Sudden trip faulty planning
The thought process was to spend 3 nights in Chiang Mai. Having been to Thailand more than a dozen times , this was a city which had eluded us thus far. Our preferred destinations had been Phuket and Bangkok. Other destinations in Thailand like Pattya, Surat Thani and, Krabi and Samui have also been visited and enjoyed by us in the past. Chiang Mai was often discussed and planned but dropped in favour of a beach destination. Now a long weekend provided us with this opportunity of going northwards in Thailand. With my son off to Jodhpur representing his school in 'Round square conference', my wife, daughter and me packed our bags for Chiang Mai.
I take great deal in my planning prowess. The planning failed here as I decided not to take advance visa but take 'visa on arrival' as offered by Thailand. Chiang Mai is an international airport but for some reason we were asked to takes visas in Bangkok. Even Thai airways India office didn't seem to know this as they had informed me that visa on arrival would be in Chiang Mai. So, while we stood in the queue at Bangkok for our visa, the flight to Chiang Mai took off leaving us high and dry.
We exited the arrival area and customs and went to departure area and sought help of Thai airways. As our flight had been the last one to Chiang Mai for the evening, they were kind enough to book us on the 8 AM flight the next morning. They were also efficient enough to immediately send someone with me to the customs area to retrieve our baggage. As I was back in customs area, never to let go of an opportunity, I took this opportunity of picking up a bottle of single malt from the duty free. Needed to have a few drinks to get over the stress of missing flight to the destination and finding a hotel somewhere at night.
Novotel hotel is attached to Suvarnabhumi Airport. But the price was quite high considering we were just to spend the night. Going into town was foolish as it was nighttime and we had to be back at the airport by 6.30 AM. A travel agency kiosk at the airport gave us an offer which seemed quite practical. Even though the agent charged us a bit more, the Sinsuvarn airport suites hotel turned out to be fairly reasonable; it was neat and clean; it was just 10 minutes away from airport; and it offered free shuttle both ways. Once we checked in we went for a walk to the nearby food market but for Devicka and Sanya the smell was overpowering so we decided to have dinner in the hotel itself. It was a restless sleep as there was fear of missing the morning flight as well. After all we had been booked at Chiang Mai hotel for 3 nights and had already wasted one night which was planned for the saturday night walking street.
|A view from holiday Inn|
Chiang Mai airport is just a short distance from the town. It took just 10-15 minutes to reach our hotel 'Holiday Inn' from the airport. We now had just 2 days or 51 hours in Chiang Mai . Normally people stay in or around the Old town in the city. Holiday Inn was 10 minutes or 100 Bahts away from old town by tuk tuk (auto rickshaw). Realising that we didn't have much time, without wasting any time we had our breakfast and hit the road by 10.30 AM.
|The street food inside the temple|
Massages of Thailand- worth visiting the country for
You do get tired walking on the roads of the old town and visiting all the temples. Massages are part of culture in Thailand and for tourists it is a great boon to get pampered for an hour or so for around 200 Bahts. Did I say pampered ? Well, if you get a girl who is adept at this art you will want to scream in pain the way the yoga postures are tried with your body which may not be as supple as the requirement demands. We visited the fancy Oasis spa but the price was exorbitant. I had been recommended Green Bamboo massage but the place was totally booked so we took an appointment for the morning we were leaving. We saw some place called Lila Massage and the place seemed decent. Important thing was that all 3 of us got the slot there . The Lila Thai Massage was established by Naowarat Thanasrisutharat, former Director of Chiang Mai Woman’ Prison to help support the lives of newly released inmates in society. This rehabilitation process includes training of these former inmates. The Thai traditional massage was pretty satisfying here and as our bodies were turned and twisted , it gave us a real painful satisfaction.
Actually massage became a daily ritual and if it were upto me it would have been a 2 hour massage each day. The next day we tried a place on Nimmanhamin road which was just about OK. The oil massage in any case can't be compared to Thai traditional massage. My oil massage was relaxing as it is supposed to be. Ideally it should be an hour of Thai traditional massage followed by an oil massage. This is what holidays should be all about in this part of the world.
