A Taste of Thailand- Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai in 3 days

Weather: Much more enjoyable than Bangkok, less humid and no rain, usually around the mid 70s-80s. For the majority of the time, it was cloudy with some sun here and there.

Getting around: After getting off the plane, we had a very smooth transition off the plane and into a cab. The airport has a very efficient system for getting a cab. You are assigned a number and you wait your turn and you let the clerk know beforehand where you are going so they can explain it to the cab driver. Again, iTranslate app and TripAdvisor came in handy for translation. Luckily we were staying at a well-known hotel (We found it through a tour) so we did not have a problem. Overall, the cab fares are less than in Bangkok. There wasn’t uber during the time we were there but I have been notified that it has launched there now. I learned from some travel blogs that there is an app called Grab that is like Uber that is available there but for some reason it didn’t work on my phone..

Food Scene: Overall, the price of food in Chiang Mai in the local areas are mostly around the same as in Bangkok and slightly cheaper than in tourist spots in Bangkok. There are coffee shops are everywhere! They have the same amazing food but fewer street vendors that were close by to us. We went to mostly restaurants to eat and had some snacks here and there.

Day 1: We landed in the morning and checked into our hotel (The Imperial Mae Ping hotel) and ventured around the area to find some food.. which happened to be right across the street, score! Here is where we sat down at a restaurant with no English words (we later found out on google maps that the restaurant is called Pa Phai Noodles) and asked us if we wanted pork, chicken, or beef and a couple of minutes later, we had two large bowls of boat noodles in our faces! After lunch, we waited at our hotel for Day 1 of our 3 Day Lanna Tour that we booked through Travel hub Chiang Mai . We were picked up from our hotel and our first stop was a White Hmong hill tribe village. We learned a lot about the tribes in Chiang Mai and visited some more the next few days. At the White Hmong village, they sell souvenirs to tourists as a source of income (pictured below).

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They live just a few steps from their vendor stand and share a community garden

After visiting the tribe, we went on our drive up to the mountains to Doi Suthep Temple, probably the most well-known temple in Chiang Mai. There were a lot of stairs to walk up, but luckily there was an elevator to get us up there! It was beautiful and because it was on top of the mountains, we had a stunning view of the city.

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After our visit to the temple, we went to a Khantoke Dinner at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center. We really enjoyed this experience!! Several cities in Northern Thailand used to be their own separate kingdom called The Lanna Kingdom, and Chiang Mai was one of the them. We had a traditional Khantoke Lanna Dinner, where we were served food in large round platters at low tables while sitting down cross-legged on the floor. The food consists of sticky rice, which you hold in your hand and stuff the rice with the items given on the platter. As we were eating, there were cultural dances that were performed including a Thai Finger Dance and a Thai Sword Dance. It was a very cool experience!

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Day 2: We started our day pretty early since we had a long day planned ahead for our tour. We were picked up from our hotel and first went to visit Maekhajan hot springs. It was more of a touristy area and the springs were pretty small. We found some cheap souvenirs here and of course, started our day off with some Thai coffee!

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After our visit to the hot springs, we got into the van and headed towards Chiang Rai, a city in northern Thailand. We visited the temple Wat Rong Khun, also known as the White Temple. It was absolutely gorgeous and also completely different from all the other temples that we visited. It is designed and owned by the artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.

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The intricate details and design of the temple were impressive. It is definitely a place one must visit if you are in Chiang Rai!

The only thing that was not white was… the bathroom 🙂 see below

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Before we headed to our next destination, we decided to stop by for a little taste of Chiang Rai. We had to try one a popular dish in Northern Thailand, Khao Soi. It is a coconut curry with egg noodles, and topped with crispy egg noodles. It was delish!!

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After our yummy bowl of noodles, we then headed to the Golden Triangle, one of the main areas used to produce opium before it was made illegal.  It was cool to see three countries at one spot- Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. We were even able to get on a little boat to visit Laos, where we drank their “welcome drink,” cobra, scorpion, turtle whiskey! And nope, I did not try any of it..

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We then drove further up until we reached the most northern part of Thailand and were able to see Myanmar!

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We then headed to visit the Karen Long Neck tribe. We learned about them when we were in school, I remember them because of their rings around their necks. The visit was truly an eye- opening experience since we did not know too much about the tribe at that time. Many people of the Karen Long Neck tribe fled to Thailand from Burma to escape. However, they are not allowed to work in Thailand since they are not actually citizens of Thailand. Because the women wear the rings around their necks, even if they were to go to Thailand to work, they would immediately be noticed and not be allowed to work. Because of this, they have to sell goods to tourists for income. There are conflicting feelings about visiting the tribe, for some people think that the women continue putting the rings on their necks to attract tourists because it is their only source of income. Many people question if it is ethical to come to visit them and “see” them as if they are a show or an exhibit. I still have mixed feelings about this but if you don’t visit them and buy from their shops, they have no income…

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After our long day, we tried to visit the Chiang Mai night bazaar but because it was on a weekday and it was a little bit late, there weren’t that many stores opened. It was nice to see all the shops though!

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For dinner, we went to Lemongrass Thai Cuisine, which was nearby. We had some delish Pad Kee Mao (Drunken Noodle) and another round of khao soi (curry noodle soup)! The noodles in the pad kee mao were much thinner and smoother than the ones I am used to.

Day 3: On our last day of our trip, we went to visit an elephant safari, Maetaman Elephant Camp. Here, we took saw an elephant show (they know how to paint!), rode on an elephant, and did some ox-carting. The elephants were super cute and we took pictures with them but we did notice that this definitely wasn’t an elephant sanctuary. We were also a little bothered by how they treated the ox while we were ox-carting. I think if we could choose, we would have rather gone to a sanctuary versus a place for elephant riding.

