After 4 splendid days in Chiang Mai (amid some disappointments), today I left the city to go further up north. I went to the main bus station and only managed to get a ticket for 12 noon as all others were sold out. (Don’t remember exactly how much I paid for the ticket, but it was around ฿100)
The bus first stopped at what looked like a new bus station. I didn’t get down here because a lot of the Thais stayed in their seats. So I assumed this was not the final stop. Unfortunately some western tourists did get down and started hailing for taxis towards their hotels.
For which there was no need for, because the very same bus started again and drove straight into the city in 5 minutes time. This bus station was according my prior research, very close to the night market.
I hired a tuk-tuk and checked into my hotel.
The room cost ฿350 for the night and I was only going to be staying one night. My flight from Chiang Rai to Bangkok was the next day evening. I know one day isn’t much in Chiang Rai, but this was my first time here and as always with first visits, this would be more a surveillance visit than any other.
I dropped by a few travel agents and tour operators along the way and asked them about day trips to the Golden Triangle. But because it was already late in the evening, nobody could assure me a spot as they needed few more tourists to fill up a group as tomorrow’s first group were already full.
A British guy who was behind, overheard me and told me he was in the same situation as I. So we chatted for a bit and exchanged numbers in case either of us managed to get into a group tour that was going tomorrow morning.
I rested for some time after applying some Vicks. I just didn’t want to fall sick. It’s the worst thing that can happen on one’s vacation. Well, one of the worst things.
I got up at around 8pm and craved to have some hot Thai soup for dinner.
Post dinner, I scanned the shops a bit. Unlike last year, when I bought 10 t-shirts from Thailand, I figured I wouldn’t need to buy much this time.
Alas, I ended buying two from a small vendor at the night bazaar after bargaining it down to ฿300 for both. Oh well, we’ll see how many t-shirts I end up buying this year.
As I needed more rest for an early start tomorrow, I headed back. Plus, there was little else to do in Chiang Rai. There is barely any nightlife in Chiang Rai. It’s a lot quieter (and smaller) than Chiang Mai.
As I was clicking this photo, I bumped into the same British guy I had met earlier at the travel office. He told me he met up with a group of people who were planning on going on a trek (Chiang Rai is famous for trekking and cycling) and asked me if I wanted to join them. I told him I was unfortunately not in the best of health and that I had to be back in town early enough for my evening flight to Bangkok.
We wished each other well and parted ways.
I reached my room, freshened up, dabbed some more Vicks and snuggled up for a good night’s sleep.
I arrived in Chiang Mai bus station at around 7am and took a taxi to get to Rux Thai Guesthouse which cost ฿80 (Rs. 118/$2.6/€1.8). Rux Thai is a place I stayed last year as well. It’s located just off Loi Kroh road, which is essentially Chiang Mai’s tourist-filled area with the Thapae Gate at one-end and Ping River at the other.
Since I was going to be spending 3 to 4 nights, they gave me a room I requested on the ground floor (because they don’t have a lift) for ฿450 as supposed to the rack rate of ฿490 (Rs. 700/$16/€11) — which includes Wi-Fi. No breakfast included, but they have a restaurant on the ground floor which offers a decent menu at reasonable prices.
After a hot shower, I took a nap as I barely got any sleep in the bus (as is the norm for me in any bus journey). I got up as it neared lunch time, unpacked and took out all the camera equipment I had bought.
Though I did test out the Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens and the tripod before I purchased them, I didn’t get to play around with them as much as I wanted.
I loaded the equipment into my backpack and left the room at around 2pm.
Other budget hotels on this lane are Centerplace Guesthouse, where you get single rooms starting from 200 baht onwards. Vipa House (the one with yellow board pictured above) is right next to Centerplace and is priced about the same as Rux Thai. (Maybe I should check out Vipa next time).
Though there was a cookery class near Rux Thai, I had already booked myself into another cooking class (which was one of the things I would be doing in Chiang Mai).
I crossed Loi Kroh road and walked pointlessly through the alleyways on the other side.
