Sightseeing Chiang Mai, Thailand

rain in Chian MaiChiang Mai (Thai: เชียงใหม่) sometimes written as “Chiengmai” or “Chiangmai” is located 700 km (435 mi) north of Bangkok, among the highest mountains in the country and along the Ping River.

It’s over 700 years old and has over 300 temples. The old city is still surrounded by remains of an old city wall and a moat. King Mengrai founded Chiang Mai, which means “new city”, to be the capital of Kingdom of Lanna. The city was very carefully designed to obey all the correct astrological laws. Within the city walls the King built his palace, several temples and accommodation for his followers. None of the original buildings remain, although Wat Chiang Man is said to be where King Mengrai stayed while he was building his city.Chiang Mai delights

The main attraction of the old walled city is the atmosphere. As you stroll through the narrow streets you feel the heart of the people. Looking into the little dark shops you can see girls sewing, men repairing bicycles or watches, some playing cards, others watching TV, old people smoking and children playing. Night market Chiang MaiThere are also plenty of food stalls where you can taste the noodles, cool fruit juice or some beetles, maggots or other delights. Goods offered are not limited to food you can find here everything you might need from clothes through house equipment to flowers and souvenirs.

I would like to introduce you to one of the legends I found regarding Chiang Mai:

The story has been told for countless generations that the kings of Chiang Mai and Lamphun one day discussed the sensitive question of the uncertain boundary between the two kingdoms. One of them suggested a clever way to define the appropriate borderline that would result in both cities have equal amounts of land. Since there were neither maps nor measuring instruments of any description, they agreed the best way to reach this equality of size was for the kings to travel from their capitals and accept that the point at which they met would be midway between them, and should therefore be the border. Having made the agreement, they then set a date on which this joint venture should be conducted.

On the morning in question, the King of Lamphun awoke early, was arrayed as splendidly as possible for the occasion, and having mounted his royal elephant, awaited the auspicious moment when the train of ruler, troops, pages and entertaining musicians should set out.

On the same morning, the King of Chiang Mai also woke early. Having dispensed with meals and all ceremony, his horse was brought out and – with a handful of trusted soldiers – off he and his party galloped just as fast as they could go.

Of course, having ridden until noon, it was the Chiang Mai royal party that had covered the greater amount of ground, surprising the Lamphun laggards with the inroads that had been made into what they had previously regarded as their territory. But an agreement is an agreement. Accepting that he’d been outsmarted in this battle without weapons, the Lamphun King dismounted from his elephant, put his seal to the border document that then became law, and turned back to the kingdom that had so suddenly been diminished.

Source

Wat Saen FangI will bring to your attention some of the temples we visited. First of them is Wat Saen Fang. Along Tha Phae Road, you’ll notice a pair of nagas (dragon-like serpents) lining a narrow lane. Following the lane away from the busy street will take you to the quiet compound of Wat Saen Fang. It was built in XIV century (the architecture is late XIX century) and was used as the ho kham (palace residence) of the local ruler, Chao Kawilorot in the 1860s. The Wat has a fairly typical layout, with the east-facing viharn flanking a large chedi to the west. It displays many Burmese details,Wat Saen Fang Chiang Mai such as in the shape of the highly decorated chedi with its rainbow of mirroed tiles, or the guardians on the roof of the ordination hall (ubosot). The prayer hall (wiharn) sports an intricately carved front painted in bright red and gold. Behind the wiharn is a large rambling building where the monks are quartered.

Wat Bupparam (วัดบุพพาราม) was founded by King Muang Kaew in 1497. The Burmese-style chedi was rebuilt in 1958, Wat Buppharamand there is a well nearby which supplies holy water for anointing the King. The site of Wat Buppharam has a historical importance, as it is from here that in 1797 Chao Kawila took back the city of Chiang Mai after 200 years of Burmese rule. At the entrance you are welcomed by the Moms – guardian beasts, and a small Lanna contains a large brick and stucco Buddha over 300 years old. In the surroundings of the temple we found plenty of animal statues as well as live roosters. The detailed carvings and paintings are truly amazing.

The other temples I recommend seeing are: Wat Pa Pao,  Chinese Pung Tao Gong Ancestral Temple and Wat Phuak Hong.

I’ll let you enjoy the slideshow.

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Chiang Mai elephants, white water sealed with reggae rooftop bar

Well it looks like it’s going to be my 100 post. special number, special place: Chiang Mai.

I think I liked Chiang Mai the most from the places visited in Thailand. No beach which for some people disqualifies it straight away. Not for me.

