So far on our big adventure, with the exception of our Italian road trip, we have always stayed at accommodations found on airbnb. It is really the best way to stay in a country for any extended period of time. For our stay in Thailand, however, we ended up staying at a hotel instead. The reason for this was two fold: one was because we really wanted to stay near the old town and the city center where we would not need our own car to get from place to place, and two we didn't want to pay a lot to have a good location. After lots of failed searching for a good place at a good price on airbnb, when we saw a good deal on hotels.com for the Lotus Hotel, we jumped on it. It also helped that the deal included breakfast, which we later found out was quite varied and delicious!
Lotus Hotel is a massive hotel with lots of rooms, conference rooms, event rooms, and more. They also have a giant pool... the best pool we have seen at a hotel (outside of the Caribbean at least). The staff at the hotel are not the most helpful people you will come across, but thankfully we didn't need anything in particular and were quite happy with our stay.
After breakfast, we all waited patiently for our old au pair to arrive. Kian was very excited since he remembered Miss B really well, Hannah was just excited by association because she was only 1 year old when Miss B left the US and headed back to Thailand.
Once she arrived, the kids were excited to talk to her about all sorts of different things, many of them without any introduction which made poor Miss B a bit confused. I should probably mention that Miss B's name (well technically her nickname) is Phung, with the Ph being pronounced as 'P'. We started calling her Miss B because Phung translates into Bee, and saying "Miss B" was much easier for the 2 year old Kian back in 2012 than saying Phung. :)
Since it was a Sunday, Phung did not have work and she spent the entire day driving us to fun places and spending time with us. Our first stop was Dunkin Donuts! The kids were so excited!! Next up was the Art in Paradise Museum, a museum filled with illusion art. We all had a blast taking pictures with different paintings. Unfortunately, the lack of sleep and all the traveling resulted in us forgetting the extra camera battery in the hotel. Since I lost my iPhone 5s in Vietnam, the only available 'camera' was the iPhone 5, which doesn't do so great in low light. We apologize for the low quality of some of the pictures, but I guess some pictures are better than none. :)
After the museum, Phung took us to a local spot for lunch. It reminded us a lot of the hole in the wall restaurants in Hanoi. We tried a few delicious dishes, including of course Pad Thai! The most interesting thing we noticed in authentic Thai restaurants was a big bowl of sugar that is available at every table for sprinkling over your food, along with hot pepper and scallions. I realized then why Phung loved sugar so much when she was living with us. :)
We returned to the hotel for a few hours before getting ready and heading to the Chiang Mai Sunday Market. This is the most amazing street market we have encountered throughout our travels. I really thought I would not find a better street market after the one we went to in Madrid, but clearly I was wrong, and the Chiang Mai market won my heart quickly.
They close off 4 streets (that make a + shape) to car traffic, and tons and tons of vendors begin setting up on Sunday morning. The market opens at 5 PM and runs all the way until midnight. The atmosphere is fun and the products are mostly handmade and very reasonably priced. There are also a lot of food stands that are set up along the streets, as well as many performers, each with their own individual act.
After walking around for a bit, we were hungry and Miss B knew the best food area in the market. We walked into a huge space next to a temple set up with many food stalls, quite similar to a food court. We tried a few different things and my absolute favorite were the Thai coconut pancakes! They taste so amazing!
We wrapped up our evening by visiting a couple of temples that were on the same streets as the street market. We saw the Sareerikkatartsirirak Pagoda and the Chedi Luang. We mane plans to returned to Chedi Luang during the day because they were about to close for the evening, but we had a great time lighting the prayer sticks and sounding the gong at the Pagoda, as per Miss B's instructions. She told us that you are meant to sound the gong 3 times for good luck. This is exactly why I love visiting countries with locals. It makes such a difference, especially when you are really unfamiliar with the culture and traditions.
Overall, our first day in Chiang Mai was absolutely amazing, all thanks to Miss B. The kids were happy and we saw quite a lot in one day because she drove us everywhere we went. We also realized that Chiang Mai is very westernized compared to Hanoi. The absence of a billion motorcycles and the constant honking was obvious almost right away. It felt as if we had gone deaf as the streets were fairly quiet and we barely ever heard anyone use the horn!
Tomorrow we plan to stay at the hotel and explore the surrounding areas. We also need to figure out a place to do laundry since the hotel charges a million dollars per item (ok I might be exaggerating but still it is an obscene amount).
Annnnd on that note we are off to bed especially since the internet in the hotel room is quite awful!