Thailand – Bangkok and Chiang Mai – January 2011
Our first stop in our SE Asia tour was Bangkok, one of the hubs of all travel in the area. Flights from the US seem mostly to arrive real late at night – which seems convenient for the city’s hotels – and ours was no exception at 11pm arrival. Following a nice snooze, we hit the ground running the next morning.
Since this trip was sort of celebration of Mayne’s leaving the public accounting world to pursue other career opportunities, we splashed out a bit on the hotels. However, we were able to do so for very cheap in most cases, since Mayne had banked a ton of Marriott rewards points through all his travels with work. In Bangkok, we stayed at the Courtyard Bangkok on points for three nights, and would return at the end of our SE Asia tour and stay at the Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel for two more nights for free. The courtyard was great, and slightly nicer then the typical courtyard in the states. The price was perfect ($0)!!
The key sites we hit were the Bangkok royal palace, Chatuchak market, Wat Arun temple, the Grand Palace, and the giant reclining buddha. Navigating the two halves of the city by water taxi (which we did several times) was exciting, and involved crossing the mighty Chao Phraya river jam-packed with floating vessels of all sorts. The water seemed incredibly dirty and we hope that none of the seafood we are during our stay came from anywhere near it!
Our most memorable experiences were the Chatuchak market and having massages for $8.
The Chatuchak market is absolutely massive and had seemingly endless variety of goods, across countless vendor stalls, all roughly organized by category. There was t-shirt aisle, china aisle, flip-flop aisle, pet aisle, etc. There was also an area in the middle for food stands and quick lunches. It was here that Elisa had the best bowl of Tom Yum soup in her life! We loved it so much we came back before our departure at the end of our trip!
The massages were carried out at Wat Po massage school, where you can have 30 minute massages for $8. Both Elisa and I had good massages (Mayne’s first ever) for relatively cheap.
Overall impression of Bangkok was a big, noisy, hot and crowded city. There’s loads to do if you’re up for the challenge of navigating around. We did miss some of the characteristic streets that tourists flock to, many of which we assumed were too seedy or full of drunk people for our liking.
Chaing Mai – our stay in Chaing Mai was only two nights between Luang Prabang and Bangkok. Elisa got food poisoning in Luang Prabang (probably from all the milkshakes we were drinking after throwing the idea of not eating ice out the window), and was sick most of the time. She stayed in our dark hotel room and slept approximately 20 hours per day while I read, watched TV and made runs outside for medicine and food stand meals. We did make it to the zoo, which was interesting to see the variety of asian wildlife, if a bit depressing due to the conditions of the animals.