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Travel Journal: Thailand – Fourth Stop: Chiang Mai

Travel Journal: Thailand – Fourth Stop: Chiang Mai

Personally, I didn’t have many expectations with me on my way to Chiang Mai. After having been in the south of Thailand and having enjoyed its incredible beaches, I felt that I had seen enough (my future me tells you that you are really dumb  😒)

I had that idea of going through what I could most clearly, but I wasn’t really motivated either (compared to when I went south). However, when “I lived Chaing Mai” was transformed into one of those cities that you would stay for a full and fully established season.

Chiang Mai, also called “new city” is the largest city in northern Thailand and the second most important after Bangkok. Formerly, this city was quite prominent because it had an important commercial route, due to its strategic location within the country. Also, it has historical importance because around it a wall and a moat was built to protect it from incursions from Burma (Myanmar). Because of that same division today we find two Chiang Mai within Chiang Mai itself I know it sounds confusing, but let me explain: The part bounded by the wall (inside the square) is known as the Old Chiang Mai and everything that is outside this wall is the New Chiang Mai. Simple, did you see? 🙃

Entrance to Old Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is very quiet. The local people are very friendly and the city is beautiful. They say that it is also the culinary capital of Thailand, and if I checked it out. There are many places to eat, drink and see. I was surprised at how cosmopolitan the city is, it is much more than I could in a certain way expect (I felt it is quite modern with old touches).

Chiang Mai was our sixth stop after having toured Singapore, Malaysia, Phuket, Phi Phi Islands and Bangkok during the months of January and February 2018.

The best time to travel is from the beginning of December to the beginning of March, here I want to emphasize that you need something warm. This time is not extremely hot during the day (it is more) it is quite pleasant, however, the mornings (before 9) and the nights (after 10 -11) are quite cool, so you need something to be more comfortable if you walk down the street.

The cost per day is ~ ฿ 977 – 818.91 baht ($ 30 – 35 USD) for two (depending on activities, accommodation and food).

Varied are the alternatives to get from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. We had heard so much about the night train that for us it was almost our only alternative, we were very interested in travelling in it (they are a little more than 12 hours away), and the night transfer from one city to another means saving one night of accommodation #win👌🏻

To get tickets for this train you can buy tickets at the same station “Hua Lamphong” in Bangkok or buy them on page 12GoAsia.

“Hua Lamphong” Station in Bangkok.

The best time to travel is from the beginning of December to the beginning of March, here I want to emphasize that you need something warm (a hoodie at least). This time is not extremely hot during the day (it is more) it is quite pleasant, however, the mornings (before 9) and the nights (after 10 -11) are quite We buy them through the page and although many say that sometimes it is “better to go in person because it is cheaper” or “buy them on the page because it is cheaper”, I really have no idea. We only did it this way to avoid arriving with our backpacks to buy a ticket that maybe would not be available for that moment. Honestly, we were not very willing to risk finding nothing and making time at the station waiting for a ticket.

There are different “classes” of cabins (1st class or 2nd class):

First class ฿ 1,175 = $53,45 USD

Second class ฿ 1,073 = $32,65 USD

I recommend the train at 6:15 p.m. or at 7:35 p.m., before midnight they will be asleep and will wake up almost on arrival.

We left at 19:35 in the afternoon, but we arrived at least two hours before the station. I recommend bringing some things to eat, although inside the train if they sell dinners, meals and breakfast … you probably don’t need more than a couple of cookies and a juice. In addition, the value is more expensive than in the same station or far from it (but do not think it is priceless either, remember that you are still in Asia).

While we were waiting for the train, something happened that I had never noticed so far during my tour of Thailand. At exactly 18:00 the station was paralyzed. I mean … the people who were walking and doing their normal life for the station of nowhere stopped and became ‘mannequins’, and even though I told David what was going on he could not see it (when it was quite obvious ! 🤯). I felt very strange. I knew something was happening, but no idea what (I felt there was a camera hidden in the station and the Thailand people was mock us, the foreigners). They were like this for about a minute or maybe a little less and then they continued with their lives, as well as nothing.

Take my cell phone and find out: the issue is that at that time all Thais stop doing their activities to (in a very respectful position) honour their country. In many open spaces, the anthem plays in the background and many put their hand on their chest as a sign of respect for their homeland.

As a foreigner, it is not necessary to do the same, but at least we must show respect to this custom. I stayed still as a mannequin like the rest did not know what happened and just imitate, but I must admit I did not know what the hell was going on 🤭

After a while and a little bored, I went to explore the station. The truth didn’t have anything special, it was just one more station, but in the sector of the tracks, it smelled very strange … 🙊🤔

Anyway, our train arrived and after a while, we left. At around 9 pm, a person passed through each seat transforming it into a bed. Yes, with sheets, pillows and everything. The arrangement is like a stateroom (one above and one below) and towards the corridor, there is a curtain (which covers “your new bed”) so that you have more privacy.

Train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai

Almost two hours later I was already sleepy and I went to brush my teeth. Cross the second car and I went to a bathroom (God, that smell I think I’ll never forget it) for more auction was an Asian bathroom, those that are at ground level. Can you imagine what it is like to be trying to urinate in a bathroom of Asian design while the train swaying at a speed no less? I answer it immediately: impossible 🙅🏼♀️

So unsuccessfully and desperately needing a bath, I thought that there should be another, and if it was necessary to cross all the wagons of the train I was completely willing to do it. I open the bathroom door to get out and eureka! In front of this was the other (🤦🏼♀️ what’s wrong ?!) In my despair and train movements I don’t know how one of my left toes got stuck under the door and I couldn’t take it off. By moving the door to more damage in him and at that moment I saw the blood coming out of my foot.