We flew from Bangkok and on arrival were welcomed by rain. rain in Chiang MaiNaturally we didn’t have place to stay so asked our tuk-tuk driver to recommend us a cheap place to stay. I can’t remember the place too well, I know we moved on the next day to a different accommodation in the same street which business card I have in front of me. VIPA HOUSE Mrs. Rabiab Pantkul, 14 – 14/1 Loikroh Lane 1 Rd, T.Changklan, A. Muang, Chiangmai 50100.

SinghaI’ll be honest with you I don’t even know where to start to give the true account of the city and our adventures.

This is my 100 post so it will be more funny than informational, I will write another bit about monuments later on. Now let me share our first meal with you. soupHave a look, yummy… funny thing: before our meal we saw a dog in the courtyard of the restaurant, barking and running around… while we ate there was silence and the dog didn’t show up until we left 😉 Yes… you are right this is a useless example of European sense of humor…

Each one of us ordered something else so we could try more dishes and see which one we liked. I think we didn’t have any proper Thai meal before because all we ate was street food. noodlesGod, Thai food especially in Thailand is the best in the World. Spicy and not spicy, rice, sea food, soups, noodles… I’m getting hungry while thinking of it. When I lived in London we used to have a very nice Thai restaurant just around the corner oh I wish I could afford to go there more often than I did. Anyway back to Chiang Mai.

Rooftop barFirst night we found our favourite spot to hang out: THC Rooftop bartop roof reggae bar. I wasn’t a big fan of reggae but this place was simply awsome. It’s called THC Rooftop Bar, 19/4-5 Kotchasarn Road | On the 3rd Floor, Chiang Mai. One of us of course did not want to go… no names… but now he is the biggest fan of the place! Give it a try when you are around! You sit on the bamboo mats (and some carpets) next to low tables and you can see the city from the top of a roof. Amazing. Everything is colorful and even fluorescent.Making notes Quite out of space. The funniest is the toilet. Oh did I mention that you need to leave your shoes and then climb the ladder to get in? And what I just realised I lost pictures from Thailand, some of them anyway. I think the ones I have will have to do. Ah by the way this is before I started to take any interest in photography so composition among others is not the best.

As you can see on the picture I had a note book thatNasi tu byli I filled in with notes almost every day. I can’t find it! The thing is I was moving so much from the time I was in Thailand it can be everywhere. I can’t believe I lost it. It needs to be somewhere. I will keep on looking.

somehow didn’t have much time, we could not decide on one tour. Meaning we were given a choice: One day safari and long neck tribe/bamboo rafting tour or trekking and white-water rafting tour. Hard choice. thanks to A1 Travel Info (398 Tha Phae Rd, Chiang Mai, 50300) tour agency we were able to organise it differently. Tuk Tuk Chiang MaiWe were to go to see the elephants in the morning and then on white water rafting in the afternoon. Tight on time but as everything do-able in Thailand.

We met our tuk-tuk driver in the morning as arranged. You can see his picture on the left. You may not remember or not know that in 2008 thousands of anti-government protesters in Thailand have gone to streets. They blocked airports and some of the goverment buildings, radio and TV stations. On 30 October a grenade attack was conducted,Tickets elephant trekking Chiang Mai targeting guards for the anti-government camp. Read more on BBC. Back to our story. So there we were heading for elephant ride and suddenly found ourselves in anti-goverment camp. If you are not familiar with the army it looked quite dangerous. I think our driver was just checking on news from his friends or famili living in tents. Anyway it gave as an opportunity to be in the center of action.

Guiness World Record Chiang MaiThai elephants are playful and loveable. We fed them with bannanas and then went on a ride which ended with bathing in the river. You should see how happy they are to get into the water! A. lost his whole bench of bannanas when an elephant decided he was bored of waiting for him to tear one off. We also saw how they pat people on the head, and take their hat off and put them back on. Elephants Chiang MaiThere is a football field in Maesa Elephant Camp where games on elephants are played. A. made me feel bad he said it’s animal cruelty and we shouldn’t do it. I’ll be honest I don’t know what to think about it. In the end we gave up our freedom and live in states. this means we are not running free, we have to work, earn money and be part of this big machine for the sake of feeling secure and be provided for in terms that we no longer have to hunt, make our own clothes, homes etc Elephants are not Elephant & mefree and have to earn their living but they have shelter and food and are safe from natural enemies (like humans e.g.). So in a sense elephants don’t have a choice but do we human have it? I don’t think the animals are treated badly in this camp.

