Anybody who knows me knows that I'm not really into holidays or 'travelling'. Yes I like to 'go away' for weekends now and then, but I'm too lazy to pack my life into a suitcase (20 kg max), drag it to (and through) an airport, feel like a cross between cattle and a suspected villain as I go through a sequence of queues, passport checks and security checks, and (to top it all) to self impose a rigorous timetable of sightseeing, shopping, and email checking that is far more stressful (to me) than working (I kid you not).
But this post is not about my dislikes (the previous paragraph not withstanding), this is about good things which hide behind other, less good, things. Let me tell you.
A trip to Thailand (which I wasn't expecting much of) had been going really rather well, when I arrived in Chiang Mai on the overnight train from Bangkok. Like I said, the trip had been going rather better than expected but, even so, my arrival in a new place proved to be a sharp turning point for the better.
Chiang Mai is an artisan and artistic university city in Northern Thailand. Its old city sits squarely in the middle of the newer rings that have sprang up around it, but it is neither obscured nor invaded by ultra-modern towers and skyscrapers. Inside the city life goes on, marked by tourism but unquestionably 'real'.
Walking around the old city and much of the 'newer' city you will find many art galleries, studios and schools. Art and design seem to be part of the city's DNA, and not in a clichéd way. I recommend visiting iberry for some interesting design and great ice cream, and the SeeScape gallery for some very interesting art (both have free wifi I am told).
Though I imagine few of us will be able to purchase furniture (even if we do fly first class, which I don't, obviously), Chiang Mai is an outstanding source of a wide range of some very interesting furniture. The workmanship of its craftsmen, the imagination of its artists and designers, and the atmosphere of the place all contrubute towards making it a very special place if you fall for the charms of the aesthetic / message.
Outside Chiang Mai there is a wonderful mountainous area where you can eat by a waterfall, play with elephants, walk through beautiful forests and drive through some great mountain roads with jaw-dropping views. I cannot stress this enough; the mountains by Chiang Mai are a wonderful, a great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and relax.
Really, if you are thinking about visiting Thailand then research it, think it over, and go there.