A Travellerspoint blog


Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

Travels through Northern Thailand

After Bangkok Chiang Mai is like heaven on earth. We were staying just inside the old city walls and can walk to most places. Most places seem to be Wats and we have seen quite a few of these already – still it has to be done so watting we went.


To break it up we did a one day trek which had an elephant ride, trekking, white water rafting and a bamboo raft. The elephants’ trunk technique was more interesting than the elephants as a form of transport, the white water was brown and the bamboo raft had neutral buoyancy about 8 inches below the surface of the water resulting in us effectively sitting in the river – still a fun time was had by all.


The food in Thailand has been amazing and in my mind has eclipsed that of China. Having selected a cooking class from the multitude of seemingly identical offerings we braved the cockroach infestation at the market to pick up our ingredients and then we were off to school. Our efforts were extremely good even if we do say so ourselves and we got a free recipe book so hopefully we can recreate some of it when we eventually make it home.


Quite uncharacteristically we booked ourselves onto a cycling tour from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai. Over 3.5 days we cycled about 130km on and off road, across rice paddies, muddy hill paths, through fields of peanuts, guava, mandarin, lime & potatoes.


We cycled past the local prison which according to Mr Win, our cycling guide, houses 10 to a cell so that, when sleeping, the inmates had 5cm spare space either side of them – he assured us that it was quite dangerous in there – “lots of ladyboys.” Oddly though the warden had placed plastic models of Giraffes at the front gate which looked somewhat out of place.

We ate noodles in a rice farmers hut in the paddy field. Between turns on the bikes we visited temples, caves, a strange hut with jars of preserved animals, climbed a waterfall, I had a rather unpleasant time in a monk's toilet, and we assisted our guide Damian with the Bangkok Post cryptic crossword.

Of everything we had done the cycling, though very tiring for us poor unfit souls, has been the best thing so far and definitely beats a sweaty, bumpy bus ride. Enormous thanks are due to Mr Win & Damian of Crank Adventures ( www.crankadventures.com )

Cycling Tally:

- Hills walked rather than cycled: 3 (Niamh wants it to be noted that she only walked 1)
- Photos taken by locals of two farangs struggling up hill: 1
- Gear cable thingy broken by Steve crashing through a rut in the road: 1
- Chain coming off Steve’s bike: 5
- Fast dismount by Steve into 6” muddy water of a paddy field: 1
- Despairing tour guides: 2
- Despairing wife: 1

Posted by steve1000 04:40 Archived in Thailand Tagged elephant wat raft cycle Comments (2)

Bangkok 1

Our first attempt...


Leaving HK the ground staff once again wave goodbye – this is a nice touch that I assume BA has tried to implement but abandoned on the threat of strike action.

At the airport we realise that we have booked the wrong hostel, its near some nice hotels so we are not that worried – the fact the taxi driver seemed to have no idea where it was located was more worrying – we later worked out that whilst he could speak English he couldn’t read it so the map wasn’t that much use to him. Fortunately my first experience of staying in a hostel was a good one. Certainly nicer than some hotels I have stayed in and at a fraction of the cost but then we are going for the private rooms with en-suite. I’m tempted to do a night or two in the dorms, just for the experience but Niamh, having already done this, is less keen.

It’s official – Bangkok is nasty – at least that is what Niamh, I and nearly everyone else we meet has decided. It’s a sad fact that the Thai people who are so friendly and welcoming have their image ruined by unscrupulous conmen and tuk-tuk drivers. When someone offers help you have no idea whether they are genuinely trying to assist you, sell you something or just rip you off. The tuk-tuk drivers won’t take you anywhere without stopping off at their “sponsor” ie a market for which they get a commission. Even the taxi driver to the station on our last day handed me his mobile phone so that his friend could try to sell us train tickets. Still everyone has to make a living and it’s all part of the rich tapestry of travel.

When we did venture out we took the river express boat for our first attempt at the Grand Palace (naturally the women selling tickets for the boat ripped us off not giving us any change) as Niamh was inappropriately attired we abandoned the palace and instead we went in search of our train tickets - wandering through a part of the city which sold gear box parts – a whole street of workshops, each one piled to the ceiling with cogs of various different sizes and wear and tear. I’m sure they have every conceivable part for every conceivable vehicle – how they would find it is something of a mystery.

The following day we tried the Grand Palace again – the river boat ticket women tried to scam us again but this time Niamh was ready and was having none of it, thus saving us the equivalent of 20 pence.


After the palace we headed to Siam to check out the shopping and kill some time until our evening train. The Siam area was having a lot of building work done, the shops smelt very new and there were some burnt out areas of rubble. All of which we attributed to the political troubles earlier in the year where the protesters set fire to parts of the area – on the whole though you could completely miss that there had been any trouble at all as the recovery work seems to have been completed with remarkable speed.

Having been on some overnight trains in China we were a little nervous as we entered the train station. We sat down in the waiting area and as I was making some uncharitable suggestions about the career choice of a group of girls loitering near the entrance the music started and the girls started dancing – you don’t get this with South West trains. Suddenly most of the people around us got up and joined in the formation dancing in what was clearly a premeditated publicity event. We think it was a promotion for washing powder but as it was all in Thai we couldn’t really be sure.

On the train we had a two berth cabin which was a relief after the China trains - clean, comfortable and best of all took us out of Bangkok.

Unofficial tally update:

- Victim of scam update: 3 (net cost to Sniamh = 1.2 of your English pounds)
- Digestive issue update: 4

Posted by steve1000 06:38 Archived in Thailand Tagged nasty tuk scam Comments (1)

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