I chose to eat lunch at the same cosy small eatery I ate at last year.
After lunch, I rented a moped from the travel agent in front of Vipa House and decided to go on a drive around Chiang Mai.
Though, I did ask around to find out when exactly the release of the hundreds of lanterns at once was going to be. From research online, I did learn that the event was something that is held at some University grounds at a place called Mae Jo, but when I asked the people at Rux Thai, they weren’t sure about anything. (Communication is a bit of an issue in Thailand, despite how touristy this country is)
I planned to ride up Doi Suthep on the outskirts of the city, which wasn’t too far away. The route is quite simple really, plus I had done last year. Chiang Mai city isn’t as complex as say, Bangkok. As I got towards the road leading up to Doi Suthep hill, I stopped again to take photographs.
I wanted to drive up the hill as I loved the ride last year. I wasn’t planning to drive all the way up to the temple, just up until the last view point before the temple.
It was at this hairpin bend that the viewpoint was located.
I set up the tripod because I knew I would be pitch dark soon.
As it neared 7pm, I packed up and left the viewpoint. I drove back down and this time, I took my jacket with me… because last year, I froze! 🙂
Once back in the city, I parked on the side when I saw some beautiful decorations in front of Saun Dok Gate .
I headed back to Loi Kroh road.
After parking the bike in front of the hotel, I stepped out again, this time choosing to go by foot.
I wasn’t hungry and wanted to know where all the major Yi Peng celebrations in Chiang Mai would be. I was told that the major gathering point would be along Ping River.
As I walked out, I saw a ‘roti’ vendor on the way out and decided to eat something as it was getting late.
As I walked back, I realized I took a much longer route as the temple itself was not to far from the night market.
The Frenchman in the above photo and I got talking, though I don’t remember how the conversation got started. Maybe I was wearing my ‘It’s Football, Not Soccer‘ t-shirt which has my website’s logo at the back and so he gave me his blog’s domain as well.
I called it a night after this and headed back to my room.
I had my dinner from a rather nice joint on the same lane as Rux Thai. Lovely pork spring rolls and a can of beer (came to ฿200). I hit the sack early because I needed more sleep. Tomorrow was going to be any early morning, for I had to get ready to learn how to make Thai curry!
Today was going to be our last full day in Kuala Lumpur, so we had to make the most of it. Some of us had shopping to do, and I wanted to see a bit more of KL.
But the first thing we did in the morning was get ready to go the Petronas Towers again. And when I say “we,” I mean Ramesh and I. Loi wanted to sleep in.
The reason why we were going back to the towers were to try and a get a ticket for the sky bridge/observation deck. Why “try”? Because that’s how the system is. You go there early enough, wait in line until the ticket counters open and whoever gets the tickets, gets to up at a pre-determined time. The earlier you are in the line, the sooner you get to go up. It’s free, but an inconvenient method. (EDIT: Turns out there is a much higher observation deck at the 86th floor for which you can pay RM40 and go. I didn’t know about it until much research after coming back from this trip)
Still, since we didn’t have a whole lot planned for the morning, myself and Ramesh thought: “What the hell, last day in KL. Might as well try and get a ticket”.
So we set out, took the monorail and got down at Bukit Nanas station.
We walked towards the KLCC Suria and when we finally made it to the ticketing counter…
Sold out. Oh well.
Not that we were sorely disappointed or anything, but if you are one who is very keen to visit the Sky Bridge, be in line by at least 7:30-8:00am.
Me and Ramesh then just decided to check out the mall.
Suria mall mostly caters to high end brands and luxury designer wear, most of which are on the lower floors. We checked out a few electronics stores, Ramesh checked out the Harley Davidson store, and then we decided to find out where the Aquaria was.
Ramesh was keen on checking out the Aquaria, the largest aquarium in Kuala Lumpur. I, on the other hand, wanted to see more of the city, so we parted ways. I inquired on how to get to Merdeka Square while Ramesh went in to Aquaria.
Here are a few photos from inside the Aquaria, all of which are from Ramesh’s camera.