When we finished we had to hurry to catch our bus into the mountains to join white-water rafting group. But when we found our tuk tuk driver he said:Elephant trekking

“Tuk tuk broken. Don’t start” and he turned the ignition on a couple of times but nothing happened. It wouldn’t start.

“How come it’s broken?”

Shrug

“How are we gonna get to Chiang Mai. We don’t have much time!”

Shrug

“What do we do now?!”Tuk tuk negotiations

Shrug

(M. trying to start the engine…)

(We discussing what to do and trying to talk to the driver again)

and so on…

“We paid you! you have to get us back!”Waiting on tuk tuk replacement

“I call my friend”

“Yes do that”

Calling… speaking… waiting… waiting… waiting…

Finally there he was. He came to speak to our driver, then tried to start the engine… and again… and the time was running… He thought about something went to his tuk tuk and came back with a rubber tube. he connected it to both gas tanks. We were all bending over the tube to see if it’s working hahahha and then suddenly we felt the smell of the gas and looked up on our driver who was smoking cigarette while bending over with us. In a split second we all jumped away like the was some kind of a bomb there. Must have looked really funny.

Bamboo rafting Chiang MaiWell this didn’t help and so we insisted on the other driver taking us to Chiang Mai. First problem: too many of us, second problem, payment, third problem… our tuk tuk driver was drunk and the only thing that helped to get us out of there was to threaten to call the Tourist Police. It always worked when we were in trouble BTW. So the we were 6 people in a tuk-tuk on our way to Chiang Mai in this crazy world of Thai traffic.White water Chiang Mai

But we made it! We got back on time to catch our bus. When we arrived on the river bank where the start point was we saw other people doing the bamboo rafting. It looked wet, maybe not entirely safe but well they looked more happy than scared. We had a brief trianing, got divided into two teams for each raft and wearing a helmet and life vest carried the raft to the river.

Chiang Mai white water raftingIt looked so much fun! We got into the raft, the river was quite calm, some lady took a picture of us, all in smiles and then the hell began… it started raining and the rain was coming from the upper reaches of the river so suddenly there was twice as much water and it was going faster and faster. For the three of us in our raft it was first time on white water, we did not really know what to do with the paddles, we were obeying orders as well as we could. Have to say our lider was reassuring but the other one in the second boat was crazy! Actually both of them! Suddenly the other boat filped upside down and all of them ended in water. We couldn’t catch the other boat when it was floating away, neither paddles, even though M. tried really hard. We were lucky because nobody was hurt, well A. was battered but well enough to curse. When we all got back to the boats the other team was attacked by huge red ants coming down on them from the tree. So they ended back in the water. At some point our guides decided to rid the boats so we had to walk bare feet in the jungle. We got back to the boats and struggle some more with the water. For me it was just pure fun. I guess if I ended in the water not being able to make head or tail where the surface and where the bottom is I might not be saying that, but I didn’t. This is not all. You see when we reached calm waters just before waterfall the other team lider decided it will be funny to filp the raft again! we were laughing but the other people cursed. I remember Canadian girl telling us she went to all different kinds of white water but never it was so dangerous.

So we reached the safe shore… and had to climb on top of two wet rafts stocked on the pickup. Did not expect that! No seat belts, everything wet and slippy and the driver thought he is taking part in some kind of race. The mountain roads were narrow and winding. Crazy nation!

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Introduction to my trip to Thailand

Ko Lanta

I went to Thailand in 2008 with three friends. I was just going to write that it was my first trip to a different continent but it wasn’t.road-map-of-thailand It wasn’t a first trip outside Europe without parents as well, but it was first self organised trip to different continent (although we organised it together) and first time in Asia. Big thing, is what I mean to say.

We were flying from Dublin through Amsterdam to Bangkok. And had an outline of what we wanted to see. Now, who are we? A group of four people: a couple (J. and M.) my friends from Uni at that time living in Dublin (not anymore), A. (J’s friend from work) and me.

The outline (plan) when we were leaving Ireland was:

  • Sightsee Bangkok
  • Flight to Chiang Mai
  • Renting a car to get back to Bangkok
  • Night bus/train/flight south to Phuket or Ko Samui or Ko Phi Phi
  • Back to Bangkok to catch the flight back home

and it worked out almost like this. Thailand tourWe did not hop the islands we stayed at Ko Lanta and took a night bus there. On the right you can see our first week of sightseeing: Bangkok – Chiang Mai – Hot – Li – Mae Ping National Park – Tak – Sukhothai – Ayutthaya – Kanchanaburi – Bangkok

I will start this time with a little information on Thailand.

