We arrived in Chiang Mai hours later than we were supposed to, which means we were right on Thai time. Rather than streets filled with tuk-tuks, Chiang Mai is flooded by songthaews- trucks with opposing benches nailed down to the bed. Depending on their size, they could comfortably seat between 6-10 people, which means they usually crowd 8-15. At one point we rode in a songthaew so crowded I stood on the back, holding on fireman-style.
Unfortunately the hostel we were trying to go to, Giant House, has two locations, and our songthaew driver took us to the one on the opposite side of Chiang Mai. By the time we hiked back over to the right side of town we were starving, sweating, and not happy to see that most of the hostels had “full” signs. After striking out almost everywhere we stumbled across an adorable little street market on Moonmuang Road and found a hostel called La Mer. I immediately fell in love.
For those who have backpacked abroad, I should mention that “hostels” here are nothing like the hostels I have stayed in in Europe or Central America. We’ve been able to score private rooms with two twin beds and a private bathroom in almost every place we have visited for between 300-600 baht ($10-20). We have both decided it is worth a few extra dollars for air conditioning and hot water when possible. We even had maid service and a pool at La Mer, so it felt much more like a hotel than a hostel.
In 2013, I quit my job and bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. After four months of backpacking I returned to the States and fell in love with a guy whose job sent us straight back to Asia. Nothing has gone according to plan... and it's been absolutely magical.