Isa Abroad: Week 1 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

travel journal chiang mai thailand

Here is my new weekly journal. I don’t really expect people to read this—the minute details of my life aren’t as glamorous as you would imagine for a “digital nomad lifestyle”—but I don’t really care, this will hold me accountable to write every day. I also have a horrible memory so when I forget all of these details in a month or so, I can just read this!

Also, Isa Abroad is definitely a place-holder name. Please email me with better name ideas.

*People’s names have been changed for privacy and because I like making up new ones*

Buying Weed and the Chiang Mai Market – October 4 (Tuesday)

grapes at chiang mai gate market
fluffy doggie

This morning I went to the Chiang Mai Gate Market with my best friend Fufu. Fufu is a 30-something dad from South Africa who likes to juggle outside of his room—which is right next to mine at the coliving. He has made it very clear that I am not his best friend. He’ll come around.

We were the only foreigners at the market. My Thai is limited to “thank you” and “hello” so there was a lot of Google Translating involved. I bought two mangoes, a papaya, a bag of cucumbers, a bag of limes, and one broccoli head which all added up to about $7. 

I found out recently that weed was legal in Thailand and so in the afternoon I decided to set off on an adventure to find the best dispensary. A few days ago at the mall I had run into a little weed stand and tried to ask the worker some questions. She didn’t know the difference between Indica and Sativa, and when I asked how much weed was in the brownies she said “200%”. I decided to buy my weed elsewhere.

I chose the dispensary with the best reviews but was disappointed that the weed was not as cheap as the fruits I had bought this morning. It was $20 for one gram of weed. I think I also asked too many questions for the man behind the counter, he was clearly too stoned to deal with this California girl looking for a very specific sort of weed. But I succeeded in my mission and had a very nice high night. 

Isa’s First Ice Bath – October 5 (Wednesday) 

healthy dinner in garden
chiang mai temples
ice bath chiang mai

I usually wake up at 6 but this morning I got up at 7 because I felt tired. I blame the weed. That is one thing I don’t miss about smoking, you are tired the next day and usually don’t even realize why. 

At my coliving they offer ice baths every week, so I decided to try my first ever ice bath. I was very proud of myself, I did two separate baths, each 3 minutes long. The teacher didn’t believe it was my first time but I told him it was because I was used to jumping into cold rivers and lakes. I felt weirdly good about myself for sitting in the fetal position in a kiddy pool of ice cubes. But that feeling went away when I felt completely exhausted afterwards, it felt as if my whole body was drained of energy, and I took a nap in defeat.

After my nap, I had my afternoon coffee and got to work. Although I don’t have much to do for Skeptic’s Path this week, I have a new transcription gig that would keep me very busy, which I love. It feels great to be productive (and making money is nice too). Transcription work is so fun to me, I love listening to random conversations, analyzing people’s relationships and word choices (even though that’s not part of the job), and hearing new stories. 

That night I discovered that our garden at the back of the coliving has cute fairy lights at night so I ate my dinner there: kimchi, rice, chicken, veggies, feta, and coconut chips. It was an amazing time. 

Yoga, Pollution, & Buns – October 6 (Thursday)

chiang mai temple
bao bun chiang mai
chiang mai, thailand old city

I didn’t want to wake up at 6 this morning but I bribed myself by getting a steamed bao bun with taro paste for breakfast.

I’m tired of not being able to breathe here in Asia. As soon as you go outside you are hit with a wall of fumes and pollution, I’m breathing such shallow breaths. What’s worse, not getting enough oxygen or getting a lot of really shitty oxygen?

Yoga today! It was my first yoga class in a while. It was up on the coliving rooftop and it was beautiful watching the mist dance around the mountains as we did our flow. The class was fairly slow, which I usually don’t like in the mornings—because it makes me feel like I will fall asleep again—but it was still very nice. 

