Songkran pretty much wraps up 1 year for Mel and I in Thailand. Last year we visited Kanchanaburi for Songkran. This year we headed up to Chiang Mai, Thailand’s 2nd largest city and quite possibly the largest of Celebrations for the New Year(Buddhist).
This year we didn’t leave for as long as last year’s 6 day adventure. This year’s trip was only 4 days. We took a VIP bus from the Northern bus terminal which took about 10 hours(1.5 hours just to get out of Bangkok!) and the same bus on the return, but we took an overnight route, leaving Chiang Mai at 10:30pm.
Before we left, we made a short ToDo list of things:
- White Temple – Wat Rong Khun
- Elephant Nature Park
- Cooking School
- City Wide Water Fight
- Orchid-Butterfly Farm
We did pretty well with the list overall and opted out of doing the cooking school as they have one here in Bangkok anyways. Wat Rong Khun was pretty far away and we plan on visiting the North again and will go there then.
Having arrived a bit later than expected the night before, we decided that Wednesday would be our “Free” day of participating in the water fights. We really didn’t have a very good mental map of the city so we ended up walking outside of the actual inner city, but found plenty of water fights. Chiang Mai is so much bigger than Kanchanaburi was, and the entire city is engulfed in water. Mel and I walked about a mile just to get to the first part of the water fights, but were soaked before that from a few random buckets of water out of pickup trucks driving past. During the day we met up with our friend Danny from Bangkok and had dinner with him at a nice Vegetarian place and then headed home.
Somewhere during the day we found another fish spa and Mel had not tried it yet so we did that as well.
Thursday was our Elephant park day. Learning the lesson we learned last year about Elephant parks Mel sought out a much nicer park for us to visit. Last year we visited an Elephant camp near Kanchanaburi that we didn’t feel comfortable with. We were herded onto an elephant that we didn’t want to ride and were taken around on a tour. This year’s park was much different and much much nicer. If you really like elephants and want to contribute to their cause I can personally vouch for the authenticity of the work that Lek is doing at that park.
That night we met up with Danny and some of his friends at a nice restaurant near the river called Deck 1. The setting for this place was very nice, although a bit pricey. Mel had wasabi mashed potatoes with salmon which was delicious. I had a bowl of green curry with roti which was alright.
We wanted to make it up to the Orchid valley near Mae Rim. There are a few Orchid farms there and some have Butterfly’s as well. However, we were a bit to ambitious thinking we could get to 2 of them in one day. We asked the front desk about getting a taxi to take us to one of the orchid’s in Mae Rim and they wanted 700 baht!! We chose not to pay that much and thus started our adventure of the day. We hopped a tuk tuk on the main road to take us to the bus station that has cheap buses that run up north(thanks to Danny’s suggestion). However, our tuk tuk driver channeled us onto a Songthaew(I’ll refer to these as pickups from now on) which then took us to Doi Suthep. We were actually planning on going to Doi Suthep later in the day, but whatever Good thing was the tuk tuk was 80 baht and the pickup was 50 / person. So 120 baht was ok, not the cheapest we could have done, but not terrible.
Mel and I also found this little gem up in one of the windows. SHIVERS!!
After Doi Suthep we now had to get to Mae Rim which was about 15-20km North of Chiang Mai. We asked some of the drivers up there how much they wanted and most were 300 or 400 baht / person, I don’t remember. Either way, too expensive. So we took a pickup down to the correct bus stop this time and it only cost 40 baht / person. Alright, we are getting cheaper. We followed the blue arrow on google maps on my phone until we found the bus stop and got on a bus. Hopefully it was the correct one. Thankfully the Thai women next to us spoke minimal English and confirmed we were on the correct Bus. How much will this cost us? 10 baht a person!! Wow!
After getting to Mae Rim we were kind of unsure what to do next. Luckily there were some old fashioned tuk tuk’s, which were basically a motor bike with a side car. We told him to take us to the 4 Season’s Resort which was supposedly next to one of the orchids, which it thankfully was. 60 baht. He dropped us off in this interesting villa-like area in front of a fancy Wawee Coffee shop which had signs outside that they had cheesecake? 1 foursquare search later confirmed that the New York style cheesecake was a must try and who am I to turn down a cheesecake(especially in Podunk Thailand). 2 lattee’s later, one for each of us, and a decent strawberry cheese cake we were headed down the road to the Sae Nam Phung Orchid
After the orchid we were unsure of how to get back to the main road, so we decided to sneak around in the 4 seasons resort. Pretty amazing place.
These 4 pictures were basically a panoramic of the open area inside the 4 seasons. They actually have their own rice patties for guests to go out into.
Mel and I had a drink at the bar which surprised them a bit that we were not staying there and that fumbled up the bill a bit. After walking around the 4 Seasons we headed back towards the main road in hopes of finding a tuk tuk or something which we did. I think we paid 60 baht again to get back to the main road where we hopped on a very full pickup. 10-12 people jammed inside and 6 hanging off the back. Probably not the safest thing I’ve done, but it felt so good with the wind.
That night we met up with Danny again, after I crashed pretty hard for a few hours in the motel room. We went to a place called Just Khao Soy. Khao Soy is basically a brown curry with rice noodles and usually a chicken drumstick in it. This place was pretty cool though as they gave you the option of whatever meat or vegie option and then you could pick noodle type and some other options. Very delicious.
Our bus wasn’t until 10:30pm so we decided to have a tourist/shopping day around the city. We had something in particular we wanted to find and we knew that there was a night market on Sunday’s, but that wasn’t until 6pm so we looked around town a bit instead. The only problem was we had to check out and had our bags. After a bit of MacGyvering with my 2 backpacks we had them securely attached to each other and were off for a long day of walking and shopping around. Mel found a few cool items and then we became trapped in a decent rainstorm unsure of exactly where to go. When in doubt, walk towards people?? Haha, we found a very cool British pub just down the road from were we were. Mel and I played 2 games of rummy, first to 1000 points and then headed towards the Sunday Market. Apparently, the Sunday market is the thing to do on Sunday. Who would have thought. Hundreds and hundreds of people and lots of little trinket type shops on both sides of the road. We felt a bit cramped with our big bags but did find some pretty interesting things before heading to a rooftop restaurant with Danny to say goodbye(until we see him again in Bangkok this week, haha)
I think we were a bit overwhelmed with the amount of people in Chiang Mai and the goofy transportation caught us off guard. I suspect that we are so used to cheap taxi’s in Bangkok that we assume they are everywhere in Thailand when they are not. The day we spent just walking around Mae Rim made me realize very quickly how much more to Thailand there is than the hustle and bussle of the larger cities and tourist places that we seem to end up at all the time. I expect us to make a return trip to the North sometime soon, but probably to go to Chiang Rai, Bai and Mahong Song. Hopefully we can find the Parrot Flower too.