(God, was not it enough for you with the poisoning in Phi Phi ?, I thought).

In that, a Thai girl saw me in my misfortune and helped me lift the door carefully so that I could take my foot off. A heroine without a cloak at that time. I thanked him and got into the other bathroom. Being inside him, what I thought least was my foot (I just wanted a bath). Fortunately it was ‘conventional’ (for those of us from the other side of the world), but when you open the lid you could not see water inside it (like a normal bathroom) … the issue is that there was a way out (and that something was moving ), and suddenly, getting closer and closer I realized that it was possible to see the sleepers of the railway line 🛤 (now I understand why the train lines at the station smelled so bad) I could not believe it! 😮😮😮

When I went back to my “bed” I practically lay down on my valuables, I had always heard that in these trains they stole a lot, and no matter how hard I tried not to sleep, it was impossible and I ended up giving myself after a few hours 😴

When we woke up we were already in Chiang Mai (and with all my stuff! #Yas!). We left the station and asked for an Uber to our hotel (the booking was made by as always) that was in the New Chiang Mai. The hotel was quite good, clean, comfortable and in front of this, there was a small area of restaurants, laundries, massage centres, stores and many cafes. It did not have such a strategic location (downtown at least), but it was not far (considering also that Chiang Mai is not that big either), but it was close to the Maya Shopping Center, which is quite modern, multi-storey and multiple spaces (and even workspaces).

For a moment I felt that he was no longer in Asia. I did not see any open-air market and the whole environment was quite urbanized and modern.

The next morning, we went to have breakfast at a restaurant cafe that was one of the first recommended by trip advisor. We arrive at one of those places where they welcome you with a smile, they treat you in a friendly and cordial way, and the place itself is almost so perfect that you do not want to leave.

El león de Nimman is a French-Thai restaurant. We were attended by his own owner Sebastien, a Frenchman who went for a holiday to Thailand and who, at the time of leaving, returned and settled down with this restaurant in the middle of Chiang Mai.

The place has incredible harmony. I swear that when you enter you do not want to leave. It ‘s comfortable, cute, with a very chic atmosphere mixed with Franco – Thai harmonies, personally, of all my taste. The food is amazing, rather we had not taken such a long breakfast during the trip. We felt comfortable. We felt happy (I recommend it totally if you pass near there).

American breakfast in The Lion of Nimman, Chiang Mai

In the afternoon, we booked (online) for the tour to the elephant sanctuary, which we did the following day. He charged us ~ 3,000 baht (~ $ 92 USD for two people) and he went to look for us (7 am) and to leave (around 3 pm) at the same door. The place was quite far from the city towards the mountains (just over 2 hours). We care about choosing the most ethical and the best deal with these wonderful animals (that there are many). When we got there we fed them, we shared with them, we took some photos, they told us how was their life system and how was the daily routine of an elephant. The group also bathed them in mud and enjoyed the moment. I did not get into the mud, after a night in the hospital and almost losing a finger on the night train, I did not have the slightest interest in getting an incurable disease there, but I hugged them a lot and I felt like a child in Disney … the happiest in the world 🤩

Elephant Sanctuary

Many travellers go to Chiang Mai to live experiences in the elephant sanctuaries, either for a day or a couple of days. I recommend you to see well where you go and choose carefully, not only pay attention to the value of “the experience” but also to see how well the care practices are with them and, if they are sanctuaries, believe it or not, there are still places where they ride and mistreat. Where there is not the least respect for them and lack of love.

Chiang Mai also stands out for its temples, has many, almost one in each corner and the vast majority of hundreds of years old. However, we do not visit many (honestly, there comes a time of the trip that you’ve seen so many that you almost do not want to see one more 😄)

Wat Chang Kong

However, we visited the Wat Phra Singh which is the largest and one of the most important in Chiang Mai. This temple dates from the year 1.345 and believe it or not, it is not the oldest. Inside this one is an image of Buddha (Phra Singh Buddha) of century XIV donated by the king of Sri Lanka. Outside of this are small sanctuaries to which you can access without any problem.

Wat Phra Singh 

Wat Phra Singh 

👉🏻The price of the ticket to this temple is ฿ 30 baht ($ 0.91 USD).

Wax monks at the Wat Phra Singh

Wat Phra Singh

Wax monks at the Wat Phra Singh

Another one we visited was the Wat Chedi Luang (1,401), which is located in the historical part of Chiang Mai (the old Chiang Mai) (my favourite!). In it, lie the ruins of an enormous temple that contains giant elephants that stand out from it (the Royal Pagoda or Chedi).

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang 

Wat Chedi Luang 

👉🏻The price of the ticket to this temple is completely free!

This complex also has other small temples, and there is one of a golden Buddha reclining between blue columns, quite photogenic if you want to travel photography.

Reclining Buddha at the Wat Chedi Luang

The main temple houses a large golden Buddha in the centre with a smaller one on each side and many flowers under it. In this temple, you can make a wish and entrust it to Buddha.

Inside of the main temple Wat Chedi Luang

Inside of the main temple Wat Chedi Luang

At the same time many monks wander around the place, and, moreover, have a sector where they exchange Buddhist knowledge and talk about their experience in exchange for practising their English.

Monks sector for language exchange

👉🏻The price of the ticket to this temple is ฿ 40 baht ($ 1.21 USD).

Chiang Mai is completely from those places that you feel comfortable to arrive. That mixture of mysticism and modernity I liked a lot, especially if I thought about staying there to live for some time (which I still analyse from time to time …)

ps: After we left there, we were lucky to return (to the days) and stay in the old Chiang Mai (far, much better!) We met his night fair, we ate one of the best pizzas that I have eaten until the moment and we went out to wander through its streets. We are really fascinated with this city … always hoping to return.

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