VISA on arrival for only 15 days. Upon arrival we need to show an onward airline ticket for a flight away from the country. And it’s already decided – we can’t do too much this time in Thailand. We don’t want to run from a 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.
Chiang Mai – City in the Northern Thailand
Relatively close to the borders of Myanmar and Laos, Chiang Mai is one of the biggest cities in Thailand. But note that only one city in Thailand is really big. And it’s Bangkok with more than 8.5 millions of people living there. Next largest city by population in Thailand has less that 300 000 inhabitants.
So Chiang Mai is not as 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 EUR, a scooter – about 5 EUR.
Do you want something different? There are taxis and there are pickup tracks (songthaews), like the one in the next picture, available as well. A ride with songthaew costs about 20 Thai baths or something like 0.5 EUR. Price is the same also for longer trips going for some 10 or 20 kilometers outside the city. Boarding and disembarking – where you want. Just push the stop button, and the driver will stop the car.
Price most probably will be different if you are currently alone. Then you need to 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 Chiang Mai it’s our favorite mode of transportation there. Easy, fast and cheap.
Food choice in Chiang Mai is wide, but prices are very nice.
If you are eating local food, 1 – 2 EUR will be enough for a meal even at some nice local 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 like 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? Looks like that.
Prices for burgers, pizzas, pancakes and the rest of not local food are a little bit higher, but still not even close to what we are used to see in Europe or America.
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 – 5 EUR, but during our stay in Thailand we don’t see any massage for more than 20 EUR.
The same as much here you see Buddhist temples. Larger and smaller, they are just everywhere. And they are very beautiful.
And public washing machines, where you just throw in coins and you can wash your clothes. They as well are everywhere.
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 information. What we noticed is that ticket price starts from some 10 – 15 EUR.
If you plan to visit Chiang Mai and you are looking for an accommodation, I recommend CMStay! Owners have apartments in the city center and a little bit away from it. We chose to stay a little bit further away from the city center, and we enjoyed our stay.
To make it more interesting we decided to go to Bangkok by night train, in a second class sleeper car. The main difference between the first and the second class is that first class has airconditioner (AC), but second – only a fan. A ticket cost us about 12 EUR. Not a bad deal for a trip half way across the country. And as it is a night train, you save money, that you would pay for a hotel, a hostel or an apartment.
If not for that fan just by our “beds”, which stops working in the evening, I would say, that it’s totally worth it. Otherwise it was OK, but because of the heat (it’s hot in Thailand in June) it was hard to fall sleep. As there were two guards all the time in the car we felt safe, but as there was also a shower – we felt fresh in the morning.
16 Hours on the Train, and We Are in Bangkok!
Are we in India? It looks like in Delhi. Dirty. Slums. A lot of people everywhere.
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 think the same way if we wouldn’t been in India for that long time. I doubt it. I think, then 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 because of Bangkok’s taxi, which are mostly pink. Streets are full with taxi. And then there are motorcycle – taxi, occasional buses, and not too many 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 space for much more cars. Even now motorcycles are often driving on sidewalks. 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 EUR a day we have got a nice and spacious apartment on the top floor with a really cool view. 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 you see thousands of much simpler houses.
Later when going out for a walk and after that also for a cycle, we see the same on the streets of Bangkok. Partly ruined buildings are just in front of new and shiny ones. And most of these old ones are not high at all, just two to three story.
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 happens mainly on the same roads, with all of its crazy traffic.
While cycling for about an hour, we see also a 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 impossible to cycle at all. Or to cycle just by the stinky 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 a big city is that the prices here are often 2 – 3 times higher with a possibility, that they may be also 15 times higher. So if you want to eat cheaper and you are in the 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 a 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 the reasons might be night life, which, for sure, there in megalopolis is much more active.
Just in case, remember to check out the situation in the country before your arrival. Just before our arrival to Bangkok there was a curfew for already more that two weeks, and everyone was asked to stay at their home during the night. Curfew was lifted on the 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, wander around for a few days and move on. But it’s really not a place where we would like to live.
For a trip from Bangkok to Phuket we use yet another type of transportation – an overnight bus.
12 hours on a Bus, and We Are in Phuket!
An island that in certain months of the year is crowded with thousands and 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 downside is that possibility of rain is quite high. It’s usually strong rain, but almost always very short. Take into account, that it’s always warm or hot here, and you will understand, why we didn’t see that as a problem.
On this beautiful tropical island we have decided to stay at some hotel we found on Airbnb, about 30 kilometers away from city. In a very quiet place by the sea. Yes, I know, Airbnb and hotel do not go together. But this time the key for us is its perfect location – next to the beach and just in 2 kilometers from the airport.
So there is no need to think 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. Scooter for 2 days cost us roughly 13 EUR, including gasoline. It’s more than we usually pay, when renting a scooter in Langkawi, but, hey, it’s just for 2 days not for a month. Which makes it a good deal.
And going to another beaches became so much easier. And what a waves we saw there! In many places dangerously big an strong, when all you can do is just stand on the beach and watch them.
What we did in Phuket? We swam a lot. We swam every day.
This place really looks like one, where there could be a lot of tourists coming (there are hotels everywhere). And 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 back to Kuala Lumpur. But on Sunday we return to Langkawi island, where we have planned to stay for some more weeks. Waiting for some money we have earned to come. So we are returning to the 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 a travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they have been traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On We Are From Latvia they share their experience and things learned along the way.