Phuket to Chiang Mai
Thankfully I only had to endure Phuket for 16 hours before I boarded an Air Asia flight direct to Chiang Mai (approx 40 GBP).
Chiang Mai airport is only 3 km from the city and taxi are cheap at 120 baht (approx 2.5 GBP). To bring the cost down (2.50 is a lot in Thailand!) I shared a taxi with 3 other new arrivals and by coincidence we were all headed to the same place – Julie’s Guesthouse – because we had all read Lonely Planet. Once a bar, restaurant, accommodation or activity makes it into Lonely Planet or Rough Guides, it is financially made!!
Julie’s Guesthouse rocked! The rooms were small and simple with basic beds and brightly coloured hostel decor which I wouldn’t normally go for but the unique selling point at Julie’s is the social aspect. As you walk through the door you enter a large common room with pool table, dining tables, bar and lounging beds. There are always people hanging around and a lot of traffic as people try to get a room – it’s best to book in advance in high season (Dec / Jan). The food is good and the drinks are cheap too. The room itself (a triple with one single bed and two bunk beds, basic ensuite) was ony 270 baht (5 GBP)!!
My new roommate and I spent the afternoon looking at a couple of wats (Thai temples) and hitting some golf balls down a driving range! Whilst at the wats we were tempted into a “Monk Chat” – monks make themselves available to tourists for a chat about anything you fancy. We spoke about Buddhism, the 5 main precepts (monks do not lie, steal, drink, kill or have sex), the other 227 precepts and our monks career which already spanned 8 years of his 25 years of age. Being a monk is quite a commitment but is seen as a rite of passage for Thai men and they can call it a day if they choose to raise a family (and lying, drinking, stealing, killing) instead.
Chiang Mai is very popular destination for hill-tribe trekking so I booked myself on a 2 day, 1 night trek (25 GBP). I wasn’t planning on doing any trekking when I packed my bag in England and this was obvious from my trekking attire – clubbing trainers instead of hiking boots and a laptop style bag instead of a rucksack!
The first day we rode elephants (I balanced on the head/neck which apparently doesn’t bother the elephant at all), trekked through the jungle for 3 hours and bathed in a small waterfall. The trek was tiring and I would not recommend for anyone who is unfit or has a bad heart. After 3 hours of sweat we made it to our hill-tribe village. The hill-tribe lived at approx 900 metres above sea level and were quite cut off from civilisation raising their families and growing rice amongst hens, cockerels and pigs. It was interesting to see their remote way of life away from TV and entertaining themselves with a nightly sing-song. That evening we dined on a bamboo platform above the jungle and entertained by our guides Tong and Weelow who had numerous games lined up. With no polution and a clouldless night the stars lit up the sky and we were very lucky to see an amazing shooting star scorch the entire sky from West to East! Even more amazing was the fact that the hill-tribe were able to provide us with Chang beer… they are not that cut off then!
On the second day of our trek we had to make the descent back to sea level which was tricky oin trainers with no grip. I was slipping and sliding all over the place but thankfully none of them resulted in injury. We passed by a beautiful 20 metre waterfall and took a dip before hitting the water again for white water rafting and bamboo rafting. Unfortunately, the white water rafting was better described as just ‘rafting’ because the water levels were very low and therefore the rapids were not very rapid. To round the day off we had a delicious Pad Thai and a dessert of pineapple before our lift back to town. Overall a great 2 days, fantastic group (no complainers and we all got along well) and good guides in Tony and Weelow. My outfit also held up although my trainersand bag have now seen better days.
Our trekking group hit the town that night and followed a recommendation to visit the Roof Top Bar near the city’s East Gate. Roof Top is a great place if you like dance music and a young, party crowd. People were dancing from the start to the end and enjoying the usual Thai cocktail buckets – approx 1 litre of cocktail served in a bucket handy for sharing.
With hangover in full swing, it was time to check out of Chiang Mai and head to Laos, more precisely Vang Vieng for the infamous tubing experience. Vang Vieng is a long way from Chiang Mai (maybe 400 km) and transport choices are 24 hour bus ride, flight then 3 hour bus ride, 24 hours of bus and speed boat down the Mekong River, 48 hours of bus and Mekong slow boat with 2 overnight stays along the way. The latter was described as an experience and so I booked myself a place (33 GBP).
|Print article||This entry was posted by Ben on December 24, 2009 at 12:49 am, and is filed under Travel blogs. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|
No comments yet.
No trackbacks yet.
about 3 years ago - No comments
The slow boat journey from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang in Laos (approx 32 GBP) involved many segments: 5 hour minibus from Chiang Mai guesthouse to Thailand / Laos border area. Overnight stay at guesthouse (included in price). 10 minute minibus to border crossing at Chiang Khong, Thailand. Cross Mekong River to Huay Xai in…