We did finally try Green Bamboo massage near the old town on the day we were leaving and the massage was really good. The price was also just Baht 250 for an hour. The walk from the massage parlour to the main road was fascinating. In those small lanes there were guesthouses, cafes, laundries and lovely beer gardens. Hidden gems which I need to explore in detail when I go next. On reaching back to the hotel I realised I had some time to spare so immediately went to the neighbouring lane for a foot massage. It was painful but exhilarating. If you ask me if I would like to go back to Thailand then my answer would be YES- mainly for the great massages.
Drive to the mountains with Sam Pong
Our first stop was Bhubing Palace at Doi Suthep. The sprawling estate was full of exotic flowers and plants. It was a pleasure roaming in such lovely environment. You go up and down admiring the plants and flowers. Dress code is strict and shorts and sleeveless shirts are not allowed. But they rent clothes out to you for a nominal price.
As we came back to the taxi we found that our dear friend had donned a hat and goggles, he had plugged in his electric guitar and a speaker to aux power of the taxi and was busy singing and entertaining fellow cab and bus drivers. I asked him to continue and enjoyed this rock concert by our versatile driver.
|Sam Pong-the entertainer|
Staying with Sam Pong, when we had finished the palace and the temple , we asked him to drop us at Maya shopping centre so we could roam around the Mall and then take a walk on the famous upmarket Nimmanhamin road. He was very disappointed as he had many other places to take us for which he was charging us. He did not like the idea of our leaving him before the scheduled time. Frankly speaking we were not interested in Tiger Kingdom or the snake show. I think tigers are all drugged in these places and the incident of Bangkok a few months back is still fresh in mind where dead cubs and drugged tigers were found. It was also found that the monks there were indulging in tiger organ trade. We asked him not to worry and bid him goodbye. He took out his phone and clicked a selfie with us. He keeps an album of all his overseas customers !
Wat Doi Sutep temple in the mountains
The Wat Doi Sutep temple a few km's below the palace is a lovely temple. As it is perched up on the hill, you could go up by a cable car. We did go up by cable car and enjoyed looking at the architecture of the temple and also the tranquility the place offered. We walked down the steps so we could enjoy the environment. While my daughter and dear wife were busy taking blessings in the temple I spent time photographing the place and enjoying the energy of the chanting hymns.
On the way down there are a lot of street food places and a market for clothes and souvenirs.
|A walk down from temple|
Nights in Chiang Mai
|The night market|
The night market at Chang Clan Rd is a big tourist attraction and held each night. It is bright and colourful and full of bargains. I mean you have to be a good bargainer. I do regret not picking up one of the lamps in the photograph.
There is also a Saturday evening market at Wualai street and Sunday market along Ratchadamonoen Road. Thankfully the sleaze is missing from Chiang Mai night life. I mean it is not evident from the walks we took though I am sure there must be areas for this. In Bangkok and Phuket sleaze is evident in many areas and it is difficult to avoid it.
For dinners we went to the riverfront. The Riverside bar and restaurant was too noisy and loud with live band playing so we decided not to spend time there. Someone noticed and they came and offered us a nice table near the river outside in the open. Near where our table was they had a boat docked and it had dinner seating based on cover charges. The view of the river , the lighted up bridge and twinkling lights made it into a nice evening. There are many other restaurants on the river adjoining the riverside bar and restaurant. They are all in a row. 'The gallery' was shut for some reason and 'the good view' was also as busy as the one we went in. There are many Jazz bars and rock band places which make the evenings interesting.
The next evening Devicka and I went to the much acclaimed 'The Service 1921 Restaurant and bar' at Anantara. The setting was romantic on the waterfront but food was disappointing.
There is only this much someone can do in 50 odd hours. I would have liked more time for massages, using hotel facilities and going to all those hidden cafes in the lanes and by lanes near the old town. But time was up and it was time to fly back to Delhi via Bangkok. It is another matter that our Chiang Mai flight got delayed and we had to rush and run at Bangkok Airport to get to our Delhi flight.