Hi everyone! Have now returned from 3 wonderful weeks in Thailand. Following is my JBR for the Chiang Mai leg of my holiday.
Arrive Chiang Mai, checked into Baan Orapin (late afternoon). Wonderful, wonderful place to stay. Just loved it. We were booked into The Riverside Dinner Cruise for that night. Hadn't done our research, asked a songthaew to take us there, discovered it was a 100 or so metres up the road. Duh. He he Restaurant was very crowded and we were ushered through to the boat where we gave drinks orders. Drinks and food were very slow coming and it wasn't really made clear to us that drinks would not be available while the boat was in progress. Nevertheless, all this was sorted with minimal hassle and we were underway. Was a lovely cruise and wonderful to see everything at night.
We had nothing planned as it was the weekend of Loy Krathong, and kept the weekend free to see what was going on with the festival. We ended up shopping up and down the street that Baan Orapin was on. Oh my goodness. Such lovely, lovely art and culture shops. Spent quite a bit of money in this area. That night, we ventured towards the Tha Pae Gate area to see the Loy Krathong procession. The parade was amazing but long-winded. Being a westerner, I'm really not used to the custom of people stopping the parade so they could have their photo taken with the participants. Ha ha. Certainly a culture shock for me so the parade seemed to go on forever. The floats were amazing and downright beautiful though. We also got to see the 55,000 lanterns in the sky as they were released from Mae Jo on this night (from the Tha Pae area, we did not attend the local Sansai event).
Day 3 - Day of Loy Krathong Festival (17th)
Feet and shoulder massages. Oh yeah! Then into a songtaew to Elephant Parade House. Again, I spent a fair bit of money here (which I intended to). I bought 4 elephants and 2 artboxes and a coffee mug. Very pleased with this place. Walked around that area but found we seemed to be in a business area, and nothing was opened. We decided to just go back to the hotel and plan our attack for that night. Baan Orapin were holding a private Loy Krathong event at 6pm which I was keen to attend. Around 6.45pm we took off to Deck 1 for dinner and to watch the Loy Krathong proceedings on the river. Dinner at Deck 1 was overpriced (compared to elsewhere in Thailand), but I thoroughly enjoyed my experience there. We went down to the little decking area they had and launched our own krathongs and lanterns. Was amazing to sit there and watch the complete and utter mayhem along the river. Awesome. We then decided to leave and go down to the river bank itself and sit with everyone else. It was a beautiful experience to be there for a few hours amongst the Thai people as they launched their krathongs and khom lois. Such a festive event. Unfortunately, by about 11pm, it seemed to start to feel a bit dangerous (fireworks-wise), so we decided we had seen enough and started the walk back to the hotel.
Attended a silversmithing class at Nova Design. Was quite a relaxing day, actually, especially after the full on weekend. The instructor was certainly very accomplished at what he does and I made a beautiful silver ring that I'm quite proud of. From memory, that night, I think we just found somewhere (I think it was Spoon de Best) for dinner and were in bed rather early. Even after the weekend, this was the night (Monday) that the fireworks bothered us the most!
We moved from Baan Orapin into the Old City to Baan Klang Wiang, a lovely little hotel, but with a bit of a mozzie problem. On this day we were to be picked up at 8.30 by Paul from Best Tuk Tuk Tours. Unfortunately, due to taxi problems, we arrived at 8.35. Paul wasn't there so we waited until after 9am. At this time asked the hotel to call him. He said he had been there and that the hotel had not known who we were. So he came back to get us. We went to Baan Tong Luang (a government sponsored Hill Tribe cultural preservation village). I found it quite interesting, but a bit tedious in all "shops" were selling the same products. I always find that difficult and never really know where to show my support. Also, we were allowed to observe the children in the kindergarden, which I don't really "approve" of. Next, we were to visit a limestone waterfall, which Paul told us had been closed on that day due to the festival two days ago, and that no one had been given time to clean the area. I have no way of confirming that, but I actually doubt that it was closed. We were to walk through the jungle to view the pool that feeds those falls, which we didn't do either. Next, we visited the village where Paul grew up. This was really interesting to see, but a little uncomfortable as we "met" his adopted grandfather and nanny, who couldn't speak English. It might have just been how I feel, but I felt uncomfortable by this. We were in the village (one "street") for about 20 minutes. Then onto lunch which I thought was quite impressive. Paul was quite knowledgeable about the food we were eating and Northern Thai food, in general. Afterwards, we went to Doi Suthep. Unfortunately, I wasn't given a choice to climb the steps, which is something I would have liked to do. Paul showed us some of the artwork on the walls and explained them to us, which was pretty cool, then left us to wander around the buildings. We walked down the stairs. A waterfall we were to see on the way down, was not mentioned, and we didn't get to see it.
