After 6 days experiencing the hectic city of Bangkok, it was time to head north. First up, 4 days in Chiang Mai, followed by 5 in Chiang Rai.
After leaving buying overnight train tickets until the week before my intended trip to Chiang Mai, it would turn out that all trains were full. So I paid for a plane ticket, and after a 1 hour taxi ride, 1 hour flight delay, and a 1 hour flight, I had arrived.
I used Chiang Mai to recover from all the running around in Bangkok. I could walk to the main city sites from my hostel, and spent my first day simply exploring within the old city walls.
My second day was a half day tour of an elephant sanctuary, Elephant Dream Valley (see previous post for further details), followed by strolling the Saturday walking street
I unfortuantely didn’t feel too hot (well…I did feel hot because humidity…ha) and made it a bit worse by walking 2+ hours in the sun to see the final two temples I was curious about. The silver temple of Wat Sri Suphan was by far the highlight of my time in Chiang Mai.
On my last full day, I wanted to get up to Wat Doi Suthep. After taking two songtheaws up a winding mountain road, I needed a few minutes for my body to settle. I was admittedly a little dissapointed with Doi Suthep. I wasn’t blown away, and even now I feel Wat Sri Suphan is a more unique temple. I spent about half an hour walking the temple grounds, if only to make the journey up the mountain worth it.
I was told by a friend that Chiang Mai had become very commercialized. I completely see this. As wonderful as some of the temples in the old city were, the streets are lined with hostels, western-style cafes, and tour agencies.
Chiang Rai, though…I wish I had longer here. I had planned for a relaxing first day, but ended up getting convinced to join a full day tour that included the Blue Temple, a waterfall, the White Temple, and a tea plantation. I am so glad I joined as seeing these sites outside of the city with a local guide was phenomenal.
After using my second day to relax and meeting a new friend in the hostel, we scootered out to the Black Museum the following day and explored a local rice field and café. I got a bit more burnt than I care to admit…
The following day we both signed up for a Thai cooking class, and I actually was so full I felt sick. At the market, as we picked our ingredients, we sampled local tea, Thai donuts, longan, durian, and deep fried sweet potato and banana. When the time came to cook we prepared green papaya salad, hot and sour soup with prawns, and red curry with chicken. So, so good but so, so filling…
If you find yourself tiring of Bangkok, I highly recommend heading north; and if I had to choose, Chiang Rai over Chiang Mai (also in Chiang Rai stay at “Sook Cafe and Hostel” it is the perfect location, has amazing staff, and I cannot recommend it enough).
I’m very thankful for the opportunity to have travelled to Thailand. It was never a country that had been super high on my “to-do” list, but these last three weeks have been filled with the most amazing sites (and foods).
Tomorrow I make the long journey back to Bangkok (first with a 3 hour bus to Chiang Mai, then a 5 hour wait, then the overnight train to Bangkok). I get 2 days rest, and then I’m on my way to Indonesia!
Until next time!
Next up, Bali!