Southeast Asia 2016

Day 5-6 Chiang Mai

Day 5: Wednesday, November 23

Today was another travel day. We gave ourselves lots of time to get to the airport, which was just as well because although the hostel told us it should take half an hour to get to the airport it was closer to an hour. Then we had to get to the right terminal in the airport, etc. It's an interesting system in that you don't go through security until you are already at your gate. So you have to plan a little differently.

We arrived in Bangkok worried that we didn't have enough time for food with only an hour to catch our connecting flight. So we grabbed the fastest food we could - McDonald's. It cost as much as it would have at home, which we were a bit annoyed at, but oh well. It was quick food, and that's what we needed.

Arriving in Chiang Mai, we had a few minutes concern when our bag was not showing up on the carousel. But apparently international baggage goes to a different spot, and a very helpful airport worker showed us where to go. Then we just had the small task of getting to our hotel. The biggest spot that advertised taxis had signs saying 40-60 baht, but told us that it would be 300 for us because we were only a group of two. So we decided to wander around a bit and see if we couldn't find something better. We randomly ran into a man unloading a ton of suitcases from a car, who asked if we were waiting for someone. We said no, we're looking for a taxi to take us to our hotel. He looked at where we needed to go and said "easy, this guy's a taxi. He'll take you". He originally said 200 baht, but when we hesitated went down to 150. Chad thinks we still paid too much, Alex figures we paid half of what the taxi company wanted to charge. But either way, we had a very nice ride into the old city with a chatty driver who told us where to go when, what the best things to do in Chiang Mai are, and how safe the city is. And we got a bit of a tour, because he couldn't go directly to the hotel because of one way streets. That proved handy later on...

After resting for a little while in our nice room, we headed out to find dinner. We walked around a bit, checking out different shops and restaurants, but nothing was really grabbing us. So we decided to keep walking. Alex claims she sort of knew where we were going. In hindsight, her geography was a bit off, but it worked out. We ended up at a street vendor market that we had driven by earlier in the day while they were still setting up. Lots of food options. Tonight our dinner was meat on sticks, takoyaki (fried octopus balls normally, but here served with other seafood in place of octopus), meat & chilies on a stick (yes that's right, day one in Thailand and the green pepper looking thing on the kebab was whole chillies on a stick - surprise!), rotee with banana for dessert, and a coconut for a drink. All for the bargain price of 145 baht ($6). Needless to say, we'll be doing that again. And we even managed to find our way back to our hotel. Thank goodness the major street signs are in English as well as Thai.

We also discovered another interesting thing about the toilet system in Thailand. Apparently it's so common it was in our guidebook, but we missed it. When we signed in to our room, Alex signed a paper that said we would not flush toilet paper down the toilet. Chad thought she was joking when she told him, but sure enough, there's a sign in our bathroom telling us not to do this.

Day 6: Thursday, November 24

Today was both a busy and a quiet day. You can tell we haven't adjusted to the time change yet when we're both awake before 630am. But we still managed to delay getting out of bed, Chad had hockey scores to check after all...

We got moving at the late hour of almost 9am. Not so late at all, but already hot in the sun! Our itinerary was to follow the one-day walking tour in the lonely planet guide. It claimed their whole loop takes 2.5-3 hours. We have no idea how. We were two hours getting to the first 3 temples on the list of 9 things to do. First we stopped to pick up some snacks... Tapioca wrapped mushrooms and some kind of dry crispy snack that tasted like a delicious stir fry.

Wat Phra Singh was a large and beautiful temple, right at a main intersection. You could tell it was a hub. The interiors were ornately drawn, and the outside styling was really nice. We wandered the grounds a bit before heading on to our second stop.

Wat Pho Tao ("wat" means temple) was a slightly different style, although still of the Lanna (or Lan Na) architecture - multi levelled roof, a lot of carving and styling. It was much smaller, and all carved from wood. There are a lot of temples in Chiang Mai. You could probably find one on just about every other city block it feels like, though that's probably a slight exaggeration.

The second to last temple was a bit different. Wat Chedi Luang actually charged admission. The main temple was similar to the others in style. A separate building was for men only, and was decorated with beautiful murals, and there were several other smaller temples in the area around it as well. But the show stopper is the old temple sitting behind everything else, back away from the road. It's enormous, and build out of thick bricks. Really just beautiful, for its sheer size, style, simplicity, and the very obvious amount of work that went into building it. Just incredible.

By the end of touring this temple, we were rather overheated, so we stopped at one of the conveniently located stalls in the temple grounds to have smoothies - passion fruit for Chad and lemon & honey for Alex. Yum! After that, and sitting comfortably in the shade for awhile we felt refreshed enough to walk back to our hotel, stopping along the way to pick up some mango and sticky rice. So good!!

Our hotel (Estia Chiang Mai) is in a really great location. Very central to everything. We wanted out of the heat for a bit, and Chad wanted a nap, so while he rested Alex relaxed with a book beside the pool. Life is tough. Then we were off again, this time to find lunch at Kow Soy Siri Soy although Lonely Planet got the name wrong and we're not sure what the actual name is. Much easier said than done when the restaurant signs aren't in an alphabet you can read. Lucky for us we decided to cross the street to get a better view, and figured it out by the big "khao soi" sign.

We both had khao soi, a signature northern Thai dish of noodles, crunchy egg noodles, and a chicken leg in a delicious yellow/brown curry spicy broth that's almost stew-like in its thickness. Delicious. It's garnished with pickled vegetables which is something we've never seen before, and the flavours worked so well together.

Walking along to the last temple we were going to see, which ended up being literally around the corner from our hotel, we ended up chatting with a Thai man from Bangkok who told us about another temple we should go see, which is all made out of silver. We didn't make it there today, but will see if we can on Saturday or Sunday.

We then headed to the monument to the 3 kings and toured around the Lanna Folklife Museum. It was an interesting mix of history about Buddha and various aspect of the culture (clothing, amulets, festivals, basket weaving, etc). It is a different cultural tradition than Bangkok and southern Thailand, having more in common in some ways with its neighbouring countries it sounds like.

The arts & culture centre was closed for renovations, and although we would have loved to have gone for some Thai massages at the women's prison, Alex is fighting a cold (and using up the significant store of Kleenex we brought) so it didn't seem fair to subject others to that. We headed back to the hotel to relax again before heading out for dinner.

We were tired and so instead of walking to the market, opted to try a restaurant that looked good from the outside. This was really the first miss for both of us. So far everything we've eaten has been really good, and the prices have been so cheap. This place clearly catered to tourists - almost everyone in the restaurant was white. The food was ok, but not anything special. And we paid way more for it than anywhere else. So after an alright meal, we've headed home for an early night. Can't believe how tired we are at 8:30pm.

Tomorrow, elephants!!!! =D

Next: Day 7: Elephant Sanctuary

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