Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Discovering Thailand.... part 1 Chiang Mai- the gateway to the North!


I have been to Thailand many times before but I was only a transit passenger to other parts of the world. This time I decided to go and explore Thailand without the help of a tour group and on my own pace... After 3 weeks of researching which places I wanted to see, doing our own bookings of hotels and airline tickets.. I decided to go on a tour with a friend..

When we think of Thailand we immediately associate it with the hectic city of Bangkok. A city overflowing with so many people, heavy traffic, fumes, sights and sounds, that all to often it can be an incredible assault on the unsuspecting tourist's senses. Yet Thailand is a country of overwhelming diversity, and thankfully Chiang Mai is located far north away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

Chiang Mai is the capital of Northern Thailand, and it boasts of a pace far more relaxed and tourist friendly than Bangkok. There are many ways to spend your days ( and indeed your foreign currency ) in Chiang Mai. The city boasts a large number of glorious temples. One main attraction to Chiang Mai which draws so many tourists to this Northern Thai capital is the vast array of trekking tours. Visitors have the chance to wander into the unknown and try riding upon an elephant for the first time.

A word of warning though: be extremely careful when selecting your guide. There are a lot of " fly-by-night" operators. What I did was to hire our own private vehicle with a driver ( who can speak english ) to bring us to the places we want to see... The cost of a driver with a van is 1500 Baht / day.

The exchange rate are as follows:

 for the dollars to Baht is 32.00 Baht to a dollar,
 1.40 PHP for a Baht,
 and 49.00 Baht to a Euro...

In Chiang Mai there is so much to see and do, and shopping in one of its many markets is a fantastic way to find those unusual, yet beautiful souvenirs. The best market by far is the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar, known as the mother of all Chiang Mai markets. It boasts of a huge rnge of clothing, jewelry, Thai arts and crafts-- literally anything you could possibly imagine.

Here are some of the things I saw which might interest you:

fruit bowls carved out of mango wood.

Handicrafts are numerous and found on sale everywhere. They really do make super souvenirs and gifts and can be incredibly cheap, though the quality can vary quite a bit. The Night Market is the most convenient and usually the cheapest place to buy these in the city.

Beads .... beads.... beads....

But they have good quality jade too....

I saw this man being watched by so many people ... he was working on his metal sculpture... from bookmarks to huge frames.

and in another booth I watched this man shape beautiful flowers out of soap... and he would sell these handmade soap flowers packaged in a laquered box.

The night bazaar is also a great way to experience Thai culture in a friendly way. The stall holders are all expected to barter with you for the price of an item. It can be a great way for the foreign tourist to make contact with Thai people and enjoy a friendly exchange, when often it is hard to do so with difficult language barriers.

This is a typical street hawker trying to sell her  wares to the tourists.... take note of her outfit...

Yes, they did have those sugar coated dried fruits too... and this is their version of a fruit stand which sells "  BY THE CUP "!! The price ranges from 35 Baht to 50 Baht per fruit glass.

Everything in Chiang Mai from food to accomodation is far cheaper than in Bangkok and so you will find you get a better value for money.

I would also highly reccomend trying a thai massage which costs 140 Baht/hour unlike in Bangkok they charge 250 Baht/ hour.

As one last word of warning .... do bear in mind that the climate in Chiang Mai is often far cooler than many other destinations in Thailand, so be sure to pack a sweater, or a light jacket, for often you will be glad you did, but then againyou could purchase a new one at a bargain price!!!

Whatever time of year you visit Chiang Mai be safe, be careful, but most of all have FUN in this truly spectacular city, CHIANG MAI --- the gateway to the North!!!



  1. Great post. I agree totally with you about the driver too. If you hire a reliable one they will stay with you all day and night and look out for you, recommend good restaurants etc.

  2. Asunta, you are good!!Talagang professional job! Maganda lahat ang pictures. Really enjoyed them!
    Honestly, you have the best albums on FACEBOOK that I have seen!!
    Keep doing this, it's your WORLD!!!
    TAKE CARE!! HOPE TO SEE YOU soon in my own little space!