Sawadee Pee Mai – Happy New Year! Last week we celebrated Songkran, the Thai New Year Festival, which is also known as the world’s largest water fight. Here in Chiang Mai, the streets were flooded with people wielding neon water guns for three days of partying, parades, Buddhist ceremonies and watery fun. This was our second Songkran experience and we’re so glad to be ending our time here in Chiang Mai with a splash (we leave for Nepal next week!)
The stormy afternoon sky dissolved into a fiery sunset that painted the clouds neon orange. Despite being in Thailand for almost eight months, this was the first time we’d sat on a beach and felt the sand between our toes. We watched a fisherman row to shore as the sun sunk slowly into the Andaman Sea and congratulated ourselves on choosing Koh Lanta as the destination for our final Thailand holiday before we jet off to Nepal at the end of the month.
Our final Thai visa run took us back to our former home in Vietnam’s hectic capital, Hanoi. We relished the chance to hang out in our old city while painlessly applying for our final Thailand tourist visa before we head to Nepal in May. Here’s everything you need to know about applying for a visa at the Thai embassy in Hanoi, including the address, cost and what documents you’ll need.
Things are hotting up in Chiang Mai, quite literally. As temperatures hit 38 degrees, we’ve had to switch on our air conditioning and start avoiding the scorching midday sun again. That’s how we found ourselves rising at 6am last weekend to trek in the relative morning cool up the Monk’s Trail, a forested path marked with orange monk-robe cloth, which snakes up Suthep Mountain.
As we move into our final six weeks of Chiang Mai life, I’m trying to make the most of this city and the life we’ve built here. After failing to set down roots in Spain last year, being able to so easily slip into this lifestyle has been a huge relief. This city has given us exactly what we needed: the ability to live comfortably while focusing on our goal of building a sustainable freelance income. With that in mind, here are five of the things I’ll miss the most about our Chiang Mai life when we leave at the end of April.
Sapa, Northern Vietnam. The very words conjure images for me of green-yellow tiers of rice, towering peaks, buffaloes wallowing in mud pools, Hmong women in brightly-patterned headscarves and the smell of fresh alpine air. However, in the two years since we last visited Sapa, the town has transformed into a giant construction site. Diggers crowd the streets and the air is filled with dust and the sound of drilling and hammering. What’s more, during our visit last week, Sapa was cloaked in freezing fog so thick we couldn’t make out a single mountain view. The trip was a total travel fail.
“Welcome to Vietnam,” says the khaki-uniformed soldier with a broad smile, while he casually shifts his slim black rifle from one shoulder to the other. He must have clocked the camera around Andrew's neck and assumed we're tourists, which I suppose we are now. Except, instead of coming to see a monument or museum, we're here to revisit our old home in Hanoi.
We love living in the Nimmanhaemin area of Chiang Mai so much that we barely venture into the Old City these days. Our neighbourhood is full of markets and coffee shops as well as Maya Mall, which has everything we could need including a cinema, supermarket and co-working space. Best of all, Nimman road has tons of incredible eateries, here are our favourites.
As time speeds on here in Chiang Mai, a slow itch is returning to my feet. It feels like an age since we got a real taste of adventure, so lately my thoughts have been occupied by our upcoming trip to Nepal and Sri Lanka. I can’t wait to hike in the Himalayas and explore UNESCO sites in Sri Lanka. That being said, I’m also slightly anxious about how our budget will cope when freelance work takes a back-seat to travel. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a look back at some of our cheapest and most expensive travel experiences over the last four years.
Fancy getting married on a white-sand beach surrounded by crystal waters? I’m sure that’s how most people imagine a Thai wedding, but Andrew and I decided to keep things much simpler. In fact, it took us just a few days of planning and less than £300 to tie the knot here in Chiang Mai. If you’re thinking of getting hitched in the Land of Smiles, here’s our step-by-step guide on how to get married in Thailand.