Waited for almost 9 months for this trip. We managed to get promotion air tickets to Chiang Mai (CNX) at a very good rate using AirAsia Free Seats sale.
We are a group of 10 with 2 families.
Changi Airport seems to be pushing self check-in aggressively. We have to self-check-in using the kiosk. I would say it is quite easy but he system is a little slow. We then have to bring our bags to the counter.
When the check-in staff seeing we have young kids, the staff try to seat us together. This is very different form my previous experience where the AirAsia staff just said it is system assigned and cannot be changed. Though we did not manage to be seated together but I still appreciate the effort.
Flight from SIN to DMK is uneventful, thankfully.
We opt for AirAsia fly-thru service to Chiang Mai. With a fly-thru service, your bags will be tag all the way to the final destination. In the event of any delay that you miss your AirAsia connecting flight, you will be taken care of.
When we reach Don Muang Airport, we were told to follow the green line. The line lead us to another immigration counter which have very few passengers. This immigration counter is dedicated to AirAsia fly-thru passengers.
After the immigration, you will actually go to the transit area. Since we have nothing to do, we just sit down on the floor and do people watching. Don Muang Airport has very limited sitting place so it is common to see passengers sitting on the floor.
Again the flight is smooth.
However the confusion start when we want to claim luggage at Chiang Mai.
We have to walk all the way to the International baggage claim (remember we are travelling domestic between DMK and CNX) which is located at the other end of the terminal.
You must remember to use the stairs when going down from the second floor to the first floor else you will be queuing to clear immigration with other international arrival passengers. We have to climb over a barricade to reach the international baggage claim area.
When we reach there, there is no AirAsia staff there to help us until a few minutes later. While waiting, we purchase a True SIM Card for 7 days use for THB300.
Our luggage are actually mixed with another international flight baggage. This is so confusing!
We then have to walk all the way back to the domestic arrival to meet up with my friends. As I am unfamiliar with Chiang Mai airport, I asked the staff where is the domestic arrival and they all pointed me in all directions. I will not blame them. This could be their understanding of English is not so good.
I finally located my friends and we went to the meter Taxi Counter to book a taxi, A small taxi fare is THB 160 and a big taxi is THB250. This is slightly different from what is listed in the board. We took 2 big taxis and you pay the fare to the taxi driver directly.
We have to walk all the way to the car park for the taxi. I thought they will drive over. (OK, I am lazy).
I am surprised that our taxi driver can speak basic Chinese (maybe the power of Renminbi!). She tried to sell us some tours but she is not forceful.
The distance from the airport to the hotel is not far but the traffic in Chiang Mai is not as smooth as I thought. After all it is still a major city in Thailand.
The journey took less than 20 mins to our hotel; Awana House.
The hotel is located in one of the small alley. A vehicle can enter the road but not two.
The check-in process is quick. There is no lift in the hotel so you will have to walk all the way up. Upon check-in, you will be given the keys, the Wi-Fi password and a bottle opener. The gate and hotel door will be close at around 2100hrs but you can use your key card to open the door and gate.
We book a room for 5 but the room is really small. The hotel put an extra bed on the floor. This reduce the walking space by a lot.
There is a small balcony and I really mean small.
The toilet size is decent but the shower head is really located low and I wonder why. Water pressure is also decent.
The room consists of a bunk bed and a double bed. There is also a bar fridge, a safe and a wardrobe.
The staff is actually very friendly and they also advice us on the transport within Chiang Mai.
When we settled down, we decided to go for dinner. We asked the staff that we wanted local Thai food and they suggested Aroon Rai.
We then walk in circles trying to find the restaurant but after asking a few locals, we finally found it.
By then we are famished and we quickly ordered our food. The first dish comes within 10 minutes.
All the dishes are very delicious and the Tom Yum is awesome. The Pad Thai, Green Curry, Red Curry, fish is tasty! Maybe we are just too hungry so any food that goes into our mouth will taste good.
After the sumptuous dinner, we decided to go to Central Festival. We hail down a Songthaew and the driver wanted to charge us THB30 per person. We already know the price should not be more than THB25 so we negotiated with him. He agreed in no time and we almost have the whole Songthaew to ourselves.
