#header-inner { margin: auto; text-align: center; }


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chiang Rai: The Destination is Worth the Journey

As I mentioned in my post about the trip to Koh Mak, Thailand always has a way of making the destination worth the journey and this past weekend's trip was no exception.  Friday was a national holiday in Thailand due to Her Majesty the Queen's birthday which is celebrated in Thailand as "Mother's Day." In Thailand many people fittingly mark this day by returning to their hometowns to spend it with their mothers. Since my mother happens to be in West Africa at the moment, I decided to take the extra day to head up to the northernmost province of Thailand, Chiang Rai.

Nell and I opted for the overnight train for the first part our our trek - unfortunately, due to the busy travel weekend, we were left with only seats instead of sleeper cars.  We were prepared to sit up and sleep for the night, but we were not prepared for the -12 degree temperature inside the railway car - I have not been that cold since February 2010 in Boston - and I never want to be that cold again! I spent the night sneezing and layering up with the clothes I had and was extremely grateful to step off the train into Thailand's usual heat and humidity when we arrived early on Friday morning.

Friday we soaked up everything we love about Chiang Mai: coffee shops, farang friendly hair salons, khao soy, bookstores with English books, and amazing market shopping.  We stayed at a cute and very cheap hostel called Little Bird and had a very relaxing day.  The next morning we left early for a 3 hour bus ride - VIP style - to Chiang Rai. We had done no research on Chiang Rai but we knew we wanted to see what is known as "the white temple." We picked out the first hostel mentioned in our trusty Lonely Planet guides and dropped off our stuff before hitting the streets to explore and do a little shopping.
We made our way to the white temple, or Wat Rong Khun, via tuk-tuk and it was a stunning sight.  It's definitely one of my favorite places in Thailand so far.  In the past 10 months I have seen hundreds of wats, and for the most part they are same same, but different... until I got to Wat Rong Khun.  It is a gorgeous work of modern art, all white (representing Buddha's purity), and the interior has murals of modern images such as Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, the Twin Towers, Spiderman and Transformers. It was started in 1997 and they are still adding finishing touches to various buildings around the main temple.

On Sunday we took a bus back to Chiang Mai where we spent the afternoon and early evening going BUCKWILD at the Sunday Walking Market.  I bought everything in sight. I have no idea how I will transport all of these souvenirs I keep picking up back to America but I think I'll have a very cute, very Asian inspired apartment one of these days! Our journey back should have been an easy overnight bus and then a minivan ride to Suphan to make it just in time for Monday morning classes... but that would be too easy, and this is Thailand.

The bus driver literally taking
apart the bus in an attempt
to fix it. 
The bus left Chiang Mai about an hour late, so we knew we would already be pushing it to get to school on time, but we still would have been fine had the bus not decided to break down 2 hours away from Chiang Mai. This time instead of being cold, we were suffocating from lack of air circulation inside the bus, it was hot and it smelled like something was not right with the toilet on the bottom floor of the double-decker bus - i ya. We sat on the side of the road getting eaten alive by mosquitoes for 2.5 hours waiting for a new bus to come get us.  When it finally arrived, we were disappointed to discover it was not a VIP bus but a regular bus with minimal leg room and seats that did not recline.  Needless to say, the rest of the trip was pretty miserable, and we made it to Bangkok just in time for morning traffic... which left us way behind schedule.  By the time we made it back to Suphan and into school it was already 11:40 and the day was half over.  Thankfully, I was able to make up the lost sleep by going to bed at 6:15pm on Monday night - amazing! As bad as the journey was, however, the destination and the time up North was well worth it and I'm glad I still have one more trip up North this year to look forward to.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thai Baht for your thoughts....

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...