Travel Diary: At Last I Have Arrived in Chiangmai - The Great Train Journey to Northern Thailand

5:00:00 PM Pinoy Boy Journals 2 Comments

Almost 800 KM travel from the capital city Bangkok and more than 14 hours of travel via the GREAT RAILWAY of Thailand, i have finally arrived in one of my MUST VISIT destinations, the great city of Chiang Mai. If you've read some of my posts in Thailand, too many right? But all of which has never talked about this great city. I've never been there in my previous trips so it's really exciting to check it out this time. One, it is because of its proximity from the capital, it's a little too far from Bangkok. Two, the length of travel time to get there is almost a day, three, maybe if you lack the funds. But on my last trip, I am proud to say i've finally made it. I've been there. And i will never forget it.

You can reach Chiang Mai via train which i did, or a grueling 10-12 hour bus you can charter anywhere in Khao San Road, or fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai and back direct. Last i checked, there was an advertisement for 1000 Baht one way ticket. I am pretty sure though its tax exclusive. I think Chiang Mai boasts also of an international airport, so anyone can fly straight to Chiang Mai.  

To be honest, i didn't have enough money with me, or i don't have money at all. I am running out of cash because of the numerous Chang Beers i've spent down south and in the capital. Armed with maybe less than 150 baht, i asked my travel partner if we could share one plate of anything so i can save some more Bahts. We did. Although at that moment, it felt as if i had a feast. Mind over matter, baby. I spent 40 Baht on coca cola and i have very little water left in my 1 liter bottle. Still, i managed like a pro. After a few smokes from one of the "in between" cars the supposedly smoking area, i went to sleep a bit early. There was a party going on in the restaurant but i wasn't in the mood to grab just another bottle and make merry. I was pretty tired. I got a text from my mom asking me how i was and i think she was very happy to know that i was crawling to sleep at around 9PM. 

I woke up to the sound of a few Americans i've met the previous night. Just beside my bunk is two cool Swiss men whom i've met also. They made me try something like a tobacco mint but you have to inhale it through your nose. It's supposedly popular in Switzerland. No, if you ask it's not narcotics because i am highly against it. I will research on it later on. Anyway, i slid the curtains to open and this is what greeted me. Nature at its best. I took the moment to meditate in my lower bunk and watch as the trees pass me by. Played some Ennio Morricone and Luciano Pavarotti while cruising high altitude Chiang Mai.

There were huge mountains, plain fields, little houses and a sense of calmness that is very unlikely you will find in Bangkok. This is like poetry waiting to be written. It was so beautiful, so breathtaking, like all your worries subside. I think, this is one of the most absolutely unforgettable experiences of my life, and i haven't ridden the great Siberian railway. Imagine that.

I took a selfie because i wanted to capture my emotion at that time. I was smiling not from my face but from my heart. After too much partying down south, i knew going to Chiang Mai was the perfect remedy to detox. 

One great journey to the laid back capital of Thailand coming right up!

With my short pants and my backpack thrown at the end of my bed, i was cuddling while i wait for an hour cruise more before the train finally stops in Chiang Mai. The air con was blasting to maximum so i had to wear a jacket. 

After trying to doze off again, i was awoken by the speck of light hitting my half closed eye. The sun was shining and i've never been this happy in my life. Just a side note, I really enjoy riding trains. If there is a train from Manila to maybe Thailand and it might take 72 hours, i would probably ride on it than fly. There's a certain calmness, a certain happy-sad emotion, and it gives you the perfect time to squeeze in thoughts you've always taken for granted when you were working beating deadlines. Riding trains gives you reason to think about the many ramblings of your life. Lastly, riding trains gives you time to thank HIM for what a wonderful world it is.

I joined heaps of travelers from all over the world as i stepped out of the train. It's not as hectic as it appears in this photo. Everyone was calm. It's not like everybody is trying to push somebody to get in line. I mean, i was walking in a leisure pace. And what is most noteworthy is its cool climate. I was wearing a jacket in full zip till neck, and i was still freezing. So, imagine that. But enjoying the cool and fresh breeze of Chiang Mai is like a gift to myself and my body after burning in the beach, and non-stop dancin' prancin in Koh Tao and Koh Phangan. It was time to detox.

First impressions:
Local Thai people here are much more fair skinned than in central and down South. But as always,  they're like everyone else in Thailand, so charming. Second, the weather is perfection. Not too hot, not too cold. So i guess that's why everyone was just smiling, perfect place to cool off those heads. Lastly, everything is way, way cheaper here than anywhere else. It's so cheap, it brought me a really big smile when i learned my 100 baht is still good for the day. But of course, changing Philippine peso to Thai Baht is such a pain the butt. You can't change it here, anywhere here. Heck never bring your Philippine peso to Thailand as it's not practical. Bring dollars. I've tried that. So i was changing my emergency dollars to Thai Baht and making sure no more bumps ahead of me, it's the last leg of my journey and i want it hassle-free. I am here to have quality fun!