The usual fare for a Songthaew within the city should be THB20 per person but since Central Festival is slightly outside the city, we were advice that THB25 should suffice.
The ride to Central Festival is about 15 mins. I was told that it is a new mall in Chiang Mai so we just want to do something relaxing for the first night.
Once we alight, we saw a big Christmas tree. The center of the Christmas tree is hollow so we can enter it. The kids are fascinated by it and have a field time running everywhere.
Since it is a Thursday night, the mall looks deserted which is good for us as we do not like crowd either.
While we took photos of the mall inside, we are reminded by the staff not to use flash as this will cause inconvenience to other customers. We are ok with this rule and I actually find it good.
The mall is actually quite big though not as big as those I visited in Philippines. We went for a ice cream treat in Swensen and the price of Swensen here is at least 20% cheaper than what we have it at home.
Our satisfying our sweet tooth, we decide to go back and start packing for tomorrow’s trip.
Before the Songthaew left us, he actually to bring us back for the same price. So we text him and he turn up within 10 mins.
While waiting for the driver, we saw a beer garden just outside the mall. Thais seems to have a liking for beer garden. Suan Lum used to have two; Central World beer gardens are seasonal and now even in Chiang Mai.
The ride back is much faster and it took like 10mins only.
We woke up early. I gathered everyone to have an early breakfast at 7am. but seems like all the food stalls are still close. The only one we found open is the Black Canyon Cafe. So all of us headed there and quickly order our food.
We ordered a feast and I bet the staff is wondering are we having lunch instead.
While we are walking out to the main road to the cafe, we have a better view of the hotel since it is in the morning.
There are several hostels and also budget friendly hotels around this area.
The hotel beside us is much more nicer.
There are many café around the hotel and there is even a laundry shop.
By the way, there are quite a number of feline around the hotel and they are real cute.
Since we are going to be late, we text the tour guide from Chiang Mai Expert Driver to arrive 30mins later.
The tour guide arrived on time and waited for us. Our tour guide name is Mr Jo which happens to be a co-owner of the tour company; Chiang Mai Expert Driver.
Mr Jo speak good English and he knows quite a bit of Chinese.
We chose them because so far their response time is quite reasonable (though need some probing sometimes) and also they plan out an itinerary for us. We just tell them what are the sights we must see and what we do not want to see (like the long neck girls).
Since the alley is small, the 14 seat van have to park along the main road. Though we are a group of 10 and quite slow as we have 4 kids, Mr Jo did not rush us to the van. He waited patiently for us.
The driver is waiting for us in the van (unfortunately we didn’t get to know his name. He’s a great guy). Once we all board the can, we set off immediately.
Mr Jo brief us the itinerary for today and also get the contacts for our Chiang Rai Homestay so he can send us there for the night.
The first stop is Mae Kajarn Hot Spring.
The feel I have the water from the hot spring is really hot, even from far. One of our kids in the group unknowingly dip his foot into the water and scald himself.
It is hot enough that you can boil eggs in it! So do not attempt to touch the water using your bare hands.
Like any tourist spots, there are plenty of stalls around selling all kinds of tourist stuff.
I was wondering did the spring water really spew out to such height by itself or someone install a pump in it.
To me, the star attraction is actually these few small dogs. They are really adorable.
After staying there for 30 mins, Mr Jo offer to bring us to a temple that hardly have any tourist. The temple is called Wat Mon Phra Jao Lhai.
I tried to google for this temple and nothing comes out of it.
The temple is on the hillside and the temple is built by a monk to protect a stupa of the original temple.
When we are there, the monk happen to be in the temple and he is very welcoming. I was initially very concerned that he may feel offended with our presence.
Mr Jo chatted with the monk and he told us that we are free to walk around and even take photos.
The original stupa is located inside the temple and the monk even offer to bless us reciting scriptures. He sprinkle us with some water. Though the monk is still raising funds to continue to build the temple, we are not compelled to donate to the temple.
