Bangkok and Chiang Mai – Exploring a Thai-tanic Culture

Nothing like writing a blog while sitting poolside on a fantastic afternoon here in Cebu. While my last post was only ten days ago, I still have a bit of ground to cover to catch up on my writing. After managing to get out of Hanoi with my passport still on my person, my next destination was Thailand. My plan was to spend a few days in Bangkok, then head to Chiang Mai to check out Loy Krathong/Yi Ping (festival of lights) before returning to Bangkok for two more nights (and to meet up with a friend). Overall, the weather cooperated by not raining more than a couple of days, although of course it was hot and humid. I did enjoy Chiang Mai’s weather a bit more than Bangkok as well as the slower pace of Thailand’s second largest city. However, Bangkok is a massive Southeast Asian city that boasts better public transit infrastructure and food options but of course had the crowds and tourist sharks. Unusually, most of the public transit avoids the tourist areas (temples, museums, and palace) which requires using taxis and buses.

I spent almost two weeks between the two cities and my itinerary ended up as follows:

  • November 13th: Landed in Bangkok. Took the train into the city and managed to find the small guesthouse I was staying at. Had enough time to head out to a night market and a small restaurant for dinner.
  • November 14th: A day filled with sightseeing (mostly temples). First stop was Wat Yannawa which I stumbled upon while checking out the abandoned Sathorn Tower. After, I grabbed the water taxi up the Chao Phraya river to Wat Arun. After Wat Arun, another quick hop on the water taxi to get across the river saw me at Wat Phra Chetuphon that features the giant reclining Buddha. Finally, I managed to head over to the Grand Palace as well as Emerald Buddha (a combo ticket that cost 500baht/$20CDN). Warning, make sure you are wearing long pants that cover to ankles and shirts that cover past elbows for the Emerald Buddha/Palace grounds. As I was all sweated out from a steamer of a day, I caught a bus back to MBK mall to find some sustenance at the expansive food court.
  • November 15th: Lazy day due to rain.
  • November 16th: More down pouring of rain. Checked out a movie at MBK mall.
  • November 17th: Rain off and on, but cleared up enough to wander over to Wat Trimit – the Temple of the Golden Buddha. Afterwards, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through Chatchuchak Market – a labyrinth of over 15000 vendors selling pretty much anything and everything.
  • November 18th: Spent the day being lazy before heading out in the evening to check out the party district of Soi Cowboy.
  • November 19th: Flew out to Chiang Mai. Taxis from the airport are relative cheap and fast, so I recommend heading to the official taxi stand and grabbing a cab. Checked in to the guest room I was staying in and wandered the neighbourhood for a bit.
  • November 20th: Grabbed a bus and headed over to Warorot/Kad Luang market and grabbed some breakfast of pad thai. Hopped onto another bus that dropped me off near Tha Phae Gate which started my journey into the inner city. Hit up three temples which included Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phra Singh, and finally Wat Chiang Man. During this walk, I stopped by the Three Kings Monument which had already had decorations setup for the festival.
  • November 21st: Pachyderms! I ended up spending the day at Jungle Elephant Sanctuary where we interacted with rescue elephants, learned something of the history of elephants in Thailand, as well as having a buffet lunch. If you are in Thailand and have an opportunity, definitely visit a sanctuary and please avoid any places that lets you ride them as that goes against the the principles of what sanctuaries stand for.
  • November 22nd: First headed over to the Chiang Mai National Museum. I decided on taking the bus and then walking from the nearest stop but in retrospect, a taxi would probably have been better as the route isn’t that easy (walking along a highway for a bit) and also involves a circuitous route through a temple grounds. After cooling off for a bit in a cafe, I walked over to the Ping River where the main festivities were occurring. This was the first of the main two evenings and the crowds were dense. Getting in was easy enough as I was a bit early but getting out required a bit of negotiating through the throngs of festival goers.
  • November 23rd: Rested up most of the day before heading out to enjoy the final night of festivities of the Loy Krathong/Yi Ping festival. Much more crowded but also featured a parade of floats. Ended up running into the caretaker of the guest house who was enjoying the festivities with her husband.
  • November 24th: Headed back to Bangkok and checked back into the same guest house. Met up with my friend who was also visiting and staying in the same guest house.
  • November 25th: After breakfast from some street vendors, we headed to the Golden Mount to explore the temple as well as get a nice view of the local city area. Afterwards, we grabbed a cab to the Bangkok National Museum. Make sure you have the correct venue as Google Maps sometimes plays tricks. We spent a couple hours wandering the museum before heading to MBK mall to grab some late lunch. After resting and freshening up back at the guest house we headed to our reservation at Nahm, a Michelin rated Thai restaurant. Before that, though, we managed to hit Vertigo, the rooftop bar on the 61st floor of the Banyon Tree Hotel for a cocktail and a gorgeous city view at night.
  • November 26th: My adventuring in Thailand was complete and it was time to Singapore!

Both parts of my Bangkok itinerary I stayed at the delightful Cube Sathorn Boutique Hotel. The proprietors were very friendly and the room was quite comfortable. They provided bottles of water whenever I needed them as well as laundry service. The neighbourhood also had some fantastic hole in the wall restaurants and food carts. Also, convenience stores were nearby.

In Chiang Mai, the guest house I stayed at was called “Take a nap Chang Khlan” which for some reason there were two locations on Google Map. The correct location is south on Chang Khlan road and is across the road from the Park Hotel and down the small alley way.

I would definitely have to say Thailand is one of my top destinations so far on this trip and I can see the appeal of retiring there as many foreigners do. The only issue I have (and is a deal breaker) is the humidity (coupled with the heat). However, for those that love it hot, I cannot say enough of the fantastic food, excellent culture, and affordable living.

On a mobility note, most light rail stations I noticed did have elevators along with escalators, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for those with mobility issues to get around. However, I wouldn’t count on restaurants or other places of business to be up to standard for wheelchair accessibility.

And on that note, let’s see some photos!


Categories: Travel

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