Both Stringer and i have quite a few friends who have travelled, lived and worked throughout south east asia. One consistent complaint we had heard about traveling here was how horrendous the busses can be. Maybe we have just been lucky, but so far we have had relatively enjoyable experiences! The bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was overnight and took about 12 hours. We had AC, reclining chairs, and a man who brought us food, water and coffee if we so desired. Many of the busses here even have wifi.
We arrived in Chiang Mai around 9:30 am and hopped in a small bus to take us to our guest house ( really just a pick-up truck with two benches in the bed of the truck with a tent over it). Danielle found what turned out to be an AWESOME guest house called Thailand Wow. It was a little outside the main hub of hostels in Chiang Mai on a small side street. The guy who ran it, Khai, was so unbelievably nice and helpful. The common area had such a great bohemian vibe- chairs to swing in, a tented ceiling and pillows all over the floor to relax, read a book or chat with other travelers.
Sunday nights in Thailand are the best for markets, and the market in Chiang Mai was nothing short of spectacular. On our way to the market as we were walking down an alley, we noticed a black bmw slowly following behind us. Initially a bit nervous about this, it approached closer ( when i say close, i mean a literal arms reach away) the window was rolled down and Owen Wilson was sitting staring right at us! We exchanged some confused and pretty surprised stares and smiles. Turns out he was filming a movie called "The Coup" a stones throw away from our guest house. We hung around the set for a bit (we are pretty sure the security thought we were part of the crew as everyone else who walked by was asked to keep moving on). Got to watch Lake Bell, Owen, and the little girls from "Inception" act a street scene with gun shots and all. I don't believe many can say they had that kind of experience their first night in Chiang Mai.
After we wandered around the market for a couple of hours tasting the small tapas sized bites you could buy from the vendors. Danielle loved the sushi and i was particularly fond of the street meat. We returned to our hostel and ended up meeting another Canadian , Brad, and a Norwegian named Eneo. We shared stories over some Changs, the local cheap and pretty tasty beer, then decided to head out for a night at Zoe's Yellow bar, probably the most popular of the backpacker haunts. Buckets, new friendship bracelets and some drunken tuk tuk rides later, our first real "night out" in Thailand was a blast.
The next morning both of us woke up at 7 am in a bit of a drunken haze, went down to chill in the common area, and met three British guys- Ben, Callum and Jon, who had just arrived from Laos. They had been to chiang mai a few weeks earlier but returned to visit the small town of Pai, about 3 hours North of Chiang Mai , as they had heard such awesome things. They're excitement coupled with our own interest was enough to convince us to book a bus with them a few days later and see the place for ourselves. Before we went to Pai however, we decided to do a two day overnight Trek to the small mountain village of Lahu, about 90 minutes from Chiang Mai...