Suffering no heart palpitations throughout the 11 air con hour bus ride, the road to Chang Mai from Bangkok is flat, which is unusual in Asia. Later on in the journey the landscape becomes more and more green and marsh birds fly above the rice paddies outside our window. Passing the usual hordes of temples we arrive in Chiang Mai feeling rather harmonic. Our first impressions lasted. This town is gorgeous. It has got this really earthy feel mixed with a funky/chilled vibe. The bus which had cost us a mere 14 dollars and thus splashed out on a tuk tuk to bring us into the old walled city. Upon arrived I notice the town is teaming with quirky guest-houses, used book shops and the cutest alternative cafés and restaurants. Chiang Mai almost reminds me of Rome… well lets not get carried away…. BUT it is this eclectic, modern, country town built around ruins from the 13th century! We spend the first few lazy afternoons meandering around ‘old’ Chiang Mai, not neglecting that the real reason we came here was to secure a Chinese visa here!
Tip of the day – if you want to travel to China overland or even if you want to escape the Bangkok Chinese Embassy s*** storm, how to get a Chinese visa is easy travel to Chiang Mai!!! With the embassy 10mins walk from the hostel it was so simple to get there. The guards greet you with such friendly faces you feel like it’s a trap but no, after qualifying you have a passport photo (he draws a cube in the air with his hand to emphasise the size) you are shown to an empty room. No more than 5 minutes after arrival you are escorted back out of the front gates with china visa applications SUBMITTED. Hilarious.
Chiang Mai is easy to escape – not that you’d want to- and there’s no better way to leave than by hiring a bike and reaching the summit of one of the surrounding mountains and getting a glimpse of the beauty of Chiang Mai from 1676m. Addicted to the bike we were off. Travelling anywhere and everywhere. Whenever we caught a glimpse of a shy alleyway we followed it, whenever we saw a glimpse of a canal we stalked it.
Intrigue and wonder had erupted. We biked the day long stopping to stare at marketeers who stared right back, finding lotus covered ponds, locals gossiping on the roadside and cafés that sell no drink. Sore ass or no sore ass, we only got road nerves once, OK OK I mean road rage. Chiang Mai itself makes hectic drivers of the best of us. The square outline of the moat is cut into sections to allow one way traffic… pedestrians beware!
After all that adrenaline who wouldn’t end the day perched on a bicycle seat at a luminescent cocktail cart, mojitos on wheels… one of the world’s travel charms.
Worlds best (easiest) Chinese consulate is right here. Get a smile and a stamp in 4 days.
Ginnys Café for a full on veggie breakfast inclusive of coffee for $3.
Chada Guesthouse is good value at 150Baht pp/per night for a double room, has an awesome location in the old city and is really chilled!