Thailand is more than its beautiful beaches and relaxing tropical weather, that’s what I realized when I first arrived in Bangkok. To know more about the wonders of Thailand, I decide to see more and experience the authentic Thai culture. Chiang Mai is my next destination. I want to see a bit of the countryside so I purchase a day train ticket from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. There are so many things that surprise me about this city. In this article, I will share the things you can do here as a solo traveler, places to visit like Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Man, Wat Phra Singh, Three Kings Monument, and the Tiger Kingdom; I also have some tips for the transportation you can try if you want to save money and my detailed experience of authentic Thai massage.
Thailand by Train
While I am still in Bangkok I use the MRT to go to the Station Hua Lamphong. My last trip by train was from Portland Oregon to Seattle Washington. Read it in my post from November 15, 2015. It was hilarious. When I see the trains I think it’s going to be the same. The train looks as old as the ones in the US and it also uses diesel. Brum Brum…
But I have to say that the Thai railways are perfectly on time, cheaper and more competitive. We depart exactly on time in Bangkok and arrive also without any incident on time in Chiang Mai. It’s a long trip and outside there is not that much to see but agricultural lands.
It’s probably better to take a night train. Especially if you are traveling on a budget; taking the night train saves you one night in the hostel. To tell you the truth night trains are around 100 Baht which is more expensive than the day trips. If you don’t have enough of time you can also fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in just one hour, plus if you book few days in advance it’s not so expensive compared to the train ticket.
Chiang Mai Food
There are many restaurants, especially in the old town. Some of them apparently have insane prices but on average they are still cheaper than in Bangkok. The competition seems to be very high. Just make sure to look at the menu first before you enter a restaurant. I can highly recommend the Thai-owned restaurants. They are sometimes unbelievably cheap and they serve decent food. I know what you’re thinking, but no! I am not a budget backpacker who eats shitty food just to save money. I do have a really high standard and spend most of my money on foods while traveling. This one is my favorite place to eat in Chiang Mai:
It’s somewhere in the old town. If you know where please write it in the comment. I forgot its name and exact address. All I have is a nice memory of the food and this photo.
Chiang Mai things to do
In Chiang Mai, you will not get bored so quick. You have many things to do and also the town is full of places to discover. Especially temples:
In the center, you will find Wat Chedi Luang.
The night markets which you can find every day somewhere outside these temples also contribute to a unique scenery.
Also, the Three Kings Monument is for sure worth a selfie. Not a picture of me but the people in front of it.
You can see plenty of massage spas around town so don’t miss it out!
For only 200 THB you will get a really good massage and they have good service as well. Some tourist seems to skip this because they have heard of “happy ending massages”. There are some that exist but you will easily recognize it! Unless you live on another planet. In a typical Thai massage spa, you can see their list of services outside with a huge signboard; Traditional Thai Massage. It is the most in demand and popular with a regular price of 200 Baht.
I thought it’s smart to save some money and book a cheap hostel in Chiang Mai but after two nights on that lousy mattress, I can already feel my whole body ache! So a Thai massage seems to be the best solution. I go to the next massage spa where they don’t shout “masa aaa age” at me. I ask the Dutch girl who just leaves this spa how it was. (By the way, more than 50% of the tourists around the globe are Dutch. Nope, this statistics is not reliable but I can see them everywhere I go.) She says she only had a foot massage but it was fine. Apparently, she is staying in a more comfortable hotel than mine I think…
Experience Thai Massage (especially for people who never had a real Thai massage)
… So I go inside and ask for one hour traditional Thai massage. As it’s my second Thai massage I already know the procedure. First, she washes my feet -even if I already knew that she will do that I still feel a bit strange. After hours of walking aimlessly in the city, my feet are dusty and dirty so I make sure that before I go inside my feet are clean. Fortunately, it’s quickly done. Don’t worry! You will not undress in front of them! The staff will take you to the restroom or a room divided by curtains with a mattress on the floor. She waited for me outside until I changed my clothes. They usually give you wide massage clothes.
