Shopping, Spa and Sunshades in Chiang Mai

Forget Ikea. We’re decorating the nursery from Thailand :-). We don’t typically do much shopping when we travel, but with our safari themed* nursery and the markets full of elephants on top of low prices we couldn’t resist. In truth, we didn’t buy much, but if it weren’t for shipping costs we really could have decorated the entire nursery from Thailand. They have great textiles, furniture and fantastic decor.

After all that shopping, it is off to the spa. (This really doesn’t sound like one of normal trips, does it?) You might be thinking a tranquil, zen-like place with Thai Massages, but we found a different kind of spa where dozens of little fish ate our feet!

It sounds crazy, but the little swimmers snack on dead skin. Your feet dipped in the water become an all you can eat buffet and ignite a feeding frenzy. It is a very strange feeling and not recommended for the highly ticklish. After a few minutes, we got used to it and could relax a bit. And it really worked — afterwards we had nice, soft, exfoliated feet. K said they just opened one in Chelsea in London which I imagine charges typical spa prices, whereas we got ours for cheap.

We also happened to be in town for the Bo Sang Parasol Festival. This small town just outside Chiang Mai is known for producing parasols and in this local festival the whole town comes out to celebrate. We toured the factory and saw first hand the craftsman constructing and painting the parasols. Then hit the streets to sample the tasty local food, watch traditional Thai dancing, and do a bit more shopping (gasp). It was a bit like a Thai-style state fair. And there were hardly any foreign tourists which made for a real authentic cultural experience.

Our overall impressions of Thailand — fantastic. They have great food, great culture, great people, great history, great architecture and of course elephants. Everyone we met was so happy and helpful. Everyone in Thailand smiles. And we were never hassled for money as in India or Morocco. Thailand is cheap, but not third world. They have plenty of modern technology and reasonably good infrastructure. Chiang Mai was a great first stop as well. It is a city full of culture and activity without the big city bustle of Bangkok. It is no wonder this is a popular tourist destination and now we know what we have been missing.

The food in Thailand was incredibly delicious. We enjoy eating Thai food in London from time to time and were looking forward to a week of the sweet, spicy and savory dishes. What was even more incredible were the prices. Typical main dishes were 80-150 Bhat (£1.60-£3) in the nice restaurants with local places charging 30-60 Bhat (60p-£1.20) and road-side stands charging as little as 15 Bhat (30p)! We skipped the road-side stands on this trip (baby and all) but had several multiple course meals with drinks for both of us for less than £8.

It turns out that people in Thailand don’t cook. They pick up their dinner on the way home in plastic bags. And why not when it is so cheap and so good. It is actually cheaper to buy prepared meals than to buy the ingredients and cook it yourself. And have I said how amazingly delicious they were?

We’ll be posting the full gallery of photos from our trip soon. We have thousands, so it may take a couple days to get through them all.

* K doesn’t like this word. It isn’t a ‘theme’ but perhaps a loose motif.

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