A taxi wouldn't cost you more than 50 Baht to get to the heart of the backpacker's area in Chiang Mai, near the lake. What will greet you is a huge red brick wall and a gate for you to enter. Walk for a bit, in a few blocks, maybe 10 minutes after, you will be walking in one of the familiar sois where really cheap guesthouses are located. When i say cheap, i mean cheap. I stayed in one of those unknown guesthouses called Same Same. Julie's guesthouse is the number 1 recommended guesthouse in Chiang Mai, as per Lonely Planet. It's also your landmark if in case you lost your way going back to your hotel. But when i arrived there, rooms are all booked. It felt as if i wasn't traveling to Thailand but a backpacker's country. Maybe, i've had too much and needed some quiet time. The next few days and nights, i pass by this place and i felt i wasn't welcomed. So off i go to explore on my own somewhere else.

For the first ten minutes since i settled down in my guesthouse, no signs of fatigue or tiredness was in place. My adrenaline was kicking so good, i wanted to leave as soon as i entered the guesthouse. I dropped my bags, grabbed my wallet and fresh Thai bills carefully folded and off i go to walk around. You see, believe me when i say walking around is better than riding those tuk tuks. It's like exploring a vast area but you can stop by anytime, anywhere you feel like it. A few minutes after, i stopped by to grab breakfast.

Here's one of the photos i took that i personally liked. Thailand, as it is getting more commercial and westernized as years pass by. With the age of technology and the future ahead, one of the many people who will be affected are the locals who have fought hard to fight for their authentic culture. I guess the world changes and we just need to keep up.

One day, i stopped by in this tiny little food stall which sells i don't know what, to eat i don't know what either. But i thought i should try something i don't know what. C'mon, i've been so safe so far, i needed a good kick. The lovely girl was asking what i wanted and i just said Tom Yum, and she gave me a huge bowl of noodles with i don't know what steamed balls.

It was pretty good, actually. The flavor was intense and it brought me to life even more. i almost finished this big bowl of Tum Yum soup. Noodles gone, soup almost finished. I am just not sure about what the steamed balls were made off. But i know i needed to try so i did. It tasted like maybe pork or some meat i don't know what. But i think one is enough. I paid her extra and ordered a bottled water. I smiled and left. Finally full and ready to explore some more, i went around and about Chiangmai.

Now, i get the stares. I think locals here are still unfamiliar with foreigners traveling to Chiang Mai. I got stares and glances like what the hell is this Thai looking guy doing here walking around with a map and conversing in broken English. I mean i think i was going to the out of the way places which curved my enthusiasm a notch higher. I was hungry some more and saw the green mangoes - my personal favorite. I bought two huge ones for about 20 Baht and asked politely the vendor if she can peel it off for me. It was very slow communication but i had all the time in the world. And there i was eating slices of really sweet green mangoes while walking in the morning sun of this city. What a blessed day it was today. Times like this wish you could do everyday. I am a firm believer that in maybe ten or fifteen years, i will be retired somewhere remote or unheard of and be doing this kind of thing all over again - get up, eat breakfast, walk around town, buy produce from the market, chat with the people. The feeling is more calming than your 2 hour spa. The fulfillment is way greater than those great sample sale. This one's real. And it was warming my heart even more.

Okay, just so you know, that in my days staying in Chiang Mai, one thing i've learned is to memorize your soi. Not any soi, but the soi where you're staying. Sois are streets. Almost everyday of my stay in this vast city, i always get lost. Just when you thought you reached your guesthouse because you say" ahhh i know we're near, this temple looks familiar" WRONG. Chances are you are seeing/passing by one of the hundred temples littered along the many alleys/streets of Chiang Mai. They're too many to mention. But i mean getting lost is where the real adventure kicks in eh?

A few meters away and i still don't know where to go. I chatted up with an old English guy who has been staying here in Chiang Mai for about three years now. He looks tanned, quite thin but definitely enjoying himself in this cool cool city. I could see his eyes sparkle when he talks about the beauty of Chiang Mai. I asked him for places to go, he referred me to some. Although i wanted to visit the nearby towns and provinces such as Pai or maybe Mae Hong Son, with very little budget and pressured time, i might forgo on that one i said and just concentrate on making the most out of Chiang Mai.

After taking a photo of this particular soi, i know i won't forget anymore where i stayed. I went back to my guesthouse to do what i needed to do. PLAN.

With so little time but so many things i want to do, I opened the map and looked up which sounded interesting to me. The problem is everything was indeed exciting and fun to do. There's Muay Thai, there's a visit up to the hill to talk to the monk, there's an elephant trek. There just too many things to do in this city. 

I smoked a newly lit cigarette, i checked out the balcony from the back and thought, i could live in this city for a while. I don't have a favorite place in Thailand as of yet, maybe Koh Phangan, but at times, it gets kinda hectic so i am pretty excited on what Chiang Mai has to offer. I freshened up a bit and found found myself dashing again from the room. 

Enjoying my bowl of Tom Yum Soup and the cool breeze of this awesome city called Chiangmai, Thailand. AAA++


bridge said...

wow this is sooo nice!!! good writing din!

thanks bridge! i love you my friend, i wish i could travel with you very soon. ooops., we're going to visyas together in july! hooooraaaayyyyyy!!!! Cheers!