May 2010, I and Rina had a trip to Chiangmai and Chiangrai to release our stress from work. Its a short 4days and 3nights weekend holiday and we decided to use travel agent due to the last minutes arrangement. We were quite lucky as Matta Fair was just around the corner, and we manage to get a cheap package for 4d3n Chiangmai and Chiangrai land arrangement for only rm279 per person, including hotel, tours, and food. This time our flight ticket is a bit expensive because we buy the flight ticket with no promotion fares. We’ve booked our land arrangement with Chan’s Brothers and luckily it was a good bargain. The group was quite small, about 11pax, most of them chinese except one indian aunty and us. We are the youngest in the group of aunties and uncles and we were very lucky that they were quite nice and understanding about our needs for halal meal. Although halal meal was not provided in our ground arrangement, they were kind enough to ask the travel agent to arrange for halal meal for the whole trip so that we can eat together with them. It is a very good experience to travel to Chiangmai. A lot of interesting places to go and cheap for shopping.
However, one of the incident that i could not forget during this trip was my baggage was missing for the whole trip, and only to be found after we landed back in kuala lumpur in a very bad condition.. Damn u airasia.!!.. I only have my clothes that i wear and need to buy everything to be wear for the rest of the trip. Luckily clothes in Chiangmai was not too expensive but still, it did ruin my mood throughout the whole trip. And also the tour guide was also quite helpfull on helping me, calling the airasia office everyday to check on my missing luggage, and even drove me to airport after sightseeing to meet with the airasia personnel. And what did airasia do? Only give me 500bath to buy things, damn, and the most disappointed things is, i did buy their airasia insurance, but still, they only compensate me 500bath or rm50.. For 4days and 3nights?? Thats really a joke.. How did i find back my luggage? When we arrive back to kl, rina was waiting for her bag at the luggage area, and i ic saw my bag and the lost and found counter.. In bad condition.. The staff told me that the bag was left in kl since our flight to chiangmai and they could not track the bag because the tag is missing. I was very mad because when i lodge the report, i’ve told everything about the bag, the brand, the colour, every single thing.. And i could see no bag everything to be wear for 4days 3night.
Upon arrival in Chiang Mai International Airport, we were greeted by the tour guide. After explaining my problem on the missing luggage, the tour guide helped me to lodge the report at the Airasia office as the officer there can’t speak proper English. After that, we proceed to visit Chiang Mai most sacred temple, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. The temple is located 15km from the city, 3,500ft above the sea level on top of a hill. From the entrance gate, we took a tram to the top to see the marvelous golden pagoda which contains the holy relics of Lord Buddha. We could also could see impressive views of Chiang Mai from the top of the hill. After an hour here, the tour guide drop us at a restaurant for lunch. Since it’s not a halal restaurant, we went to a coffee shop just beside the restaurant to have some light snack and drinks. When the others finished their meals, the uncle had requested the tour guide to bring the group to muslim’s restaurant for the remaining trip. Thanks Auntie and Uncle.. And we were very lucky that the tour guide had no objection and arranged all meals during this trip to be at muslim restaurant. We became close with the aunties and uncle during the whole trip..
After the quick lunch, we went to visit the Royal Flora Garden, a big park with lots of theme landscape. The gardens are open, but there is not a Royal Flora Festival underway. The grounds contain some permanent gardens, a few which were sponsored by countries like Japan, Bhutan, Holland, etc and some under corporate sponsorship. And even from Malaysia. We spend an hour exploring the whole garden compound.
Later, we check into the hotel, the Suriwongse Hotel. We were surprise that the hotel room was very big and nice, even the interior design was quite good. Since I’ve got no luggage and any clothes to change, we decided to walk to the local market to buy some clothes and everything that I need for this trip. We got a local map from the reception and staff showed us the way to local market. The hotel is located in the middle of everything, the local market, Wararot Market is located 15minutes walk and we could see lots of small shops along our way there. People like us, we like to shop where the locals shop. This market is it, where we could see the local Thai people doing their daily shopping. All things fresh – fruit, vegetables, meat, spices and even flowers can be found here. There are a number of stalls that sell clothing at very reasonable prices too. I bought very cheap shirts for only 69bath or rm7 per piece. I also bought my innerwear, pants, facial wash, and other accessories here. The Wararot Market is open from 7am till about 5pm in the afternoon. Located at corner Chiang Moi Road and Wichayanon Road, the main market space is indoors and quite cool. On our way back to the hotel, we bought some fresh fruits at the stalls. We also could see the locals started to open their stalls for the night bazaar. Oh ya, the night bazaar also just outside our hotel. Yeay !! shopping at night.
Later at 7pm, the tour guide came to bring us for dinner, enjoying the famous Khantoke Dinner, the traditional northern Thai (Lanna) form of dining along with performance of traditional northern Thai (Lanna dance and music). And yes! it was the muslim’s restaurant. we could see few muslims group eating there too. After dinner, they drop us back to the hotel and we proceed to Night Bazaar for some shopping.
