Isa Abroad: Week 4 – Chiang Mai, Thailand

travel journal chiang mai thailand

Drag Show & Poptropica – October 26 (Wednesday)

ram bar drag show chiang mai

A gorgeous sunny day, but there was work to be done so Lolly and I went to a new coffee shop, Carrot Cafe. For the strangest reason, it reminded me of Poptropica (a computer game, like Club Penguin, which I used to play as a kid). There was one world—24 Carrot Island—set in an apocalyptic world with an abandoned factory and something to do with an evil rabbit and lots of carrots. This cafe really had nothing to do with 24 Carrot Island and yet that was all I could imagine.

That night we all went to Ram Bar for a drag show, my first in Thailand! I was not disappointed, all of the drag queens were amazing, they danced on the bar, strutted through the audience, and made very direct eye contact with everyone in the crowd. The concept of drag shows is still so interesting to me, it is like a combination of dress-up, modeling, karaoke, and a dance recital. I’ll never get tired of it.

Fried Bananas – October 27 (Thursday)

artisan cafe chiang mai
chiang mai parks

One of the weirdest things I’ve noticed while traveling is the countless ways that bananas can be prepared. Salty fried banana, sweet fried banana, patacones, plantain chips, mofongo, the list never ends. Anyway, one of my new favorite ways to eat a banana is sweet fried banana (very distinct from the dried sweet fried banana variety), with a warm and gooey center. There is a stand right next to my coliving that specializes in this and sweet potato balls. I bought a bag and walked to yet another new coffee shop to meet Lolly and Nico for work. 

On my walk home, I discovered a beautiful park that isn’t far from my coliving. I couldn’t believe there were still corners of Chiang Mai I hadn’t seen yet, I thought I had seen all of the old city after a month of living here but I guess not. I’m going to be sad to leave, Chiang Mai has been such a comforting place to call home with the friends I’ve made, amazing food, night markets, and safe environment.

The Hidden Cafe – October 28 (Friday)

chiang mai university night market
chiang mai buddhist temples

In the morning, Lolly and I went to meet Nico at the cafe he was working at, which turned out to be a whole ordeal. It took us a while to even find the general location and when we did, we realized it was inside a Buddhist temple. I had to then rent a long skirt to cover my sinful knee exposure and then we wandered around again to find the hidden cafe. When we finally arrived, it was clear that it was a terrible place to work and Nico was leaving anyway. We decided to find another cafe and at that very moment it began to rain. 

That night we went to the night market at Chiang Mai University which was so entertaining. I loved the drive through campus, I had never been before and didn’t realize how beautiful it was (honestly better than most european campuses I’ve seen). 

We walked through the market, searching for fun colored glasses and cute shirts, then ate dinner. I had an amazing miso soup and tried some rice cake noodles (they’re Korean but I forget the name of the dish). Even though it was Friday, we ended the night early because I was going to an Elephant Sanctuary early the next morning and we were both tired.

That night was very wholesome and cozy for me, I lit my favorite candle, cuddled my cute pig stuffed animal, and finished reading Attached. I think everyone should read this book or at least learn about attachment styles, it really opened my eyes to the way I handle relationships (romantic or not) and the exact ways it relates to my upbringing.

Elephant Sanctuary with an Underwear Model – October 29 (Saturday)

construction worker halloween costume
into the wild elephant sanctuary
into the wild elephant sanctuary chiang mai

I had booked the elephant tour with Olive and Baguette but we ended up in separate vans, so I had a chance to meet the other tourists on the 1.5 hour van ride. There was a German couple who hardly talked, a friendly British girl, and a recently married couple from the U.S who were on their honeymoon.

The British girl and I bombarded the married couple, Bill and Bob, relentlessly about their wedding, engagement, and entire relationship. Bill was more than happy to comply and I could feel Bob’s embarrassment as he showed us all of their engagement photos (they were wearing tuxedos in the ocean) and wedding photos (taken by an actual Vogue photographer). We also found out that they met through Instagram because Bill was a former underwear model and Bob bought the underwear using his discount code then slid into his dm’s. It was the best love story I’ve heard in a while.

After an extremely bumpy (but beautiful) ride through the forested mountains of Chiang Mai, we arrived at the Elephant Sanctuary. I was reunited with Olive and Baguette and they pointed out the extremely hot dad that was in their van. Baguette whispered how she could not stop staring at him at first then she realized that he was there with his wife and kids. I have always wondered what it would be like to be that good looking, like Brad Pitt/Jennifer Aniston level, where you have people ogle you as you walk down the street. Do these people ever get insecure? Are their egos completely overinflated and all they think about is their looks? Do they get tired of only being seen as a really attractive meat skin suit and nothing else? 

These thoughts took a good five minutes of my mental space before I finally focused on the actual reason we were there for. 

Our guide gave us a very serious speech about how dangerous elephants can be and how they had rescued the elephants to give them a better home, before unleashing us to stuff their trunks with unpeeled bananas. 

After feeding them buckets of bananas and letting them snort seeds out of our hands like a vacuum, we went on a “hike” with them. The elephants led the way and we wandered a few meters into the forest and then watched them roam around. There was one baby elephant that needed a lot of attention, who our guide called Naughty Boy. He warned us not to pet Naughty Boy because then he would follow you the rest of the trip and when you got tired of petting him he would push you over and sit on top, which would result in a hospital visit. That would be a pretty funny conversation to have with your insurance company.