We saw many statues of the Buddha and each Buddha represent a THB9,999 donation.
The view from the temple is amazing. Coupled with the cool weather, I really can feel the peace within myself. (You will need to click on the panorama picture for a better view).
I always thought that temple visiting is boring but I could not be more wrong. I really enjoyed visiting this temple.
When we are leaving, the monk even left his seat to see us out!
The next stop is the White Temple in Chiang Rai. I was told that the White temple is the only temple in Thailand that do not have a monk.
The temple will close during lunch time so when we reach there, the temple is about to open.
Before the temple open, we walk around the compound. The temple actually consists of several buildings though I do not really know what is the purpose of each building but each building is pretty nice.
There are also the usual eating outlets and tourist shops.
Once the temple open, visitors flock into it. There is a constant announcement in Chinese reminding them not to touch or lean on the structure. I also noticed something, the announcement is only made in Chinese. Tsk Tsk!!!
According to plan, we should proceed to lunch but we are too hungry so we just ate in one of the food stalls.
The mango sticky rice is delicious and so does the various types of noodles. Unfortunately I only have the picture of the mango sticky rice.
After the meal, we went back to the van and Mr Jo is glad that we already had our lunch because he intend to change the plan.
We will continue to proceed to the Golden Triangle however it is already 1300hrs then. Mr Jo assured us that we do have enough time.
We travelled about an hour to reach the Mekong Delta.
Mr Jo explained to us the meeting point of the 3 countries in the Mekong Delta; Myanmar, Thailand and Laos.
The street is peppered by many tourist shops.
You can choose to visit a Laos market by taking a THB400 boat ride. Children’s fee will be half price.
I strongly suggest you wear a life vest and make sure the life vest is in good condition. We have tested several life vest and found their condition to be unsatisfactory like the buckle is not working or the strap are broken.
We took the boat ride and before boarding the boat, we surrender our passport to Mr Jo for immigration processing. A lady took our picture before we board the boat thinking that she is an immigration officer. Maybe they are afraid that in the event we went missing in Laos, there are photograph of us. In fact the photo taking is for tourist souvenir!
The boatman brought us to the intersection of the 3 countries and then continue our journey to the Laos village.
You will have to pay a fee to enter. I cannot remember the cost but it should not be more than THB50.
The village is actually set up for tourist. It is actually quite a boring village with nothing much to see. The cigarettes are dirt cheap though but I wonder are they originals.
We spend about 30 mins there and left. To me, it is not worth visiting. I was told by my Thai friend told me that there is a Myanmar village to visit and it is more worthwhile to visit that village.
When we got back our passport, we are disappointed that there is no Laos immigration stamp in our passport.
We ride the boat back to the Thailand and get back to the van. By then, the sky start to turn dark and our next stop is our homestay in Chiang Rai.
Mr Jo has not heard about the homestay before and tried to locate it but they just couldn’t find it. Maybe it is dark so this makes locating it more difficult.
In the end, Mr Jo agree to meet the homestay owner in a petrol station. By then, we are very hungry. We can all eat a cow each.
After 15mins, the homestay owner came and bring us to the homestay. We peppered her with questions like “Will there be hot water?”, “Is there food available or we have to buy back?” etc.
The owner Phaet assured us that there will be food.
The ride to the homestay is only 5 mins but it involved some dimly lit roads. Mr Jo even asked us where did we even manage to book this place. Hahahahaha!!!!
Once we reach the homestay, we are actually awed by it. Though it is night time, but the feeling we have is it is a very cosy place. It has this very homely feel and we felt welcomed.
Phaet showed us 2 rooms and I am very impressed by the first one. Unfortunately I do not have any pictures of it and it is taken up by my friends.
So we went down to the other room and it consists of two rooms; a double bed room with a small gym and veranda and a 3 bed room.
The double bed room is huge and I really love it.
We ordered our food and we are told that it will take 30 mins to serve.
So we settle down and I really hope to stay for a few more days.
The homestay consists of 8 rooms within two buildings. It has a small pool and a small pouch.