Thailand in Thai means the country of free men. Thais still remain proud of the fact that their country was never occupied by foreign powers. It was once called the Kingdom of Siam. What is special about Thailand? Beaches? The temples? I guess both but morely the hospitality of people and delicious food. There is even more than this. Each part of the country is different, jungle and mountains in the north, beaches and islands in the south. Everywhere plenty of beautiful, historic buildings and adventures. You will hear of some of mine!China Airlines

Facts & numbers (selected):

  • the narrowest part of Thailand is near Prachuap Khiri Khan, where the Gulf of Thailand and the border of Myanmar (Burma) are only 13 km apart,
  • Bangkok has been the capital of Thailand since 1782 since King Rama I, it occupies around 6500 sq km,
  • Topographically the country can be divided into 5 regions: Central dominated by Maenam basin (you can see the houses on piles here), Northern with limestone mountain ranges (this means caves), South-Eastern a gradual transition with evergreen tropical forests and granite mountains (good fishing on the coast line), North-Eastern a red sandstone plateau (Thailand’s poor house), Western with mountain peaks exceeding 2000 m (Khao Sam Roi Yot – mountains with 300 peaks), Southern (the trunk of an elephant, as Thailand outline resembles the head of one).Festive celebrations Bangkok
  • Three seasons of differing rainfall: the summer monsoon – rain (May – October), winter monsoon – dry except eastern coast of Malay Peninsula (November to February) and the rest of the year – high temperatures and thunderstorms; take into consideration El Nino years as well
  • Goverment recognises 6 hill tribes: Hmong (Meo) 58 000, Lahu 40 000, Yao 30 000, Akha 24 000, Lisu 18 000, Karen 246 000 they have common believes (animism) and ancestor worship
  • Akha, Lisu & Lahu live north from Chiang Mai up to “Golden Triangle” and produce opium
  • The king is the head of the state, has a personal veto and right of “royal decree”,King he has a tremendous reputation among Thais so be aware you are not to ofend him or say anything bad or insulting, no criticism of king is ever utter even behind closed doors
  • Pictures of the king are displayed even in the tiniest huts, he is everywhere
  • A significant proportion of visitora to Thailand are “sex tourists”, while prostitution is practised openly throughout the country ( tolerated and partly regulated), sex with a prostitute under the age of 18 is strictly prohibited,
  • It is common to see children and adults with a thread of wool tied around their wrists, this is to bind the khwan (spirit) to the body and keeping health and happiness within the body, you should wait until the thread falls off on its own, never tear it off yourself
  • Once in a lifetime every free Siamese must spend three months in a monastery
  • good spirits are adopted into families whereas the bad find a home in spirit houses (saan phra phum) where they are appeased with daily offerings
  • the first Siamese twins known to western medicine were born in 1811 in Mae Klong (about 60km from Bangkok)

There are not many pictures this time but I will make it up to you in posts to come 🙂

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Crossing Cambodian border – Bangkok to Hue part 1

Route: London – Bahrain – Bangkok – Siem Reap – Ho Chi Minh City – Nha Trang – Hoi An – Hue – Da Nang – Ho Chi Minh City – Bangkok – Bahrain – London

Time schedule:  5th November 2009 – 19th November 2009

Participants: 2 P & Me

Route map

Here we are at the Bangkok train station on  6th November 2009 early afternoon. It’s my second time in Bangkok so yesterday – the first day we spent in bangkok, we were able to avoid some of the tourist traps tyros do encounter (more about it in a different post). Nevertheless booking train tickets through the agency seemed easy and very tempting, mainly because we were to arrive in Siem Reap late evening and didn’t fancy walking from one hotel to another in strange city, tired with a heavy backpack. So we bought: train tickets to the On the platformCambodian  boarder, bus ticket to Siem Reap and overnight stay in a guest house; in the agency at the main railway station. Of course we overpaid, but well the journey was supposed to be smooth and comfortable.

We are waiting for the train to arrive, expecting probably something like what you see in the pictures from India. We read in our guide that you need to hurry to get seats as the trains are usually overcrowded.  While we are waiting there is more and more people coming. I don’tInside of the train think we spotted any other tourist among them besides two German guys with backpacks. Finally the train arrives and we are able to get in, interior  looks pretty the same as in some old carriages in Poland, P says it might be even better. When we depart most seats are taken but there is no one standing yet. This is of course going to change along the way, there will be youth traveling from school, farmers with their crops, traders offering coconuts to drink and different kinds of food jumping on and off the train. The journey is fantastic. We can’t take our eyes from the view outside the window. Firstly we observe life around the tracks with so By the tracksmany families using the space for their everyday life. Health and safety in Europe would never allow that. We can barely recognize where the stops are, as there are no platforms or signs. The train just stops and people get in. Then we come across group of graduates who have their pictures taken on the tracks. Is that for good luck IGraduate wonder… then the landscape changes and we come across rice fields, little cottages between palm trees just next to fish ponds, pastures and stations in the middle of nowhere. It’s the kind of sites you can only see while traveling by land transport. I’m so glad we didn’t take the plane.

