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Published: October 25th 2015
We had arrived in Chiang Mai by train around 7-30am, a trip of about 13 hours and 20 minutes. The train was very comfortable – air conditioned and with quite good service and I had slept rather well throughout the night in my upper bunk. I just love train travel.
The food on board was also good. You could order dinner and breakfast from a set menu and Ted’s and mine was TBT170 (about AUD$8-50) each, which was good value, as there were 4 small courses for the money. We didn’t worry about breakfast and thought that we would wait until we got to the hotel.
It seemed we had brought the rain with us from Bangkok, as it was still raining quite heavily when we arrived at the station.
We had only to wait a few minutes at the station until our transport turned up – two songthaews
(pron. song-tee-ows), or “rot daengs
”, (rot dangs) as the locals call them. The name literally means, “red trucks”, because, that’s what colour they are and, of which there are thousands throughout the city of Chiang Mai. They are a local, cheap, taxi service. Previously, most English-speaking tourists used to
call them, “baht buses”, back in the days when it would cost you only 1 baht, for your ride. These days, as with most things, inflation has hit, and most rides will ow cost you around 20-30 baht (about AUD$1). Still cheaper than a tuk-tuk though.
Basically, the vehicles are a Hilux utility, or something similar, with a flasher canopy on the back and fitted out with hand rails attached to the underside of the roof and with a bench seat running down either side of the truck for you to sit on, and they are open at the back. They are quite comfortable, so long as you hang on tight, and are a very cheap way of getting around the city. The only issue you may have for the un-initiated is, that sometimes it can be difficult to work out just where they are going and the route that they are taking for, unlike normal buses, they don’t have the destination displayed on the front.
The system works more like a shared taxi service. You just wave one down, (making sure that you are standing on the correct side of the street to go in the direction
you want), tell the driver where you want to go and, if it’s on his route, he says okay, and you jump in. Quite likely there will be other people already on board too so, depending on where everyone is going, you might be dropped off first, or last or, if where you want to go isn’t actually on the driver’s route and, he is feeling generous, he will often detour there, to drop you off. For some odd reason, it is a system that seems to work very well throughout the city and, is a very cheap way to get around.
We needed two “rot daengs”, to be able to fit the eleven of us in, as well as all of our bags. We were a bit luckier than most in not having to use the normal method of hailing them down as Katie, our tour leader, had rung and ordered them for us.
It took us about 20 minutes to battle our way through the city traffic and to get to our hotel – “The People’s Place”, which was rather nice, more basic than in Bangkok but, still quite comfortable.
We checked in and then
headed for breakfast in the dining room before going and having a shower and getting changed. You had two choices – the buffet for TBT110 (about AUD$5-50) or, you could order individually, as we did, and had scrambled eggs with cubed baked potatoes, a mini burger and a few other things on the plate.
Breakfast over and showers done, we then met in the foyer at 9-30am to be picked up in two (a bit more upmarket) mini buses this time, for the drive up the mountain, to see the Wat Phra That temple, about a half hour’s drive out of the city. The temple itself is simply referred to as Doi Suthep by most people, as it is perched almost on the top of Mount Suthep, - “Doi”, meaning, mountain. Its position also affords the visitor, majestic views back down over the city of Chiang Mai itself.
Ted and I have been to Doi Suthep before but, a long time ago now. This temple is very important and highly revered by the Buddhist followers and has special meaning for them.
Built as a Buddhist monastery in 1383, it is still a working monastery today and, all
entrance fees as well as the fees charged for the elevator, are used to support the monks who live in the temple, as well as for maintaining all the temple buildings.
