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Monday, November 03, 2014

Thailand Travel Itinerary 2014 - Part 2

Day 2 - Arrived Bangkok 11.40 pm local time [if no delay] and there is about 7-8 hours from time before catching the train to Chiangmai.
We took the Special Express Train 13 from Bangkok to Chiangmai the same day we arrived at Bangkok.  You can choose to stay over in Bangkok for a night but there isn't much you can do if your intention is to visit Chiangmai first.
Train Fare Bangkok-Chiangmai - Class 2 with sleeping berth.  Lower Berth [for women] - 881 THB and Upper Berth [for men] -  791 THB.  Notes - lower berth is very spacious, comfortable and clean. 
Departure Time [Bangkok] - 7.35 pm same day we arrived in Bangkok
Arrival Time [Chiangmai] - 9.55 am on the next day
Similarly as in the Butterworth/Bangkok travel sector, dinner and breakfast are available upon ordering but it cost more than if you pack your food.  The meals available in the train costs about 110 to 210 THB depending on the menu you choose.  Notes - By the way, you can get nice food at the food court of Bangkok Railway Station which ranges from 40 THB.  They have economy rice, fried rice, pig trotter rice, western food and even a halal food section.  A cup of coffee only costs 10 THB.  
Before the train left Bangkok, we had a nasty experience of train coaches banging at each other.  We were told that it is the way to hook up the coaches. Why is this so, I don't know. 
Dinner time and sleeping berths preparation is similar as in my post on Thailand Travel Itinerary Part 1 [click here].
Day 3 - The train arrived Chiangmai  on time even though there was a slight delay with the banging of coaches in Bangkok.  The sky is bright at around 5-6 am. If you are able to wake up then, you can freshen up, eat the breakfast you brought along and enjoy the beautiful scenery of forest, mountains, hills, lowland areas, settlements and padi fields along the northern route.  It could be a little misty but the view is nice, something different from the concrete jungles of developed towns and cities.
Upon arrival at San Kampaeng Railway Station, Chiangmai, we walked out of the railway station to take a Tuk-Tuk to our hotel at Thapae Road which costs 60 THB, the journey is about 10-15 minutes depending on the traffic.  You can get a better price if you catch the Tuk-tuk outside the railway station.

The hotel we stayed at Chiangmai is:
9 Soi 6 Thapae Road
Muang Chiangmai
50100 Chiangmai
Tel: [66]53-276468 Fax: [66]53-206917
Facilities - air-conditioning, cale TV, bathroom, laundry, free Wifi, Daily
The standard double bed room is quite small but clean with a fridge and bathroom is spacious.  For the price they charged [590 THB] during peak season it's reasonably good cos' of it's location as you can easily get to Chiangmai Old City by foot just across the main road [2 minutes walk].  It is also a good place to stay if you intend to watch the Loy Krathong procession as it is just about 10 metres to Thapae Road where the procession passes through.
Notes - before leaving home, you can go to the transport department [JPJ for Malaysia] to obtain an International driving licence for RM 150.00 valid for 1 year to drive around Thailand.  After check-in to hotel, you can walk around the area to find a shop which has motorbikes/cars to rent.  The charges range from 100-250 THB with/without insurance per day.  The shop will provide you with 2 crash helmets and raincoats.  Of course, you can choose to see the city by foot or go on the red song taew or Tuk-tuk in Chiangmai.  Walking around the old city is easy if you are used to walking.  Get a Chiangmai road map and you will not lost your way in the city.
After checking in [we booked our room through Agoda before departing Penang] with the map guide, we walked from the hotel cross over to Thapae Gate which is the East Gate of Chiangmai Old City along Mun Muang Road on the right then turn down to Sriphoom Road along the Chang Puak Gate [North Gate side].   You will first come across Wat Chiang Man [click here].
This is a straight road [all the inner roads surrounding the four gates of Chiangmai Old City are straight long roads].  You can either walk along the five foot ways or along the pavements  of the canals that surround the city which is in a square shape.  We were looking for a popular Khao Soi Noodle stall which is situated between 2 Wats [Wat Kuankama and Wat Monthien].  You can also hop onto a red song thaew or Tuk-Tuk to get to the place.  Tuk-tuk charges more than red song thaew.
Wat Kun Kha Ma [Horse Temple], Sriphoom Road
Chang Puak Gate
Wat Monthien [Dragon Temple] Sriphoom Road,
Chang Puak Gate
This Khao Soi stall is a small shack of restaurant is on the left of Horse Temple with several tables under a small pavilion called Grandma's Restaurant [Khao Soi Khun Yai] popular with locals for its northern-style noodles.  It is a family business that has been operating for about 16 years. They Khao Soi comes with chicken, pork or beef and a plate of preserved Kiam Chye, cut big onions, fried chilli paste and a slice of lime with some crispy fried noodles].  Of course, the usual condiments like sugar, fish sauce, chilli flakes and pickled green/red chillies.
The combination of the noodles with the kiam chye, onions and lime is surprisingly good.  The soup is not too creamy but spicy enough.  Don't add the chilli paste if you can't take spicy food cos' it is really 'hot'.
We had 3 bowls with different meat and a longan cold drink. This meal costs 135THB.  I think each bowl costs only 35 THB.  This is definitely worth trying for the taste and price.
Khao Soi Egg Noodles, Chiangmai