The homestay also organised tours and one tour catch my attention is a 2D1N tour to Luang Prabang.
Finally our dinner is ready. It was then that I realised that they fire up the kitchen just for us. They usually accept dinner order latest at 1700hrs. We even place a second order and the staff actually hesitate but still they fulfil our order.
Phaet’s children also came to help in the kitchen. I especially find the daughter lovely. Though she is a mix to Dutch and Thai but she still has difficulty conversing in English but I can see that she is trying. This shows Phaet kids are very sensible and willing to help out in the homestay when needed. Good parenting indeed!
The meal is great! Though it is a little pricey but we all feel that it is worth it given the circumstances. We have a good chat with Phaet and she explain the transport arrangement going to the town and also the nearby attractions where we can visit by foot.
If I will to come back to Chiang Rai and if I can afford it, I will definitely stay here again.
Woke up early to enjoy the cool weather of Chiang Rai.
Since it is daylight, we have a better view of the homestay. It is indeed lovely. Though the homestay is not big but it feels intimate.
We have already ordered our breakfast the night before and requested them to serve at 0800hrs. This will make things easier for them.
The breakfast is tasty but the options are limited.
After our breakfast, we do our final packing and bid farewell to the homestay.
The first stop is the Black House Museum.
Honestly, I am not very attracted to this attraction. I was told that it is a show case for local Thai artist. I do admit the surrounding is very nice as there are enough places to roam around.
We stayed about 30 mins there and make our way to our next stop; a river cruise.
I need to be upfront. Chiang Mai Expert Driver contact person is Mr Ford. He has planned out an itinerary for us and we agreed to it.
However Mr Jo will talk to us and understand our needs. So as the trip goes, he suggest some alternatives that may interest us.
For example, this river cruise is never in the picture and Mr Jo found that we prefer nature so he recommend the cruise in Kok river.
The cost of the river cruise is THB800 per adult and half price for children.
The starting point of the cruise is somewhere in Chiang Rai city. Mr Jo need to make prior arrangements with the boat man to pick us up ate the designated area because the usual start off point is actually at Taton village.
The boat can usually accommodate 6 passengers and the boat is very similar to the long tail boat.
Our boat started against the river flow and in less than 10 mins, the boat stop and the boatman have to change the propeller. This got us worried.
After about 10mins, the boatman continue and maybe we travel about 30mins to reach the first destination which is a tourist market.
Just like the tourist market in Laos, there is nothing much. The star attraction seems to be the big snake and some exotic animals. Maybe that’s why the village is called the Big Snake village?
We stayed for about 15 mins for continue with our journey. When we are about to leave, we even saw a family riding an elephant in the river.
The next stop is like a 15 mins ride and it is actually a national park; Lamnamkok National Park.
The attraction here is a hot spring which is more tolerable than the Mae Kajarn Hot Spring but it is still hot though. So beware!
We stayed there about 15 mins and left.
The last stop is a Karren Village. I actually like this village though I personally did not venture too deep into the village.
There is this sweet little girl that is at the souvenir store. Though we did not buy anything from her but she still render assistance to us when we need to find a washroom. Surprisingly she speak good Chinese.
The kids actually played with the dogs at the outer rim of the village while I just walk around the village but not too deep in.
I wish I could stay in this village longer to explore it and understand how the locals live here.
After another 20 mins of travel, we reach our final destination which is Taton. Here we pay the fee direct to the counter and no money is pass to Mr Jo.
I like the overall experience of the river ride. Though the first two attractions are not crowd puller but I really like the village tour.
The cruise itself is very enjoyable and though we changed 3 boats, all the boatmen are friendly and they really take care of us.
Try to do this tour in the early morning and be prepared for the cold breeze blowing you during the boat ride. It is really cold and I see many Caucasian passengers put on their sweaters.
By the tour end, it is like 1400hrs. We are very hungry.
Mr Jo brought us to a Thai restaurant overlooking the Kok river. The restaurant is called Thaton Riverview Resort.
My first thought is that the resort should cater to Western tourist more so the food may be tailored to their taste.
