Lots of Wats and Loy Krathong

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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So after a few more days in Bangkok were I got to meet some of Benny's friends we were off to the rail station.  I love rail travel and try to do some in every country I visit.  Some countries like Japan it is very easy others like my own country is very hard.  Thailand is somewhere in the middle.   There are a fair amount of routes but they tend to be slow and trying to understand the scheule at the station is a bit confusing.  Once you enter the station though there are many people willing to help of.  Of course they all work for a travel agent and are hoping to sell you a trip or book a hotel but the help was nice.

The train trip we took is one that is typical for many westerners heading to Chang Mai.
  We reserved a two bunk sleeping car on the overnight train.  The room was simple but had a nice window and was clean.  About 30 minutes into the trip someone took our dinner order and brought some simple but decent Thai food.  About 3 hours into the trip a large Thai man knocked on the door and told us to leave the room so he could make the bunks.  We had no choice he was doing it. 

The bunks were reasonably comfortable but they should have left several more blankets.  Once the sun went down they turned up the air con to slightly warmer then North Pole.  It was freezing in there all night.  I mean really really cold.  I am from Canada and have felt cold that is dangerous to your skin but I was cold this night.  I put on extra clothes and found some warmer ones for Benny to wear.
  I was shocked! 

In the morning the same large man shows up at our door and tells we are about 1 hour from the station and he is here to change the bunk back.  The sun came back up and the car quickly warmed back up.  Good news is once we got used to the cold we slept well and were ready to see Chang Mai it is glory.

Another thing I like is old castles.  In Osaka I spent a lot of time at the castle they have in the middle of the city.  Chang Mai does not have much of it's old castle left but there are a few things left.  The moat that used to protect the old city is still in place and as you travel around the city you see the moat quite often.  Were major road cross the most there are even sections of the old wall still standing.

I found the only real easy way to get around Chang Mai was by tuk tuk.  More then any other place I visited in Thailand tuk tuks were every were.  I do not remember seeing any of those pick up trucks and almost no buses.  Also I found Chang Mai was the easiest city I went to to walk.  the sidewalks were in good condition and crossing the road never seem to be a death defying feat.  I really enjoy walking a city so this was a pleasant change.

If you have read anything about Chang Mai you will know it has hundreds of Wats of every size.  As that really is not my thing we spent much of the time just wandering around and enjoying the change just to relax and get some excercise.  It was warm this far north but much closer to summer Vancouver tempetures so I was also enjoying the weather.
  Benny was a bit cold but I had brought a warm jacket from Canada so she survived. 

Our hotel set up a nice tour with their won driver.  He took us up a large hill to Wat Phratthat Doi Suthep Rajvoravihara (man Thailand has some long names for things) as well as a nice garden farther up the hill.  The driver was nice but I think her thought he was rally car driver as her took the corners as fast as he could and passed other cars is so less then safe places. 

The Wat was incredible.  It sits up on this large hill or small mountian and likely has an outstanding view but today we had very low clouds so we could not tell.  In fact it was a bit cool and the coulds held a fair amount of moisture and we were getting wet just walking around.
  However for once Benny was not noticing the cold as she was excited about this Wat. 

As I learned on this trip she is a fairly devout Buddhist and she was more then ready to go into the temple and pray.  Often during the trip we would have small delays as she asked to go pray and I would give a few baht so she could by flowers or some candles.  Normally she was only gone a few minutes but this Wat obviously was special for her as she was gone for over 30 minutes.  I walked around as waited and saw some of the best architecture I saw in Thailand.

Later in the day we had another crash.  Our driver decided we must visit a craft market on the other side of Chang Mai to do some shopping.  This little scam is common in Thailand and I normally say no but this driver had been very good and I really did need to buy some things for friends and family back home.
  On the way I got the feeling he did not really have an idea where he was going.

As we passed back through the main part of the city we stopped and picked up a Thai lady in some sort of uniform.  Never really learned who she was but she was giving him directions.  After a while we got on a highway and all of a sudden she says something to him quickly and he huts the brakes hard and swerves left to turn.  The trouble was he was two lanes away from the side of the road and their was a motorbike passing us.

The poor driver of the bike hit our car and went flying over the hood.  He and his bike slid quite far down the road as he must have been doing close to 80kmph.  The good news was the guy was mostly okay with just some bad bruises and a few nasty scratches.
lantern tree near the parade route
  His bike though had brought into two pieces.  Very quickly a police officer was there as were many security guards from all the local businesses.  Once they saw a farang (me) was part of the crash they quickly got me into a shop so I could shop and kept telling me not to worry they take care of everything.

I did actually enjoy the shop and bought some silk items and a few small wooden sculptures.  After 1 hours in the store I was ready to leave and head back into the city.  However the police were not done and the paramedics had just finally showed up for the poor bike rider.  I could tell the police officer wanted to ask me questions as he kept pointing at me but for what ever reason he never even tried.  Eventually a senior police officer showed up and after a few quick words with the junior cop we were told to leave with our driver.
One of the floats
  Our driver was annoyed because he a got a few hundred baht fine and was blamed for the crash.  I should think so but I still like the guy.

Later that day I was given a great happy surprise.  I was starting to get a bit road weary and was starting to think of home when Benny told me we had to stay two more days for Loy Krathong.  I had no idea what it was but she told me it was a great Thai festival.  I got the feeling that for once I had no choice and we were staying in Chang Mai.

I will not go into detail about the festival, mostly because I do not really understand, but we had a blast.  We light some candles in small paper lanterns and watched them fly into the air with thousands of others.  We fired small firecrackers into the night sky.
another float
  There was a large parade going through town ands even saw an American style high school marching band from a local school.  It was one of the highlights of a great trip. 

the festival was mostly after dark so during one of the days we went to a Thai shopping center and I found a great deal.  In a clothing shop I found a nice winter jacket that many people wear here in Vancouver.  The jacket sells for several hundred dollars at most stores here but was only $20 here.  I asked if it was real and the clerk kept telling me of course.  I still have serious doubts but I checked the jacket very carefully and found nothing wrong that would show it was a copy so I bought it.  The only odd thing of the jacket was it said it was made in Burma and that border has been closed for many months due to the troubles they are having.  I have worn the jacket many times and if it is a copy it is a good one as it is warm, water proof and nothing is not falling apart.

I loved it up here but I was starting to run out of time and wanted a few more days of beach so it was time to leave.  We tried to get on to the night train again but it was sold out.  I guess everyone was heading back home after a few days in Chang Mai for
Loy Krathong.  So we got to ride a non express train 2 class no air con back to Bangkok.  More on that next post.
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lantern tree near the parade route
lantern tree near the parade route
One of the floats
One of the floats
another float
another float
Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes