North Thailand- Chiang Mai

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Aaah the first views of the lush green mountains and young green shoots in the rice fields of North Thailand are so refreshing and calming when waking up in the night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. It will be the perfect place to spend our last week, it will surely invigorate us to go back home and start back working. I love this time of year when the rice fields are deep green with young rice shoots, and everything is lush because of the rainy season. The scenery makes up for the possible daily downpours. We have booked two nights at Tanita house in Chiang Mai, which I hope will be as lovely as it looks online! Arriving at Chiang Mai train station we are mobbed by taxi- soongtaew- and tuk-tuk drivers. Tanita house mentioned a soongtaew shouldn’t cost more than 50 bath for 1-2 people. We are 4 so I manage to bargain the price down to 100 bath for a soongtaew for the four of us with luggage. (Speaking Thai has its perks!)

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Arriving at Tanita house is a warm experience, you are welcomed by the owner khun Aor, who asks us to wait a bit before we can take the rooms, they have to clean them up first. We are happy that we can have the rooms so soon, because it’s still early morning and normally we could only have the rooms at noon. We ask if we can take a breakfast first at the café because we didn’t have breakfast yet. She suggests we take the breakfast buffet from the guesthouse since it has not been cleaned away yet. There is toast with butter and jam, muesli, yoghurt, fresh fruit, fruit juice, coffee and tea. We enjoy our breakfast while waiting, and can then go to our rooms. The little family house we booked has a porch, a seating area, two bedrooms and two bathrooms and an extra toilet. We can take coffee,tea and water all day from the breakfast area. There is no TV but there is good working free wifi. The wooden houses are built in Thai traditional style, have rattan floors, and simple but decent and very clean bathrooms. The atmosphere of the houses and guesthouse are marvelous. We love Thai traditional style houses, they are homey and only get more beautiful with time passing. I couldn’t understand an expat guests’ comment that she missed culture and architecture in Thailand, while seated in this beautiful traditional style house. I guess she didn’t look around her very well! The guesthouse has a little shop in the main building, with al kinds of decorative interior items, many of which you would like to take home, if they weren’t so big or heavy, and one has to chose what to take….

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After getting installed we decided to walk into Chiang Mai. We took the nearest bridge over the river Ping to the other side, where you walk straight into Worarat market, a day market where you find almost anything, and is located in Chinatown. There are many gold shops here, one area is a fresh flower market, there are all kinds of fresh foods, clothes, …….

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We walked through Chinatown and followed the Chiang Moi road in the direction of the old center. We passed some nice rattan shops, and many eateries mainly for tourists. We entered the Irish Pub, because it looked the most solid, they also sell fresh bread and it looked really good. We ordered Thai food, and asked for medium spicy. The cook in the kitchen thought it very funny to see foreigners suffer no doubt, because the dishes were even to Thai standards very very spicy!! Not really funny, although the taste was good. (Neil counted nine small chilies in his dish)

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In the center we visited Wat Chedi Luang Temple, a temple built around the oldest chedi dating from the 15th century, once housing the emerald Buddha that now can be seen in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
We returned to our guest house to get some rest because we wanted to go to the night bazaar in the evening. The night bazaar was still where it used to be, still selling al kinds of tourist souvenirs. There weren’t many tourists though, maybe because we were early, and maybe because it was low season.

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The kids bought their souvenirs, and we decided to go to an old time restaurant: The Whole Earth. We needed wifi to look up the address and entered the Starbucks. We ordered a coffee, paid and I then asked if we needed a password for the internet. The lady at the counter then almost made us fall over when she answered that in Thailand you had to pay 150 bath for wifi at Starbucks. Say What? In a country where there is free wifi everywhere and coffee is very cheap, Starbucks decides to charge their costumes for wifi use on top of an expensive coffee? We asked our money back since the coffees weren’t made yet. We entered the Mc Donald’s instead and used their free wifi over a coffee. We found the restaurants address and were lucky to still get a table because the place was packed and new customers kept arriving. The restaurant did not change a bit and the food was still very good, but I advice you make a reservation first. The restaurant is housed in a Thai traditional teak house on stilts and especially the tables on the porch are very nice. They serve Thai, Indian and vegetarian specialities.

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We had a good nights rest, apart from the mosquitos in our room. After breakfast, our son decided to take a loungy morning while we decided to do some shopping in Worarat market. We ended up buying gold jewelry in one of the gold shops there, after checking that days gold price online first. The style of jewelry is not always what we as Westerners like, but we found something to our taste. You get 23,5 carat instead of our 18 carat gold in Europe, that means 96,6 % gold what makes the jewelry a bit more soft and fragile but you could say you get more gold for your weight. The street food stalls looked attractive and we decided to take lunch on the market. My daughter felt brave and tried some insects on the market starting with a cooked silkworm, and then some small cricket like insects, which tasted nice apparently! Getting our son to come along we bought samosas, some fresh fruits, drinks and some coconut desserts. The afternoon was set for getting our laundry back from the laundry lady around the corner from Tanita house who washed and ironed 7 kg of laundry for 60 bath a kilo. (she is apparently on tripadvisor, since there was a sign on her door, I should look it up). Alpha cars would also to bring our car at 4 PM, so we decided to get some cash from the ATM, having forgotten that earlier. On our return khun Aor was a bit confused because someone came with a car for us, but another company also phoned her saying they were also coming with a car. Alpha cars who was still on the way, was whom we rented a car from, but people from Northern Wheels were also waiting with a car. We had contacted them for renting a car months earlier, but at the time of booking they did not have any 4×4 or SUV available for us, so we never booked with them. We went up to them and told them we never booked a car with them, they did not argue and left… We found this way of working strange to say the least.

Alpha cars had also changed their plans with us the day before. We had first asked a Toyota Fortuner, which was not available at the time, so they had proposed a one year old Mitsubishi Pajero. The day before they had told us the Pajero would not be back on time, so they would give us a Toyota Fortuner. Unfortunately we did not know the specs of this car, but seemed to have no choice in the matter. The car came, looked good on the outside, but on the inside looked old and worn, and had more the 300000 km on the meter. But we needed a car to get to Nan province. We paid the rent upfront, and the deposit of 5000 bath by Visa. That evening we drove to Mae Rim, about 17km north of Chiang Mai to visit some old friends, who had bought a beautiful teak house with a swimming pool!

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Our sleep that night again was disturbed by the many mosquito’s in our room. This is the only thing I would change in Tanita house: provide mosquito nets! The next morning we wanted to visit Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most popular temple on the top of Suthep mountain. Being popular means a lot of visitors too. We wanted to avoid the crowds, and also know that the temple is very beautiful in the early morning at sunrise, when the temple slowly emerges from the clouds. So we got up at 5 AM, and left 20 minutes later in the dark. We arrived at 6 AM at the bottom of the temple, the hour the sun comes up. We started climbing the stairs with the sound of waking dogs in the villages around. The sunrise was nothing much, because it was raining of and on, but the mountains slowly emerged from the morning clouds around us. We were the only visitors at the temple during almost the full first hour we were there.

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The monks were still praying their morning sermon, and prepared for their morning alms round after that. We walked around the temple and the golden stupa, everything being quiet around us. We could even see the town of Chiang Mai from the temple, because the clouds seemed to dissipate for a while around sunrise. We left the temple together with monks who went down for their alms round. We returned fully satisfied with our visit to Tanita House for our well deserved breakfast.

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