We ordered the usual fare of Tom Yum, spring rolls, Basil leaves with mince pork, omelette etc.
Surprisingly it is very authentic Thai. The food is delicious and while eating, we overlook the Kok river.
After the meal, our last stop is a temple called Wat Tha Ton.
This temple is more touristy and the temple overlook the Kok river.
We stayed for about 45 mins and make our way back to Chiang Mai.
The trip back to Chiang Mai is long really. We have a toilet break before we enter Chiang Mai. I was surprised to see a building just beside the petrol station. It looks like a residential one.
Once we reach our hotel at 2000hrs, we are famished. We just find the nearest restaurant to have our dinner and we decide on Morradoke Thai restaurant.
We split into our own family so we have 5 person per group. We ordered 5 dishes but the staff wanted us to ordered two more. It seems like they have some kind of minimum order. I request for an explanation but the staff cannot give one. In the end we still ordered two more dishes just to satisfy their requirements.
The bill for the food is not cheap either. We find that it is a rip off. Firstly I do not see why is there a minimum order. It is not that we order a plate of rice and shared by 5 person but we did order a dish for each person.
However I must stress that the staff is friendly and helpful. Maybe this is a company policy and no fault of theirs.
After dinner, we just go back our hotel and call it a day. It is a long day indeed.
Next morning, I woke up early to visit the terrace at the roof of the hotel. There are two rooms on the 4th floor but there is no private toilet. The two rooms need to share a common toilet.
The roof terrace is very cooling and offer a lot of space for you to relax.
We decide to walk around the hotel looking for breakfast. Along the way, we saw some Songthaew hoping to find customer for some day trips.
We also discover more budget rooms. There are also many motorbike rental company but you need a license to rent it.
We ended up in a roadside burger joint as we cannot find a local Thai eating outlet as they are still not open yet.
The food doesn’t comes cheap but that’s all we can find. The staff is friendly they are overwhelmed by the sudden orders from us but they still serve with a smile.
After the meal, we walk down the road and found a coffee house. The food here is more affordable than the burger joint.
The ambiance is much better than the burger joint. However we do know that it is our choice and we are not bad mouthing the burger joint.
After our stay in the coffee joint, we are wondering where should we go. We look up Tripadvisor and decide on Warorot Market (Kad Luang). The coffee joint staff told us that the market is just round the corner but we still need to take a Songthaew and I am very skeptical when Thais tell me “just round the corner”.
Thais either have bionic legs or they have some good endurance.
We again agree on THB20 per person with the driver and true enough, it is a 5 min drive. When we alight, the driver also alight to give us directions on where to go. I am impressed.
Coming to this market is a big mistake. This is where the “bloodbath” start.
The ladies wanted to comb every corner of the market and in just 20 mins, their hands are already full of merchandise. The other 8 person is just like escorts.
It seems like Warorot Market consists of several markets. We even saw a sign saying Ton Lam Yai Market.
Warorot Market is actually quite an interesting market. They sell everything from clothes, food, daily necessities, souvenirs among others.
The price is reasonable though you can see a far amount of tourist among the people.
By 1400hrs, the guys are getting impatient and we just sit in one corner. After buying some of the stuff they need, we have to drag them for lunch and after that drag them out of the market.
The food court in the market serve delicious Thai food at an incredible price. This is the first time we feel that it is not tourist price.
We took a Songthaew back to our hotel and the ride actually took like less than 5 mins.
All of us took a rest in our room for another market. That is the Sunday night market just outside our hotel.
The night market starts around 1700hrs and I strongly recommend you to go early to beat the crowd. Do note that not all stalls allow you to take photos so be prepared for some yelling from the stall owner.
The night market is a good change form the Bangkok ones. Firstly the weather is cooler and also the stuff sold here is slightly different from the ones in Bangkok.
The crowd suddenly swell at around 1830hrs and we really need to squeeze our way through.
We find that it might be too much with the kids and actually one of the kids fell sick midway so we decided to go back to the hotel.
We decided to eat in a North-eastern restaurant just by the side of the hotel.
