On a recent trip to Canada, my parents and I stopped in Toronto. As a big city girl already, it felt like I was back in sweet home Chicago. With a limited timeframe to spend exploring – basically 12 hours – we squeezed in the important stuff: good food with a splash of sightseeing!
My colleague and I were only in NYC for 24 hours after a training in upstate, so I reached out to my women’s travel Facebook groups (feel free to ask me and I’ll invite you to the groups) and requested suggestions for bakeries, cafes, and restaurants. These ladies showed up! With so many awesome suggestions, we decided to do a Bakery Walk – Lower Manhattan style.
The streets of New York City are lined with restaurants and cafes that I think you could go to a new place every day for the rest of your life and never repeat. I was happy to have received so many suggestions so our choices could be narrowed, though I’m sure that if we’d just seen Once Upon a Tart while walking past, we would’ve stopped in no matter what. As you can see by the pictures, this place is adorable. Our barista was lovely and that chocolate chip cookie was snarfed in 2.5 seconds.
Known for its laid-back, hippy vibe, Pai is a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Most hostels in Chiang Mai can get you set up with a ticket for a mini-bus; some travelers brave the many, many hills, twists, and turns by renting a scooter as well. I was in Pai for 3 days which proved the perfect amount to fit in everything I wanted to see, but there are a lot of people who fall in love with Pai and never leave. I can’t say I was that enamored, though I did enjoy the relaxed feel and yummy street food.
In December, I traveled solo for one week to northern Thailand. It wasn’t my first time taking a trip by myself, and I’ve written multiple posts about how much I’ve enjoyed being alone.
And while I met some really lovely people on the trip and enjoyed myself overall, I felt pretty lonely most of the time. When my carefully laid out plans got cancelled (on multiple occasions), I had no one else to turn to and say, “What’s next?” When the first hostel I stayed at in Pai was a nightmare, I texted friends at home and said, “What do I do?!” instead of hashing it out with someone else IRL. When I was tired and couldn’t muster up the strength to leave my bed, I needed someone to shove me out and say, “You’re only here for one Sunday! Don’t miss the Sunday market!!”
I have stayed in hostels a handful of times and have always had pleasant experiences. The people I met were nice. The accommodations, while sometimes sparse, were doable. The facilities were clean. Until…December 14, 2016.
On this day, I was faced with the worst hostel I could imagine (well, minus the horror movie type), at Common Grounds, in Pai, Thailand. I knew from the second I walked in that I was not going to be happy there. Reluctantly, I paid $18 for the three nights I’d signed up for (hey, it had good reviews online!).
Walking past the many stoners hanging out on beanbags in the outdoor verandah, the staff led me to my room: a 4-bed room with an in-room bathroom. The room was shabby, and I had flashes of bedbugs in my mind. As I was unpacking, I heard many other patrons being led to their rooms and one piece of instruction was a little different than what I’d gotten:
With five days in Chiang Mai, there’s plenty to do to keep you happy, full, and having fun.
As most Asian cities promise, there are all sorts of markets in Chiang Mai. The Saturday market and Sunday market offer delicious and inexpensive street food, as well as cheap souvenir shopping. Both can get super packed, so go early!
A hidden giant gem is the Wararot Market. While there are markets all over Chiang Mai on Google maps, choose this one for every single item you could ever want. From scarves and backpacks to spices and kitchenware, you can find it all at super cheap prices. This market runs during the day; at night you can catch the food stall vendors. There’s no need to buy an expensive dinner at a restaurant when there’s a market around.