First of all, it should be known that I love traveling. Having been lucky enough to travel often as a child, it almost feels like a part of my personal makeup. Often people can be grouped into two categories: those who don't anticipate, but simply enjoy vacation as it happens and those who love the planning almost as much as the vacation itself. Kinda crazy - but I'm totally of the latter group. I could spend hours just plotting my dream vacation - down to hotels, restaurants, and day trips. I love the research and dream of it all. I spent a solid eight months planning this trip alone.
Anyways, on to Thailand...
When we took out our atlas and were trying to decide where we should go, Thailand was at the top of Matt's list and Vietnam was at the top of mine. For someone who loves to cook - spicy foods nonetheless - Thailand was a forever dream. We took three cooking classes while in Asia, the first one being in Chiang Mai. Culture and food are so interwoven - and it is so much fun to experience cooking at the local level - from scouring the market for the perfect mango to learning all about the regional ways to prepare fish.
We stopped in Bangkok for a short time, on the way in and out of Asia. I loved it. A lot of people dislike the big Asian cities, and although I preferred our time spent in the quieter places, I felt like I could have easily spent more time in Bangkok. On our last day in the city, we went to the Chatuchak weekend market. It was incredible! You could have spent days wandering from stall to stall - antique buddhas, leather bags, ceramics, jewelry. I could go on and on. Plus, so much food! I became slightly obsessed with mango sticky rice and fresh juice (every kind, every where!)
In addition to Bangkok, we spent several days in Chiang Mai. To be honest, we were still a bit jet lagged at this point, so certainly took advantage of vacation (ie. lack of schedule) to slip into afternoon naps followed by tea and more napping. And perhaps a bath. It was so luxurious.
We stayed at the Pak Chiang Mai, located in the old part of town. I loved how calm and quiet the hotel was, merely steps away from the city hustle. The open air lobby was filled with plants, running water, and the sweetest swinging chairs. It felt like a wonderland. Pak also served the most incredible breakfasts (definitely a theme on our trip). In addition to taking a cooking class and exploring Chiang Mai (and all its temples), we spent a morning with elephants. At first, I thought I would be willing to give or take the experience, but I'm certainly glad we put it on our list. I had never been so close to an elephant. It was equal parts terrifying and exhilarating. If you are in Thailand, I think you have to spend time with these incredible animals. There are lots of humane elephant homes (and lots of bad ones, too, sadly) to choose from, so definitely worth doing your research. I loved wading with the elephants in the river - pretty surreal experience.