A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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In A Nutshell

Thailand is great introduction to Asia.

It’s a country with a very good tourist infrastructure, warm and friendly people, great food, a rich history and interesting culture, and enough city, beach, and jungle activities to keep you busy for a long time.

It is also a great place to just chill out, which is what we did.

When planning our trip, we had targeted Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, as a place to settle in for a few weeks.  The kids needed to get some schoolwork done, and Thailand’s second largest city (but much, much smaller than Bangkok) seemed a good place to do it.

It proved to be a good decision.

While we didn’t see the country’s world famous beaches, party towns or northern hill region, we did enjoy the chaos of Bangkok and grow very fond of the rhythm of life in Chiang Mai.


Like most tourists, Bangkok was our point of entry into Thailand.  This metropolitan region of an estimated 12 million people can be overwhelming at first – chaotic, dirty, indecipherable. But Bangkok grows on you.

After just a few days we grasped the underlying logic for getting around the city.  We loved riding the Skytrain and the long boats on the Chao Phraya River.

We marveled at the Grand Palace, Wat Phrew Keaw and Wat Pho, and enjoyed seeing the both the diminutive Emerald Buddha and the enormous Reclining Buddha.

We searched for bargains at the five-storey MBK mall and the Chatuchack weekend market.

We wandered among the backpackers on Kho San Road and visited the Jim Thompson House, once the home of Thailand’s most famous expat.

And we met intrepid traveler Nomadic Matt as he was enjoying his final days in Bangkok (before heading on to Taiwan).

In Bangkok, we stayed just off Sumkumvit Road at Baan Sumkumvit, a very conveniently located guest house.  It’s located on a quiet cul de sac, just five minutes from the Skytrain station.

Chiang Mai

We got our Thailand crash course in Bangkok and did our graduate study in Chiang Mai where we settled into a serviced apartment at the Viangbua Mansion.

During our time in Chiang Mai, we balanced the kids’ schoolwork with outings, and enjoyed exploring the city.  There are hundreds of wats (temples) around Chiang Mai, and we visited many of the better known, including Wat Chedi Laung, Wat Phra Singh, and Wat Doi Suthep.

We enjoyed less spiritual pursuits too.  We were regulars at the Sunday Walking Market and made a visit to the Night Bazaar.  The Chiang Mai markets were among the best we have seen on our travels, both in terms of prices and the range of goods available.

Interestingly, Chiang Mai is also a destination for medical tourists, and we took advantage of the city’s reputation for having good dentists.  We visited the 4U Dental Clinic where most of the dentists were trained in the U.S. and speak good English.  We have also heard good things about Grace Dental Clinic.

We made several day trips from the city.  Our favorites:

  • The Thai Farm Cooking School – An excellent day-long class in Thai cooking that includes a visit to a farmers market and a tour of an organic farm.
  • Bike Tour South of Chiang Mai – A friend recommended bike tours by Click and Travel, and the one we took was excellent.  We took a gentle ride through on flat terrain south of Chiang Mai.  David, our tour guide, led us through several interesting sites (including a former leper colony) and kept us entertained.  He spent a lot of time explaining Buddhism to us when we stopped in wats along the ride.
  • The Elephant Nature Park – An incredible experience at this conservation center dedicated to saving and protecting abused elephants.  Founder Lek Chailert is an incredible woman who had dedicated her life to helping these amazing creatures.  The center has programs for the day, overnight or for longer stays.  If you do one thing in Chiang Mai, do this.

Finally, if you happen to stay at Viangbua Mansion while in Chiang Mai, we highly recommend stopping in the Spirit House Restaurant (just across the street) and frequenting the outdoor marked located just around the block (behind the building).

Be sure to say hello to Steve, an American expat who owns the Spirit House.  He is originally from Iowa – but he visited Chiang Mai sixteen years ago and never left.

And that’s the danger of visiting Chiang Mai.

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