A Travellerspoint blog

June 2012

Only a consonant in the difference, but a world apart.

From Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai

sunny 33 °C

Yesterday was our last day in Chiang Mai. We promised the kids we'd take them to the zoo and so we did. It was surprisingly devoid of tourists which was a nice surprise. Not content with one Giant Panda, Chiang Mai zoo has three of them. They must be a dysfunctional family as the three of them (Mum, Dad and daughter) have separate enclosures. Along with the pandas we got to see a plethora of other animals, everything from a jaguar to a wild boar. If you're a kid it beats being dragged to a temple, which funnily enough is exactly what we did to them following the zoo.

Chiang Mai is famous for the Buddhist temple at the summit of Doi Suthep. It's quite a jaunt to the summit and when you reach the top there's still a few hundred steps to climb before you reach the temple itself. If you think of the biblical tale where Jesus drives the merchants from the temple, well by jiminy, he'd have his work cut out getting rid of all the traders around this one. They're all over the place flogging everything from roasted corn to hand-carved soaps. While myself, Joe and Rosie checked out the inner sanctum the rest of the family watched the Muay Thai boxing on the T.V. in the waiting area outside.

This morning we took the express bus to Chiang Rai. Whilst waiting on the bus I decided to go for a smoke outside. There were 'No Smoking' signs everywhere but a Buddhist monk beckoned me over and both of us sparked up. In these here parts you're safe enough with a monk on your side. The journey to Chiang Rai was pretty uneventful save for when we nearly alighted at Chiang Rai Bus Station Terminal 2. The driver seemed disinclined to tell us that we were still about 20km from our actual destination - Terminal 1. Nevertheless we've made it here. There's a small-town feel about the place. Think Ballina or Drogheda in 33degree heat. Our accomodation is more An Oige youth hostel than five star hotel, but its clean and functional and serves our purpose. In any case, we're heading for Laos the day after tomorrow.


Posted by goldenmaverick 08:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged zoo chiang doi suthep rai Comments (0)

Coffee and elephants

sunny 32 °C

We took a spin around Chiang Mai in a red taxi yesterday. We made the driver stop at a coffee shop called Ristr8tto 2 as a very helpful Thai chap had told us his pal ran it. The head barista there had been placed sixth in a recent barista world championship so we thought we,d better check it out. Also, the guy who recommended it had been really helpful when we arrived here in Chiang Mai. As you can see from the picture, the presentation of the coffee is excellent. On top of this the staff there are really nice and the owner/head barista was one really nice dude. The staff were also uber-patient with our kids and made them some babycinos instead of turfing us all out. If you're ever in Chiang Mai be sure to visit Ristr8tto. Its located on Nimmanhemin road between Soi 2 and Soi 3. (Picture in the photo gallery on the right)

Later in the day we popped next door to our guesthouse to a shop that sells elephants. Not real elephants but copies of those from the elephant parade, a charity that gets famous folk to design elephants which are then auctioned off. Joe's one was done by Ricky Gervais and is titled 'Hellephant'. You get the gist from the pictures.

Posted by goldenmaverick 09:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged elephants coffee Comments (0)

Week one

We have all survived our first week. A few thoughts on our time so far.

Then and now. I left Thailand 18 years ago with no desire to return and yet am finding it delightful this time. Traveling with children undoubtedly smooths the way. The sour faced laundry lady became charm personified when I rocked in with the children the next day. When a few hundred people had to get off the train and onto one bus, we found ourselves fast tracked into the VIP section. The only way we could trump this would be to travel with a monk, or impersonating monks. So far from posing difficulties brandishing ones children ,esp. Paddy, the younger the better, makes life easier. Mind you they are very poor at bargaining and if they get 10baht off the price its a done deal.
I am also struck by the industry of the people, everyone is trying to make a living. Perhaps before what I saw as annoying, pestering tuk tuk drivers I now see as people doing their best to get by.

Lets get juxtaposed. Obviously this is a brand new experience for us but by being together it is also utterly familiar, the family dynamic is more powerful than surroundings. Every experience here is both black and white at the same time. We went to the most beautiful temple today and they were showing Thai boxers beating the heads off each other in the waiting area. I found our Bangkok hotel hilarious; women in full burkas along side Thai temporary girlfriends, burkinis and thongs by the pool. I thought we were staying in," fancy hotel area" but in Bangkok nothing exists in isolation. You get the whole lot thrown in together.

We are having a great time. The kids are taking all in their stride, things are so easy so far. I have not felt the slightest danger anywhere. It is hot, hot, hot are we are sweating for Ireland but hoping to acclimatise. So far so good!


Posted by goldenmaverick 03:50 Comments (3)

Harry's thoughts on Chiang Mai

sunny 30 °C

At the moment we are in Chiang Mai staying in a guest house called Tanita house.Every morning this really kind lady called Aor makes us a gorgeous scrambled egg and lovely crispy bacon.Also near us there is a really nice restuarant called The Riverside that has a wide variety of amazing foods.So far the first two days we have gone to the HUGE night market but really everyone pretty much sells the same things.At the markets I have bought an epic new New York Yankees purple hat and a red and black hoodless Adidas Origanal jumper.My Mom and Dad kept trying to persuade me to buy a brown and white one because they said it looked oldschool and and was so cool.Today we went to the Chiang Mai zoo and it was so big you had to get the bus'and the monorails around it.There was super cool animals I have never seen in my entire life there.Some such as a panda,a kangeroo and koalas.Also I got to feed a massive elephant.Chiang Mai is supercoolyepic.