The above are only a few of the photos Ramesh took. He took much more. There are sharks, lion fish, water rats and all sorts of other waterborne creatures. From his account, Ramesh said the experience was “okay” — so I don’t know how it compares to a similar offering I experienced in Dubai Mall.
When Ramesh stepped out, he saw a gathering of superbikes and stalls by Yamaha on the occasion of next week’s Malaysian MotoGP.
That concludes what Ramesh saw.
Now back to me 🙂
When I left the Petronas Towers, I took the monorail to Hang Tuah station. From there I transferred to the RapidKL line, for which you need to buy another ticket/pass as the monorail card won’t work on this rail service. From Hang Tuah, I headed towards Masjid Jamek station.
I came here to go to Merdeka Square, which is a significant landmark in Malaysia’s independence from Britain.
It was time for me to move on.
After passing by an area full of businesses serving Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, I found myself in an alley which housed what looked like a Chinese temple.
There was a shopping complex right opposite the entrance to Petaling Street and so I decided to check it out. I unfortunately couldn’t take any photographs inside because the security guard asked me not to. But inside were stores selling essentially the same goods I saw yesterday night in Petaling Street, but at far lower prices.
So word of advice, just because you see bags on Petaling Street with it’s street market appearance, don’t assume the prices are low. There are plenty of other places, like this not-so-fancy shopping complex right outside Petaling Street selling the same stuff at lower prices.
In fact when I called up Loi to tell him about bag prices here, he told me he found similar prices in the shops on the higher floors of Times Square shopping mall.
I had lunch from a burger joint and continued my ‘walk around town’. I asked around for where “Little India” was and was directed to walk towards KL Tower.
There’s a slew of silk shops, and plenty of pure-veg restaurants on this street.
It was time for me to head back to the room and catch up with Ramesh and Loi.
Once I got back to Irsia, the three of us decided to go to Midvalley Megamall, one of Kuala Lumpur’s largest malls.
To get to Midvalley Megamall from Berjaya Times Square, take the monorail from Imbi to KL Sentral. Then, you need to transfer to the Komuter train line, and Midvalley has a stop by itself.
Midvalley houses a Carrefour, JUSCO, Toys ‘R’ Us, Harvey Norman and plenty of other brands. It isn’t ‘high street’ fare like KLCC Suria mall in Petronas Towers.
After Loi’s shopping from Toys R Us, Ramesh’s purchases from Carrefour, we headed up to the top most floor.
Midvalley has a few nerdy joints up here, including video arcades and a store dedicated to board games. But we couldn’t hang out any longer, it was nearing 7pm. There was one last thing I wanted to do for our last day in Kuala Lumpur — head to the observation deck at KL Tower to get a view of Kuala Lumpur city at night.
To save time, we took a taxi… and got a driver with some pretty good taste in music 🙂
After an enjoyable ride, we reached Menara KL, which is perched atop a small hill called Bukit Nanas. Thus making it ‘taller’ than the Petronas Towers. Myself and Loi bought our tickets and made our way up, Ramesh stayed below to check out an F1 Zone.
I was more keen on visiting the observation deck of KL Tower than the Skybridge at Petronas Towers, simply because the viewing height at Menara KL is much higher.
The whole experience of the view at night from up here is marred by the lights reflecting off of the glass — which also made for tricky photography. And because I didn’t have a tripod, it was tough for me to get steady shots.
Once at the base, we walked towards Bukit Nanas monorail station.
Once back in the room, we decided to enjoy our final dinner of this trip, and sit somewhere nice. There are a few cosy eateries behind Berjaya Times Square, where we were and so, we sat down at Wings musicafe.
It was a relaxing dinner to end our last day of sight-seeing in Kuala Lumpur. The musicians were mostly local artists, aspiring singers who performed mellow acoustic fare. Much needed for us tired souls.
Once back in the room, we packed up. And when I mean “we,” I mean myself and Ramesh…
Tomorrow morning, all we had to do was check out and head to the airport in the afternoon for our after Air Asia flight back to Bangalore.
So, it’s not over yet… there’s one more post left! 🙂