A person working for agency was going to wait on us at the final stop to take us through the border and lead us to the bus going to Siem Reap. Sounds good. We had no idea what time it was and it really didn’t feel like a long journey. When we arrived everyone suddenly seemed to be in a hurry. We looked around in search of our guides. It was them who found us and insisted on Rice fieldsmoving quickly to a tuk-tuk. For those of you who don’t know what a tuk-tuk is: it’s a  motor vehicle with three wheels used to transport passengers and goods, called sometimes auto rikshaw. There was an American couple who didn’t know where to go. I tried to help and offer them to come along with us but we got separated by our guides who insisted we move along faster. And so we did. There are plenty of tuk tuks for hire so if you travel by yourself, don’t worry you will be able to hire transport. I tried to assess if you could walk instead of hiring wheels and I think is doable. I recentlyCows walked to Dublin Port from O’Connell St in Dublin (so compare it to what you are willing to walk).

Anyway we already had our visas from Cambodian Embassy in Bangkok (tip: if you are taking taxi get the address written in Thain alphabet not Latin), so we only had to fill out immigration cards supplied by our guides. You can get Visa and immigration card on the border. The first one is paid, the second free of charge (in case someone wants to charge you). So this is how it looked like: before the border our guide took us to table under a tent and asked to fill out the cards. We did that and waited for him for a while. He came back with another guy and the four of us approached the border post. Our guide told us he cannot cross the border but the other man will take us across and if we want to take out some money we should do it now, because in Cambodia there are no ATMs and a lot of pickpockets. He kept repeating how dangerous it is and we started to get nervous. It was getting dark by now and plenty of people with all types of bags, cases and carts were crossing the border. We did not know what to believe. We had $ so we didn’t feel it was necessary to take out any money, so we just kept on going. When we got to Thai border a man started to camrecord us, which felt really strange. The thought crossed my mind “is this for ransom purposes???!!!” It was really dark by then. We found ourselves in the stream of people walking in darkness. We could barely catch up with the man who was supposed to take care of us. We walked over a stream smelling of fish and dirt. People were brushing and bumping into us. I was getting more and more aware of the stress I felt… And then there was light. We thought we were already in Cambodia, but this was actually a zone of enormous hotels and casinos with limousines parked outside. Everything was luxurious and glittering, like some other world, Asian Las Vegas type of thing. Now I thought about mob and drug lords, but we just kept on walking until we got to the Cambodian border. You know it’s communist country, so we were treated as all foreigners in communist country, which is something difficult to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Let’s just say people are very unhappy when you disturb their “work” even when this work is supposed to be serving you. Just before approaching the official we met Polish couple traveling to Siem Reap as well. We quickly exchanged experiences and wished them farewell.

When we got to the other side P had to go to the toilet so I stayed with the luggage waiting. The man who crossed the border with us just then told me that the train was late and so the last bus is gone and now we need to pay for a taxi to get to Siem Reap. I got really angry, I said I didn’t care, that we paid for the transport and it’s their problem to provide us with replacement.

He kept on saying: “No buses today”

and I kept saying: “I don’t care I paid!” (believe me I know it wasn’t constructive but I was too tired to care).

So it went until P came back and the couple we met earlier suggested we could share a taxi. Suddenly we found ourselves surrounded by taxi drivers, touts, our guide and Polish couple. Everyone wanted to pull us in different direction, shouting and convincing us we should come with him. We couldn’t even talk to each other to decide what we want to do. Next minute an old bus approached us and our guide told us to get in so we can drive away where taxis are cheaper than here. There was another tourist already on the bus reaching his hand towards us.

We looked at the bus, at the guide and decided NO WAY!

So we shared the taxi for $30 (for the whole car). Our guide was really mad that we didn’t do what he wanted. And told us to give back our transit tickets (the ones we got at the agency). We thought “well obviously he needs them, fine let’s get it over with!”.  So we took off happy to be on the way, chatting about our trips and places we’ve seen, when suddenly a police patrol started to flash light at us in the middle of nowhere and our driver did not want to stop… but I will tell you all about it in the next post.

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