Chiang Mai 2022 || Lost in the labyrinth of my mind (and of night markets)

I’m so full. It’s 11 PM and I have no idea how I’m getting up tomorrow to do that sunrise hike. I should probably sleep to get ample rest and prepare for that hike. But I’m so uncomfortable, I feel like I’m going to barf any minute. I maybe should not have indulged that much tonight. On a side note, I have gotten back the photos from the photoshoot of the latest product line for sad girl scents and they are STUNNING. I’m speechless at how they turned out so well and I got to distract myself from this dreary feeling of overeating by being emotional over how far my small passion project has come. I’ve always wanted to release eau de toilettes (even went to workshops on how to make them!) and I’ve lowkey been doing market research while I’m here and dropping by every single store I see that carries perfume. But that’s for another day. As per usual, I’m rambling.

I thought I was going to have such a chill day today, which was partly.. eh, mostly true. I didn’t have anything booked aside from the food tour that I had to move from Sunday to today. If my flight didn’t get delayed, I was planning on doing the Doi Inthanon/waterfall day hike today. But the flight gods said no. I already have the food tour paid off and today was the only time I can reschedule my slot, so here we are.

I liked that because I didn’t have anything scheduled until late in the day, I get around to waking up when my body was ready to wake up. I will forever be a morning person through and through, so I was up around 7 AM. But it was nice to wake up naturally and not to the annoying sound of my alarm. I took my time getting ready for the hotel breakfast and did my daily streaming of Midnights (3 AM version) because there is zero rest for Taylor Swift fans haha. I remember eating my durian/salted egg/custard daifukus from last night while in my room, listening to Labyrinth, and wondering WHEN I’ll feel that way again. They say you heal your relationship trauma in parts, and most of the healing comes when you get into a healthy relationship because that’s where you confront all your unhealed parts. And the only time ever since I became single that I came across a dude who seemed healthy for me (got me into biking, he had so many other hobbies that I didn’t feel like he was too clingy, my friends/family telling me how peaceful my aura has become etc), I went running the other way. He never made me feel like he was just trying to get into my pants (not gonna lie, the unhealed crazier version of me felt rejected at that), and even watched all the Taylor Swift material he can get his hands on to relate to me (yes, everyone say aww now). He was even so respectful and understanding about it when I had to say I really can’t do whatever we were doing because it made me feel so guilty and I don’t wanna waste more of his time (after 3 months of dating back in 2020, and him starting a pinterest board because we shared house pegs all the time – and I shit you not when I say that I have a thing for fit dudes with glasses who is ALSO organized as fuck. The vibe that comes with that look is what makes me interested, but it’s the ‘being organized’ aspect of their personality that hooks me in lol. Even Gin/Mico/Kara/Alex aka all my friends who were aware of the physical attributes I gravitate towards said “ugh here she goes again with that type”). He’s in a relationship that he deserves now though, and of the handful of dudes that have come and gone in my life, this is the dude I’m the happiest for.

Ugh not another Taylor Swift song making me relive all these random tidbits from the past. I’m an out-of-sight, out-of-mind person. And I usually forget about people, especially ones I didn’t really connect to on a deeper level. It also doesn’t help that I delete inactive message threads all the time (unless they’re from friends I just don’t talk to a lot / people I met while traveling because sometimes, they come to visit or vice versa). Where were we again though? Oh, Labyrinth. It’s such a beautiful song about being terrified when you actually meet someone healthy for you. Will I ever get to that point again? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not too sure, to be honest. At this moment, I lean towards never. Ha!

I have so many thoughts in my head, partly because of Midnights. But also because my first stop for the day was Pluto. It’s a pretty nice cafe a bit further out the moat/Old City. There’s something about being on long (ish) motorbike rides in silence that makes me introspective. It was like digesting this song and assigning a lot more meaning to it while I headed to the cafe.