P.S Harry wrote this

Posted by goldenmaverick 03:11 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

It's not grim up North

In fact its bloody delightful

sunny 30 °C

Yesterday we took a long boat through the side canals of Bangkok. It was incredible. Its cheaper to build your house on stilts in the water than to do so on land so a hell of a lot of people live on the waters edge. Our guide brought us around for an hour or so and in that hour she told me who lived where, how old the king was etc. More interesting was the obvious desolation that last Octobers floods had caused. The water rose to a level two meters higher than usual and the damage was pretty obvious to see. Being practical and poor everyone just moved upstairs (if they had one) and got on with it. If you didn't have an upstairs then I guess you stayed wet for a couple of months.The guide pointed out a water monitor (a kind of asian crocodile) and said that seeing one is good luck. Then I saw three more. I must be the luckiest man alive. We were also brought to feed the fish outside the temples. Hundreds of catfish swarming around the boat. Wen you move a hundred metres away from the temple there's a load of poor people trying to catch the fat fish.

Last night we boarded the overnight train to Chiang Mai. Whatever romantic notions we had of it were quickly dispelled. I sat down and the bugs started to bite at my feet.The on-board buffet car guys began an immediate hard-sell of their culinary selection. The 'special express' then moved at a snails pace until six o'clock this morning when everyone had to change to waiting buses. Unfortunately for all concerned there had been a landslide on the track due to heavy rains. We were moved on board buses at a train station about 200 km from Chiang Mai. Due to the kindness and foresight of a Thai man, he ushered us to the front of the queue, whereupon we were put into the downstairs VIP section of what could only be described as a disco bus. Alongside us was a monk and a couple of other travellers. The coach took about four hours to get to Chaing Mai as it only seemed to have two gears, the going up a hill slowly gear, and the going down a hill fast gear.

We arrived in Chiang Mai around lunchtime and despite not knowing where we our lodgings were we still managed to be there about ten minutes after we landed. This time, another Thai guy, hopped out at the station and googled our lodgings address. Into a red taxi and in ten minutes we were there. Nice one. Popped out for a stroll in the dead heat and had some nice Burmese stew for lunch. Fallon & Byrne it ain't but it was top quality stuff

I'm off to pick up the washing from a little shop down the road. I went in to buy some mosquito coils and ended up going back to use their coin-operated machines. Chiang Mai rocks, thus far.



Posted by goldenmaverick 03:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged canals water train chiang mai burmese long-boat stew monitors Comments (5)

The King & the rest.

storm 35 °C

It's our last night in Bangkok tonight. It's a funny place this city. You'll see absolute poverty right next to a five star hotel. Yet everyone seems to get on pretty well together. We took a boat up and down the Chao Phraya river this afternoon in the sweltering heat and we passed by absolute slums that were situated just a stones throw from gilded palaces. Anywhere else in the world and they'd probably be bulldozed. The juxtsposition of rich and poor manifests itself in things like the Bangkok Sky Train (BST). You just don't ever see poor folk on it. However, as you ride in its air conditioned luxury you can look down on the hoi polloi below. Another unusual thing is the pictures of the king and his wife staring down from lots of buildings. Weird and disconcerting stuff.

Another thing that surprised me was how Western influenced the place is, you can't move anywhere without being bombarded by advertising: in the train, in the station, walking down the road,it's omnipresent. Everyone seems to be chatting into their I-phone or some other gadget. By everyone, I mean those who are not poor.

We head for Chiang Mai tomorrow but we'll be back this way again in two months time. I'm already looking forward to returning. Despite the openly seedy element to the city it's a really nice place. The kids don't appear to notice that side of things though, they're too busy stepping over cock-roaches and rats to ask any hard questions.

Posted by goldenmaverick 09:35 Archived in Thailand Tagged boats river bangkok poverty Comments (2)

No sandals in the Banyan Tree

Went to meet Carolines neighbours from Dublin tonight. one of the family was celebrating a significant birthday so we thought we'd join the celebrations by meeting them for a drink. Due to a monsoon downpour the top bar on the 59th floor of the Banyan Tree was closed but we did get to go to the Latitude Bar on the 52nd floor. They were none too impressed with my sandals so they gave me a pair of slip on shoes to wear in the bar. There's no accounting for taste in these parts.

The kids have been exceptional and have shown great adaptability over the last few days. I, on the other hand, have erred on the side of grumpiness. I left the family for just under an hour today so that I could pick up tickets for our sleeper train to Chiang Mai. It was sweltering hot in Hua Lamphong train station. If you can imagine a 35 degree Heuston Station where there are no seats and everyone sits on the ground then you're quite close to what I experienced this afternoon. We'll hang around Bangkok for another day and then we'll start heading north. We're hoping it might be a little cooler but who knows. I'm hoping the cool might chill me out a little.

Here's a picture of the nuggets on the 52nd floor of the Banyan Tree in Bangkok. Great night all round. Big up to the McAleers for a great evening. Happy birthday Orla.

Posted by goldenmaverick 03:53 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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