The last time I was in Chiang Mai was February 2010. I took the trip as a lone backpacker and it was very memorable. I love Chiang Mai due to its laid back and charming atmosphere not unlike Bangkok, Pattaya or Phuket which is very touristy. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s version of Baguio though I feel Baguio is a lot cooler especially if you stay in the city proper of Chiang Mai.
My friends and I just quickly decide to go to Chiang Mai at the last minute. We were chatting over YM last Saturday and in jest we told each other we’re gonna meet at the airport by 6:15 pm (cos there was a flight leaving Bangkok at that time to Chiang Mai). Suddenly, what was supposedly a joke became a real road trip! We decided to purchase a train ticket leaving Bangkok at 6:45 (we took the station near Don Muang Airport as 3 persons in our group stay near that area).
Me and 4 other friends rode an Air Conditioned sleeper train. It was the type of train that the sits are converted into beds at night.
It was a very long trip (total 16 hours from BKK to Chiang Mai) but it was not a boring trip at all because all of us just talk and crack jokes for hours and we are worried that some of the passengers might find us inconsiderate for talking loudly.
To our surprise, when we walk past other cabin it is even louder with all those Western people eating, drinking and talking endlessly.
We had dinner in the restaurant inside the train. The food is not too good but is also not expensive we only paid THB 555 for a 3 course meal for 5 person including drinks.
After dinner, when we went back to our cabin, the beds were already made up. Because we booked last minute, 4 of us had to sleep at the upper deck which means there is no window so the only thing we can do is sleep, sleep, sleep. We slept as early as 10:30pm.
We were supposed to arrive Chiang Mai around 7:30 am on Sunday (based on the schedule found in our tickets) but we arrived 4 hours after! I don’t know it’s because the train is slow or because we stopped longer than scheduled in some train stations. However, train is still a good and safe way to travel within Thailand. There are many foreigners who decide to take the train than bus as it is more spacious and many Europeans or Americans are used to taking trains in long trips anyway plus the scenery in the countryside is beautiful.
We rented a Songthaew for THB 1,100 which we can use the whole trip. Not a bad deal. We went first to Doi Suthep which is one of the highest point in Chiang Mai. There is a popular temple called Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep which is located on top of the hill. The first time I visited this temple, it is undergoing restoration but now is a good time to visit because all the wooden skeletons used in the restoration are gone!
We had lunch in Huay Kaew Restaurant which is near Chiang Mai University and Chiang Mai Zoo. From the Restaurant’s dining area, you can see a waterfalls gently flowing down the stream. Such a good ambience and the food is good and not expensive.
After our late lunch, we went to another Temple though I forgot it’s name. The Buddha image in that temple is imposing.
Next stop is the Weekend Market. Actually, the Weekend Market in Chiang Mai is not a physical market like Chatuchak in Bangkok or the equally popular Night Bazaar also in Chiang Mai. During Weekends, few streets near the Thapae Gate becomes an instant market with a lot of people selling different stuffs in the street from souvenirs to jewelries, clothes, food and many other items. It’s just a pity that we haven’t spent long time shopping and window shopping because a heavy downpour came and lasted few hours.
We just laze around a local coffee shop while we enjoyed authentic Chiang Mai coffee over a slice of cheesecake and some Durian (yes we bought Durian at the foot of Doi Suthep and since we cannot bring it in the bus on the way to Bangkok we had to consume all of it before going to the bus station!) while playing Chinese checkers (I was able to buy a wooden Chinese Checker in the weekend market).
Finally, its about time to go to the Bus station. We went there before 7pm since we haven’t bought ticket for our trip back to Bangkok yet. We took a VIP air conditioned bus leaving Chiang Mai around 8PM and it only cost THB 605. We bought from Siam First Tour and their bus is new and service is good (snack and refreshment is served on board).
We arrived in Bangkok around 5:30 am yesterday. I have to rush back to my flat because I have to work. I was still able to sleep for 1 hour before having a quick shower and hurriedly go to the office.
It was tiring (all because of the long distance travel) but a worthwhile trip too. Surely, would love to do such kind of road trip again in the future.