When I’m traveling, I love exploring on my own. But in each new city I visit, I book one tour to see and learn things that only locals know. Not your normal sightseeing tours but ones that take you to hidden parts of town and show you about local life and culture. And that’s how I ended up on Vespa Adventures’ Chiang Mai After Dark Tour!
I was so excited to travel around Chiang Mai ‘the local way’, on the back of a motorbike. I was also a bit nervous as I had never been on a Vespa before and the traffic seemed pretty crazy. On the night of the tour, I was picked up at my guesthouse by a Vespa Adventures driver. I was pleasantly surprised to see that my driver was a woman! Even though she didn’t speak much English- and I spoke no Thai- she quickly made me feel at ease on the motorbike. She helped me adjust my helmet to a snug-fit, demonstrated how to get on the Vespa safely, showed me where to hold on, then helped by stabilizing the handlebars while I climbed onboard. Once she started driving, I was surprised how comfortable and relaxed I felt!
We then drove to the meeting point to join up with the guide and the 5 other guests. Bhurm, our guide, gave us a short overview of the tour and a safety briefing. Immediately I was so glad I booked this Chiang Mai night tour– Bhurm was so funny and friendly, I felt like I was going on a tour organized by a friend!
We took some photos on the Vespas before the sun set. Then we each climbed on the back of our Vespas and started off to our first destination. It was so cool to see a line of Vespas going through the small backstreets (I later learned these are called sois). We saw local families playing badminton in the streets and lots of people waved to us as we drove by.
We got off the bikes in a parking lot and Bhurm walked us into a really cool barbeque shop. There were dozens of small tables in the courtyard and it was filled with locals drinking beer and chatting. Bhurm said this was a popular place for people to come socialize after work and the atmosphere was just buzzing! Bhurm ordered us each a beer and a bunch of different items from the grill- it was all delicious but he joked that we need to pace ourselves as there was a lot more eating to do on the motorbike tour!
We drove through more narrow laneways lined with homes and small shops. Even though we were close to the city center, it felt totally different. And as it was dark by now, it was extra fun being on the back of the Vespa!
The next stop was a highlight for me! We walked into a small shop and the table was laid out with individual cooking stations with mortar and pestle, ingredients and a cool Vespa Adventures apron! Bhurm walked us through the steps of making papaya salad, a dish that is especially popular in North Thailand. He explained each ingredient and how we could customize the dish to suit our taste (for me, less fish sauce and only 1 chili!) It was a really fun experience and also a delicious snack.
Back on the Vespas, we drove a bit further to where we would be having dinner. It didn’t look like much from the outside but once we got in it was so amazing! The restaurant had lovely views of the Ping River and lots of Thai families were enjoying dinner there. Bhurm ordered several dishes for us to share- each one was very different tasting. We had coconut chicken soup, Penang curry and a few other dishes. Delicious!
Our last stop of the evening was a bar with live music. Tucked away in the night market, I didn’t have high hopes for it but once we got there I was blown away! The bar is such a cool venue, with a nice mix of locals and a few tourists. When we arrived, a Thai band playing cover songs was performing but then another Thai band took the stage and played really amazing original songs. We all agreed, it was the perfect way to wrap up this incredible Chiang Mai night tour!
After we finished our drinks, we said good-bye to each other and to Bhurm and our drivers took us back to our respective hotels. I truly enjoyed Vespa Adventures’ Chiang Mai After Dark tour and can’t believe how much food and drink was included! Plus the guide and drivers were superb and fellow travelers were so much fun! I am already planning another motorbike adventure with them when I visit Vietnam next year.
Credit: Anne C