Bangkok Chiang Mai (March 4th-12th March 2011)

This spring break I went to Thailand (congkak.com :p)  together with my friends. There are five of us and we visited Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  The trip was fun though I already missed people in Bandung in the middle of the trip :p. In short, Bangkok is a metropolitan city which somehow still preserve its heritage. You can see Starbuck Cafe full of people buy those-expensive-4-dollars-coffees. In contrast, you can also see 400 years old Wat (Temple) standing high  with gold layer on its surface  beside that 4-dollars-coffee-shop. Looking so unsuitable but that is what Bangkok looks like, where you can enjoy “old city” and “new city” in the same town.

When we went to Chiang Mai, one thing that popped up in my mind is Bandung! Yes, Chiang Mai is sort of an oasis, comparing it with busy-dusty-lousy Bangkok. It offers a nice climate, unique cultural heritage, best northern style Thai food, bunch of temples (again!), awesome tribe hills, millions natural activities, and tons of cozy cafes near Ping River. The old city of Chiang Mai is uniquely surrounded by medieval-style  wall.  To make the defense perfect, on the outer of that neat rectangular old city. there are moats bounding the area.

In this writing,I will just make a quick review about what we did in that Spring Break and .

In Bangkok we visited some popular tourist spot : Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Chatucak Market, Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of Emerald Buddha), Chao Phraya River, etc. The floating market was disappointing. Famous Thailand postcards usually shows tons of wooden canoes with various fruits on it. Wearing straw hats, Thai women paddle the canoe and sell the goods to the local people. I should admit that maybe those postcards was made in 19th century. what you can see now is the hordes of tourist and more stall selling souvenirs than  “genuine” goods. It can still be fun only if you don’t overestimate what will you experience there. 150 Bath was needed to hire the boat and went along the river. For me the highlight of this market unfortunately was not the rivers but the small noodle stall. It was so good! I paid 40 Bath for the rich flavor in its soup and felt so satisfied.

Chatucak Market is a BIG weekend Market that we could reach either by MRT (skytrain) or bus to the north part of the city. One word to describe : BIG! Yes, It is really big market that sells EVERYTHING. From clothes, foods, furniture, pets, until endangered species. To explore every inch of it, I think it needs more than one whole day so I just went to any spot that looked interesting too me.

Along the Chao Phraya River, we enjoyed the city view with cool breezes blowing toward your face. Several famous temples  (Wat Po, Wat Phra Kaew) can be seen along this river. You could just simply enjoy the ride; however we decided to stop at  Wat Phra Kaew, the tempel of Emerald Budha. The funny story when we went to this temple was finally I met  those ‘smart’ con artist. After we landed to the Grand Palace area, it was hard to find a way to the temple. So we opened the map and tried to be not lost. Suddenly there was a smart-looking-and-educated man asked us politely about what we were trying to find out. With his good english, the scam was started. he said that the temple was closed because it was on Sunday and he suggested us to go to Wat Pho. Wat Pho was fine for us. It is also a famous temple. But suddenly he said that that temple was also closed due some ceremonies held there. Finally he suggested us to go to a-famous-temple-or-something-like-that by using Tuk-Tuk (three-wheeled motorcycle taxi). “You can take Tuk-Tuk from there. I think it is only 10 Baht for each” he pointed several tuk-tuk which parked not far from our conversation took place.

Fortunately I have ever read that kind of scam from Lonely Planet. I said to my friend in Indonesia “I think he tried to foul as”. Once my friend didn’t believe it because she think that this guy would not get any advantage if we used the Tuk-tuk and actually this man was very convincing by saying that he worked  a lecturer in a University near the temple (he pointed that University on our map! So convincing). In confusion, we just went forward and wanted to check the temple by ourselves. It ended up that the man was really a con artists because all the temples that he said was close was actually OPEN! I think he had made agreement with those tuk-tuk drivers and some shops that the tuk-tuk drivers will lead us to. Beware of those con artists and scams in Bangkok! Easy money is always  fishy.

We visited Wat Phra Kaew after the dramatic escape from the scam. The temple was inside the Grand Palace and it was the first time I visited a big Buddha Temples. The experience was enchanting. Only if I knew earlier I would go there in the morning time when the full-scale-troops of tourists was not there yet.

Another must-visited-attraction in Bangkok is Siam Niramit Show. It was a big scale of performance with hundreds of costumes and performers. The official price from the website (www.siamniramit.com) is 1500 Baht for the show and another 350 Baht for the Buffet Dinner. But actually you can jump to any tours service in Bangkok to get much cheaper price. We paid 1100 Baht for the show and the dinner. Inside the venue, we also could visit a traditional Thai Village.

The highlight activity that we had in Bangkok  actually was the Grasshopper bike tour. We took one day bike tour which named “Country Side Tour”. It was quite expensive (about 1600 Baht) but I love it so much. We started to bike at 9 am and ended up around 4pm. The experience was amazing! Visiting some ruined temples, royal temples, or abandoned temples was the main idea of this tour. However; on the way to those temples we passed a lot of interesting spots and did a lot of amusing activities. We met sacred pig called “Kem Thit” (the spell may be wrong) which was the biggest pig I had ever seen. We also fed tons of river cat fishes which were found so big because they lives in a river that is placed exactly beside the temples. No one can fish in the rivers which are placed near temples that is why those rivers are sort of a sanctuary to those greedy catfishes.  Lunch time was another wow moment. We ate local food in the local restaurant. far far way from those full-of-tourists-and-white-crazy-peoples-restaurant in Bangkok. Our tour guide Taki and Tuck was also very friendly. whenever someone was left behind, Taki would stop and found out what happened to the left-behind person. I think this tour is a must for anyone who goes to Bangkok. The Grasshopper also has another tours such as  Bangkok Night Bike Tour, Bike Historic Bangkok, etc (check the tours here : http://grasshopperadventures.com/ )

Okay lets jump quickly to Chiang Mai. I think I write too much. In Chiang Mai we went to several temples (again? Yes). Inside the old city (moat) there were three famous temples.  Inside this city,our tongues were also pampered by Northern Thai food famous restaurant called Huen Phen (very recommended!). We spent 3 days in Chiang Mai with several activities : Visiting Doi Suthep (a city mark temple in the highland area), King’s palace, one day trekking, etc. The King’s palace was awesome. Thousands of beautiful flower gardens could be seen there. However the highlight in this city was the trekking. Yap! We took one day trekking for 700 Baht. We got to taste some natural activities in this packet : Riding Elephant (don’t like it too much), trekking, visiting Hill Tribe (Karen Tribe), swimming in waterfall, and the most interesting parts was the Bamboo Rafting!  Chiang Mai Night Bazaar was also tremendous. Every night we went to that bazaar. We ended the last day with another Thai Massage. Generally, the Massage was much better than the ones that we took in Bangkok. With the same price we could get more cozy place and more professional masseurs.

These are some photos from Chiang mai :

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