A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

Stranded in Chiang Rai (1 Good/1 Bad)

BANGKOK TO CHIANG RAI, THAILAND: WEEKS 14 - 17 DECEMBER/ JANUARY (cool, misty, constant rain, unseasonal weather for dry season 21 degrees)

rain 21 °C
View Thomas's Great Adventure on edandsuet's travel map.

Finally we were able to leave Bangkok behind and board a sleeper train to Chiang Mai, only after an extra train was added to the schedule on New Year's Day. The train was brand new, imported from China, with airline style toilets, red velvet upholstery, gold curtains and ice cold air-con. However, the dazzling overhead flood lights in the carriage were never switched off when it got dark, so none of us slept a wink all night and it made me yearn for the old style sleeper wooden slatted carriages, with fans, lumpy blue seats and a central pole for locking up your belongings and no glaring, overhead lighting.
Platform for Chiang Mai Sleeper Train from Bangkok

Platform for Chiang Mai Sleeper Train from Bangkok

Lower Berth, Chiang Mai Sleeper Train

Lower Berth, Chiang Mai Sleeper Train

Chiang Mai has certainly expanded over the last ten years with increased traffic and a 101 tour options from hill tribe trekking, zip lining, white water rafting and quad biking to being a mahout for the day at an elephant camp. The weather became unseasonal - cool, misty mornings followed by rain but it didn't stop us having a marvellous time riding elephants across the river, bamboo rafting and taking our first ox cart ride.
Elephant Riding 2

Elephant Riding 2

Bamboo rafting in the rain

Bamboo rafting in the rain

Hugging the elephants

Hugging the elephants

Crossing the river on elephants

Crossing the river on elephants

In Chiang Mai Night Market, Thomas sprained his ankle on uneven pavements which delayed our northward journey to Laos. While we were waiting for him to recuperate, the weather worsened across the whole region. Dry season was replaced with torrential downpours for four days solid so the only option left was to wait out the weather in Chiang Rai before attempting the Lao border crossing at Chiang Khong.

Chiang Rai has a laid back vibe that reminds me of Chiang Mai many years ago. The roads aren't clogged with traffic, there are quiet lanes to wander down without being mown down by a motorcycle or minibus and even in high season, the wats are pleasantly devoid of tourists. The river view point was deserted and the Chinese tour buses weren't monopolising the few attractions in town.
Wat in Chiang Rai

Wat in Chiang Rai

One advantage of being stranded here is the cheap Thai food. A husband and wife team up the road from our guest house could rustle up a tasty Thai red curry for 75 pence. The Chiang Rai Food Night market was another sure fire hit for Thomas the eating machine. Thai style spicy hot pot is the most popular dish for locals and Thomas's first choice.
Spicy Hot Pot Food Stand, Chiang Rai Night Food Market

Spicy Hot Pot Food Stand, Chiang Rai Night Food Market

Stalls at Chiang Rai Food Night Market

Stalls at Chiang Rai Food Night Market


We realised that Thais were mad about hot pot when we were in Ayutthaya and all the hot pot restaurants were jammed packed full of locals on weekday evenings. The raw ingredients of noodles, vegetables and egg are provided in a basket with either chicken, pork, seafood or fish as an accompaniment. A hot pot, complete with burning coals, is brought to your table and after five minutes, the broth should be steaming and bubbling. All the ingredients are added and the food is ready to serve up into dishes in about four minutes. As it was raining every evening, a mist i of mozzies would descend over the night market and it would be difficult not to breathe in or swallow the odd mosquito while eating. As a distraction, free entertainment was provided on stage, either young women in glittering cocktail dresses miming to "I Will Survive", showing off their air hostess arm movements (whoever choreographed should be shot) or a lone, guitar playing singer whose mournful, pitchy, melancholy ballads had me reaching for ear plugs. When he started strumming the opening chords to "Puff the Magic Dragon" it was definitely time to leave.

Local Bus to Chiang Khong on the border with Laos (only two and half hours to the border)

Local Bus to Chiang Khong on the border with Laos (only two and half hours to the border)


Chiang Rai bus station

Chiang Rai bus station

Posted by edandsuet 01:59 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Ayutthaya: Venice of the East (1 Good)

BANGKOK TO CHIANG RAI, THAILAND: WEEKS 14 - 17 DECEMBER/ JANUARY, HOT IN THE SHADE AROUND 29 DEGREES

sunny
View Thomas's Great Adventure on edandsuet's travel map.

Our trip to Ayutthaya was to escape Bangkok after an unsuccessful attempt at booking sleeper train tickets to Chiang Mai up north. Due to the Christmas holiday period, all the trains were booked solid so we jumped on a third class train for the three hours to Ayutthaya.

