The best part of Chiang Mai for me was wandering around the city and seeing new elements every day. On one such excursion I found the expat cemetery. Although it is very small it is extremely well maintained with a Thai family living on the grounds to maintain it. In the far corner is a statue in memory of Queen from her loyal subjects. It was very interesting.
Just around the corner from the Three Kings Monument is the Women’s correctional institute. Inmates who are nearing the end of their sentence work in the massage parlour or the café located on the grounds. The café was very beautiful set in a small garden with a beautiful fountain and large trees creating a wonderful shaded area. The inmates were very polite and it was a much more mellow experience than I had anticipated.
The Old City in Chiang Mai has a feel all of its own. Relaxed, yet young, vibrant and friendly the Old Town although small is wonderful to walk around and there is always something new to spot no matter how many times you wander down the same road. The Sois (small Lanes) are filled with hidden Gems from Guesthouses, bars, restaurant to tiny little shops you would find nowhere else. One of the first “tourist attractions” I came across was the Three Kings monument. It is a very beautiful and impressive statue right in the centre of the old town.
I cannot express how beautiful and peaceful this lake it. Surrounded by lush green hills the view is breath taking. You can sit and eat beautifully prepared Thai dishes on the side of the lake before going in for a swim. It was a magical afternoon. Thank you Joi and Wesley!
Although there are many bars and restaurants my favorite bar has got to be the Cocktail Car! A converted Tuk Tuk parked on the side of the road makes the best cocktails in Town and takes al Fresco to a new level. The bar tender is fantastic making the best Tequilla Sunrise I have ever had (yes Debbie I thought of you! J ) Roadside drinking is great fun and you get to chat with a variety of people. We met Joi and Wes who were great fun, Joi is originally from Chiang Rai and Wes is from Holland where they both now reside. We had a great night with them and then they kindly invited us to a lake outside of town the following day.
On my first day properly in Chiang Mai I went walking around a bit of the city and began to venture into the old town. I was enamoured with the old town immediately. Although I was quite tired from the jungle, I wandered around for a good portion of the afternoon before going to dinner with Victoria and Adrian at a wonderful Indian restaurant called New Delhi. The owner was lovely and I had the best curry I have ever eaten which came from his Grandmother’s recipe. Needless to say his Grandmother is a culinary genius! I will definitely be coming back here!
We arrived late at night and had one day before we set off on our great jungle adventure. I am looking forward to coming back and seeing Chiang Mai but at the moment I am too excited about our jungle trek to give it much thought!
I arrived to meet the very nice group travelling with us as we hopped in the pickup truck and began our journey outside of Chiang Mai. We stopped enroute at a local market to get supplies but alas they had no rain coats in my size. Victoria has promised to make me one in the bottom of hers if we encounter a storm!
Once we arrived we got straight into our swimming suits and our little group of seven was split onto two bamboo rafts ready for us to raft down the river. Our guide who could not have been more than twelve, guided the raft expertly with a long bamboo pole stopping only to hit the water occasionally yelling snake or crocodile! It was a wonderful journey leisurely gliding through a jungle river.
We were then taken to a small village at the foot of the hills, where we had some rice and vegetables for lunch before setting out on our trek to the waterfall.
The trek was exhausting, consisting of about a two and a half hour uphill hike through dense forest. I nearly lost my balance a couple of times but it was all worth it! Halfway to the waterfall where we were to spend the night we stopped further down from the source and refreshed ourselves in the rapids of the stream and had a much needed rest on the rocky edge.
The scenery en-route was beautiful with many different insects and plants to discover, not to mention the beautiful views of the hills that you could spy from the less dense areas of the jungle. Despite all this nothing could prepare me for the sight of the waterfall right next to our camp once we arrived. It was not only gorgeous but suitable for swimming so within minutes the entire group was in the water. Although powerful, the waterfall will allow you to swim under it briefly before the current spits you back out into its pool. I was even able to go behind it, albeit briefly, with my flippers working as hard as they could to stay behind as long as possible. One of the best parts of the waterfall is getting in which entails jumping off a huge log along the side into the middle of the pool! What an adventure!