Boom was the one who recommended this cafe to me, and when I got there, I immediately understood why. IT WAS A HUGE BLACK SPHERE. I’m not even kidding. And the outside was designed to look like it was a building built in outer space. I’m sure whoever built it did some research about it but it’s immediately the vibe you get upon walking up the steps to the entrance. The furniture went so well with the entire structure that I’m sure Boom and Not have taken so many good photos up in there. I got the cloud nine coffee (mainly because I really like the term “on cloud nine”, I like Cloud 9 chocolate, and it’s just a phrase I relate to with quiet happiness – I’m rambling again, aren’t I?). There were also so many people taking photos in the cafe. Meanwhile, I get to enjoy my coffee and this delicious chocolate and banana (I’m still thinking if it’s banoffee or not) while listening to more songs from Midnights. It’s part of my personality at this point.

I booked a car (and not a bike because ooo boy, it was noon and I’m not aiming to toast myself) to Roast8ry Lab. Another from Boom’s list of recommended coffee shops. They have two branches, and Boom told me to head to the flagship store. I’m a sucker for industrial-ish aesthetics and it was that. Apparently, the owner of this cafe won numerous world championships for latte art so I went and got a cup. One thing about me is I’m not really a coffee connoisseur. I just like hanging out in cafes. Haha! So while the latte art was undoubtedly pretty, I found the coffee quite basic. Like something I’ve had before. BUT again, I can’t really be the judge of what tastes like great/nice coffee. I’m a yummy/bleh person. Sometimes I have an “it’s ok” rating too. But yeah. Mico likes coffee though, so I went and bought him coffee beans. The dude by the bar looked cute (maybe it was maskfishing) so I asked him for recommendations even though I already know what kind of coffee beans Mico buys (me and my friends talk to each other too much, I suppose).

My next stop was Free Bird Cafe. It’s a social enterprise that helps Thai Freedom House (an organization that helps refugees), and I keep seeing this place consistently in where to eat in Chiang Mai lists. While I don’t regret supporting a great cause, I’d have to say though that.. the food was meh. I guess it’s because I’ve had amazing vegan food before so I always have high expectations for vegan food. And it kinda did not live up to the hype. But they’re doing something for the greater good, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

I was getting a bit full so I only dropped by Magokoro Tea House. Whoever started the trend to adapt Japanese-themed cafes/tea houses in Chiang Mai should be given an award. Because this one was just pretty nice. I went and drank some green tea and it was so zen when I dropped by. Also, I’m lowkey planning a trip to Japan, but traveling when you own a business is hard because I still do most of the things and I can’t just do things willy-nilly. Oh, if it isn’t me and the consequences of my actions.

I went back to the hotel to drop off all my random purchases before heading to the food tour. We were told to meet at a temple, and I dropped by early thinking that a currency exchange place would be nearby (in my head, temples mean lots of tourists = money changer). But surprise, surprise, there was none. So now I was too early for the tour and I’d already managed to roam around the temple. I was getting a little queasy that I might be the only one or maybe I misunderstood my rescheduled tour. Fortunately, nearing 5 PM, I saw some people also roam around the temple seemingly waiting for the tour to start.

Our first stop was the Cowboy Hat lady who makes stew – honestly, I believe it’s the Thai version of patatim. It was good though, but since I’ve tried it before (at home and in Chinatown), it ended up kind of underwhelming. The next stop was some clay pot roast where they roast meat inside an actual pot. We had roasted pork and chicken – and omg that chicken was so tender. Stop 3 was in a market where we roamed around and she explained all the things – then we got to try different local fruits (quite similar to our local fruits – it was funny that guyabano is called something entirely different in English), as well as some snacks such as two different versions of chicharon (the one with soy sauce was very good), chili, rice crackers, those meringue tacos, and some of the fried worms. We also got to drink sugarcane juice afterward before we left for the next stop.