Early morning, the tour guide bring us to visit the magnificent Maesa Elephant Camp, home to one of the largest assembly of elephants in the north of Thailand which is located on the bank of a small river. We watched demonstration of how trained elephants are used as working animals in the teak forests, bathing in the river, working in the jungle, dragging and pushing logs, and responding to commands. They also performed some show for the visitors.
After that, we visit an orchid nursery. It was quite a nice nursery with hundreds type of orchid and they also sells some local product there. Then, we stop for lunch at a muslim’s restaurant. The rest of the evening was visits to the home industries . The highlight is to see local handicraft being hand-made, including hand-woven silk textiles, hand-made jewelleries, wood craft, paper products, and leather goods. I did bought some small stuff as I don’t planned to shop much at these tourist trap place. That evening, the others had asked the tour guide to bring them for Thai massage, and Rina also joined them. While for me, its a trip to the Airasia office at the airport to check on the status of my missing luggage. Thanks to the tour guide, she helped me to bring me there, but unfortunately, still no news of the luggage. Our dinner was arranged at the hotel, and after dinner, we return back to hotel.
Later at night, we spent the whole night exploring the night market. This is the place you want to go if you are interested in all things touristy. Everything. Most at very inflated prices. If you must buy something from here, do so while bargaining hard. Do remember though that you’re still not talking about huge amounts of money and they probably need that dollar more than you. Although this market is not one of our favourites, it is still pleasant enough for a weeknight browse and walk. The Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar is open every night of the year from 5pm till midnight is held along Chang Khlan Road, at the Eastern side of Old City.
After early breakfast, we proceed to Chiang Rai, 3hours journey by road along picturesque scenic routes passing several beautiful northern mountains and valleys. Just before reaching Chiang Rai town, we stopped to visit Wat Rongkhun, more commonly known as the White Temple. It is a unique and contemporary temple started in 1997, designed by the famous Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat. The temple is beautiful. Everything is white and feels so pure. Worth the visit.
2hr drive later, we arrived at the Karen Long Neck Hill Tribe Village. Visiting the Hilltribe Villages is a bit contrived, indeed, but it does give us the best opportunity to see what the hilltribe people wear and look like. They are the real deal, just living here for a certain time period before being replaced by others. We snapped some pictures with the hill tribe people and it was quite amazing to see the “Long neck” women, even young girls with the heavy neck rings. And they even did some performance to all of us. You can buy great gifts here all made by the hill tribe people; we bought textiles and trinkets, which we treasure. Some might feel it’s a tourist trap with many vendor booths, but we didn’t feel that way. We hoped we were supporting people who have difficult lives.
We had nice lunch at a muslim restaurant in Chiang Rai town. While having our meal, the tour guide asked us whether we interested to cross the border to Laos during the Golden Triangle boat ride later. And all of us agreed, with some additional fees. After lunch, we went to Mae Sai at the Myanmese border and the northern most point of Thailand, where we could see the immigration center to enter Myanmar. There’s also big local market nearby the border that sell everything from local daily item to tourist souvenirs. We spend an hour there doing some window shopping, as its a bit difficult to buy things as most of the sellers don’t speak english. Yeah, there is some tourist there but not as much as Chiangmai.
Later, we proceed to the world famous Golden Triangle where the borders of three countries (Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar) meet. We took a boat ride to enjoy the panoramic view of the Mekong River and at the end of the boat ride, they drop us at the opposite land, to enter Laos Island. We could see some small stall selling cheap souvenirs here, and 1 other group hanging around this area. That’s mean, its not only us crossed the border illegally. Our tourist guide explained to us that Laos was a very poor country that they relied on other people to come and spend in the place. A van had waited for us to bring us to a casino as requested by one of the aunties before. Well, casino !.. Both me and Rina feel uncomfortable at first but we just followed the group. I feel reluctant to enter the casino at first, but then, I changed my . Yes… i’m an architect, and I want to see what actually inside a casino, no other intention. I followed the group and I could feel all eyes starring at me while I’m inside, yeah… of course because of my head scarf… The casino was quite big. Both me and Rina just stayed with the group while looking at the surrounding. I could say, its different from seeing in the movies. Only few people in the group went to gamble while others just seeing like us. An hour here, we exited the casino. The same van bring us back to the border jetty. Before we ride on the boat to cross the river, we have a quick rest at the stalls there. I bought a cheap trolley bag there, at about 100bath or rm10 to pack the stuff I bought during this trip. The bag I gave it to Mama when I return back and it still in good condition until now.
Its almost dawn when we exits Mae Sai, heading back to Chiang Mai. 3hours ride, we only reached the hotel at 10pm with a hungry stomach and exhausted. The tour guide had arranged our late dinner at the hotel. Although its already late, I and Rina don’t waste our time for our last night in Chiangmai for shopping spree after dinner. We walked at the night market to buy souvenirs with our leftover money until the night market started to close.
After early breakfast, I and Rina decided to walk around our hotel until the tourist guide came to send us to the airport at 11am. Our flight departed on time back to Kuala Lumpur