When I travel I like to experience as much as possible and luckily Courtney feels the same. We spent our short time in Bangkok visiting Wat Pho to see the giant 46m famous reclining Buddha since neither of us had made it there during our solo adventures through the city.
The feet of the statue were under construction, and we had to wait in a very long line to take a picture with the Buddha but it was worth it. We made conversation with the man behind us who was kind enough to take our picture. We actually were talking about how most people were using selfie sticks to take their own pictures so they didn't have to talk to strangers ha. Courtney and I didn't have a selfie stick and neither did the gentleman behind us so I returned the favor and took his picture as well :)
Later in the early evening we boarded a night train to Chiang Mai, the largest city in northern Thailand. I cannot stress enough how awesome night trains are (I am a fan of trains in general though) BUT make sure you reserve the bottom bunk because it is bigger, you get a window, AND you don't have the light shining on you all night. An added bonus of traveling by sleeper train is that you can sleep while you travel and not lose time for sightseeing etc.
We hadn't made any accommodation reservations because we had been told that there were many hostels and guesthouses to choose from in the Old City. We took a taxi from the train station to the Old City and had the driver drop us near to a street with a hostel recommended by the Lonely Planet travel guide. We didn't end up finding the recommended hostel and wandered the streets for a little bit with our giant backpacks before finding a guesthouse that seemed good enough. After asking if they had a room available for five nights, the lady ended up giving us an even cheaper rate because she thought we were trying to barter! In reality we just didn't want to have to move our stuff around if we didn't have to. If you don't make reservations at most hostels you can run the risk of having to hostel hop due to them already being completely booked if you are trying to stay for consecutive nights. I believe we paid something like $15/night for a room with two full sized beds and our own bathroom. The beds were not very comfortable, Courtney insists they bruised her ha (I mean you kind of get what you pay for) but the decor was clean, cute and inviting. There was also a rooftop area where I spent time doing yoga. I even got to see the sunrise over the city.
We rented bikes our first day in the city and attempted to following a walking tour in my Lonely Planet guide and failed miserably. Although we managed to get ourselves lost we still got to see many temples. There are so many temples in Thailand, in Chiang Mai it seemed like there was one on every corner. Every temple is unique in its own way, and I think getting lost in the Old City was a harmless and wonderful adventure. At one hidden temple an old man convinced us to ring this giant gong, and we thought he was a monk but I'm pretty sure he was actually just a homeless man. Honestly the whole thing made me feel like I was living something out of a Hayao Miyazaki movie like in Spirited Away.
That afternoon we visited a random tourist information center to plan out some activities for our time in Chiang Mai. We had planned on visiting the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, which is located just outside of Chiang Mai but we weren't exactly sure on the best way to get there. Our agent gave us bus times and told us where we would need to get off. It was also recommended to me that we take a side trip to Chiang Rai to see the White Temple, because although by this point we had seen many temples none are quite like the White Temple and my friend had said she regretted not going to see it. So we booked a day trip for Chiang Rai that included the Black House, White Temple, and some of the local hot springs and tea farms. We also booked a zip lining tour for Skyline Adventures, and of course we booked a cooking class at Siam Rice Thai Cooking School for our last day in Chiang Mai.
We only spent 6 days in Chiang Mai, but we packed them full of activities. We also made sure that we were in town for the infamous Saturday night walking market. It was worth it, there are lots of cute handcrafted goods to purchase and so many great food vendors, however it was SO CROWDED with tourists and locals a like. They have a walking market on Sunday as well which I believe is slightly less crowded, but not by much. I would compare it to First Friday here in Las Vegas. For me events like this can be fun every once and a while but I'm definitely not one who enjoys crowded places on the regular.
For the sake of not making this post a novella, I am going to break down our side adventures in posts to come. Elephants and tigers are especially popular tourists attractions and even for me it was hard to find a place that wasn't abusing their animals etc., so in my next post it will be all about elephants and tigers and how you can visit these majestic animals without contributing to their abuse.
Stay curious friends