This was another day we were to spend with Paul. Unfortunately, my sister was rather unwell, and my mum was coming down with it also, so we had to cancel the day and get them some treatment. I asked the hotel to call as early as I could, and I ended up speaking with Paul's mum, who was rather rude and didn't really listen to what I was saying (that I was more than prepared to pay for the bus that would have been rented for the day). Fortunately for Paul, we had already paid in full for the day in good faith. Subsequently, I received a couple of emails from Paul that contained information that was untrue. When I "called" him on it in a return email, he chose to ignore the untruths he had sent to me. In saying this, it was too much trouble to bother with him anymore. especially whilst I was on holidays. Finally, I would not recommend Paul Collins from Best Tuk Tuk Tours to anyone ever.
I devised what I liked to call a "Wat Walk". ha ha Based on the Nancy Chandler map, I went for a walk through the Old City and saw a lot of the Wats. My particular favourite is Wat Chedi Luang. I also discovered the Blind Association for conserving thai massage and booked myself in for a foot massage by a blind masseuse. I discovered lots and lots of nooks and crannies along the way. Lots of really wonderful shops and cafes, etc. Loved this day!
That afternoon, we went to Chiang Mai Zoo. Had a great time feeding giraffes. We didn't spend a real lot of time here, just saw the animals we wanted to see. (We're Australian - koalas and kangaroos really aren't of interest to us LOL)
Elephant Nature Park - just wonderful. Would recommend this to anyone, anytime. I got to meet Lek and chat to her for a little while. She is just wonderful.
Day 9 - Yee Peng Lanna International Event
Early start. I booked Joy as a driver. I had researched (and subsequently gotten wrong) that the monks started chanting at Wat Umong at 6am. We were there at 6am and found they chanted at 5am so we missed it. Oh well. It was AWESOME being in this underground temple at night, with no one else there. So spooky!! The bats flying around added to the atmosphere and we even thought we heard an electrical current a few times that we had NO IDEA where it was coming from. he he he Freaked us out a bit, but in a very fun way. Afterwards, we along to Baan Tawai. Had a great time shopping here, but was a little disappointed in that I was lead to believe it was predominantly handmade timber artifacts. A lot of it was factory made. It was a lot of fun though.
Then it was onto the Yee Peng Lanna International event. I know a lot of people on this forum poo-pooed this event, but I positively LOVED it. It was awe inspiring and just so, so special. The lantern release itself truly would have been the highlight of my holiday. Yes, 55,000 lanterns the weekend before at the local festival would have been awesome, but no, I wouldn't have coped with 55,000 people in one place at one time. I don't have that sort of patience. On holidays or not. I truly feel blessed to have been at this event.
Tiger Kingdom. I love this place and it still hasn't lost it's charm from the last time I was there a couple of years ago. I chose to see the smallest, small and big tigers, took in a professional photographer, had a few iced lattes, and left to go back to town. That afternoon I went along to Mengwai Kilns and bought a lot of pottery. Then off to the Sunday walking market that night. Spent a lot of money again. :)
I chose this day to go back to the Riverside area. There were a few shops there I wanted to check a few things out to see if I still wanted to buy certain items, or night. That night, we went along to a Khum Khantoke dinner. A few hiccups with transfers resulted in us getting there late and missing half the show. Was still fun and relaxing last night though.
Packed up, back to airport, to BKK, then onto Australia.
Had a fabulous time in Thailand, of course I expected to. Will JBR my time in BKK and kanchanaburi at some stage shortly. :)