The one promise I made to myself before going to Southeast Asia was that I wouldn’t get on a motorbike. After reading posts about it from some of my favorite bloggers, like this one by Audrey Bergner, I knew it wasn’t in the cards for me and I wasn’t worried about disobeying myself – I’m not one to risk physical harm and besides, I don’t even know how to ride a bicycle or drive a car! Nonetheless, on my first full day in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I hopped on the back of a motorbike. The day was packed – I took my first motorbike ride, went to the Chiang Mai Art in Paradise 3D Art Museum, and had my first Pad Thai at my first Night Market – Sunday Walking Street.
When I woke up on the morning of that first, full day, I was filled with restless energy and ready to explore Thailand. Naturally, everyone else felt like relaxing. Eager to explore, I downed a quick bowl of chocolate cereal and a tasty, little yellow banana – so sweet and delicious in Asia – and left the house on my own for a photo-documented walk around my neighborhood.
When I got back, some of the other volunteers had offered to bring us all lunch from a great spot, and I got to taste my very first incredible Khao Soi – a northern Thai specialty of chicken, egg noodles, and crispy noodles in amazing soup-like curry sauce. After lunch, some of the longer-term volunteers invited the new girls to join them in checking off an item on their Chiang Mai bucket list – visiting The Art in Paradise 3D Art Museum.
The only way to do this seemed to be by getting on the back of a motorbike with one of the other volunteers, and I did so without giving myself much time to overthink it. I was a little terrified of riding on the back of a motorbike through Chiang Mai’s trafficked streets with a little gang of 4 bikes and 6 girls, one of whom rode side-saddle in a maxi dress, but I wasn’t going to start off my trip by missing out on an opportunity to explore because of a little risk! It was definitely not the last time I had to ride a motorbike in Southeast Asia to experience something great, and I’m very glad I was brave that first time and got used to it with people I knew. On my first full day, I had already taken an unexpected risk and was positively rewarded by the wind in my hair and places I got to see.
Chiang Mai’s Art In Paradise 3d Art Museum
The museum was a lot of fun. It has a large beautiful exterior with sculptures and is filled inside with giant murals that, when you stand in a certain spot and snap a photo, look 3D on camera. Here are some of my favorite shots:
After the Art in Paradise museum, we had fresh smoothies at the beautiful Fern Forest Cafe – showing a great side of modern Chiang Mai. Note the trendy Thai dudes.
I enjoyed the scenic route back to our guest house – clinging to the back of the motorbike.
Sunday Walking Street Night Market
That night, a group of the new volunteers and I went to explore one of Chiang Mai’s best and most famous offerings: A Night Market! Sunday Walking Street is a huge weekly affair. Here we are walking across the prettiest bridge on our way from the guest house to the Market across the river. I wanted to capture the bridge and the outfits.
We walked through the packed market, filled with “handmade” wares, knickknacks, and ubiquitous backpacker tank tops and elephant pants. There were also enclaves of food stalls and tables where you could try to guess what on earth vendors were cooking up in their giant pots. Here I had my first street food Pad Thai (documented by the photo below) and a coconut ice pop. It was glorious.
It was amazing to see temples lit up at night with Gold Buddhas everywhere. The Sunday night market is definitely an assault on the senses that leaves you awestruck.
For one weekend in Chiang Mai, I certainly did a lot! It’s amazing how much you can do in a new place, and how much to see. Little risks can have big payoffs, and I’m glad I kicked off my trip with a jam-packed day!