Afterwards, we went to an orchid and butterfly farm which wasn’t our favorite. It seemed that we were there to waste time, no one spoke to us about anything and just dropped us off there. However, we saw some pretty orchids!

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After we got dropped off and at our hotel and headed to the airport back to Bangkok for some more adventures. Overall we loved our time in Chiang Mai and definitely missed the weather after getting back to Bangkok!

 

 

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A Taste of Thailand- Bangkok

Travel Dates: Oct 22- Oct 30 2016

Places visited: Bangkok & Chiang Mai

Bangkok in 3 days

Weather: When we booked our trip to Thailand we knew we booked it during the rainy season but just decided to go with it and see how lucky we would be with the weather. Bangkok was extremely humid (80-90s F) with scattered thunderstorms but thankfully, we only got caught in one storm on our way back home from dinner one day. We’ve never seen a downpour ever like the one got caught in but we successfully made it back to our hotel in the mini river that formed in the streets of Bangkok. It was quite an experience but certainly one I would prefer not to be repeated.

Getting Around: When we first landed at the airport, we decided to give Uber a go and it was pretty affordable! We traveled 24.5 miles for $11 (that’s like JFK to the Yankee Stadium in NYC!). However, when we were calling an Uber from our hotel, the wait was always around 20 minutes due to the traffic in Bangkok. In those cases, we took cabs (make sure they turn on the meter when you get in) and they were sometimes even cheaper than Uber. Our advice would be to head out earlier to start hailing a cab and also to account of the intense traffic in Bangkok. Because some of the cab drivers did not speak English, we had to pull up addresses in Thai and Trip Advisor was a life saver, you can translate the address on the app or you can download the iTranslate app which was super helpful when trying to communicate with the locals.

*There is a train that runs in Bangkok but we did not take it.

Food Scene: Street Food is the real deal here in Bangkok. Everywhere we went, we saw food vendors whipping up some amazing stir fry dishes or noodle soups. The food is not only amazing but also super cheap! In the local areas, food is cheaper (about 30 baht or 86 cents for a noodle dish) but even in the touristy areas, food is still cheap (70 baht or $2 for a noodle dish). Thailand is a big producer of coffee so there are tons of coffee shops everywhere and coffee is usually 30-40 baht per cup.

Day 1 – After we arrived in Bangkok, we checked into our hotel, which was across the Chao Phraya River, and across from the Grand Palace. We were not here for long but we went to Wang Lang Market to check out the stores and food. There are tons of shops prices are more affordable compared to other parts of Bangkok that we visited. We ended up going into a restaurant where the menu was only in Thai. Thankfully, there were photos and we ended up being served an amazing meal (see below).

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Wang Lang Street

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We then made our way to Chinatown on Yaowarat Road

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We ended up eating at T&K Seafood and were obsessed with their crab curry!

After stuffing our faces with delicious food, we visited our first rooftop bar nearby, at the Grand China Hotel at the Sky View 360º Rooftop Bar and Restaurant. It is located on the revolving top floor of the hotel but it moves so slowly you don’t notice it when you are there.

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view from Sky View 360 Bar

After returning back to our hotel, Baan WangLang Riverside, which was across the river from the Grand Palace, we visited the bar there and saw a great view of the Grand Palace.

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Day 2– We took a plane to Chiang Mai (see Chiang Mai post) and returned back to Bangkok to explore some more. We did a Historic Bangrak Food Tasting and Culture Tour where we learned a lot about Thai culture and food. Some of the highlights of our tour were our trip to Muslim Restaurant, where we had delicious roti mataba and massaman chicken curry.

Another favorite of ours was our visit to a local restaurant that serves Isan (northeast region of Thailand) food. Isan food is known for its use of lime, cilantro, mint, fresh herbs, chili peppers, and sticky rice. Our favorite was their lemongrass fried chicken (gai tod). The flavors were complex and everything just came together so well. The sign to this restaurant in Thai but after some research, I believe it is Yam Rot Saeb.

While we were walking, we saw these interesting Thai coconut-rice pancakes (kanom krok) on the street and decided to give it a try because they looked interesting (and cute). They were amazing!

We loved this green custard bun from the famous Panlee Bakery . It tastes like a Chinese custard steamed bun but the bread is even fluffier! We also found out that it is green because it is colored by pandan.

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After the food tour, we headed to our hotel, Lebua at State Tower (known for where the Hangover 2 was filmed) and went to the sky bar there. The hotel is beautiful and we highly recommend staying here at least for one night. We booked the hotel for ~$100 a night (which is amazing compared to rates in NYC!). However, be prepared to pay some NYC prices for their cocktails at the sky bar…

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Day 3-  We visited the Damnoen floating market in and then went to the Buddhist temple Wat Pho to see the beautiful reclining Buddha.

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It was a cool experience to shop around in a boat, but it seemed to be a bit too touristy for us. The vendors were overpriced and really tried to sell us things at unreasonably high prices.  We were lucky that we went to the Wang Lang Market where many locals shop so we knew the average prices of certain goods. However, it was still a cool experience to see people selling food and cooking on their little boats and vendors along the river.

When we got to Wat Pho, we were amazed at how beautiful it was.

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Before we left, we decided to splurge on one last meal at Nahm, ranked number 37 in world’s best 50 restaurants, and number 8 in Asia. It was nice to have a different kind of dining experience. We were super stuffed afterwards, but everything was delicious! A few of our favorites were the aromatic curry of chicken with pickled cucumbers , the scallop salad with coconut and lemongrass, and the whole fried fish with lemongrass fish sauce.

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We loved loved Bangkok and hope you do too!