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Koh Tao was full on with visiting friends, diving, partying, muay thai-ing, and all the other usual diversions. Bangkok was a short but intense weekend of indulgent partying. For my sister’s last few days in Thailand, she requested a relaxing spot to detox, catch up on work (she was soon returning to her final semester at NYU) and polish off that final Thailand tan.

So I coughed up a few more Starwood points and booked us in for three nights at the .

It was secluded, luxurious, and lovely — it was everything we were looking for. I marveled over how few points I had to spend to get us into this massive chic room and lounging in front of this decadent pool. As promised, I’ll have a post up soon about how I managed to snag all those Starpoints, with lots of details and photos on the properties I booked using them.

But for now, these photos can serve as a representation of how we spent ninety-five percent of our time in Chiang Rai — without leaving the grounds of the resort.

Two out of three evenings, we took advantage of the resort’s free shuttle service into Chiang Rai town so we could have a cheap dinner, stock our mini-fridge with fruit and yoghurt for breakfast (sadly using Starpoints generally means no delicious hotel breakfast) and check out the famous local markets.

Chiang Rai was busier and more built-up that I had expected — I suppose it is the provincial capital! Still, the town is mostly used as a base for trekking and other jump-off activities, and doesn’t hold too much appeal in its official borders.

The Night Bazaar was well worth a look, and I say that as someone who is both not much of a shopper and also has been to approximately 7,145 night markets in Southeast Asia (rough estimate.) There seemed to be a good selection of crafts indigenous to Northern Thailand, which was a good sign.

I absolutely love the image below — a traditionally dressed hilltribe woman selling her handicrafts in the shadow of a gaudy local ladyboy show. Ah, Thailand.

We were also in town for the Saturday Night Walking Street. This was a bit more full-on and locally oriented, and I suffered from a few moments of intense claustrophobia. It was worth it though, for the local snacks…

The vendor guard dogs…

And the wide variety of goods for sale…

On Olivia’s final day in Thailand, we didn’t leave the property once, and capped off our last hours with a decadent dinner at the onsite Italian restaurant Favola. When we called her a cab and we waved goodbye, it hit me that I wouldn’t see her again for over four months. Traveling with a sister is challenging and while I admit there were moments I wished I was alone, I just as freely admit that I shed real tears at her departure.

The sister portion of my trip was over, and I was about to set off on my own. A new chapter begins…

 . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . .

Okay, so I just couldn’t end that post having you all think I spend the majority of my traveling days at the freaking Le Meridian, being served cold bottled water by the pool and flipping through the latest Vanity Fair, could I? I could not. So I leave you instead with this: the epilogue, or How I Spent My First Two Days of Solo Travel.

I spent them here:

One hundred baht, or three dollars, can get you a lot of things in Thailand, including the lovely (ahem) room you see above. But that room was attached to a hotel with a nice garden and fast free WiFi, so I happily based myself there for two nights while I caught up on work and got my bearings.

Other travelers came and went on exotic trekking trips and hilltribe visits and elephant tours, but I sat in that garden and did freelancing projects and went up and slept in my little pod. When I needed a break, I got up to get a massage or a snack or to check out the beautiful temple around the corner.

And I was really, really happy.

Stay tuned for the bike tour that finally got me out exploring the countryside of Chiang Rai!

  • Jade
    March 6 2013

    It is all about the balance between splurging and scrimping!
    It makes you appreciate both so much more- meaning you are outstandingly grateful and excited by a luxury hotel and equally thrilled when you save 1 dollar on a crappy place!

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      I totally agree Jade. I’m responding to your comment from a lovely expensive hotel in Bangkok, but I’m kind of missing my little bungalow in Railay right now… and that was a fraction of the price!

  • I love the balance you have! I’m obsessed with Le Meridian properties!!! What a gorgeous one!
    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      I got to stay in the Chiang Mai one as well on this trip… the Chiang Rai one here definitely wins! Stunning!

