A Forty Five Minute Flight Versus A Thirteen Hour Train Ride
We took a short one hour flight with Thai airways from Bangkok to Chiang Mai which is in northern Thailand. It gets very confusing because there are many provinces that have a city in them with the same name. Like Chiang Mai province and Chiang Mai city. It was only $50 Canadian for the flight as opposed to taking a 13 hour train ride. The scenery is supposed to be very nice on the train, but we decided we wanted to get there the fast route. Hats off to Thai airways! Excellent service, we even got fed a meal on a one hour flight!
Using The Official Taxi Booth In The Airport Still Turned Out Badly!
We arrived in Chiang Mai at about 3pm. We had a guesthouse in mind that we wanted to stay at, but had no reservation. We phoned it from the airport and they said they had room. We usually like to go and look at the place before we book, it can be hit and miss. We read in our travel book that you could go up to a desk in the airport that would arrange a metered taxi into the city of Chiang Mai. We had to pay them 50 baht at the desk and then the remainder to the taxi driver according to the meter. Which was about 60 baht. So under $4 altogether to get into the city.
The taxi desk asks you which hotel you want to be dropped off at. They write the name down on a slip for you to show the driver. We were unfortunately dropped off at the wrong hotel. We didn’t discover this until after we had given the driver the money and he was long gone.
We went inside the hotel to inquire what there prices were for a room since we were there anyway. It was over 4 times the price of the place we intended to go to. We showed the hotel clerk the paper the taxi desk had given us. The name they wrote in Thai characters was the correct guesthouse we wanted to go to. We are not sure if the taxi driver just can’t read or if it was some kind of scam where he would get a commission had we decided to stay at this hotel.
We then asked how much it should be to get one of the tuk tuks or taxis sitting out front of their place to the correct hotel. They said 40 baht. When we inquired with the drivers outside they wanted over 100 baht. We were warned about this kind of tourist scamming. We told them forget it, we would walk. We looked at a map and calculated that the hotel we wanted to be at was not that far. The taxi drivers kept bothering us as we walked away. We informed them we were well aware that the fare should only be 40 baht and maybe they should stop trying to rip tourists off. After all of this when we got to the hotel it turned out to be a dive!
The Montri Hotel
We ended up staying four nights in Chiang Mai. We found a nice place called the Montri hotel. It is in an excellent location right across the street from the Tha Phae gate in the old part of the city. Chiang Mai is a walled city, the wall now separates the old city from the newer section. It was a bit more than we intended to pay for accommodation. It was very nice though and had friendly staff.
We had a king size bed for the first time, what heaven! It has air conditioning, a t.v. and fridge in our room. The bathroom was done in nice marble. There was a restaurant with good food and a modern internet cafe. All this we decided was worth the splurge of $22 Canadian a night!
Creative fruit we would have with our breakfast every morning at our hotel
Chiang Mai Night Bizarre
Chiang Mai is kind of like a toned down version of Bangkok. It doesn’t seem as polluted. Although this province can get quite bad for haze and smoke during this time of the year as the farmers burn off their fields.
The 4 days here were spent shopping, shopping, and more shopping! We thought Bangkok had a lot of shopping, but Chaing Mai is shopping capital for Thailand. We actually didn’t buy much, but looking was fun.
There is an incredible night bizarre here. It starts up from about 6pm and goes past midnight. It is spread out over a large area of the town. There are sections with small outdoor food vendors and tables. There is some great food to try. There is another section with many bars and entertainment. Some good and not so good live singing. One spot has a massive climbing wall.
There is an area with rows upon rows of chairs lined up full of people getting foot massages. It can be as cheap as $2. All of this shopping area has local hill tribe people in their traditional clothing walking around trying to sell items. They try to get your attention with a small wooden frog. They run a stick along the back of. It makes a sound just like a croaking frog. When there are several of them in an area it sounds like a chorus.