I would say the lady is in her late 30s and she seems to be well trained. One of her masseuse friends is on the other side of the curtain and they are chatting and giggling while giving a massage. I like that there are people around, it replaces the awkward situation in a more social and natural experience. She starts with my feet and legs. She put so much pressure in her hands that makes it excruciating for me. Every time she realizes that I’m in pain she smiles at me, I guess she developed a kind of sadistic streak in her career. I never complain because I know I have to endure the pain for me to feel light and relaxed afterward.
I think she also jokes about me with her friend but that’s probably in my imagination. In this moment, how I wish I can understand Thai. She massages the legs longer and she gestures me to turn over as she continues to massage it. I have to warn you that it is painful but just trust her because she knows what she is doing. Did I mention how insanely painful it is when she massages my back? I can’t possibly decipher if I have to laugh or shout in pain because sometimes it’s too ticklish. After what seems like an eternity, she gestures me to sit cross-legged while she massages my head and face. At last! I can change my clothes and drink a warm Thai tea. I leave the place sorely but I know I will feel good later…
I check all of the activities and I am thinking what should I do. One of the things that I could do is go to the tiger temple. I heard that it is pretty cool but they drug the tigers to calm them. I’m not an advocate of animal rights nor a moral priest but the thought of doping the animals against their will would be unfair and should not be supported. But what if the tigers enjoy being stoned? I know it’s not funny and it is not something I should make fun of but Thailand has a different culture with Europe and people must learn how to make ends meet in this developing country. So I don’t think I’m in the position to judge them…
But feel free to post your opinion in the comments. As long as it is free of rude words I will approve it. Especially if you have been at the Tiger Kingdom your comment would be great to share.
Anyway, the ticket for the tiger temple is more expensive than the elephants so I chose the elephants over the tigers.
If you think that the elephants have a bad life there too. I cannot share the same opinion as I haven’t seen any bad things in the camp. They seem to be pretty happy and chill.
I also joined the bamboo rafting. I have to say I’m a bit bored on the ride although it’s beautiful. Rafting is an exaggerated word, it is not what you will truly experience! When you think of rafting, you think of the raging waters, the adrenaline rush but in reality, it’s more like a Gondola in Venice; slow and boring.
Later on the tour, we went hiking in the mountains. It’s quite steep and hot. It can be a good adventure for some people.
But the surrounding is beautiful and I enjoyed the river for dipping in and sliding down this natural slide. It’s so refreshing, clean and totally worth the hike.
Bucket List for Next Time
There is a place called the Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai. (Just Google this) It looks awesome.
In February, there is the flower festival taking place. At least on the internet, it looks amazing too.
Information About Chiang Mai and How to Get Around
….The tuk-tuk in Chiang Mai is even better in ripping you off than in Bangkok. Now there is no Taxi with a meter to save you so, you have to bargain. I don’t like bargaining. Not that I’m bad at it but, when I get a good price I feel sorry for the driver and when I have a bad price I feel ripped off. In both ways, I feel like a loser in the end. The only way of not losing is bargaining down as much as you can until they almost cry and then tip them. Nobody understands that but, yes! I do it. It takes away the saddening feeling of being ripped off and at the same time I feel that I am doing good by compensating the driver with his service. But it’s a waste of time for sure…
How I bring them down you can read in my post about Bangkok. Just start ridiculously low price.
Chiang Mai’s transportation system is different from Bangkok. The city is small and you can often walk or rent a bicycle or motorbike. It’s only 200 THB (6 US$) to rent a scooter for 24 hours -it is not too bad and if you want to explore the city the whole day I think it’s a better option. Hopping on the red Songthaew Truck Taxi can be a good option as well. Most of them will not rip you off especially during daytime and if you take them while you wait as they pass by on the street, you will be just fine. If they are waiting in front of touristy places; they are the same like tuk-tuk drivers who will ask for insane prices just to bring you a few minutes to your hotel. If you are traveling as a group, they can be a good option. You can also ask them for some day trips. I would say about 1000 THB (30 US$) would be a fair price since they can take up to 8 people.
I never took a motorbike taxi, though. Do you have any experiences about the motorbike taxis in Chiang Mai? Please post it in the comments.
Thanks for reading Blogodiary. Feel free to write about your experiences about Chiang Mai or Thai massage in the comments. I’d appreciate it. Especially if you will give me another reason to go back there.