  • Olivia
    March 6 2013

    OMG we look so TAN!! My now pasty, NYC skin is jealous. Miss you!

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      Ugh I feel not tan right now too. You would probably smack me if you were next to me right now for saying that though!

  • memographer
    March 6 2013

    Love the street photography! You both look cute in black and white 🙂 I am not saying that you do not look cute in color 🙂 I just like the b-n-w pic 😉

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      Thanks! I love a good black and white action every once in a while!

  • Sarah Somewhere
    March 6 2013

    Glad your site is back up! This looks absolutely deluxe, definitely the way to see Chiang Rai! I too was a little underwhelmed by the place, but then, it was pouring with rain when we were there for a quick stop en route to the border. Look forward to more adventures 🙂
    Sarah Somewhere recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      The bike tour I did ( the Le Meridian, of course!) totally made the trip worth it! Highly recommend it if you are ever back in the area!

  • Sam
    March 6 2013

    That hotel looks incredible! Glad the site is back up and running I had images of you having more-than-mild panic attacks in random little hostels x
    Sam recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      I will not lie to you — there was one anguished full body collapse in the middle of a dirt road, in which I’m sure all the other travelers assumed I’d just gotten the news that one of my immediate family members had passed.

      … I did nothing to dissuade them from that though. I really needed their pity at the moment!

  • Melanie Fontaine
    March 6 2013

    This resort looks really beautiful! I can totally see how a stay there would be an amazingly relaxing experience.

    I don’t know how you do it, but your writings make every sort of travel sound like the greatest thing ever: Whether it’s staying at five-star hotels or in shabby hostels, you just seem to have a blast everywhere. It makes me think that happiness really has only to do with your attitude.

    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      Thank you so much for such a lovely comment Melanie 🙂 I really do actively try to stay positive and see the bright side of things. Sometimes I fail miserably, but mostly it feeds off itself and comes easy!

  • Kristen Noelle
    March 6 2013

    You and Olivia are absolutely adorable and I just love your sisterliness!
    My trip came with a short stint in Chiang Rai where I stayed in a hostel-like guesthouse for the first time. That was an adjustment (for the whopping one night), but I would definitely do it again in the name of cheap travel.

    But wow. That!? IDK. Lol. How do you deal with the threat of bedbugs? I definitely agree though, it’s all about balance!

    Chiang Rai’s night bazaar is indeed pretty cool. I stopped past the same little temple too! Your gorgeous photos make me miss that country… my two weeks was such a tease!

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      See the green thing wrapped around my pillow? It’s my sarong… wasn’t ready to let my face touch that 😛 That room was a bit below my normal comfort level but I was just coming off some major luxury so I had some resistance built up 🙂

  • Sebastiaan
    March 6 2013

    When I see the bright- and sharpness of your pictures I always think I have a (ultra)HD-laptop.

    Again a very nice impression! I like the temple: those Buddha-buildings have always a serene effect on me, even when it is build in the middle of a crowded city.

    And you won’t be surprised when I say that I am looking forward to reading your tales of the biking-trip!

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      The biking was the highlight of Chiang Rai for me! Stay tuned 🙂

  • Jemma
    March 7 2013

    Just by looking at the photos, I can tell that you really had a great vacation at Chiang Rai.

    “The vendor guard dogs” made me laugh! I think those dogs are the ones who need to be guarded.

    Those rabbits also look really cute. I hope someone with a good heart will adopt and take good care of them. 🙂
    Jemma recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      March 8 2013

      I don’t know what it is about small town Thailand… people love to dress up their teeny dogs!

      • Claudine
        March 17 2013

        They do the same thing in South Korea. They even dye the dog’s fur (usually the ears) into bright colors.
        Claudine recently posted..

        • Meihoukai
          March 17 2013

          I always wonder how they get the dogs to sit still for that! My cocker spaniel would have none of it 🙂