I have little butterflies in my stomach right now as I’m writing this. I can’t decide if it’s from the Grande “Brewed Coffee” from Starbucks, the excitement for my next adventure, or the anxiety of leaving Chiang Mai after living here for 2 months. I’m gonna go with all 3.
It’s funny, I had this exact feeling while on the plane to Thailand (well, to China then Thailand) but those butterflies felt differently. They were a mix of oh god what the heck did I just do??? and similar variations of that. And now… I’m sad to be leaving! That trepidation of my heading to my first long-term solo trip as a Digital Nomad is gone and replaced with feelings of gratitude for landing in such an amazing town and meeting so many incredible strangers and getting to experience once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
And with that, there are so many things I’ll miss about Thailand and Chiang Mai. These are just a few, although I could probably go on forever.
200 Baht Massages
This, I think I will miss the most. Ah, the ‘ol 200 baht (appx. $6 USD) hour long massages in Thailand. I’ve never known a world so pure, so generous. I’m now officially spoiled in that I’ve been averaging a massage a week. I’ve had 2 already this week and will probably get another before flying out to Kuala Lumpur. Don’t hate the player.
I’ve found a new love for the Traditional Thai Massage, which is a little different than what I am used to in the U.S. The Thai massage manually manipulates your muscles and there’s various stretching elements involved and usually ends with a fabulous back crack. Damn, if I’ve never felt so zen than here in Thailand.
The Smiling Thais
I’ve met friendly locals from many places, but I’m 100% serious when I say the Thai people are the friendliest and most welcoming group of people I’ve ever interacted with. I know it varies from person to person based on their experience, but for my 2 months here, I’ve never seen more smiling faces who go out of their way to accomodate someone, even with the language barrier.
I love it when a Songthaew driver or cafe barista wants to practice their English so they strike up a conversation. My favorite was a driver who wanted me to sit in his front seat so he could practice his English skills. It was the most adorable thing in my life. We talked in basic english about the weather (Hot, Cold, Rainy), where I am from (Oh, America! New York!?), and navigational phrases that would help him as a driver (street, highway, traffic light). I had such a great time that I gave him the last 100 baht in my wallet just ’cause. Worth it.
Meeting Rad People
I am confident when I say I wouldn’t have had such an incredible time in Thailand if I didn’t fall into such a strong nomad community in Chiang Mai. My first week, I joined about 7 women for a Nomad Ladies lunch and by the next week it doubled, and the next week after that, we had 2 full tables of nomad women who were sharing stories and delicious Shan Burmese food at Free Bird Cafe.
If you’re traveling to Chiang Mai and want to meet new peeps, definitely join these Facebook groups and try to go to as many meet-ups as you can:
Street Sounds and Smells
If you’ve been to Thailand, you know there is absolutely no way to describe the smells of Thailand. It’s not bad at all, just unique. I would say it’s a mix of: spices, meat, motorbike exhaust fumes, and a hint of lemongrass. It’s distinct.
Walking down Nimman Street or the Old City, the sounds are also roaring with life. Close your eyes and you’ll hear unmistakably a few thing every time. Cars honking, motorbike engines, street food stands, tourists negotiating with vendors over souveniers, and for some reason, bells. Seriously, where are all these bells coming from? Am I the only one who hears them?
How crazy is it that you’re just a Songthaew away from ancient temples and structures that are hundreds of years old? You don’t need to travel more than a few miles or meters to stumble upon a beautiful, intricately designed wat. The thing that’s most incredible to me is that many of these wats are still active and in use for housing and teaching monks.
I still want to have a Monk Chat before I leave – this is a session at many temples where you donate money and can sit down with a monk and ask them questions and they can practice their English language. Having a conversation with a Monk is definitely something I never thought I’d be able to say I’ve done. If you’re a woman, just do your research beforehand. There are different rules for different areas of Thailand and temples, women usually cannot interact in public with Monks so doublecheck the rules of the particular temple you want to visit.
The Hilarious Translations
Man, I am going to miss the quirky English translations and methods of communcation. For example, my friend was talking to a maintanence man for her apartment when the plumbing wasn’t working. She was exasperated trying to explain what was wrong over the phone, she resorted to “Toilet! Ping ping! No work!” and he understood perfectly. I laughed for a solid 10 minutes after hearing that one.
I think after a certain amount of time being in Thailand you learn speak how you think a Thai person would most understand. This leads to a lot of conversations like this: “Hello, coffee, big, YES!” or other broken versions of regular sentences.
Okay, I know we have 7-11 in the United States but it’s just. not. the. same. Convenience culture is at a premium in Thailand and I swear it’s a social gathering everytime you step inside. The density of 7/11 is insane here. Think of it like Starbucks being on every corner in New York City, then maybe add a bunch of additional 7/11’s and there you go.
Once you’ve had the cream filled bread or toastie sandwiches, you’ll never be the same. The Ham & Cheese toasties are a staple and I’m embarrassed to admit how many I ate here.
7/11, more like 7th heaven amirite?
With that, goodbye Thailand. I will miss you, but I will not miss the ants and geckos who want to live in my apartment with me, the street food squid, or the fact there is no damn cheese in this country, but other than that, you were awesome. Thanks for making my first big solo trip unforgettable <3