This time, Ted and I, and a couple of others of our group, decided to take the elevator, which is really more like a cross between a cable car and a funicular railway, (it wasn’t there when we were here last), because of Ted’s crook knees and my current limited lung capacity because of the severe bronchitis and asthma I have been battling for the last 3 months. There was no way that either of us was going to try and tackle the 308 steep steps of the beautiful, intricately-carved mythical Naga Serpent staircase, up the steep side of the mountain, to reach the top and the temple itself. Dave and Anita came with us and, we would meet the rest of our group, who had tackled the 308 steps on the way up, at the top, where we would then have about an hour to wander around. Like most temples throughout Asia, we had to remove our shoes, to be able to go inside to view the
Once inside, there were many beautiful examples of Buddhas of all descriptions and poses and, whilst wandering around, were allowed to take photos with discretion. After about half an hour, we left the interior of the temple itself, which was really quite a large open area with a number of shrines, we could then put our shoes back on and wander around the outside. They had lockers you could hire if you wanted to or you could just put your shoes in one of the many open shelves in a room nearby. We opted to still go barefoot as we looked around but, had to be very careful walking around because the tiled surface surrounding the temple was very slippery in parts, as many areas of it were still wet from the light rain showers that we had been dodging.
The temple was surrounded by beautiful gardens and hanging baskets of flowers, many of them, tropical orchids in baskets or sometimes just attached to the trunk of a tree. The orchids were of the most stunning colours - even a perfect blue and white patterned orchid. Flowers of a true, blue colour are somewhat unusual in the
garden and, this orchid was truly stunning and very striking.
By now, it was nearing lunch time so, leaving the temple at around 12pm – the 308 steps were a lot easier, going down – we wound our way back down the mountain in our mini-bus, and back into town to go and have some lunch at a local restaurant that Katie, our tour leader, had booked for us. Thai food is fairly spicy and not one of my favourite cuisines but, the food itself, was rather tasty.
Back to the hotel for a short rest after lunch, before meeting again in the foyer at 3-30pm to go and have a look at one of the markets quite close to the hotel, just for a look around. It was only about a 10-minute walk so, quite nice and handy but, even so, by now, the day was very warm and humid because of the rain earlier and, as the cloud had now cleared away, the sun was quite hot.
Having been to Asia a number of times before, I wanted to see if I could get some more of my favourite long, flowing pants (that I call
“happy pants”) that I live in in the hot weather back home and, didn’t have any problem locating stacks of them in the market not far from our hotel. They cost me TBT150 or, about AUD$7-50 each. There were stacks of them around and, I planned on stocking up before going back to Oz. As we were going to be in various parts of Asia for the next 5 weeks, I knew that that wouldn’t be a problem.
As we were heading back towards the hotel around 4-45pm, we ran across some of the others of our group, Jim, Joe, Rick and Rory in “The Red Lion”, an English pub, also not far from our hotel so, Ted and I decided to stop and have a beer with them for, by this, we were very hot, tired and thirsty, and with perspiration dripping off us, making our clothes damp and sticking to us in the hot and humid conditions.
We got back to the hotel a bit after 5 and has some free time until 7pm when were all meeting for dinner. Ted had left a few minutes earlier to take some of our dirty clothes down to
the laundry lady just round the corner from our hotel, which she said would be ready at 6pm tomorrow. Your laundry is paid for by the 1kg, with this little lot costing us TBT100 which was about $5. Certainly beats having your soggy undies and other clothing apparel, dripping into your bathtub at your hotel.
We walked to dinner from our hotel, just around the corner and down a bit, to go to “The Roadside Pub & Restaurant”, which was a very nice restaurant, and the food was good too. I had the fried shrimp (prawn cutlets) salad which was really nice and the cutlets really crunchy. As I said, I’m not a big fan of Thai food (or Asian food, as a whole) as I find much of it too hot and spicy so, this was a nice alternative.
As it was a warm, balmy evening, it was nice just to be able to sit there and relax in delightful surroundings, with a cold beer in your hand and, recap some of the events of our day. With dinner over, we headed back to our hotel which was only about a 10-minute walk, arriving back home around
9-30pm. As the night market was adjacent to the restaurant where we had just had dinner, we decided to walk back through there, on our way home.
The market was huge and, would have covered an area about the length of 3 football fields, and was full of just about anything you wanted to buy. It also had stacks of the pants I was looking for. As we walked through, I had a bit of a look around and bought a couple of things for the grandkids back home but, really wasn’t in the mood for shopping (bet you thought you’d never hear a woman say that!), as I was too hot and tired and all that I wanted to do, was to get back to the hotel, have a shower and get into some fresh clothes.
Tomorrow was to be another day …
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