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!
The bus ride from Kanchanaburi back to Bangkok took much longer because of evening traffic. Also, this bus wasn’t going to the Southern Bus terminal. Instead, it was headed for the Eastern Bus Terminal, also known as Ekamai. Once I got there by around 5pm, I was approached by many bike taxis (mostly mopeds) asking me where I wanted to go. The buses that go to Chiang Mai leave from Mo Chit Bus Terminal, the Northern Bus Terminal. I turned down the bike taxis because the rates they were charging were close to what the taxis were charging. Also, with luggage, it wasn’t the safest option in Bangkok city.
Instead, I took a van taxi. Basically mini-buses that leave once full of passengers. A bit of a time waster if you are among the first ones in but at 35 baht, an economical choice. Once we left, it took an hour to get to Mo Chit. Bangkok traffic is pretty bad — but I’ll write about that in detail later.
Once I got to Mo Chit, I asked around as to where the buses to Chiang Mai were. I was directed to the platform where several private buses were stationed and I got a ticket for a double-decker A/C bus with a toilet. It cost 605 baht (Rs. 846) and the distance to cover was approximately 750kms. The bus was… nice!
Now I’ve travelled by private long-distance buses in (South) India a lot. I often take the bus when going home to Kerala. I don’t know of any bus service that offers this level of service for around Rs. 800, that too for distance of over 700kms. But that was not all.
They have bus attendants too, all dressed up in their uniforms akin to what you see in airliners. Each seat has a pillow and a blanket and when the bus left Mo Chit, the attendant gave the usual talk (using the on-board microphone) about how long the journey would take, about the service one can expect, etc. She spoke only in Thai but I got the gist of it. Either that or she was making fun of the only Indian on board and I didn’t get it. Soon after, she started serving us food.
I wasn’t expecting dinner as part of the ticket fare. She handed us a box consisting of a deep-fried chicken leg, a sausage roll (not sure what meat but who cares, I eat it all) and a cupcake. Plus juice/cola/water. After that, she gave biscuits and other sweets. Since I was famished, I gobbled it all.
Feeling quite full, I thought to myself how good value this seemed compared to what I was used to back in India. In-flight bus entertainment was mostly Thai karaoke music videos followed by a high-octane Thai action movie — with sporadic audio. But who cares, I fell asleep.
I woke up at around 11pm when the bus had stopped… somewhere. We had, apparently stopped for what was actually dinner at some restaurant. The ticket includes a token which you hand over at the counter and it’s essentially a simple buffet of rice gruel, some steamed vegetables and boiled egg. The egg yolk was bright orange in colour and tasted very sour. I didn’t have much of the rice gruel either, I was already full. My only concern was that I had run out of credit on my mobile phone and because of that, I couldn’t inform my father and brothers where I was.
Fortunately, my father called me later and told him I would be able to re-charge only in the morning from Chiang Mai. I tried to sleep but by 5am, we had already arrived at Chiang Mai. (By the way, in the morning they also serve coffee or juice). I collected my luggage and took a Tuk Tuk (cost 100 baht/Rs. 130) to the tourist heavy Loi Kroh road which is where I decided to base myself. Loi Kroh has plenty of hotels and restaurants but I also chose it because it was close to the Night Market and a few temples I planned on seeing.
I first went to a Ramming Lodge which I found to be good on the internet but then the Tuk Tuk driver said it was expensive (it was over a 1000 baht a night, which I knew) and he told me he knew cheaper places. He took me to a hotel called Rux Thai Guesthouse, just a few metres off Loi Kroh road. It was only 490 baht (Rs. 680) per night and I could check out the next morning. Plus there was free WiFi.
I told the receptionist where all I planned to go in Chiang Mai and when I brought up Huay Pu Keng, he told me that to go there would mean an overnight stay. Instead, he offered me a packaged deal for 1300 baht (Rs. 1,800) which would take me around some places and includes a visit to a Kayan village.