Chiang Mai is super cheap and super chilled
– We decided that for the extra £20 it was more logical to fly for 2 hours from Phuket instead of getting two trains (Phuket – Bangkok + Bangkok – Chiang Mai) which would have taken over 20 hours. We had also heard many stories of the train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai having frequent breakdowns and delays of 5 hours.
The flight was with Air Asia and because it was an internal flight it was very easy to get through customs and board. If you do book Air Asia use Skyscanner or a similar site search engine as its usually cheaper than the Air Asia website.
When we arrived in Chiang Mai the taxi from the airport to the old town was only 120 baht and you can get it even cheaper if you can be arsed to walk to the meter taxi’s but at this late stage in the day we really did not care about the 50 pence each we would both have to pay extra.
The first three nights we stayed in a lovely hostel called MD House. The rooms were hotel quality and the place had good wifi and 2 pools. Backpacker atmosphere was good here and we met so cool Canadians to hang out with. After 3 days we decided to check out another hostel which was rumoured to be ok and had a pool and was only 300 baht a night. This place was called Top North Hostel (be sure not to mix up with Top North Hotel) and it was easy to find and conveniently located near the old town ring road.
The rooms are well worn here and not so clean but at 300 baht a night with a swimming pool I do not mind. The backpacker atmosphere is not so good here though because this place is not listed on Hostelworld or Hostelbookers so you tend to get an older crowd. Also the pool tiles are razor sharp and I cut the bottom of my toe real deep while swimming so be careful!
After a day here we decided to do the two day jungle trek which was about 1400 baht (but you can get it for 1000 if you look around). This was great and we started by doing a 45 minute elephant trek which was amazing and then we hiked 7km up the mountain. Half way up our guide ‘Off’ took us to an awesome waterfall which we were able to slide down – we stayed here for half an hour and then continued up the mountain.
When we finally got to the top of the mountain we were all super tired and hot and sweating and we were greeted by a troop of puppies and hill tribes men. Our guide ‘Off’ showed us to our accommodation which was a dorm hut built for 12 people to stay in. Very minimal with dirty squat toilets. We had a very simple meal in the evening and then we all got drunk and stoned on local weed and moonshine sitting around the campfire singing songs in English and French until the early hours.
The next day we got up real early and travelled down the mountain (I slipped about 5 times) and we reached the second waterfall. Here there was a bigger waterfall which there were a lot of different hike groups swimming at. We then ventured onward through some real nice scenic terrain and made our way to the white water rafting. We did this for 5km and then got on bamboo rafts and majestically floated past a troop of elephants. The day ended with another taxi ride back to our hostel and we were real tired. But for 1400 baht the jungle trek in Chiang Mai is well worth it.
Chiang Mai is totally laid back compared to Bangkok and there seems to be very little stress here and everyone is super friendly. The food is also alot cheaper and you can eat in a restuarant for 100 – 150 baht for a decent meal and also eat street food for 50 – 80 baht with a drink.
Renting a scooter in Chiang Mai is a must and the place is easy to navigate because of the square shape of the old city which you can use as a visual navigation aid. I rented a Crunch / cub 90 for 100 baht for the day and rode it into the mountains to the Doi Suthep temple. An impressive temple with 300 steps to get to it. It is very touristy and not that much to see in comparison to the palaces in Bangkok – but still worth a visit.
The next thing we did was to go to the night market and do some haggling with the local market stall folk. We bought some cool hippie vests and I got another pirate hat for £1.00 I also bought a pair of fake Calvin Klien boxer shorts in XXXL which are incidentally too small for me…
At the night market you can pick up a coupon book for 100 baht which allows you to sample a wide variety of different thai food options at the night market. This is really fun as you can pick and share different dishes and well worth the £2.00 spent.
We also did a few boozy nights out going to some weird posh caberet club / bar and also Spicy club which is a shit hole but seems to be the place where is all happens. There is also a little area with bars called Zoe in yellow and Zoe in something else which turn into a good bit of party in the night. This is on the same road as the MD House hostel – ratchamadingdong road or something.
by the time friday came we were hungover and ready to go to Pai (Bai) for a couple of days and unwind with the hippies.