VISA on arrival for only 15 days. Upon arrival we need to show airline tickets for flight away from country. And our plans for Thailand automatically becomes smaller. We don’t want to run from place to place, that’s not in our style.
So we decide, that this time we will visit only three cities. To make sure, that one of these places will be some of the Thailand’s islands, flight away from Thailand we have booked from Phuket island.
Chiang Mai – city in the northern Thailand
Region close to the borders of Myanmar and Laos. Chiang Mai is one of the biggest cities in Thailand. But to not make a false impression about size of the city, I will tell you, that only one city in Thailand is really large. And that’s Bangkok with more than 8,5 millions of people. Next largest city by population in Thailand has less that 300 000 inhabitants.
So Chiang Mai as well is not so big as it may sound at the first moment. And we liked that!
You can walk all the central part of the city, which is not more than 5 kilometers wide and 5 km long. Do not want to walk? Bicycles and scooters are available for rent on every corner. Bicycle for 24 hours will cost you around 1 euro, scooter – 5 euro.
You want some another way? There are pickup tracks, like the one in next picture, available. Usual price for ride is 20 Thai baths or something like 50 euro cents. Price is the same also for longer trips going for some ten or twenty kilometers outside the city. Boarding and disembarking – where you want. Just push the stop button.
Price could be different if you are currently alone. Then talk to the driver and agree about the price. Anyway if you are not going to some specific touristic destination price should not be higher than some 30 or 40 bahts.
After 5 days in the Chian Mai we admitted this to be the best mode of transportation there. Easy, fast and cheap.
Food choice in town is wide, but prices are very nice. If eating local food, 1 – 2 euros will be enough for meal even at some nice and beautiful cafe. Local street snacks like meat and sausages on stick, sushi, fresh fruits, fried bananas costs about 10 to 50 euro cents a piece.
Fresh juices and smoothies are available everywhere. Do you want a coffee? You will be happy to find out, that it’s available there the same as easy and everywhere as local snacks, fresh juices and smoothies. So, does that mean, that without it we westerners can’t live? It looks so.
Prices for burgers, pizzas, pancakes and the rest not local food are a little bit higher, but still not even close to what we are used to see in Europe or US.
Foot massage. Shoulder massage. Full body massage. The choice of massages is very wide, but prices again are very small. For example, a half an hour massage costs only some 2,5 euro, but during our stay in Thailand we don’t see any massage for more than 10 euro.
The same as visible there are all the Buddhist temples. Larger and smaller, they are just everywhere.
And public washing machines, where you just throw in coins and you can wash your clothes.
And, yeah, all kind of cables just hanging over your head. A LOT OF CABLES.
I will not be able to tell you is it worth that money or not, but after these 5 days in Chiang Mai we had a feeling, that there are boxing events every night. So if you are interested in that, google for more. What we noticed, ticket price starts from some 10 euro.
And there we have reached, that part, where activities for larger sums starts. 10, 20, 30, 40, … euro for one person. Jungle hikes, walk in the cage of tiger, kayaking and so on. Most of it is available outside the city.
If you plan to visit Chiang Mai and you are looking for accommodation, I recommend CMStay! Owners have appartments in the city center and a little bit away from it. We chose to stay a little bit further from the city center, and we enjoyed our stay.
They are also on Airbnb. Register on Airbnb with Facebook using this link and we both will receive 25$ discount for our next reservation through this site. We use and recommend Airbnb for several years already.
To make it more interesting we decided to go to Bangkok by night train, in second class sleeper. The main difference between first and second class is, that first class has AC, but second – only fan. It cost about 12 euro. Not bad for travel over half of the country. And as it is a night trip, you save money, that you would pay for hotel, hostel or apartment.
If not that fan just by our “beds”, that stop to work in the evening, I would say, that it’s totally worth that. Otherwise it was ok, but because of the heat it was hard to fall sleep. As there were two guards all the time in the wagon we felt safe, but as there was also shower – we felt fresh in the morning.
16 hours on train, and we are in Bangkok!
Are we in India? It looks like in Delhi. Dirty. Slums. A lot of people everywhere.
Just one subway line? What a surprise. Totally not like in a city with millions of people. Price for a metro ride is small, but quality is similar as in, for example, Madrid, Singapore or Hong Kong.