Khao Soi [Egg Noodle Curry] - rich and savoury yellow curry noodle soup, served with shredded preserved mustard leaves, big onions, slice of lime and extra chilli paste.  The egg noodles are of the flat variety with a small portion of deep-fried crispy noodles on top.  You can choose either, pork, chicken or beef Khao Soi.  The portion is quite small and you may need to order an extra bowl.
After this hearty meal, we walk to Wat Kun Kha Ma [Horse Temple] [click here] and Wat Monthien [Dragon Temple]  [click here] which is just on the left and right side of the stall. 
Both these 2 Wats are worth looking at as each has its' own unique structure and history.
Across the road opposite Wat Monthien, there is another very old Wat Lok Mo Lee [click here]  along Maninopharat Road which is worth taking a look.  There is a Thousand Arms Goddess of Mercy on the left side of the entrance.  2 big white elephants, a golden and silver tree on the right and left of the main Wat temple.  Along the side of the Wat is a row of 12 zodiac animals. Inside the Wat, the ceiling is very attractive with fine cravings  and on the side walls are cravings about the teachings of Buddha.
Wat Lok Molee, Maninoppharat Road, Chang Puak Gate
After visiting these 3 Wats which are all nearby, we walked back to the old city area to Inthawarorot Road which is the place of 3 Wise Men's Monument [3 Kings' Monument] [click here] and a very unique gold and black coloured small Wat Inthakin [Temple of the Navel of the City] [click here].
3 Kings' Monument
Wat Inthakin, Inthawarorot Road
At the corner of this road opposite the 3 Wise Men's Monument is an ice and dessert cafe [La Mango Cafe].  Here they have many kinds of snow ice shavings that comes with different kinds of fruits, coffee etc.  We ordered a Mango Pudding Snow Ice and a Soybean Milk Snow Ice with Mixed Fruits.  Each costs 85 THB.  Portion is quite big but does melts away fast.  Compared to Taiwanese Mango Shaved Ice, this is not that good but still worth trying just to cool down the body system.  The weather is still really hot in November.  Cos' of the Asean Yee Peng Festival during our visits, most of the places have lots of lanterns on display which brightens up the place.
Lanterns on display for Yee Peng Festivals
Mango Snow Ice 
After the above adventures and food the whole afternoon, we were back to the hotel for rest and freshen up, ready to search for our dinner at the popular Cowgirl's Pig Trotter Rice stall which is at Chang Puak Gate, along Maninoppharat Road where they have street food at night.  Getting there is easy with the Tuk-Tuk or Song Taew for 20 THB per person.  We went on a rented motorbike or you can still walk there if you still have the energy after the whole afternoon's sightseeing by foot.
The dinner here is very reasonably price.  We had 2 plates of rice with the braised meat and 1/2 a duck egg, 2 plates plain rice, 1 plate of braised pig trotters and 1 bottle of drinking water that comes with 2 cups of ice cubes with lots of pickled mustard leaves [as much as you like].  This meal costs only 175 THB which is very cheap and it tasted good.  I like the shredded pickled mustard leaves which is very crunchy, not too salty, sourish or sweet.  This stall is worth trying but go early around 6 pm to avoid long queue.
Cowgirl's Pig Trotter Rice
Maninopharat Road Street Food Area
Chang Puak Gate
[the stall is called Cowgirl cos' the lady manning the stall wears a cowboy hat]

After dinner, we took a stroll back to the same direction as in the afternoon and discovered that the 3 Kings' Monument [aka 3 Wise Men Monument], plain lanterns during daytime and small Wat were all lighted up beautifully.  Even the canals surrounding have water fountains that look beautiful.
Knowing that there are more lanterns on display at the four gates of Chiangmai Old City, we went to each one of them to see the various lanterns and of course taking as many photos as possible.  It is really awesome and worthy experience to visit Chiangmai during the Loy Krathong festival that last for almost a week with 3 nights of street processions with different floats each night. Students were seen lighting wax candles and placing them all around the ruins of the four gates. Apart from lantern displays, there is the lighting of Kong Ming Lantern at all these places during this time.  The sky is beautiful with sparkling lights like blinking stars.  The price of the lantern ranges from 30 - 60 THB.  Definitely worth lighting it especially when this activity is banned in your country.

Click here to see Thailand Travel Itinerary 2014 Part 1
Click here to see more on Loy Krathong/Yi Peng Festival Chiangmai 2014
Click here to see more on Wat Phrathat, Doi Suthep

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