Temples, Colors, & Culture in Northern Thailand
My adventure in northern Thailand began after parting from Luang Prabang, Laos. I took a flight with Lao Airlines from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai, which cost me $42 US. You can also travel to Chiang Rai via bus or rail (this link for instance Night Bus from Luang Prabang, Laos to Chiang Rai, Thailand; however, this is a long drive 24+ hours plus border crossing delays. Given the time constraints, I opted to fly instead. Also, the main reason why I traveled to SEA during this time of the year is because I wanted to be part of the Los Krathong (festival of lights) festivities, which takes place every year around full moon days in November every year. It happened to land on Nov 15th in 2017 so timing was essential.
I arrived in Chiang Mai on Nov 14tth, the night before the big day. I arrived at the airport and took a shared shuttle that took me directly to my hotel. I always thought of Chiang Mai as a small town but it turns out that it is a fairly large city, the airpot is about 30 minutes away so taking a shuttle is definitely more convenient than a taxi. It costs about BHT 40 ($1.25 USD). You may obtain tickets from one of several shuttle bus companies at the airport.
I stayed at the Chiangmai Gate Hotel, Chiang Mai, Thailand - Booking.com and it was a very comfortable stay. It is a beautiful hotel and offers an amazing breakfast buffet. It is centrally located near the south city gate and has several restaurants/bars near by. Overall I would definitely recommend this hotel. It is not a luxury hotel and yet is not a basic hotel either. It is perfect for those who live to travel comfortably without overspending. I paid $35 per night including breakfast.
That night me and my friend Sara (another fellow traveler who I had met in Indonesia) went out to experience the Loi Krathong festival. To our bad luck and sadly for the Thai people, due to King's recent passing, most of the festivities were cancelled as the country was in a period of mourning. Sara and I were still trying to find out where (if anywhere) we could still see the lanterns being light up into the sky. Many people (locals and tourists) still participated in the festivities by taking it to the streets of Chiang Mai. Sara and I found that the best spot to see the lights was the bridge past the East city gate, near the night market. We spent most of night enjoying street food and being people along the river bank lighting up their Krathongs (offerings made out of flowers and candles) and also the lanterns into the sky. Although it wasn't exactly what I was expecting (big coordinated lantern event), I was still happy that I got to experience this beautiful moment. It allowed me to better understand the Thai culture and people and become a local for one day. I really recommend to everyone to have this experience I would like to go back one day once again and hopefully get to really live the festivities the way they should be.
We had an amazing experience and the next day headed out to the largest temple in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - Wikipedia. This temple is the only temple that is not located within the city gates and it is not at a walking distance. There's a few ways you can go about visiting Doi Suthep 1) You may book a coordinated city tour with one of may travel agencies in Chiang Mai, which will cost you about $30 USD. 2) You can walk around the city yourself and see the temples at your own pace and then take a bus to Doi Suthep for about BHT 60 ($2 USD). Sara and I opted to see the city on our own. It was very easy plus you get a more "local" experience. This is such a beautiful temple. I really recommend it to everyone visiting Chiang Mai for the first time, it's a must see (see photos below).
The next day, Sarah and I had to say goodbye, I parted to Chiang Rai and she left to Southern Thailand. We had been traveling together for a couple of weeks so it was bitter sweet; however, we became good friends and I know that it won't be the last time that I see her. I will eventually go back to Argentina (her home country) and see her again. So... I took a bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai with the Green Bus, which took me directly to the central station in Chiang Rai. We left CM at 5:30pm and arrived in CR at about 8:30pm. I then took a taxi to my hotel, which actually wasn't far at all from the station. I will definitely recommend Huen Chan Thip hotel. It provides great value and service. I paid less than $30 US per night and had a master suite with a pool view with breakfast buffet included. It is definitely worth the stay.
My hotel recommended me to book a full day tour with their sister travel agency and it worked out perfectly since I only had 1 day in Chiang Rai. This all inclusive tour included a visit to the famous White Temple, the Black Temple, the golden triangle (border of Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand), and a visit to the Ban Nai Soi Kayan Longneck village. I really enjoyed this full day tour and cost less than $50 for the full day including transportation and a buffet lunch at a nice Thai restaurant. I got a chance to meet some amazing people in my tour and learned a lot about Thai culture and history from our tour guide.
Finally, my tour guide agreed to drop me off at Chiang Rai airport on our way back to Chiang Rai city centre. My trip to northern Thailand ended there and I left Thailand with a full heart and great memories. Now it was time to head out to my last adventure of South East Asia... leaving the best for last of course.... Myanmar!