Now my memory’s a bit blurry, but I believe the next one was a vegan place. I do remember that the group had to split up between tables with the couples in one and the solo travelers in another. Got to talking with this old man from the US (forgot to note down his name) and he mentioned how often he makes the trip to Thailand (without his girlfriend, so who knows what kind of things he’s into lol). He asked me if I travel alone often and how I find it – I simply said, well, I’m used to it and it’s actually quite fun. Which to be fair, it is. But the long answer would definitely be “oh god, sometimes I get super lonely that I join tours to find some semblance of not being alone. However, it’s hard for me to not travel solo because I do quite enjoy having the time to only manage myself and no one else, and I personally don’t think I’d find someone (anyone) who enjoys the same things I do. Mao is the closest I have to an ideal travel buddy because we balance each other out so well, but he’s currently happy in his relationship bubble + our schedules mostly conflict. I always do have an open invitation to all my closest friends whenever I travel, I give them my travel dates and a rough draft of my itinerary (which mostly revolves around food and only a handful of tourist spots) and they’re always welcome to tag along if they wanted (something Gin used to do before meeting Mikko). It’s not really like choosing to travel alone, but more of not waiting for anyone to travel with. This girl from Boston, Erin, immediately agreed because she travels a lot alone too. And we kinda hit it off because she’s traveled to a lot of places I want to go to (like South America). Another guy was at the table with us (Jono from Melbourne) as well. But overall, our table of solo travelers barely ate anything and just chatted away.

During the tour, a lot of the local culture and history of Thailand was shared by the guide, Moui. As it turns out, not a lot of locals cook anymore because it’s easier (and sometimes, even cheaper) to just buy food from all the food markets before heading home. And as a loyal food delivery customer, I would have to agree. As much as I enjoy cooking, the clean-up and constantly having to think of a menu really drove me crazy. I’ll stick with my meal plan, thank you very much.

Our next stop was to this place where they served some curry, chicken soup, and the famous water buffalo salad. This salad uses the juice found in the intestine of the water buffalo as a sauce for the salad – which honestly sounds bad, but generally, I kinda thought it was on the same spectrum of weird as foie gras and people think that’s fancy. I still tried it because unless it looked/smelled gross, I always knew I would lol. The thing about local food is just don’t think about it too much, to be honest, and just enjoy it. Then we had another stop at a noodle place where we ate two different kinds of noodles. They have a Michelin star but at this point, I’m really just too full and too overstimulated to enjoy anything.

I did get to chat with this dude from Melbourne, and it was funny because we will be on the same flight back to Bangkok. The same one I was trying to rebook to an earlier time haha. He was having a few suits done in Bangkok, and I’ve watched a couple of tiktoks of people doing this in Thailand and Vietnam as well.. and I got upset at myself for never thinking of doing it too. I wonder how it will turn out and I probably would never know. I hope for his sake that it turns out well enough. We also got some free pandan-flavored kaya toast that I didn’t even eat and just put in my bag. Melbourne dude mentions how much he enjoys kaya toast and basically just ate that while he was in Malaysia. It’s funny because it instantly reminded me of my brother’s kaya toast phase every single time we spend a few weeks in Singapore.

Our almost last stop was this dessert place that served the Thai version of ginataang bilo bilo. It’s basically that. I got a throwback to spending hot summer afternoons in my mom’s kitchen, rolling sticky rice dough into small balls and throwing it into this huge pot of coconut with pandan soup. And that’s basically what this dessert was. They do add soft-boiled eggs too, so maybe that’s a difference.

The final stop was at Warorot Market. I’ve been there before multiple times so all I really wanted to do was head back to the hotel because I was tired. But I soldiered on and ate a few bites here and there (of snacks I’ve already eaten before). Since us solo travelers will still have some time to hang out, we exchanged contacts between the three of us (me, Jono, and Erin) before going our separate ways. We’ll probably go by a night market tomorrow. Who knows. The three of us quite have similar itineraries so maybe it’s going to be fun.

And now I’m in bed with wet hair (too tired to dry it), waiting for sleep to come to claim my consciousness.

I just realized that I do have the tendency to ramble on. Whenever I start writing, it’s hard for me to stop. It’s weird because it’s like dispensing every single thing on my head on paper (digital paper as it is). Hmm maybe this is why Pensieves exist. I feel a lot lighter writing down my thoughts even if they’re all over the place. Maybe I should take the time to do this back home too.

Good night!

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