Sunday, 30 March 2014

Travelling Thailand: Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is Thailand's second city and it was our second stop in our Thailand adventure. After 5 days in Bangkok, I was very happy to be moving on and had high hopes for Chiang Mai. I'm very pleased to say that it definitely didn't disappoint and I loved every minute in the city, it's been my favourite place so far!

Travelling Thailand

We took a sleeper train from Bangkok, leaving at 7.30pm and arriving in Chiang Mai (Thailand's second city) at about 11am the next morning, as demonstrated by the photo above (please excuse my general face/hair/tourist style front-backpack...). It was meant to be much quicker, only taking about 14 hours, however it seemed to be running on what Josh and I call 'Thai time' and then decided to stop at one station for almost two hours for some unknown reason. I actually really enjoyed the sleeper train, we started off in little armchair-like seats, then a little while into the journey the staff came round to convert the seats into beds. We had pillows and blankets fresh from the packets and the staff were always on hand to order food and drinks from, I thought it was a really good service. Seeing as you sleep for most the journey, the time passes quickly and soon enough you've arrived at the station!

As soon as we left the train we knew Chiang Mai would be so much nicer than Bangkok, we instantly noticed how much less 'hassle' there was from tuk tuk drivers and sales people. It took us a while to get our heads around how friendly the people were, people would just stop for a chat in the street, but we were always wondering how they were going to turn the conversation into selling us something... but it never happened. Bangkok had turned us into paranoid/dubious travellers. In my first few days in Chiang Mai I had three separate conversations with Thai ladies about how pale my skin is... pretty surreal that they were stroking my arms and telling me how much they liked it! It's so different to the UK where most people want to be tanned.

Travelling Chiang Mai
Backpacking thailand

There's so much to do in Chiang Mai, even if you just wander round the streets and take in all the temples and buildings. We hired bicycles one day and just cycled round to see the sights. We also went on a Thai cooking course which was such a good day! We booked the course through our hostel's tour service, pretty much every hotel in Thailand provides this service which is pretty handy, and we were picked up from our door for a 5 hour course. We were taken around the local food market to learn about the different fruit and veg, then taken to the cooking school where everyone had their own little gas burner and wok to learn the recipes! We were lucky to be on the course with some really fun people, so that made it even better :) I'm really looking forward to making some of my favourite Thai dishes when I'm back at home... if I can remember how!

Chiang Mai has an amazing Night Bazaar, which again, I just wanted to buy everything from! It's a massive street market, lined with stalls, selling everything you could possibly want. It also has a large food court full of portable vendors and restaurants, at the back of this food court we came across a Ladyboy cabaret show which we were lured into. It was such a good show, they were amazing dancers and so beautiful too. Put me to shame with my minimal travelling makeup! Josh got accosted by one too, which was pretty funny!

Chiang Mai also hosts two 'Walking Street' markets on both Saturdays and Sundays every week, which are great and are renowned for locally made and handmade products. It's the perfect place to pick up souvenirs and gifts, I definitely recommend the Sunday Market - I picked up loads of gifts, fairy lights and also a cute handmade skirt for only 2GBP (I don't have a pound sign on this keyboard!).

We also went to The Elephant Nature Park while in Chiang Mai, but I want to write a whole post on that as I have so many pictures, so I'll leave that for another day :)

I would really recommend visiting Chiang Mai if you're ever travelling Thailand, or even want to go there on holiday. There's so many nice food stalls, restaurants and bars too as well as the numerous day trips you can take from the city. If you ever want to know any good places and hotels to stay in Thailand, just let me know and I can try my best to recommend!

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Travelling Thailand: Bangkok

So, despite my complete hatred and fear of flying, the 17 hour flight from Birmingham to Bangkok was relatively stress free. That was until we arrived at the baggage carousel in Bangkok and realised that our bags were not there... along with half the other people on our flight. They'd somehow been left in Dubai, where we had a 2 hour wait between flights. We flew with Emirates and they have been absolutely rubbish in helping us get this sorted, or pay any kind of compensation for the extra clothes and toiletries we had to buy while we had no bags (which was 5 days in total)!

Anyway, rant over, we were only intending to stay in Bangkok for 2 days and then move on to our next destination but the 5 days we had gave us plenty of time to explore and get to know the city. We stayed in ultimate tourist central of Bangkok, Khao San Road, which is horrendous but fun at the same time. The streets are full of markets stalls, food vendors, bars, restaurants, plus millions of people trying to sell you stuff. After a couple of days I was pretty sick of Bangkok, you can't go anywhere without being hassled by a tuk tuk driver to take his tour, or someone tries to drag you into their shop to buy a suit, or just buy absolutely anything. I completely understand that's what they have to do to make their living in a city where there's so much competition, but it's a bit stressful after a while.

We started our tour of the city in the first few days with our first ever tuk tuk ride (picture evidence above), and our driver took us around some of the main tourist attractions in Bangkok, including attempting to take us to the tourist information centre so he could get commission, cheeky. Riding in a tuk tuk is like nothing else, it is terrifying and so funny at the same time. Pretty sure we've only just missed being in fatal crashes several times since we've been here, there doesn't really seem to be any road rules, you just bully your way into the lane you want to be in or just defy death and go for it haha.

One of my favourite places that we visited was the Grand Palace. This is the home of the King of Thailand and it also houses a very impressive temple too. The grounds were full of amazing buildings, everything is so intricately decorated here, every ceiling/roof/wall/door is covered in tiles, jewels or gold.

For the evenings, we found a much more chilled out road than Khaosan Road to have dinner and some drinks on, it's called Rambuttri Road and it's the road that runs parallel to Khaosan. We met some really cool people in the bars on this road, saw loads of live music and watched some amazing teenage breakdancers. They were so so good and so well rehearsed and even did perfectly timed routines together. The youngest guy did a massive flip over a row of 6 people lying on the floor! Rambuttri Road is way less 'magaluf-y' than Khaosan, I would definitely recommend checking it out if you end up in that area of Bangkok!

We met a girl who had heard about an amazing falafel restaurant in Bangkok (when I say restaurant, it was a stall on the street with some tables and chairs outside), and being falafel fanatics Josh and I decided to go with her for lunch there. It was amazing! I love falafel so much and this was the best stuff. I know falafel isn't exactly very authentic Thai food... but there's only so much Pad Thai, curry and soup a girl can eat before you start craving some other food too!

There's much more to Thailand than just the tourist attractions too, Josh and I love wandering round the streets and seeing what we come across. Sometimes we just come across a cool market, bar or food stand but one time we came across this awesome tree tucked into a back street. Buddhist Monks tie sacred pieces of material around trees to prevent logging, it just so happens that these pieces of material are colourful and pretty... just like loads of other normal things in Thailand! This is one of my favourite non-tourist attractions that we found :)

We've been in Thailand for 2 weeks and 2 days now and we've long since moved on from Bangkok, but as this post is the longest I've ever written (I think), I'll write some more about the other places soon :) I'm really excited to write about our trip to The Elephant Nature Park though! Follow me on Instagram or Twitter if you'd like to see a little more of what we've been up to :) x