After going from Vietnam to Thailand, we found ourselves in a predicament. We had just spent a week doing very off-the-beaten path experiences, and when we arrived to Thailand the notion of herds of tourists and typical spots seemed, well, simply wrong.
Our itinerary in Chiang Mai and Bangkok was originally filled with the top temples, views, and excursions. Though I believe they should be seen, we decided to opt out. The only so-called tourist spot we walked in to was one of the bigger temples conveniently on the same block of our hotel in Chiang Mai.
So why did we trade tourist spots for coffee shops?
When we first did our research I thought visiting tourist spots where all there was to do.
In all honesty, I really didn't think there was much else. My lack of research plus seeing everyone else's photos made me think that this is what everyone does. I was wrong. And it wasn't until good ol' Instagram search results under the hashtag #chiangmai led me to some really unique coffee shops and hang outs. I really had no idea there was such an incredible art scene in Chiang Mai.
I suffer from serious FOMO.
I really do. Sometimes to the point of exhaustion. I often never draw a line and strive to see everything and do everything. FOMO is fear of missing out. I fear I won't come back, so when in "you name it", I do it all. At first I feared that if I didn't see the temples, ruins, and other main sights, I would miss out. After spending a few hours in the local coffee shops and hanging out with locals, I totally forgot about our original itinerary.
It's actually how I spend my time at home.
I think this is the biggest lie in travel: you must see the tourist sights when in another country. I think about how I spend my time home in San Francisco — you'd never find me in Fishermen's Wharf or rarely in Union Square or places like Lombard Street. I am usually in coffee shops, hanging out, meeting people, and walking the neighborhoods. So why do I feel when I travel I have to do otherwise? In Chiang Mai Bangkok I did exactly what I would do in SF. I coffee hopped, walked the neighborhoods, talked to people — and it was brilliant.
Looking back on our time, though I have just a few photos of the "sights" and a lot of coffee, what I took home was so much more memorable. I realized what an incredible, young generation thrives in Thailand around the art scene. I learned quickly how welcoming the Thai were. I appreciated the smaller, quieter moments in a coffee shop. Needless to say, I'll be back again Thailand for more Thai Iced Teas and inspiring spaces.
Travel well, travel often.