Sunday, April 8, 2012

Discovering Northern Thailand : Chiang Mai

OK now I need to catch up with the blog.

Secil was here so I didn’t feel like sitting in front of the computer and writing at all. Now, here is a snapshot what happened in the last 2 weeks..

Secil, my former flatmate in Bruxelles, living in the UK now, had joined me in Bangkok 2 weeks ago. We didn’t have a strict plan however our intention was to head to upnorth. We stopped by Sukhothai first, a nice historical town between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. We discovered the city by bikes, had yummy and cheap food, met with Yael and Diedrick, 2 young crazy Dutch guys. 

Chiang Mai is the biggest city in Northern Thailand, quite touristic, full of night bazaars, street markets, nice food, posh restaurants/bars & designer shops.

If someone asks me what I remember of Chiang Mai, I would definitely say the countless temples we visited plus our shopping experience. Maybe shopping will even come before the temples. We had 2.5 days there, not sure whether we wanted to stay longer, first day was shopping, second day was sightseeing and third day was the trip to Pai, super cool cozy small town close to the border which I will tell later...

Our first day plan was to explore the night bazaar on the way to the city centre. 
Chiang Mai has 2 main rivers, first one covering the old city second one around the new city. Our hostel was right next to the second one and it took around 20-25 minutes to walk to the old town.

Knowing my limited budget, I didn’t have any intention (or maybe a small one) to do any shopping, however at the end I ended up spending around 2,000 bahts (app. 50 euros) in one day, or even in 2 hours. I bought skirts, pants, gifts, earrings, bikinis, it was so cheap and I think more than the price, the ability to bargain was the real motivation to do that much shopping. 

Even if you don’t need anything, if you are able to get a good deal at the end, you end up buying a lot. Now i see, that was also the main reason for me to spend that much money. And since then, I didn’t do any major shopping. This one day shopping seems to be enough for a long time.

Second day was the sightseeing day, Chiang Mai being the capital of Chiang Mai province and a former capital of Kingdom of Lanna (14th-18th centuries) + the tributary Kingdom of Chiang Mai (18th-20th centuries) had a lot of landmarks. 
The old city itself was not so big in terms of the size, however it had more than 10 major temples, all close to each other by walking distance and we visited them all. When we had a break to try some fresh fruit shakes, we saw even the Yael and Diederick on a random street, they arrived to Chiang Mai one day later than us. We had a short trip in the Sunday night market and stopped for some Chang beer around the old city.


Chiang Mai is definitely worth to see, full of Buddhist temples, from elephant riding to trekking – a lot of actions around, it offers a lot. However Secil and I were not keen on doing any of those actions (apart from the cooking course Secil took) so we decided to move further north to visit Pai after 2.5 days..

  Bye Chiang Mai!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thai Thai Sukhothai

After 2 short days and a bit of nightlife in Bangkok, on the second night we started our trip to upnorth. Our first destination was Sukhothai. According to Perasa – my Thai friend- it was the best historical place in Thailand.

On the way to Sukhothai with Secil

The city had been the capital of Sukhothai Kingdom which ruled in the 13th & 14th centuries and it covers ruins of hundreds of temples including many many Buddha statues. The site was very well preserved and well protected until today. Sukhothai Historical Park and the surrounding area was quite large so we did the best thing by renting bikes to cover all the site, it was also good to avoid the humid and hot weather.
Sukhothai Historical Park
Secil and I also went to another historical park called Si Satchalani which was one hour away from Sukhothai. We woke up quite early in the morning to avoid the warmth of the noon time, we again rented bikes and discovered the historical site in 1/2 a day. 

Sukhothai Park Sunset & Neverending Bike rides with Secil 

In the beginning of the trip, I was expecting to lose a bit of weight however it is impossible with this super delicious real Thai food. It is much better than what I used to try back in Belgium. And also the shakes, watermelon, coconut, melon, strawberry, zillions of milkshakes, all very fresh and tasty. I should write about Thai food & the milkshakes in a seperate section.
Enjoying my Pad Thai Prawn at Poo - a resto run by a Belgian in Sukhothai

So with cycling, i was feeling slightly healthier at least. In the 2.5 days we were in Sukhothai, we were on the bikes for at least 10 hours. Sukhothai was the best place for it, as it was flat and all the historical sites were easily accessible by bikes. 

Another good part of Sukhothai trip was the 2 young Dutch guys we met at the hostel, Diederick and Yael from Zevenaar, both 18 years-old, on the way for a couple of months to explore Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam after the high school graduation. They are taking much easier than I do though, they plan to visit 4 countries in 4 months whereas i planned to do it in 6 weeks.
Bank & Yael & Mimi & Diderick & old Thai Guy

We had quite a lot of fun with the locals, Bank, the old guy & Mimi - the receptionist at our hostel while they were all trying the local rice whiskey. This woman was so grumpy most of the time however thanks to the rice whiskey she was all of a sudden very cheerful and helpful unlike the normal times.
Puppies i adored in Sukhothai Historical Park 

Sukhothai trip was 2.5 days only but enough to explore all the historical places, to start getting to know the real Thai food, to meet up with some cool backpackers, to have fun together with the drunk locals...