After the stroll, we bathed the elephants in mud and the farm workers then proceeded to bathe us in mud as well. The mud party abruptly stopped when one of the elephants pooped in the huge mud pile we were all standing in. Then we all washed off in the muddy river; I think this activity was more for the enjoyment of the tour guides than for anyone else. Then we finally ate. I had been under the impression that we would be given breakfast—since they picked us up at 7—but our first meal was at 12. But it was worth the wait, we had a banana leaf-wrapped fried rice dish with an egg.

That night Lolly and I dressed up and went to the haunted house that my coliving was hosting. I get scared very easily and so does Lolly, so we ended up scaring ourselves way more than necessary. It was more of an “experience” and very artistic, with few jumpscares, but I managed to scare myself at each new turn. I don’t know how I survived haunted houses back in the States where people with chainsaws chased after you and there was so much blood and gore involved. The scariest creature in this haunted house was a fat slenderman and even that made me scream.

After the haunted house, we went to Zoe’s. We were the only people dressed up and people couldn’t even tell what we were, even though I thought it was very obvious (football player and construction worker). This was the night I realized I couldn’t go to Zoe’s anymore (and yet I went one more time after this), the playlist is EXACTLY the same each night and in the same exact order. Every night. And they have four DJs in the club, for what?

Thoughts on Relationships – October 30 (Sunday)

chiang mai sunday night market
sweety keto restaurant chiang mai

I woke up early and walked around town before going to a keto restaurant to indulge in sugar-free waffles with ice cream for breakfast, which was truly amazing. Although it does feel like cheating to eat stevia . . . maybe next month I can try cutting that out. I feel annoying sometimes with this whole “no sugar” thing, I mention it at least once a day but because I constantly have to ask for no sugar in everything. Especially in Thailand, because they add it to literally everything, I’m sure I’ve had it several times on accident by now. But I’m so happy with how I feel now, I have more energy, rarely have any stomach issues, and I’m not constantly thinking about what my sugary treat will be for the day. 

That day I had to finish a podcast cover illustration, so I went to a cafe and spent several hours making those edits for my client. I spent 12 hours total on the illustration with the set price of $50; I definitely need to raise my prices.

Fufu stopped by the coliving with his wife and kids! I couldn’t believe how adorable his kids were and so sweet too; I think I was expecting wild mountain children holding stick shivs or something, to match Fufu’s adventure guide personality. It was interesting seeing him with his family, he was so different—in dad/family mode—and it made me think about how I would have never really got to know him if he hadn’t been traveling by himself.

I had a conversation about this with Earphone, how traveling by yourself (and single) is so different than traveling with a partner. We both saw traveling with a partner as somewhat of a hinderance to your social life and freedom. Because when you are with a partner you really can’t make friends with the opposite sex unless your partner is involved. It would be considered weird if Earphone had a girlfriend there, for example, and he and I hung out a lot without her. You are sort of obligated to involve your partner in your social life, especially if it is with someone of the opposite sex (for hetero relationships at least). And for me, when I’m in a relationship, I want to involve my partner in my social life and spend a lot of time alone with them as well, so I would definitely miss out on a lot of friendships this way. 

Tonight was my last night market in Chiang Mai; Lolly and I had dinner, squatting on the baby stools with a table one inch off the floor, and I had my last bowl of khao soi. Then we had an amazing foot massage on the street, the entire time I was imagining how I would love to do this every Sunday: chatting with Lolly, people watching, reclined in a comfortable chair, and getting an incredible foot massage. Then we decided to add on a back massage which was definitely less enjoyable for me, it was very rough and the entire time I just tried to convince myself that the pain was actually good so that I didn’t have to have an awkward conversation with the masseuse. Although I did draw the line when she massaged my arm tendons in such a way that made it feel as if a thousand needles were pricking my hand.

Last Day in Chiang Mai – October 31 (Monday)

zoe in yellow chiang mai

My last day at Alt Coliving, a bitter-sweet feeling. I really loved it there but in the last week I honestly felt suffocated; I wanted to hang out with my friends outside of the coliving and do my own thing a bit and I felt really judged for that. Everyone was constantly asking why I wasn’t attending events and some would even get mad when they invited me out and I didn’t go. It felt like an adult sorority, you couldn’t have friends or a life outside of the coliving apparently. I know it likely comes from a place of insecurity, maybe they felt bad about not having a social life outside of the coworking. I’ve realized that when people criticize or judge you, it often comes from their own insecurities.

Anyway, I said my goodbyes, then brought my things to Lolly’s house where I’d be spending one night before leaving for Vietnam. We both had a busy Monday work day so we went to a coffee shop for lunch, coffee, and work with Nico. 

Then that night was Halloween, so Lolly and I dressed up as suburban dad tourists and went to Stamps Hostel to meet new friends and witness an amazing costume catwalk contest. Yet again, nobody knew who we were dressed up as. Everyone was fairly drunk and we wanted to play water pong so Lolly, Jack, and I walked to Zoe’s. On the way we passed by a dispensary with a very empty Halloween party and they offered us TEN fat joints for free. We didn’t take them because we didn’t want to hang out there or just take them and leave. Besides, I was already leaving Lolly with the weed I hadn’t finished and couldn’t bring to Vietnam. 

Jack disappeared as usual and so Lolly and I found Olive and Baguette, who were with two German guys and we all played some water pong before dancing in the very empty club. But at least it wasn’t Zoe’s music, so there was a bit of variety. 

Lolly and I went home early that night, being sober at Zoe’s is an almost impossible task after you’ve been a few times. We ended the night in the best way, in comfy PJs, with our stuffed animals, and watching Rocky Horror Picture Show.


That’s it, until next week!


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