After work I walked and listened to my new favorite podcast of the week, Fair Enough. It’s these three Australian friends who I know from TikTok and they are absolutely ridiculous and hilarious. 

Fairy Garden – October 7 (Friday)

speciality coffee chiang mai, thailand
chiang mai temples
alt coliving coworking chiang mai

The perfect day, nothing special, it was just very beautiful and quiet. The sun was shining, my coffee was criminally delicious, I was productive at work, and I felt very energetic.

I had a freelance illustration gig to finish so I got half naked and laid in the garden to tan and draw. I played happy folk music and just soaked up the sun; it was a great feeling. 

That night I didn’t have any plans, which made me feel like a bit of a loser. I’m in my 20’s, I should be going out on a Friday you’d think. But honestly, I like staying in and having time to myself sometimes. I think more than anything I care what others think I should be doing. But I made myself a nice dinner, smoked a bit, chatted with Nacho—mi amigo de España—then went to bed early.

Buddhist Temples & Clubbing – October 8 (Saturday)

monk's trail chiang mai temple
monk's trail chiang mai thailand
monk's trail chiang mai thailand temple

Hiking today! I went with my coliving friends, Fufu, Nacho, Earphone (I don’t know how to spell his name but this is how he said it is pronounced), and JoJo. 

The hike was called Monk’s Trail and it winds through the jungle, up the mountains in Chiang Mai. The second we started walking I was already sweating, the humidity here is truly impressive. 

Although, nothing will ever beat the humidity I experienced in Columbia on the Lost City trek; on that hike I lost at least ten gallons of water via sweat. It got to the point where I gave up on wiping the sweat and just let it waterfall down me. 

Anyway, the humidity wasn’t as bad as that, but still pretty intense. We hiked to the first temple and it was even more beautiful than I had imagined. There was a river flowing right next to the temple, and there was a woman meditating right in the middle, perched on a big rock with sunlight kissing her face. The details, colors, and sounds of the place were incredible, you could feel the mystical energy all around you.

After the first temple we somehow took a wrong turn—but didn’t realize until the next day—and ended up hiking up the highway to reach the main temple. Fufu was like a little kid, energetically pointing out all of the plants and animals on the way. He was a jungle/mountain/adventure guide in South Africa so he knows way too much information about flora and fauna. 

Did you know that nobody has ever actually died from a spider bite? I personally don’t believe that but apparently it’s true.

Which reminds me, there were so many HUGE spiders. I’m talking bigger than my hands. Just looking at them made my skin crawl. Apparently the giant spiders were the females and the males were the tiny (fly sized) spiders next to them, which I also couldn’t believe. Guess who gave me this fun fact?

So we eventually made it up the mountain and to the temple. It was a tad embarrassing entering this sacred palace soaked in sweat and smelling atrocious, especially since we were the only ones; everyone else took taxis. Nevertheless, it was an incredible experience. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much gold in my life. The entire place was glowing; each statue, building, and altar had an incredible amount of detail.

After a wholesome day of Buddhist temples and hiking, the only way to finish it off was with beer pong, pool, and clubbing. The first half of the night was great but then our group split up and I decided to walk home until my new friend texted saying that she had just arrived at the club. Against my better judgment, I walked back because it was only 11pm and I felt like an old lady for leaving so soon. 

I found Nacho dancing by himself, completely sober, at the front of the club. This is why we love Nacho. I dragged him to find my friend, Lolly, and we had a very mediocre 40 minutes of dancing to the same music we had listened to the weekend before. Nacho and I walked home at 12pm and I finished the night by talking to Fufu while he juggled tennis balls. 

Chiang Mai Night Market – October 9 (Sunday)

chiang mai sunday night market
coolmuang coffee shop chiang mai thailand
smoothies chiang mai

A normal day, I had more transcription work and wanted a change from my coworking space so I checked out a new cafe in the Old City.  

