Back to basics
The sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was surprisingly OK. I took the top bunk and despite the hard bed and pillow (standard in Asia) I was able to get a little sleep. We had a hearty but fairly rushed meal on the train consisting of a lovely Asian soup, stir fried veg and rice and pineapple, all very traditional. It was only the family next to us who ruined the journey, letting their children stay up playing video games (with the sound up loud) past midnight.
We arrived in Chiang Mai and caught up with sleep for a few hours before heading to the pool. We were staying at Daddy’s Home which although lovely, was a half an hour walk out of town. That evening for dinner we headed to Hear Tong Food Shop which is a tiny Thai cafe serving simple food on the street. I had chicken noodle soup and when we returned a few days later I had soup again but this time with minced pork and tofu eggs. It was cheap Thai food as it’s best.
Sam took me to the Rooftop Bar which has an awesome vibe packed with backpackers from all four corners of the globe. We got chatting to a few people but headed home early as we had planned a jungle trek the next day so wanted a pretty early night. This didn’t go to plan as I realised I had lost my cash card so I am now in Thailand with just £100 worth of cash. Great.
The following morning we set off into the jungle of the Doi Inthanon National Park with our guide Rocky Balboa (a former Thai boxer) and a group of around ten. I thoroughly enjoyed our lunch stops at various waterfalls where I enjoyed vegetarian noddles and rice nicely wrapped in banana leaf.
We stayed at a camp next to the Long Neck tribe which we could visit for a fee. Like a lot of things in Thailand, a fee is to be paid as Thai people make the majority of their money from tourism and as a result, charge for every thing. I don’t mind paying as everything is so cheap out here but I felt like I was paying to take a picture of someone which I thought was a little zoo-like.
We had booked a three-day two-night trek while the rest of the group bar one had booked just one night. This meant the second and third day was spent with our guide and our new friend Abel from Barcelona. On the second day we stayed in a village which belonged to another of the Karen Hill Tribes. It was lovely to get a glimpse into their way of life and chat to the locals, learn about their beliefs and even play volleyball with the children there.
Four Chiang Beers around the fire sent me to bed early that evening and I woke with the start of what was to be my first case of “backpacker flu” which involves a runny noise, blocked synises and the worse headache known to mankind. Maybe it was the toilets in Thailand, the below being one of the worst although not unusual at all.
The third day involved another two hour trek, this time slightly less steep and a visit to an elephant camp. Although I had paid to ride the elephants I decided not to after seeing chains and a hooked stick used to hit the elephants if misbehaved. I didn’t see the point in doing something so unnatural and it made me sad to see the elephants out of their natural environment. I bought some sugar cane to feed to them instead while I waited for the others to ride.
Bamboo rafting was one of the highlights of the trek which ended with a Magnum ice cream costing double that of an evening meal. This is one thing I have noticed about Thailand, it is cheap VERY cheap and you can live off just £10 a day yet things like cake, fancy smoothies and ice cream – the things I tend to buy – cost more than a bed for the evening.
It was time to say our goodbyes and head back to Chiang Mai. It was Chinese New Year that weekend so we headed straight to China Town to join in the celebrations. It was mental. So many people and street food stalls. We shuffled our way through the crowds picking up some glorious Chinese delicacies along the way. As usual, I went for things I had never tried like octopus balls and a strange vanilla cake thing wrapped in a banana leaf.
There was tons of entertainment on show including a very amusing baby beauty contest. I much preferred the cuter children in traditional Chinese attire as opposed to the above’s “big fat gypsy” style dress! Our last day in Chiang Mai was spent exploring after a delicious lunch of avocado salad. Afterwards we visited many jaw-dropping temples and Buddha statues.
It was HOT and all this walking required something chilled. I saw a sign for a Strawberry Snow Ice outside a herbal drug store called Chiang Mai Samunprai Thai which looked refreshing so I picked one up on the way. The two owners were ever so friendly and although they made two when we asked for one, we didn’t mind paying the extra.
They had only just opened and like a lot of business owners I’ve come across, wanted to take a picture of me. Our Stawberry Snow Ice was enjoyed watching the sunset in the local park, a must if visiting Chiang Mai.
It was hard to bypass all the food vendors that lined the street in Thailand but we knew where we wanted to enjoy our last meal in Chiang Mai, returning to the cafe from the first night. It didn’t disappoint and at under a pound for a wholesome meal was incredible value.
Chiang Mai is a fantastic city, much nicer than Bangkok with a more relaxed vibe. It was time to head our separate ways with myself heading north to a little town called Pai which has become a sort of backpacker haven. I can’t wait to share with you the beauty of Pai. Speak soon,