Foot massages, funky lights for sale and Hill Tribe ladies selling souvenirs
Starbucks And Tuk Tuks
There are two Starbucks here, but again neither one of them has our Chai Tea lattes either. I had to take a picture of the Starbucks with a row of tuk tuks lined out front of it, too funny! It even rhymes, Starbucks and tuk tuks.
The Presence Of Royalty
One night we were in the night bizarre area when we noticed a crowd growing and a lot of police and military presence in one area. We were a bit concerned because we have been watching on the news about a growing protest against the government. Last count was 50,000 people in an area near the Grand Palace and another convoy of 30,000 coming in from the rural areas.
We asked someone what was going on. It turned out that the queen of Thailand was going to be coming and always stays in the Royal Princess Hotel that the crowd was around. We decided to stay and get a glimpse of royalty. We ended up waiting for about an hour. The security was pretty lax compared to an arrival of the queen of England. We ended up seeing her for less than 2 minutes as she was getting out of the limo and greeted by some dignitaries. She then quickly disappeared into the hotel. The crowd was thrilled to see her though. The royal family here is loved by the people and highly respected.
San Kampaeng Shopping Area
One day we hired a tuk tuk driver to take us shopping to an area outside of the city. The road is called San Kamphaeng. It has about 13kms of factory type shops. We ended up hiring him from 12:30 to 5pm. He took us to several places and patiently waited outside while we shopped. He charged us 300 baht for all of this. About $9. Some of the shops include Celadon Pottery, this is famous in Thailand and comes in green and blue colours. There were many silk fabric shops where you can buy the material or have clothes made. There are also silver, leather, antique furniture, hand woven carpets, gems, and a village where they make hand painted umbrellas.
On the way back we passed by another funny site on a motorbike. There was a family of 3 on it. In the very back was a young boy, he was holding an umbrella up to keep the sun of him and the mom who sat in front driving. In the very front was a baby that looked to be about 1 years old. She was holding on to the bike with one hand and was drinking her bottle of milk, holding it in the other. We pass by scenes like this everyday!
A day at the spa……..ahhhhhhh
We decided to treat ourselves to a spa. It is located just above the Mcdonald’s at the night bizarre and is called Blooming Spa Or Relax Spa. Jack had a 2 hour full body massage and a 45 minute session of foot reflexology. I had a one and a half hour hot stone massage and an hour facial. It was a very professional spa with a tranquil atmosphere. The total price for all this was 3800 baht. ($115 Canadian) For those that have ever had spa treatments we don’t need to tell you how cheap this is!
The stone massage was hot! It definitely gets you sweating. I think it really allows the massage to have extra benefit though. I felt so relaxed after. I fell asleep during my facial! Jack was also like a piece of jello when he was done.
Soaking Up The Atmosphere And Trying Thai Food
We have spent other days just wandering around the city seeing what it has to offer. We saw a cheesy Thai fashion show one day. We have also been trying many types of food here. It seems much better for selection and quality than what we experienced in Bangkok. They also cater to vegetarians extremely well. Including many full vegetarian restaurants.
We ate one night at a place called Whole Earth. It has a very nice atmosphere within the city. You almost get to completely escape from the traffic scene as you eat your meal. It has a nicely manicured garden setting with lit up coloured umbrellas around the eating area and property. The food was excellent. We had a full course of Indian vegetarian dishes, not too spicy either.
Even Ronald McDonald does the wai greeting in Thailand!
Inside a large shopping complex and a shopping street in Chiang Mai
Great Map Of Chiang Mai
We were told to pick up a copy of a map called Nancy Chandlers Map Of Chiang Mai. She does an easy to read map that is full of fun little drawings. It notes places of interest that you would not otherwise find on your own. Hard to find shops, cafes hidden down streets and other quirky little things to see around town. We picked up a copy of her map at the night bizarre. It is available in several places around the city. She does one of Bangkok as well.