Another early wake up to catch our flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai! We hopped in a cab and it took about 40 minutes to get to BKK airport. About 10 minutes before we arrived, we noticed our taxi’s meter was off. The last I saw, it was at 197 BHT for our trip, and by the time we arrived and pointed this out to the driver, he tapped the meter and demanded 400 BTH for the ride. There was no way the fair doubled in the 10 minutes the meter was off, so I told him I would only pay 350. He agreed but then refused to give me change for my 1,000 BHT bills. He started to ignore us and look everywhere but at us and would not talk to us either! I ended up having to go into the airport, to the exchange counter, and get them to give me smaller bills so that we could pay the cabbie. I was so mad and worried we wouldn’t have enough time to catch our flight since we had about an hour before boarding.
Check-in was actually a breeze since Thai Smile airlines had different counters for each flight and there was almost no line in security. Phew! We found our gate and then walked back to the food court area. Ryan got Dunkin’ Donuts, which I initially scoffed at since it’s so American, but he bought a cookie dough doughnut and I couldn’t resist a bite of that heaven! Since I hadn’t had it yet, I got some Pad Thai and mango sticky rice. It was pretty decent but I was still excited to try the local street Pad Thai outside of an airport.
We walked to the gate and it was so quite! Talk about the cleanest and easiest airport experience. Everyone at the gate was very friendly and we boarded with ease. We took off and I got out my laptop to blog. The stewardess brought by water and this delicious curry burrito thing as a snack. I was already sooo full but had to at least taste test….
I just started journaling and we started to descend. I think the whole flight lasted an hour. We were quick to the gate and at the hotel within 45 minutes of landing! Our hotel, Rachamankha, was a piece of paradise in the middle of the city. We walked into a quite corridor of white buildings with beautiful gardens – so tranquil!
Our room was not yet ready so we talked to the front office attendant and he suggested some temples to go see while we waited. He also asked us which elephant tour we were planning on doing the next day and flinched a bit when we told him the one we booked, Chang Dao. We asked him why he reacted the way he did and he said something about it being far away, but I was a bit skeptical that that was the real reason.
With our map in hand, we took off walking to discover the temples of Chiang Mai. There were plenty. We came across our first within 5 minutes and realized that there was some type of monk ceremony going on so we decided not to interrupt in the main temple but walk the grounds to the other parts of the temple. The sun was blaring down on us and, despite being 80 degrees, the intense humidity was rough. We walked through some of the other buildings and the addition of my scarf made the heat double. Needless to say, we needed to hydrate.
We walked to another temple and through the buildings there until we couldn’t take the heat anymore. We found an internet café nearby and ordered some Thai tea and water. While there, we used the free Wi-Fi and discovered that, since I booked the Chang Dao elephant excursion, there were many negative reviews about how the elephants were treated and that the center used chairs to ride the elephants which is not good for the elephants. I felt really bad reading all of the reviews and we decided to cancel our tour with that company and find another one that was better to the elephants. The worst thing would be to travel 1.5 hours and watch elephants get mistreated.
We headed back to the hotel so that they could help us switch our tours and stopped at a few other temples along the way.
After wandering, we quickly realized our map was completely useless. While it had all of the landmarks on it, it was missing about 90% of the street names and we got super, duper lost. We walked for about an hour, stopping to have some locals point to our location on the map, most of whom couldn’t figure it out! How do you have a map that the locals can’t even use?! We were getting pretty grumpy in the heat, frustrated with the map, and a swampy kind of sweaty which just made things worse – yuck! We finally stopped at an internet café and Ryan pulled up Google maps which showed us we were about a block from our hotel. The hotel was down a side street which made things tricky but, by 2 PM, we finally made it back! Our room was ready and the receptionist booked us for a tour at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. I was so relieved but the Chang Dao place refused to give us a refund so I need to check with my bank to see if my travel insurance will cover the difference (fingers crossed).
After a much-needed shower and (more) Pad Thai for lunch at the hotel, we decided to find a massage place. The hotel massages were about double what we could find on the street, so we decided on this place called Lilia and screen grabbed the walking directions in Google Maps. It was about a 5-minute walk and there was supposed to be a large sign pointing to the spa when we got there. Instead, there was a dingy looking places called “Lalia” instead of “Lilia” which, I had a hunch, did the type of massage we did not want. Ryan was pretty frustrated with me after getting so lost twice now and now finding a massage place which I refused to enter, so we headed back. Thankfully, we came across a much better looking massage place about a block away that had hour-long massages for 500 BHT per person – about $12. We decided to stop there and left our shoes outside the door with everyone else’s to enter. We were given tea, had our feet cleaned, and then we were lead up 4 flights of stairs by a lady who only had 8 toes. Just like in Bangkok, we were given these really funny, stretchy, throw-away undies to change into and boy did they look strange. For 500 BHT, the place was very clean and the massages were quite nice and much needed.
The massages definitely put us in a better mood. We had some more tea on the way out and headed back to the hotel. We had a quick nap and I put on my extremely comfy and new purple elephant pants to explore the night market. We took a cab for 150 BHT ($5) to the market and were amazed at its size! It went on forever inside this giant pavilion and had everything you could want to buy. We were getting hungry and went to to the food court which was so overwhelming with the amount of vendors and options they had. Ryan got a smoothie and I ended up getting Chicken Tikka Masala which was super oily so I only ate the chicken. A bit disappointing but it was only 100 BTH ($3ish) so oh well.
We continued to walk and bought gifts for family from the different markets. Boy to I like to haggle for a good deal! There was also a cabaret show and the lady boys were performing in the streets which was interesting to see to say the least. We walked for about an hour before we called a tuktuk to head back to the hotel. Our tuktuk driver was a speed demon and our hair was flying everywhere as he zoomed down the back alley ways. Tuktuks are by far my favorite mode of transportation here and we are going to be riding in the almost more throughout the trip!