The beauty of traveling here is that you can just take a cab to the airport, buy a ticket to almost anywhere in the country and leave within a few hours (Bangkok to Chaing Mai - One hour by plane at $40 round trip). The best part is - it is the same price as if you had booked it months in advance. Earlier that day Brian and I had decided to catch the evening flight to Chang Mai and leave the chaos of Bangkok behind a day early. The absolute best part of self-planned travel is the "wing-it" factor. There are no rules and no schedules to follow. With certain situations, however, The guidebook can be a savior – like when you fly into a new city at midnight and want to know exactly where you are going. You can always move on tomorrow.
We landed late and took a much calmer Tuk-Tuk ride down a dirt road just a couple of blocks from the busy part of town. Sleepy, dark and quiet; the climate is much dryer and cooler; it is already a nice change from the Bangkok scene. There were no street lights, just scattered single light bulbs perched atop poles to signify the few guest houses along a dirt road. We made a reservation yesterday via the internet and we had a room waiting for us in a small guesthouse just outside the noise. Guesthouses in Thailand are, ideally, teak homes owned and operated by local families with fewer than a dozen rooms. A hybrid of the youth Hostel and bed and breakfast. The perfect guesthouse offers trekking services, bike rentals, usually some form of restaurant service and can be a wonderful experience to visit with other travelers.
We unloaded our packs and squeezed out of the Tuk-tuk. This guesthouse had a gate in front that was locked. A note at the doorbell told us to ring if we arrived after hours (10pm). We buzzed in and were escorted to our room by the not-so- friendly, not-so-Thai owner. Mildly disappointing, but whatever. For about $8.00 we got a vanilla shell with full size bed, ceiling fan, private bath with cold shower; and that's all she wrote. Brian threw his bag into the corner and dove for the mattress. It was nothing more than a thick foam pad sitting on top of plywood, pretending to be a mattress. Thud. We looked wide eyed at each other. Brian’s lips formed into a perfect O for a second or two, "Oooooo I think I heard it crack".
Chang Mai - a northern mountain city. Chang Mai is the Thailand you envision. If you ever visit this country, don't miss it. The air isn't as polluted as Bangkok and it possesses an old world charm Bangkok does not. Temples around every corner, Free to visit...and you are usually alone. Instead of traffic-choked urban sprawl, travellers find a picturesque downtown easily navigated on foot, where the air is clean and the climate mercifully cool with long shady boulevards. A short bike or scooter ride out of the town leads to a densely rain forested countryside.
The old town, which sits inside the ancient moat surrounded wall, is an extraordinary vision. Here amid the 30-odd temple spires, barefoot monks in flame-coloured robes collect alms in the morning and street vendors sell their wares by night. Torches burn around the moat and atop the wall, which encloses an all night market bazaar. Vendors of all sorts and food stalls galore prepare everything from noodles and veggies to fried bugs... yep, we tried them. When in Rome...
At 2 am we hear a tapping on our door and the girlie giggles of Ryan, "House keeping. Me fluff your pillow"? The remainder of our crew has arrived. They received our email on the lodging change and miraculously found us. We got up to greet them and as the group of us walked into their room, they unloaded their packs and we all burst out into fits of laughter. It was their beds. The Threebears mini beds. Hahahahaha. Now what we still have yet to tell them is about the Janky-Sketchy tour we booked this morning...... We do love a bargain. Ryan, Bob and Moe arrived end of day 2 to meet us for some time in Chang Mai and the intention of doing a tour into the Golden Triangle.