Chiang Mai Temples Day 1

Wat Phra Singh

On my first full day in Chiang Mai I decided to go visit some of the temples in town. Some are in walking distance to my hotel but others are a bit further.

The key is to hire a songthaew or red pickup truck for the day to take you around or to catch it like a taxi around town. I didn’t have the confidence yet to negotiate a rate so I decided to go with a grab car instead (south east asia version of uber/lyft).

songthaew or red pickup truck at end of my street

Wat Umong Suan Phutthatham

My first stop is the Wat Umong Suan Phutthatham temple, a buddhist temple known for its monks and tunnels.

The temple is fun to walk around inside with all its little alcoves. Also on the grounds you can find signs with inspirational phrases. Finally on the grounds is a meditation pond with lots of birds. You can hear so many birds in the trees (waiting to poop on you, lol).

I didn’t arrange for a ride back therefore I had no way to get back into town. The red trucks in the parking lot are already paid to wait for existing visitors and I couldn’t get a grab to come out to get me as far as I am. I decided to just try to walk back to the main tourist area. It is a hot 45 minute to 1 hour walk but what choice did I have? I wandered through some neighborhoods and got to see a bit of local life. Maps.me and google maps seemed to be a bit loopy so I am sure I am not given a direct route.

Alley way in residential area.

I walk by a few temples viewed from the outside.

Soon there is a college campus in my way. I can’t find a good way to cut through. When I finally do find a cut through I end up walking through a learning mortuary. I keep hoping I won’t be presented with dead bodies during this stretch.

Finally I make it to the tourist area. The first temple I end up visiting is Wat Chedi Luang (Elephant Temple).

Wat Chedi Luang (Elephant Temple)

Wat Chedi Luang is fun due to all the elephants on the sides of the old temple.

All the temples require conservative dress. Additionally some you not able to visit if you are on your period (women) and for some women are not allowed at all (men only temples). I want to be respectful of culture norms but I would be lying if I said this didn’t upset me just a little bit.

Wat Phra Singh (Gold Temple)

Lastly for the day is a visit to the gold temple Wat Phra Singh, another buddhist temple.

Hot and tired I walk back toward my hotel. I have a craving for the fried chicken next door to my hotel so I order myself the best frozen mango drink and plate of fried chicken and I don’t regret it one bit. It is off to bed early because tomorrow is my day at the Elephant Sanctuary.

Recent Updates

My recent posts are all from the travels in the past year. When I started my travels I had fully intended to chronicle my travels as I go but that plan went quickly to the trash; especially when I left Europe and travels got more stressful. At times I did a really good job at writing down my notes and feelings about an adventure to later document. However for most locations I am relying on pictures to jog my memory and some memories come back fast, some very slow, and some not at all. Between the heavy mental work and the amount of photo editing needed it is taking me long to push out my posts (I took some terrible photos along the way for someone who calls herself a recreational photographer). Now on top of it all, I am sick.

I suspect COVID19 but I am waiting my test results. I have barely left the house in months. I arrived back to the USA on March 1 before everything started shutting down here. I got to hang out with one or two friends when I got back and then everything has been on quarantine shutdown since. They are loosening restrictions where I live but I am too scared to really go back to normal and it turns out I may be right because I have been fighting a fever for 4 days now.

I have a friend who invited me on her Galapagos trip later this year and I really want to go but I think it will have to wait (ended up dropping this from my sabbatical itinerary due to time).

My return to the USA was fortunate timing. I actually came back because I had three things to finalize before I could travel again: one is complete, one will be complete by July, but the other is up in the air due to covid closures. I would really like to travel again but not until it is safe and I have my business things taken care of.

For now I will just continue to write about my past travels. I may start mixing up the timeline and countries a bit because I am getting kind of bored documenting my travels in chronological order.

For those who are following, thanks for your patience.

Arrived in Chiang Mai

When researching my trip to Thailand I knew I wanted to some chill time in Chiang Mai. After some research I learn the Nimman neighborhood is highly recommended. Nimman is a hip new area at the bottom of Doi Suthep Mountain. It has all the creature comforts for western travelers and it quieter than the hustle and bustle of the main tourist areas. I booked about a week at the Nimman House guesthouse in the Nimman nieghborhood. I must have been visiting in off season because I had the entire place to myself most of the week (a local in Bangkok told me they visit Chiang Mai in winter to escape the city heat and this week in Chiang Mai is hot as Bangkok). In fact I only saw the hotel staff once and that was at check in – however they were accessible by email if I needed them. It did get lonely though. One of the reasons I chose a guesthouse is the hope to interact with other travelers. The only other girls I saw in my hotel had no interest in talking to me whatsoever.

hotel lobby

After checking into my hotel I went out wandering around the neighborhood and ended up Jarid Thai for Roti Massaman Gai (Chicken curry served with Roti).

Most nights I ended up walking by this cafe called SS1254372 Cafe. It is funky and had these male and female robots that had certain body parts light up at certain times. I ended up ordering a yummy brunch there one day.

Ordered a yummy vegetable benedict. Craving vegetables.

I call it an early night. Tomorrow I will wander around town and try to see some temples.

Bangkok temples

Today is a busy day. I am off to see all the temples of Bangkok (or as many as I can see in a day).

First I need to find the boats to get there. It was a while ago but I remember taking the BTS train and getting off at the Saphan Taksin station. It is a short walk to Sathon pier. Online instructions say that you have to take two different boats to get to Wat Arun but I only recall taking one (it was over 6 months ago though).

Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

I soon arrive at Wat Arun, a royal temple dedicated to the 2nd reign of the Chakkri Dynasty. The crowds are constant, as usual in South East Asia, but I try to take my time and enjoy the sight.

I head back to the pier to take the boat to the Wat Phra and Palace. I believed my boat ticket to be a full day ticket but instead I had to buy another ticket to continue my trip. It is confusing to know when your boat arrives. Every time a boat arrives I ask the guide at the dock and they do not seem to happy I ask. Eventually my boat arrives and I am able to board.

Getting off the boat at the ferry terminal there are lots of people selling you things. I walk on by and act like I know where I am going even though I do not. Looking occasionally down at my map I head in the correct direction toward the Palace.

Wat Phra

I enter the Wat Phra Kaew (the Temple of the Emerald Buddha) and it is crowded as well. Lots of interesting and ornate buildings to see in the complex. The temple itself is entered with shoes off. I believe it also no photos inside. It will start to rain soon so I don’t take my time while my shoes are waiting outside.

Grand Palace

Also near the complex is the Palace. There isn’t as much to see in this area but the buildings have ornate roof decor.

It rains almost every day here during rain season in Bangkok. Not the whole day but sometimes like 2 or more hours. I mostly use that as an opportunity for downtime to recover from the times I am so damn hot. Luckily I finish the visit of the grand palace right as the rain began. I enter a food store/restaurant to await the rain. I order a soft drink and a snack and luckily find a little bench to sit on. Unfortunately the rain is so bad that water starts leaking in all over the bay window awning. Everyone in this area has to move because the leaking gets so bad. I find another place to sit for a while. Fortunately the staff did not seem to mind us all waiting out the rain in their store.

Reclining Buddha

One thing you will find in south east asia is that are various types of Buddha statues: laughing Buddha, meditation Buddha, reclining Buddha, protection Buddha, etc.

Near the Grand Palace is a very large reclining Buddha and that is where I go after the rain stops.

I don’t take much time to visit the Buddha but I do make time to visit the massage school to receive the best massage ever. You can get cheaper in Bangkok but it is still super cheap by USA prices. It is a long wait but worth the wait. I choose the hour Thai massage. You change into pants and a kimono and lay down on big beds that you share with other customers. It isn’t exactly intimate but if you can let it go for an hour it is worth it. It is relaxing as well as awkward with someone crawling all over you while a stranger lies next to you and has a masseuse crawling all over them. Additionally they cracked my back (Some people are weird about that. I guess tell them ahead of time if you don’t want a back crack. It was my fist time and I guess I’m not broken still but if I would have been asked I would have said no.). I am glad I booked the massage (As my friend says “I did it for the story”).

After massage is over the temples are closing so I make my way back to the boats to head back to my hostel. I catch a glimpse of a luxury mall off the river. Certainly a place I probably won’t visit during my travels.

Bangkok Chinatown Food Tour (Yaowarat)

One evening in Bangkok I attended a great street food tour of Chinatown.

My good friends know that I don’t show up late to things. I HATE being late so I usually show up at least 15 minutes earlier than needed to any given event. Bangkok broke me in this sense. I underestimated what a time suck it is traveling from location to location in Bangkok and consequently ended up late to my food tour. Despite the warnings and the travel instructions I decided to rely on my judgement on time and google maps for directions. I left super early and got on the sky train. Somewhere the plan goes off the rails and I decide I am going to try to take a bus since it seemed more efficient than taking the metro.

Besides the lines seemed long at the Skytrain….

Isn’t it great how everyone queues up to get on the train?

Not only did I not know what direction I am supposed to go but the bus appears to never show up. So much traffic, so many people, signs not clear. I never see the bus appear.

I finally decide to follow the transportation instructions from the tour. The instructions have me taking the subway. The subway uses a token system. The line to buy a token is super long and half the machines or more are not even working. More time is wasted here.

The wait is forever to buy a token

Once on the metro it is very clean and efficient. It is even in the process of expanding.

Luckily I am only 5 minutes late. It is so unlike me and luckily the group didn’t look too annoyed with my tardiness. Additionally it seems like I wasn’t the only one with travel issues.

Finally I meet with the group leader of the Yaowarat Street Food Tour (Chinatown) from Bangkok Food Tours.

First stop is a look at a Chinese temple near Chinatown. It is a nice little respite from the hustle and bustle of Chinatown.

After a little walking further we are in Chinatown where traffic is non-stop and there is a vegan food festival going on.

Stop .5

Free glass noodle sample as part of vegetarian festival. It is pretty good. I wouldn’t mind trying all the vegan goodies but we have so many good foods awaiting us.

Stop 1

Michelin Doughnuts

First stop is supposed to be dim sum but they are too crowded to hold our group at this time. Instead we start with the Michelin rated street doughnuts (Patonggo). Pa Tong Go Savoey. The uncle who started it is Michelin but we eat at his nephew’s and it also Michelin rated.

The doughnut is fried then grilled and then topping of choice. We choose kaya (pandan coconut custard) dip. I would have liked to have this dessert later but something tells me that I will probably be too stuffed later to enjoy a dessert. Probably good to taste this early.

Stop 2

R & L Seafood (Lek and Rut.). Different name on different days the tour guide tried to explain. The menu is supposedly different depending on who runs the place for the day.

Our tour guide informs us that you never place your silverware directly on the table when eating street food (table could be dirty).

Here we try a few different seafood dishes.

Prawn’s served full body are interesting. One must be able to pop it’s little head off to get to the good stuff.

We are served clams stuffed with shrimp and pork. They are pretty interesting

Crab fried rice is also on the table and doesn’t disappoint (not pictured).

And finally Tom yum (clear broth) with bass. So good. Good lemongrass flavor. This is so far my favorite.

Stop 3

Hua Seng Hong

Sticky bun with melting custard in interior (lava custard bun).

Stop 4

Pepper soup

We are asked if we wanted just crunchy pork or other organs in the soup (tongue, liver, intestines, etc). I order just the pork because I am not feeling adventurous. I learn later I accidentally ate someone’s tongue and pork soup. The soup is so good I didn’t notice I am supposed to be grossed out. Very strong pepper favor. Rice noodles that curve when cooked. It is spicy but manageable. Due to the heat I start sweating even more than I already am.

Stop 5

Pancake

The pancake is my least favorite food selection: With sugar, nuts, coconut. Did not love that one.

Stop 6

Glutinous dumpling in hot ginger syrup

This is a surprise. I really like the black sesame dumpling in the ginger syrup. Ginger syrup tastes more like ginger tea. It is so good that it is tied with Tom yum for my favorite of the tastings

Stop 7

We finally make it to dim sum at The Canton House.

Pandan colored noodles and a deep fried tofu wrapped pork and shrimp dumpling.

Stop 7.5

Finally it is time for ice cream. We purchase ice cream from a sister team that has been in business forever. I order the lychee and it is marvelous.

lychee ice cream
Group photo

More food stuff is observed by not necessarily sampled. None of us are brave enough to try the bugs.

Durian is not high on anyone’s to try list as well.

More fun along the streets….

Chinatown is lively with all the food stalls, the parades, and I even got a drive by blessing. If I have more time in Bangkok then this street is a definitely a return visit.