The Camp was a long hut on stilts with two bamboo platforms and we all started making our beds for the night before eating a lovely meal prepared for us in pots over an open fire! It gets dark at precisely 6:30pm and after dinner we played cards, but all of us were so exhausted that we were in bed by 7:30pm. (I think that is a first for me!)
The next day we started our trek down the hill by a different route, seeing yet more wonders in the jungle and heading back to the village where we had had lunch the previous day. The village is separated from the jungle by rice fields which you have to tread through very carefully as the paths are narrow and it is easy to fall in! Although very small the village was very interesting and as we spoke to our guide we learned that there are many villages of the kind scattered remotely throughout the hills. The houses are all open and the chickens happily go up and down the stairs as they please. In some houses you saw that a pig was kept in a room under the stilts happily keeping his place in the family.
On the last day we were taken on an elephant trek. This was much scarier than I thought it would be sitting on a chair on the elephant's back with nothing to strap you in. You hold on with your flippers with all your might when they are going down a hill and distract yourself by looking up at the views and not down at the angle you are travelling! They are beautiful animals and I would like to learn more by going to the Elephant Sanctuary and the Elephant Hospital in Chaing Mai. Although I am not certain that the elephants I had the pleasure of meeting have as nice a life as they deserve.
After a long Journey, lasting about 12 hours we arrived in Patong. I went straight to bed, and in the morning we went to meet and old friend of Adrian's, Jody and his Mum, Claudette. We had a lovely bottle of Prosecco at their hotel and they made me feel most welcome.
The following day we met for Sunday lunch and had a nice leisurely Italian before heading off to the airport to catch our flight to Chiang Mai.
We arrived in Ko Pha Ngan yesterday and met a lovely couple from the UK who we went out for drinks with. I am wishing them well for the wedding they are going to and for their upcoming move to London. It was a pleasure to meet you Sarah and Guy.
The next day I began to explore the southern part of the Island a bit more. We are staying in little bungalows just next to the beach with the most amazing views of the islands .
I spent a total of five nights on the Island and I am determined to go back and explore the west and north sides as well as the central jungle. My experience of the Island differs greatly from Ko Samui in that it is much less commercial and more laid back. The nicest main town near me was Thong Sala which had a wonderful bustling evening market and I made sure to visit the various stalls and indulged in a pancake or two with great relish.
Adrian and Victoria also took me to a great Pizza place where I felt, from all the Italians yelling simultaneously at various football matches, that I had somehow crossed the Italian border from the street... no passport required just a love of good pizza!
We also went down to Haad Rin which is the most populated and touristy part of the Island. The Beach was breathtaking but alas as you turn around and there are bars advertising buckets of mojito etc as far as the eye can see. We began our time in Haad Rin in the early afternoon and I wondered why it was so empty despite so many shops etc catering to tourists. Although puzzled, I enjoyed wandering around a town almost in slumber, especially as when I waddle around alone I have a great fear of being accidentally stepped on, until 3pm whist having a bite to eat everyone began to emerge on mass. I have since gathered that everyone parties all night and then sleeps until three when they emerge hungry and leave their beds in search of food. The food in the town was very disappointing except for one small shop, open 24 hours called Mamma Schnitzel serving lining for the stomach in the late afternoon, and curing the late munchies in the early hours!
Overall, Ko Phagnan is a lovely Island and I cannot wait to go back and explore the more remote regions in the west and North!
The journey from Bangkok to Koh Samui although long, taking just over 18 hours, was great fun. We went by train from Bangkok in our own sleeper cabin over night. We arrived about 5:30am an hour behind schedule and were greeted by the local tourist company who took us to a cafe to wait until it was light about 7:30am when our bus would be there to take us to the ferry. I was so excited on the train that I didn't sleep a wink and so I took a nap in Victoria's bag while they had breakfast and played cards. The bus took only about an hour and next thing you knew we were crossing over to the Island! What a beautiful view to wake up to!