“Can’t wait to go back” I thought to myself when I was boarding my flight to Bangkok. Visiting Thailand again after 5 years brought all the amazing memories from the last time. Good and cheap food, cheap drinks, outdoor culture, warm weather and the legendary ping-pong shows. I was expecting similar if not the same this time as well, maybe minus the show. Once is enough.
In Bangkok I met up with my friend and we decided that the first two nights we would stay at Khao San – most famous place for backpackers and a party district of the city. The guest house we stayed in was just a minute walk away on a quiet street so if you are looking for some peace and quiet that is definitely a place for you. It is called ‘At Home Guest House’ and it cost 300 THB per person per night. It is run by lovely people who can also organise extra excursions, book tickets for trains and even get different visas for you – with an extra charge but at least it saves you all the hassle. Khao San as a ‘cool’ place to be has changed a lot in the last 5 years. It became more commercial, prices went up and local vendors don’t even want to haggle anymore. I came to the decision that it was my last time in this area.
One night in Bangkok we stayed in a hostel in the city centre called “Home Base Hostel” which cost 190 THB per person and had unlimited tea and coffee. Staff was very friendly and the location is excellent. That is for those who prefer to be in the modern part of the city.
In terms of sightseeing we didn’t do much as we saw a lot of landmarks 5 years ago and also a lot places were closed because of the mourning of the Thai King who just died 2 weeks prior our visit. We went to the Baiyoke Sky Tower which is the highest point in the city (Entrance: 400 THB) with a drink included in the price. It gives you an idea how huge the city is and the views are incredible. Also around the building you can find quite a lot of baazars selling ‘original’ Ray Ban and Dolce Gabbana to name only a few. I must say that some of the items are looking very convincing and I purchased a few of them myself.
We decided to go the floating market (250 THB per person for half day excursion) as it was advertised as something truly amazing. I must say that it was one of the biggest disappointments I’ve experienced in Thailand. It was a proper tourist trap that you can’t get out from as it was two hours drive from Bangkok. Prices of food there were at least 4 or 5 times more expensive than in Bangkok. The speed boat that was included in the price was even quite exciting – going through the villages set up along the canals but that’s about all.
Overnight train to Chiang Mai cost 900 THB and had a bed with linen and air/con. I had an amazing sleep. It took us around 15 hours to get there but you sleep most of it anyway. I was very pleased with the quality and the service. One of the train employees was making everyone’s bed which was also very convenient.
We visited the three main temples and also a numerous of smaller ones which after a while all blend into one. Bus from the train station to the city cost us 30 THB however the starting price was 150 THB. The secret is to wait until all tourists are gone and paid the over priced rides and then you can go for the price like a local as everyone wants to make some money and you are practically the last one standing who can let them make some money. People also come to the area to see Elephant Retirement Park where you can wash, feed and play with these beautiful animals. We stayed one night in “Just Chill Inn” which was a very basic Guest House with no air/con but clean and very central. We paid 250 THB for a double room.
From Chiang Mai we took an overpriced mini bus to Chiang Rai for 400 THB. Normal bus cost half the price but it doesn’t pick you up from your hostel so you pay a bit more for the convenience. Before we entered the city the driver stopped by the White Temple for 20 min break so we had a chance to go inside and take some photos with this incredible structure.
We stayed at Meesuk Residence which is a really nice hotel near the river. Clean, spacious and with air/con. We paid 530 THB for a twin room per night. A little bit of luxury. But far away from the Old Town.
Taking an advice from Trip Advisor I decided to go on a full day excursion around the mountains with Chiang Rai ATV company. You drive in a buggy and it promised a lot of amazing and cultural things for the price of 5500 THB – cost a lot therefore my expectations were very high. I wouldn’t recommend doing it by yourself as you will get bored, very often I was sitting by myself with noone around so I just kept staring at trees. They pick you up from the hotel and drive you to the starting point which is roughly about an hour (not 35 min as they say on the website). You meet the guide and you go on a couple of hour extreme ride through the local hills and forest. You drive through water and mud so you get really dirty – as horrible as it sounds it was the fun part and I actually enjoyed it. When you get back you have a chance to take a shower and swim in the swimming pool which has a nice view of the valley. Again I was by myself so I got bored really quickly. I was left by myself for good 40 minutes. When the lunch was ready (it is included) I went to the table where three of the local teenagers were sitting on their phones. They didn’t speak English so I couldn’t have had any conversation with them. What is more, they were pointing at me and talking about me which made me feel very uncomfortable. Lunch itself was very poor for what I paid for. I was expecting a little fest and instead I got a bowl of plain rice and a plain pork schnitzel. Very very poor. After lunch I had another 30 min to stay with my own thoughts and play with my phone. Started getting really annoyed that I pay so much money and don’t get much in return. Finally my guide decided we were ready to go for the next part. We took our baggies and off we went. We drove a bit more through the hills until we got a hidden place with waterfalls. Nice place for a little break. The guide set up a fire place and started making some surprise food. First he made a couple of cups out of a bamboo tree and boiled some water for tea. Then he grilled a banana and dipped it in honey. Shame that I hate bananas and can’t eat too much sugar but I tried it anyway. Though, a little research about your guest’s eating habits would be handy here. Eventually we came back to the starting point and could have another shower and a swim in the swimming pool. That’s it. The whole experience was really cool. I did enjoy it. But it’s not worth the money. I would be happy to pay half of it for what I got. But if you are looking for a nice adventure and be away from the hassle and bustle of the city then it’s definitely a good place.
Currency – what to take with me?
You can easily change GBP, EUR, USD, AUD. The bigger notes you have the better exchange rates you will get.