got back to CM downtown around 4. I grabbed a quick bit to eat at a restaurant (The Kitchen) right by our hotel. I jumped back to the hotel for a quick nap and by 7 we were out again. My absolute FAVORITE thing in CM is the street food. Street food in vietnam or cambodia or bali is not the same. In those places you tend to walk into an actual small restaurant or stall. Here in Thailand they have proper street food. So the enter old city is a square surrounded by a moat. There are 4 entrances (or gates) and each one has its own appeal. I always hang out for lunch/dinner at the South Gate (called the Chiang Mai gate) and have breakfast at the East Gate (ThaPe Gate). If you come to CM just tell your drive to take you to either one, you’ll see the food stalls lining the street. The stalls are the little push carts on the street that you can just walk up to and grab what you want. Then you sit on the curb or at a tiny table and consume the deliciousness. Items range from 5THB (thai baht) (30THB to 1 USD) to 30 or 40THB. You can grab a skewer of BBQ pork or a grilled squid for just 5-10 THB. Theres an awesome sushi guy that I go to every time I eat at the south gate. each piece of sushi is 5thb and you can usual fill a small container for about 50-60thb. I ate lots of BBQ meats including chicken butt, heart, liver, skin, ribs, etc. Also a lot of pork products, seafood (squid mostly). Everything is delicious and they cook it all right in front of you. They DO have stuff that is pre made, mostly currys and pad thais, but those are usual sitting out for a while in big bowls with flies all over them. I tend to stay away. I want to see them cook the stuff right in front of me. Our last night in town marina and I found a really good perogi type meat filled pastry. I wish I had known about it before because I would have eaten it every day. We also had sticky rice (the best sticky rice at the south gate is made by the lady boy… just fyi lol). Theres a smoothie and coffee stand which we went to each time we ate at the gate. All the food was really good and you just have to ask if you don’t know what something is. You can usually get an answer by just making animal noises and then pointing at parts of your body to signify which part of the animal you are eating. I was SOOO looking forward to getting this street food the whole month and it did not disappoint.

Our last night in town we wanted to go all out. Phil and marina had been to the Lady Boy Cabaret show the night before and highly recommended it. I was really uninterested but they convinced me. I told them I’d sit in the back after hearing about their night the night before. Apparently the waiter (they’re all really men after all) and performers get really frisky with the audience (especially the men). They were flashing their fake tits and showing their newly purchased vaginas all over the place. The doesn’t do it for me and I told phil I wanted nothing to do with it. (You’d be surprised how many people come in and just let these guys kiss and rub all over them). Anyway, I stayed out of harms way. The show was surprisingly well produced (as far as lady boy cabaret shows in the middle of a night market in CM thailand go) and the costumes and choreography were pretty decent. The girls (boys) were not that good looking (to me) but they all had the bodies of women. They do a LOT of work apparently to get to that point. Im not really sure how they afford it, but they do the full monty. The boobs, the vagina, shaving their shoulders down, facial work, hormones, etc. Pretty wild. All in its gotta cost them well over $40-$50K, I just don’t understand where they get that cash from.

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Anyway, getting away from the lady boys. We took off to THC rooftop bar back over by ThaPe gate.  It’s a little rooftop spot with really low tables and you sit on the floor on cushions. We met some fellow travelers there including some people from Sasquitoon (spelling), Canada. Also a girl from Germany and a group of med students from the mid west. We all hung out there until they turned the lights on and kicked us out. Next stop was Zoe’s. Its a decent spot with a bunch of other bars around it all on this closed off street. We spent about an hour there and then the military started rolling in. While there is no more curfew in Thailand as of a few days ago, the army is still trying to flex their muscle so they’ll bust into the bars and shut them down. You just need to stay a step ahead of them and you are fine. Our last stop of the night was Spicy which is a night club with loud music, dim lights, etc. We got out of there 1/130 and jumped back to the hotel. I had to be up in 4 hours to get to the airpot for my flight.

I did it right in my last night in CM. It was great to see phil again (I’m hoping to see him in england in august too) and everyday I spend in Chiang Mai is better then the last. If I was going to live in any of the cities that I’ve visited this trip, CM would be it.

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