We arrived in Chiang Mai at 06:00 after an 8 hour and 30 minute bus ride from Ayutthaya. For anybody that is travelling from central Thailand to Chiang Mai, we recommend the sleeper bus. You can go V.I.P for a bit extra and this gives you full reclining seats which is more comfortable for sleeping. You also get a meal, a drink when you first get on the bus and a coffee in the morning before arrival.
We got a Tuk Tuk from Chiang Mai Arcade bus station to our hotel (It seems that every time we get a Tuk Tuk transfer, the standard fee is always 150B). Our hotel was very central. We stayed in the Sira Boutique Hotel. We arrived at the hotel at 07:15, however our check in wasn’t until 14:00. The hotel let us leave our big bags in the lobby and we went exploring.
We had a short walk to many of the temples that Chiang Mai had to offer which made a lovely change from getting an Uber everywhere in Bangkok. It also seemed a lot cooler in Chiang Mai compared to Bangkok and Ayutthaya. This is probably because Chiang Mai is a province in mountainous northern Thailand. It was still very hot though.
We visited a good few temples in the space of 90 minutes. These included: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phan Tao. Our highlight of by a mile was our visit to Wat Phra Singh. We explored the main hall at the entrance to Wat Phra Singh and then decided to explore the grounds further. As we approached a Stupa at the back of the grounds, we witnessed monks chanting. It was the most magical and special experience to witness. We were both awe struck. Another case of being in the right place at the right time.
We got back to the hotel at about 12:00. Rach fell asleep while I updated our social media pages. Once 14:00 came, we went straight to our room, emptied our backpacks and started throwing clothes away to make our packs lighter again. Rachel’s Gran kindly donated her hand luggage case that she used for her trip to New York, however it got damaged in transit and we could no longer use it and keep our belongings secure. This meant condensing our bags further.
We grabbed some lunch at a restaurant called Pad Thai Retchadamnoen. We got chicken and ginger, Thai red curry, Tom Yung Kung, chicken rolls, spring rolls and plenty of water to hydrate us. Rach discovered that she isn’t a fan of red curry over here, due to northern Thailand adding an aniseed flavour to their dishes. I discovered that I don’t like lemongrass, I think that is why Rach orders Tom Yung Kung soup so that she doesn’t have to share!
We then went on a hunt for a bar. We found a cool bar called The Secret Cafe. I tried a few local ales and Rach ordered a bottle of wine. Our most expensive food/drink purchase to date. Wine in Thailand is not cheap. Lesson learned. We did some social media work, uploaded some photos, due to the WiFi being very good and then went for some more food. I got my usual Chicken Pad Thai and Rach opted for the same.
On our walk back to the hotel, we heard music coming from down the road. It turns out that just a few doors up from our hotel, there is a really cool jazz bar. The bar is called The North Gate Jazz Co-Op. If you like jazz music, I’d recommend checking it out in Chiang Mai. The music was excellent and the place was very lively. People poured out of the bar and onto the main road to watch and listen to the band.
The next day we got up and went to Doi Suthep. We were going to get an Uber but a local Tuk Tuk driver said he would take us for 300B cheaper. It is worth checking both Uber and the local Tuk Tuk drivers before making a decision. Once we were dropped off we were given an hour to see everything in Doi Suthep. We climbed 306 steps to the top. The staircase itself was fantastic but the Temple at the top was mind blowing. There was so much gold and such extravagant beauty all around.
We signed our names on some gold fabric that was going to be wrapped around the Temple. Essentially, we would become part of the temple. People at Doi Suthep also buy bells at the bottom which are then signed and eventually melted to guild the temple.
As we only had an hour, we rushed back to the Tuk Tuk and unfortunately had to miss some of the markets, which was a shame and a reason to return one day.
We arrived back in Chiang Mai and went into a cafe called Into the Woods. We ate, hydrated ourselves again and began to plan our next two days in Chiang Mai. We tried a couple of local travel agents to check the prices of a tour of Doi Inthanon National Park. The travel agents were quoting 1300-1500B for the day (each) but Rach found it online for 950B each. We were both looking forward to seeing Doi Inthanon National Park and were very happy to get this booked.
We then decided to grab a Tuk Tuk to Chiang Mai Zoo. We saw so many weird and wonderful animals. I took the opportunity to use my telescopic lens on the animals and get some cool shots. We heard a lion roar for the first time, which sent shivers down the spine and we got up close and personal with an elephant.
As we were walking around the zoo, a storm came out of nowhere. Before we knew it, we were soaked to the skin and running for shelter. We found cover under a tree that had about 3 large leaves. They worked well as an umbrella as we waited for the storm to pass.
We got back to the hotel and decided to go for a wander to find somewhere new to eat. We stumbled upon the famous Talat Prato Chiang Mai Night Market. There were street food vendors all the way down the road. The street food was the best we’ve had so far. We knew that we would be back.
Our next two days were to consist of Doi Inthanon National Park on the Wednesday and then the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary on the Thursday. Blog posts to follow.
Craig and Rach