My First 24 Hours in Chiang Mai: Winging It in Thailand Pt.1

I almost skipped North Thailand. Wet, cloudy, muddy days aren’t the best antidote to my fibromyalgia. “But you just have to go…” my soul strangely whispered.. A $25 flight from Bangkok, 3-hour search, and defeating $7 hostel booking later, there I was: on the airport floor, anxiously awaiting a response from a Couchsurfing host…wondering what my first 24 hours in Chiang Mai would be like…

…but it wouldn’t come, it wouldn’t come…would it? 

What now?

24 hours in Chiang Mai, jungle stupa

My first 24 hours in Chiang Mai – the Couchsurfing waiting game

Waiting on a cold airport floor wasn’t exactly how I planned to spend my first day in Chiang Mai. Defeated, I looked around–quickly perking up as I spotted a couple with a driver. With big brown Latin puppy eyes, I convinced (errm, hustled) them to let me hitch a ride for a fraction of the fare.

Less than 20 minutes later, I had made it to my hostel, convinced some travelers on motorbikes by the front to wait 5 minutes for me so I could join them, and hit the road.

Chiang Mai solo female traveler, scooters

As I swiftly changed clothes, though, I got the response I was hoping to hear 3 and a half hours earlier on that cold airport floor:

“you’re welcome to stay!”

His name was Julien and, thanks to some Spanish travelers leaving to Pai today, I could now crash at his place.

But, the motorcycle trip…

“I’ll be there tomorrow morning! Thanks!” I typed, as I struggled to hop on the high seat of the backpacker’s motorbike.


24 hours in Chiang Mai, Road trip

There’s nothing like riding a motorbike to the outskirts of Chiang Mai in the shoulder season. Rain was delayed this year and so, we were graced with sunny skies…until sunset.

The vibrating seat, cooling breeze, moving gray clouds, and growling motor–combined with our infantile elation–felt more intoxicating than 5 strongly-poured vodka wells during unlimited $10 happy-hour Fridays in Tampa.

We got so lost, but we did not care. Not even the surprising afternoon downpour could stop us!

After about 30 minutes riding in circles, not only did we make it, but clouds slowly dissipated.

24 hours in Chiang Mai, Lake trip

The lake was peaceful, with a couple of local kids and families chirping in the background.

Practicing my broken Egyptian Arabic with an Egyptian-American girl as Army veterans told war stories–all ecstatic to be alive, there, at that very moment, in Thailand.

The high of traveling without a plan is more addictive than opium, apparently.

A video posted by Maria Alexandra (@latinabroad) on

Once back, we showered and hit the night market for dinner.

Oh man, it was everything I could want: my very first khao soi bowl. The cutest puppy I’ve ever seen. The most colorful little Thai dancer. An energizing, live drum band.

All that after the most relaxing, yet exhilarating impromptu scooter trip around Chiang Mai’s outskirts and Old City.

24 hours in Chiang Mai, night market

What a “half-day.” Too bad my new friends were leaving town after my first 24 hours in Chiang Mai..

the next morning

I met up with couchsurfer Julien to drop off my bags. He was working, but we planned foodie adventures for that evening.

Reality check: many Couchsurfing hosts work during the day, so don’t expect to be babysat around the city.

So, what did I do? Went back to the hostel I had just checked out of, hung out at the patio, and waited until I encountered some friendly travelers to strike a conversation with.

24 hours in Chiang Mai, hostel

Not even 5 minutes passed until I heard a traveler speaking Spanish. I quickly introduced myself, he said he was waiting for his friend, I asked if I could crash their day…


After his friend came out, we crashed the pool of a nicer guesthouse because it was too damn hot.

Chiang Mai solo female traveler, pool crashing

Post-refreshing splash, I hit the road again! With them, my new friends 😀

It was another half-day of aimless wandering. We simply wanted to see what popped out around the city–and drop by what drew us in.

I even met up with the Egyptian-American girl again at Doi Suthep.

24 hours in Chiang Mai, temples

By mid-afternoon, it was time to go back to the residential district where my Couchsurfing host lived: just outside the Old City of Chiang Mai, by a crowded university…

Click HERE for Part 2 of my “Solo Female Winging It in Thailand” series 😉

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About Maria Alexandra

Maria Laborde, aka latinAbroad, is an open-minded, highly-energetic woman with the spirit of a child. A world citizen, Puerto Rican at heart, carrier of an American passport. A passionate translator and writer, sprinkling Latin spice around the world!

3 thoughts on “My First 24 Hours in Chiang Mai: Winging It in Thailand Pt.1

  1. I have never been Chiang Mai. I just listen from my friend that it is really awesome and I should not miss it, especially Doi Suthep. Your blog truly inspires me to go there, Thank!

    • I almost skipped Chiang Mai and I would have been so upset if I wouldn’t have listened to everybody else! Definitely, go there and take my tips with you 😉

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