Bangkok Main Railway Station, waiting for the 3rd class train to Ayutthaya

Bangkok Main Railway Station, waiting for the 3rd class train to Ayutthaya


3rd Class Train to Ayutthaya

3rd Class Train to Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was once the centre of the universe for the Thai people as it was the home of the King and the Thai capital for 417 years. Some 33 kings of five dynasties have ruled the kingdom from here. It losts its shine after the Burmese sacked the city in 1767, leaving behind the ruins of many wats, palaces and a network of waterways and bridges.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet 6

Wat Phra Si Sanphet 6

The great thing about Ayutthaya is that the surrounding wats and the Grand Palace compound are all accessible by bike, although following Thomas on his bicycle was fairly hair raising on main roads, junctions and at a roundabout. He managed to veer off and crash on a regular basis, but luckily always into the kerb or off down a bank. Thankfully there were paths to cycle on within the compounds and the odd elephant to overtake!
Cycling from wat to wat, Ayutthaya

Cycling from wat to wat, Ayutthaya

The only downside to Ayutthaya was the pack of stray dogs roaming around at night. Extremely aggressive, we were always on our guard when the barking started on our way back to our lodge.

After visiting every wat imaginable over two full days of cycling, we had to regroup as all the buses and trains were still full to go further north, so we returned to Bangkok to try and find another way.
Reclining Buddha

Reclining Buddha


Wat Lokayasutharam

Wat Lokayasutharam

Wat Chaiwatthanaram 6

Wat Chaiwatthanaram 6

Grilled Pork, Street Food, Ayutthaya

Grilled Pork, Street Food, Ayutthaya

Posted by edandsuet 00:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Thailand 20 Years On: A Country in Mourning

Bangkok to Chiang Rai, Thailand: WEEKS 14 - 17 December/ January, hot in the shade around 35 degrees

sunny 35 °C
View Thomas's Great Adventure on edandsuet's travel map.

Upon arriving in Thailand, it is a country in deep mourning. Bangkok is awash with black, streets decorated in white and black fabric, huge portrait photos of the King at every major junction, in every bank, shopping centre and public building. It is teeming with well groomed mourners in modest black dresses, beautifully coiffed chignoned hair and starched black shirts for the men. The pavements are choked with a tidal wave of grief, there are volunteers handing out free water and food to the thousands that descend on the Grand Palace every day to pay their respects in the sweltering heat, queuing for 12 hours at a time.

A Country in Mourning, Bangkok

A Country in Mourning, Bangkok

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died on Thursday 13th October at the age of 88, was the world's longest-reigning monarch, following 70 years on the throne. The country then entered a year of mourning. For most Thais, they’ve never known another king and it is the same as a personal loss, think of the reverence you would show if you went to somebody’s home who was mourning the loss of a family member.

A few of the Thais we spoke to would be overcome with emotion, the tears welling in their eyes. For them, the King was selfless and tireless, a fantastic advocate for Thailand and wanting to make every single person's life better. He spoke of moderation, of Thailand becoming self sufficient for food rather than relying on any imports, he championed Thai people from every walk of the life and he was frugal in the way he lived.

Portrait of the belated King

Portrait of the belated King

I have visited Bangkok three times over the last 22 years and it has undergone a great change. The only things that seem the same are the No 15 and 45 local buses, which still have the same features but are 20 years older (rather like myself): rickety, wooden floored, noisy and stick your head out of the window for DIY air-con and the Khao San Road backpacker enclave. It's still loud, brash, seedy, everything available for the right price, Chang beer on tap, and filled with savvy backpackers but they are all glued to smart phones and buy expensive all in one tickets to the beach destinations or Chiang Mai/Pai from the travel agencies or take the hellish VIP buses overland to Vietnam or Cambodia (there isn't really anything VIP about the experience).

There is certainly a middle class in Thailand now - the roads are filled with gleaming SUVs and shiny flat bed trucks, the MBK Center is no longer the haphazard, brash, crowded bazaar but a bright shopping mall with multi screen cinema and the Siam Paragon centre is the "place to be seen", whether sipping an expensive latte, popping into Prada or Hermes or indulging in an ice-cream sundae that costs more a night's accommodation. The Thais are upwardly mobile but they are still smiling, still welcoming and know that tourism is their number 1 industry.

So we are going to buck the trend and do the travelling for ourselves - our next adventure is Ayutthaya via the third class train.

Posted by edandsuet 23:43 Archived in Thailand Tagged the bangkok king for mourning Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]