We ordered the usual fare of fish, tom yum, omelette etc. and the bill comes up to THB550 only.
After our meal, I went to buy more food from the night market and all the food look so delicious!
Our last day in Chiang Mai.
As usual, looking for breakfast. The group intend to go back to Black Canyon Coffee for breakfast as they open early at 0700hrs and we have to leave the hotel at 0815hrs. However I suggest we just buy those oven ready food in 7-11. It will be cheaper and more filling.
It turn out to be a good choice. We saved heaps and it is more filling.
We pre-book a Songtaew at THB400 to bring us to the airport. Come to think of it, we might have overpaid it but since we are unfamiliar with Chiang Mai, we decided not to take the risk.
The ride to the airport is only like 10 mins.
In Chiang Mai Airport, we will need to do the self-check-in and also print our own luggage tag.
Check-in is fast and smooth though the check-in staff reprinted all our luggage tag.
This end our Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai trip.
All of us like both Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai though we prefer Chiang Rai more. Chiang Mai is more touristy and it is not a cheap destination. We feel that certain things can be more expensive than Bangkok.
With the influx of China Chinese tourist, we can see that many establishments tweaked their business models to cater towards the China Chinese. For example food menu, advertisements, tour guides etc. We are surprised by the number of Thais that can speak basic Chinese and some of them even can speak fluently.
The Thais in both cities is really friendly. We felt safe in the city.
We hope we can stay in Chiang Rai for a few more days and Chiang Rai is not in our initial itinerary at all but we are glad that we manage to scratch the surface of this wonderful city.
We will be back for sure but will instead concentrate in one city instead.
7th – 10th Dec
Our flight to Bangkok is again uneventful which is good!
We exit the arrival hall quickly and we just go to the taxi counter to get a taxi.
Since it is a public holiday in Thailand, the traffic is so much lighter. We reach our hotel in 30 mins which is a record to me.
We once again stay in Somerset Lake Point.
I noticed one thing. Every time when I stay in the hotel, it seems that the front desk staff has changed. The only staff that I do not see much change are the bell boys and the tuk tuk drivers.
I prefer those front desk staff that I interact with a few years ago. They were really friendly and I can see that they serve the customers from the heart.
Though the current staff still do their job well but it just lack the human touch. They are less personal and once the staff even show us “her face” when we cannot confirm our taxi booking for the return journey to the airport.
We book a 3 bedroom Deluxe for our stay. This is the first time I stayed in the 3 bedroom Deluxe (I have stayed in the 3 bedroom Premier room before) and it is good enough for us.
There is a common bathroom with bath tub and a ensuite bathroom in the master bedroom.
Nothing much has changed actually. I have confirmed with the management that the tuk tuk service only goes to Asoke BTS now. I really missed those days of the tuk tuk can bring us to more places.
In Bangkok, we do the usual stuff.
This is a must go market for me. I just enjoy soaking in the atmosphere of the market. The food, the chaos and the merchandise. Though we just make a brief visit this time but it is enough for us.
We have dinner is the well known T&K Seafood. I actually felt that the standard has drop a little but still a good place to go for a seafood dinner.
This is the place we go when we need to make our spectacles. I wouldn’t say they are cheap but I would say reasonable. The service of the staff there are also good. I have brought my friends to the shop and they also find that they are very detailed and will always try to make customer happy.
If you want your kids to burn some calories after all the Tom Yum, this is the place. During weekdays and non-public holiday, the unlimited play offer is back.
For THB320 per kid and THB110 per adult, you will have unlimited play time.
However do note that multiple entries are not allowed and there must be at least one adult to take care of the kids.
This is one of the newest mall in Bangkok. I wonder how many more malls that they need to build to satisfy the shopping craze here.
It is another higher end shopping mall so if you expect MBK standard, sorry, wrong number.
We hire a taxi van from the hotel to the airport at THB600 (include highway toll) and you can get the hotel to arrange it for you but I suggest you to make the arrangement one day before.
This conclude our Thailand trip for 2015.
We will be back for sure but when? I absolutely have no idea but Thailand just have this pull power to make us keep going back.