I’m proud of myself for developing a more refined taste for coffee, before I only drank iced lattes with plenty of vanilla syrup, now I’ll drink the occasional cappuccino. Give me a couple of months and I’ll be sipping on espresso shots in those ceramic thimbles and giving dirty looks to people holding Starbucks cups. 

Back at the coliving, Nacho, the social butterfly, decided to organize a group to go to the Sunday Night Market; he wrangled in about ten people. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was completely blown away. It was by far the best market I’ve been to. 

It’s hard to describe how big this market was, but it covered more than ten blocks and spread across many different streets—that’s the best that I can do. They were selling clothing, jewelry, soaps, food, icecream, essential oils, dried fruits and nuts, toys . . . just about everything. The streets were so packed, it was extremely slow moving, but it gave you time to admire each stand (and buy a lot). 

Lolly met up with my coworking group and brought her friend. Her friend said she was thinking of setting up a shop at the market for her pottery and said it was only 13 cents per night to have a stand here. 

We hadn’t eaten dinner so we were on the search for the best food stands. But I prefer to try a bit of everything, so while everyone sat down for a meal, I walked around and scouted the options. There was pad thai, curries, papaya salad, fried chicken and fries, crocodile kebabs, buffet-style sushi, mochi, crepes, waffles, purple coconut pancakes, smoothies, coconut ice cream—I can’t remember what else, but it all looked amazing.

Fufu got a sugar-free coconut and dragon fruit smoothie that looked beautiful but tasted like the inside of an olympian’s running shoe.

My friend Lolly, who isn’t at the coliving, asked if only guys stayed at my coliving (because there was only one other girl besides me in the group). It made me realize I somehow always end up in situations where it’s just me and a bunch of guys. I definitely don’t do that on purpose, I guess it’s because there’s less girls traveling solo? 

I would love to make more girl friends while I’m here though, the few girls I’ve met at my coliving have not been receptive, I can barely get a “good morning” or “hey” back. Besides Liane, an Irish girl who sits next to me at the coworking and is absolutely lovely. She even tried to help me with the case of the Missing Cup (someone stole my cute coffee cup and she went as far as to check the security cameras for the thief).

Dengue Fever – October 10 (Monday)

smoothies chiang mai thailand
chiang mai thailand old city
mango chia seed pudding

I’ve been thinking about the whole “making friends with girls” thing. I think my biggest problem has been that I feel as if I have to present a different side of myself with lots of the girls I meet, like I have to act “cooler” or not as silly. When I show a sillier side of myself with girls, they often shut themselves off to that or make me feel bad.

But I can joke around and be myself with the guys that I’ve met. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve just happened to meet more serious girls. I certainly don’t want to be one of the girls who “only has guy friends because they’re less drama”.

I’m worried about getting Dengue Fever; Lolly said she’s had 15 friends get it in the last week and about half were hospitalized. I didn’t have travel insurance but I bought it today. Safety Wing offers travel insurance for $50 a month which is pretty good. 

Also, if you get Dengue Fever twice then you’ll probably die. So I really don’t want to get it. 

I tried the smoothie place that everyone at my coworking has been raving about, it’s a five minute walk from home. The lady was so sweet and was very concerned that the smoothie would taste bad without added sugar, but it was delicious (and only $1.50). I’m noticing that everything has sugar in it here, even the savory lunch/dinner dishes.

I tried to explain a TikTok trend to Fufu and Benji (a Canadian man who works in AI and keeps teasing me about the fact that I accidentally bought garlic “yumus” instead of hummus). I attempted singing the TikTok song for about ten minutes, even trying to sing to Shazam, looking up very vague keywords on Google like “fast food exit song” and “break up sign off trend”, but was ultimately defeated in embarrassment. If you have any idea what I’m talking about please contact me. It’s the trend where you do a little salute to a certain song before driving off or ending something. 

My Monday ended with my weekly Skeptic’s Path meeting at 11pm, which is much past my bedtime, but very interesting because we talked about our goals for the upcoming year. 


That’s it, until next week!


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