When walking out of the subway station, where we have agreed to meet with our Airbnb host, we understand, that there you see and hear even less English that in Chiang Mai. But at least surroundings now looked better than near the train station. I don’t know if we would thought this way if not seeing India for so much before. I doubt it. I think, that Bangkok would look much worse for us.
During that short time of waiting we see more pink cars than over a whole lifetime before. That’s so because of Bangkok’s taxies, which are mostly pink. Full streets of taxies. And then there are motorcycle – taxies, occasional buses, and not too much private cars. Similar like in Hong Kong and Singapore many people use public transportation.
But if you look more carefully, you see that there is no more place for cars. Motorcycles already are often going on walking roads. Be aware of it!
Apartment in Bangkok we have found the same way as a lot of times in another countries – on Airbnb. For about 17 euro for a day we have got nice and spacious apartment on the top floor with a view to all the city.
And from here we see how small actually is that modern part of Bangkok, that part with skyscrapers and business centers. In a huge areas around them there are roofs of thousands much more simpler houses.
Later when going for a walk and after that also for a cycle, we see the same Bangkok from a street view. Partly ruined buildings are just in front of new and shiny ones. And most of these old ones are not tall at all, just two to three storey high.
There are free bike rental points in Bangkok. To get a bicycle you just need to fill a form and show your passport. Be prepared, that driving here is mainly on the same road with all the traffic.
While cycling for about an hour, we see also few bicycle lanes. They look like freshly marked, but at the end leads to nowhere. Not a surprise, that we don’t see almost any cyclists using them. Because, who might want to drive just into a market, where there are a lot of people and it’s almost not possible to cycle at all. Or to drive by smelly riverside? But still it was our possibility to take a closer look on this city.
Food choice and availability here is as big as in Chiang Mai. The only disadvantage of big city is that the prices are often 2 – 3 times higher with possibility, that they may be also 15 times higher. So if you want to eat cheaper and you are in a wrong area, there might be a need for some 15 minute walk to find a place for yourself.
We may say, that Chiang Mai is much better choice to get to know Thailand. And, yes, that’s how we think. But there are also reasons, why Bangkok may be the only right choice for you, where to go in Thailand. One of such reasons may be night life, which for sure there in megalopolis is much more active.
Just in case, remember to check out the situation in country before your arrival. Just before our arrival to Bangkok there was a rule (curfew) for already more that two weeks, that everyone must be at their home during the night. Curfew was lifted on next day after our arrival.
When leaving Bangkok our feelings about this city remained roughly the same as at the time when we came here. It is a city which you can visit, go around for a few days and move on. But it’s really not a place where we would like to live.
For going from Bangkok to Phuket we use one more different type of transportation – night bus.
12 hours on a bus, and we are in Phuket!
Island that in certain months of the year is crowded with thousands of tourists now is almost empty. June, July and August are quiet months here, when all around you can see mostly locals. Weather is still good, the only minus is that possibility of rain is quite high. It’s usually strong, but almost always very short. Together with always warm weather and bright sunshine it’s not a problem for us at all.
On this beautiful tropical island we have decided to stay at some hotel we found on Airbnb, about 30 kilometers from city. In a very quiet place by the sea. Yeah, I know, Airbnb and hotel do not go together. But this time key for us is perfect location – next to beach and in two kilometers from the airport.
So no need to think anymore about how to get to beach or how to get to that early flight. Perfect!
A variety of restaurants and the sea on one side, a grocery store to the other, but scooter rental in the next house. For two day rent, including gasoline, we pay about 13 euro, which is really not bad. Especially, keeping in mind, that it’s only short term rent.
Going to another beaches at the same time became much easier. And what a waves there! In many places dangerously high an strong, and you can only stand and watch them.
But in another places, guarded by life guards, bringing so much fun to adults and children.
So we swim on one day. Swim on second day. And swim on the third. As it looks from surroundings (hotels, hotels and more hotels), during the high season I would not want to be here, even at this quite distant place. But currently is just the right place for us.
Tomorrow we are flying to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). But on Sunday we return to Langkawi island, where we have planned to stay for some more weeks. Waiting for some earned money to come to our bank accounts. So we are returning to a place we already know to do the same volunteering job we have already done before.
But in mid of July we plan to move on. Maybe to Europe?
Author: Kaspars Misins
Kaspars is a long term traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they are traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On WeAreFromLatvia.com they share their experience and things learned along the way.