April 30 – May 18, 2016
From Ayutthaya we caught a wait-until-full-van back to Bangkok, got dropped off on the side of the highway, walked to the airport, jumped on a plane and flew to the ex-pat friendly city of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. An old quarter surrounded by a crumbled down wall and moat filled with water was our home base area for five days. We jumped on old, but free, bikes (Mark’s pedal kept falling off and Christine’s was almost brakeless) daily and we explored Chiang Mai and the gorgeous Wats.
Perhaps a bit tired of hearing about our Wat visits… we will let the photos do the talking.
By the way, flying north did nothing to lower the temperature. The heat continued to be brutal. In the news, a forest fire started a day after we left.
Older white men walking hand and hand with Thai women half their age was a common site. We had our teeth cleaned at a local dental clinic for $47 Canadian (CDN) for both of us! – and yes it was legitimate and safe. To escape the intense heat, we enjoyed a few Hollywood movies (Jungle Book and Captain America: Civil War… why is Hollywood making all our heroes fight each other in the movies this year?).
A free thirty day travel visa meant we had to plan our time carefully – a person could spend months in Thailand. So, from Chiang Mai we jumped on a plane and flew straight south to the island of Phuket.
A somber reminder of the 2004 tsunami in Phuket, our Chiang Mai homestay host drove us to the airport and while driving told us with tears in his eyes how he was in the Phuket hotel industry before opening his homestay in Chiang Mai. He worked the day before the tsunami but had the next day off to return home to Chiang Mai. The hotel where he worked was one of the hardest hit areas in Phuket and he lost his friends in the horrific event. He is lucky to be alive and said he could never return to Phuket.
We spent a week on the southern end and a week on the west side at Kata and Karon beaches. There were lots of closed up or abandoned looking buildings, and tonnes of rat infected rubbish in the laneways and alleys… and these rats did not care if it was day or night! One evening walking home from dinner, Mark let out a girly scream as we walked by a bunch of garbage bags on the side of the road only to startle a “pack” of rats that scurried in every direction.
A Starbucks Frappuccino cost $7.07Cdn!
We drank water instead.
The waves on Karon beach were not family friendly as advertised and took a good five feet off the beach overnight while we were there. Mark had a blast in the bathtub temperature ocean water, Christine avoided it like the plague. Sadly, in the news during our stay, the Thai government announced they were closing the beautiful Koh Tachai island due to over tourism. Lets hope Phuket fairs better. We wanted to go to Koh Phi Phi, but reports of rubbish and poor conditions quickly changed our mind.
Our first week on the southern end of Phuket was at a very nice resort compliments of a friend Mark worked with who could not use her time share this year. The oversized king bed was like sleeping on clouds. We did not EVER want to get out of bed. The outdoor bathroom made Mark feel like Tarzan. We enjoyed the ocean view, private deck, happy hour and the pampering from the staff. It was a welcome break from the backpacker lifestyle.
Bonus … no bum gun and the toilet did not get wet when we showered.
Thanks again Kyla for the time share week, it was a fabulous time!
If we were not sleeping in or sitting by the pool, we took the free shuttle to the gorgeous Nai Harn beach. In the evenings, still feeling like a backpacker and too cheap to eat at the resort, we walked forty-five minutes to eat at the local restaurants where we could stuff our faces for under $5.00CDN each and then stop for a $0.90 Magnum double caramel ice cream bar for the trip home. All while dragging home a twelve pack of 600ml water bottles and yogurt and museli for breakfast – boy, do we miss a car some days!
We will probably return to Thailand to explore more of the north as two of our weeks were really just relaxing and recovering near the beach. As we moved to our next exciting country, our fondest memory was the little chapel beside Wat Phra Singh. Each time we visited, a deep sense of peacefulness filled the air. The chapel had beautiful gold pattern stenciling and incredible wood gables painted in a deep, deep red. Next door, many monks engaged in prayer while chanting in their rhythmic, comforting tone.
Throughout our Wat visits, wise words by wise men were painted on little boards hung from trees. We will be well served to remember these phrases as we continue traveling…
- Man’s death is the least of all things, what is left to the world is virtues.
- Clean, clear, calm, these are characteristics of a noble person.
- One should overcome an angry person by not being angry.
- Don’t escape when you have a problem because there always is a way to solve it.
- The best revenge is to stop revenge.
- Try to do good but not be great, otherwise you will be in danger.
- Education is a guide, knowledge is a key.
- The skilled man does not show off, but the man without knowledge usually shows off.
- To do good and evil unseen by others are always seen by oneself.
- Selfishness is the father of all evil.
- When money speaks, truth is silent.
- Good to forgive, best to forget.
- There is more happiness in giving than in taking.
To friends and family
…Mark and Christine
Chiang Mai – Sample expenses (Currency is Thai Bhat, 1$ CDN = 27.4 Bhat)
- 70 Baht ($2.55 CDN) – papaya salad, cucumber salad and sticky rice at homestay
- 100 Baht ($3.64 CDN) – pad thai chicken x 2 (sometimes 80 Baht)
- 100 Baht ($3.64 CDN) – bottle of fresh veggie juice
- 600 Baht ($21.80 CDN) – The Slate House with free breakfast, free bikes and free water
- 200 Baht ($7.27 CDN) – Jungle Book movie for 2
- 260 Baht ($9.45 CDN) – Captain America – Civil War movie for 2
- 130 Baht ($4.73 CDN) – Popcorn for movie! Not cheap was it… but so good
Phuket – Sample expenses (Currency is Thai Bhat, 1$ CDN = 27.4 Bhat)
- 345 Baht ($12.55 CDN) – Dinner (green curry chicken, cashew chicken, rice, coke, iced chocolate)
- 180 Baht ($6.55 CDN) – Pad Thai for 2
- 50 Baht ($1.82 CDN) – 2 magnum ice cream bars
- 53 Baht ($0.63) CDN) – water, 12 x 0.6L
- 200 Baht ($7.27 CDN) – Subway 12″ tuna
- Beautiful Mangosteen Resort and Spa