Skip to main content

Thailand and Vietnam adventure - Chiang Mai

As I write this I am on a sleeper bus to Sapa, Vietnam to explore the rice fields. I felt this was a perfect time to reflect on the first part of my adventure because I do have 6 hours of travelling ahead of me and I can’t sleep! 

This adventure was created off the back of wanting to go visit my brother who has lived in Bangkok for the last four years and not once have I made it out here in that time. With his departure from Thailand next year it was the last chance I would have to go. So over a lunch catch up with a friend I mentioned my plan and before the day was up she had already started looking into it - I had not actually asked her directly to come but secretly I hoped she would maybe take the hint because I couldn’t have done this without her. 

Due to the time of year, weather and my brother’s other plans for his month off we chose to meet up with him in Chiang Mai. His adventure would take him onto Pai and ours would continue to Vietnam and then back to Bangkok to finish. 

Stage one - getting there

We flew direct from the UK to Bangkok, about 12 hours, on 25th September with BA. This included a connecting flight up to Chiang Mai so there was no fussing about getting luggage moved - winner! All we had to do was find the next flight which was pretty straight forward even if it didn’t seem like it at the time. The immigration forms though were slightly more tricky to complete, but on the fifth attempt we cracked it. I blame the altitude and it messing with our brains - oh and we are aliens! 

The excitement of what laid ahead of us started to hit as we waited for the connecting flight, all be it a little tired and in need of a good nap! At 12:30pm local time, 6am UK time, flight number two of the holiday was boarded and only a mere 1 hour flight sat between us and bed. Flying into Chiang Mai reminded me very much of Cardiff, just a lot warmer! Odd I know but it was the way the city was surrounded by mountains of green, it almost felt like home, just missing the Bristol Channel. 

Everything to this point had gone smoothly and we were able to understand everything. It was when we meet the transfer to the hotel where reality hit me and the language barrier was apparent. With pointing and basic words we understood each other and actually it wasn’t too bad. We were given a sign with my name and off we went to wait, in the heat of outside, for the lovely air conditioned mini van to pick us up. 

Driving to the hotel we got to have a sneak peak to what was in store for us the next couple of days and it now reminded me of Greece. The odd shops, no real pavements, large advertising boards and generally no uniform layout or structure. People might say ‘What do you expect?’ and I understand that not every country has what we have in the UK but I guess comparing it to Greece gives me a sense of familiarity and puts me at ease a bit more. Normally my anxiety levels would be sky high but to my surprise they had been low for the duration of the trip so for. 

We stayed at a hotel called TJR Boutique Hotel and was greeted by a very friendly and smiley lady. She was very helpful and when we said about the early starts we had coming up she was more than happy enough to serve us breakfast early. Our room was situated on the fourth floor and we struggled with the stairs on many occasions because of the heat. 

As soon as we were in the room we were straight on the bed and eyes shut for a well deserved nap. Although not before an alarm was set so we didn’t waste the whole afternoon and evening. After about an hour or so we awoke and went for a wander around the city to find some food and explore a bit more. It was the start of our adventure and wanted to take every opportunity we could to see our surroundings because we had a jam packed schedule ahead and not a lot of time for resting if we wanted to get as much as we could out of Chiang Mai. 

Chiang Mai 

Chiang Mai is situated in northern Thailands mountainous region. Its old city area still retains fragments of walls and moats from its history as a cultural and religious center.

It is a lovely place and a lot bigger than I imagined. The streets are scattered with stalls selling anything from clothes, bags, souvenir items, meals and fruit. There was even someone selling fruit out of the back of a car! This is just on a normal day, on a market day the street is jam packed with stalls. Every time to stop to look at something you have the seller actively trying to sell you their product and reduce the price, if you say no, to try and entice you to buy. If you do end up buying an item then it is worth hustling and doing a deal. It is not considered rude here and actually it is how they work. 

The first afternoon out I was a bit nervous about the place, the street stalls and not being able to communicate but I soon relaxed into it.

There are many quirky coffee shops and restaurants. The first one we found was ‘See you soon’ and that is what happened they saw us two days later, twice in one day too! We also came across a bagel shop, bakery with amazing cinnamon rolls, Miranda’s Cafe and a bar/restaurant called Hot Chilli which had swing chairs! - More about each one to follow soon, promise 

As you look at a map of the city, you will notice there is a square around the old city and our hotel was located in the middle right hand side. On our city day we chose to explore the temples within the square because they were all in walking distance. This gave us plenty to do because it was also the day we were to met up with my brother. There are some mains temples that google suggest when you ask ‘temples in Chiang Mai’ but also around every corner you can find another one to explore. Along with the temples within the square there are also a few outside and would probably require a tuk tuk to get there. I think by the end of our stay here we were a little templed out! My favourite had to be Wat Chedi Luang, it is a huge stone temple in the middle of a city. When I look at it I think it is something that belongs in the desert somewhere and not surrounded by modern life. The temples surrounding it were also impressive in their own way. You have to pay 30baht to get in, this is about £0.71 - yes that’s correct! Not all of the temples have an entry fee but most do ask for donations. 

Below are some of the others we saw but it is by no means all of them
  • Wat Chiang Man 
  • Wat Phan Tao
  • Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang 

Another must do (according to my brother) is getting a massage by women ex prisoners! Odd I know but apparently it was good, unfortunately I can’t comment on this as we ran out of time. You have to get there early morning and they will give you a time slot because they don’t take bookings and it is popular. 

I quite like this place and didn’t really realise how much until I arrived in Hanoi. 


Sorry for the rough and basic post but unfortunately I can’t add photos via my phone. I promise to update it with photos later but if you want to see a few then head over to my Facebook page or Instagram. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Norwegian Fjords 2015

A while back I said I would post something about the cruise I went on back in June 2015 but alas nothing was posted - sorry!

As I didn't do anything back then, I thought I would write something about it now as I am on a roll...



Day trip to Kotor, Montenegro

Second port of call was the breath taking Kotor, Montenegro
On last years cruise we made an unexpected stop in Kotor where I chose to do an excursion, which would take me up into the mountains (read about it here). This year I opted for the self guided tour of the old town instead. The distance from the ship to the town was mere meters away, or 5 palm trees if you're my mum, so not far to travel which is perfect. As I left the ship that morning to go on my early explore and I was greeted by several people wanted to sell me taxi journeys to see the surrounding areas, some were more persistent than others! I fought my way through, politely declining as I went, and soon made it to the city. The plan was to come back and go on the hop on, hop off bus tours to explore some of the towns further down the coast.



Last year at the end of the excursion we had a walking tour of the city. Unfortunately it was late afternoon by the time we had arrived, so it was jam packed and after a while I j…