Hotels, hostels and guesthouses are available options for your stay. Most of these accommodation are just around the Old City walls or near Night Bazaar. Plenty of shops, restaurants and some bars as well to grab some beer. For dorm type accommodation (6-8persons in a room), i found some that will only cost you around 5-8USD and standard room for 10-25USD per night in a hostel.
I arrived in my hostel past 7pm already and I was starving. Good thing there are street of hawker nearby the hostel – meat skewers, rice toppings, juices are available. Chang Mai or Thailand in general is known to be one of the best cuisine in the world, so i believe you will never go wrong in choosing what to eat here even in just the street.
I spent 3 nights in Chiang Mai, my first activity is to visit Elephant Sanctuary and Karen long neck village. This time, i booked a group tour because the places i wanted to visit is a little bit far. You can pre-book your tour or you can also ask your hostels for their tour recommendations. I booked my tour online in Travel Hub Chiang Mai. I got my 2-day tour around 65USD – First day is Elephant Safari Tour with bamboo rafting, ox cart riding and lunch. On the second day , Chaing Rai Tour and Karen Long Neck village.
DAY 1 Elephant Safari and Tiger Zoo
I was picked up in the hotel around 8am and we were about 8 people in the van. We headed our way to Elephant Safari. I am now feeling guilty doing this tour after watching several clips how these elephants are treated to become domesticated and tamed. You can always visit elephant sanctuary for close encounter to these gentle giants but i suggest not to patronize or support elephant riding.
Another activity in this tour is the bamboo rafting. Cruise around the river using bamboo raft – in the middle of the cruise you might want to try to paddle the raft as well. It’s a relaxing cruise as you traverse the river.
On the same camp, you will also be given a chance to ride cart pulled by ox. The ride is just about 15mins around the camp. Lunch is included in the tour. Buffet style lunch with several meat options, noodles, soup and fresh fruits.
After elephant camp, we were brought to a tiger zoo. A close encounter with the tigers inside their cage is not included in the package but you can always add on.
We finished the tour and arrived in the hotel around 5pm – still enough time to take a short nap and freshen up. You can head on to the Night Bazaar for some pasalubong shopping and eat you dinner as well. It depends on your location, you can walk or ride a tuktuk going to the market. Normal price will be 100baht one way for foreigners but you can still haggle to some drivers. You can also walk from your hotel if you still have enough energy after your day tour. I felt safe walking around the walled old city going to the market – it was also a nice stroll for people watching and taking snaps around the area.
There’s a hawker center near the night bazaar where you can eat dinner and have some local beer.
Random snaps of some temples while walking
Day 2 – Explore Chang Rai
Karen Long Neck Village
For my second day in ChangMai, i booked a tour going to ChangRai primarily to visit the the Karen Long Neck Village and Golden Triangle which is know before as opium producing area in Asia aside from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Chang Rai is a two hour drive from Chiang Mai. Heading towards Chang Rai, we had a stop over in a public hot spring. It was a needed stop over after your 2 hour sitting in the van. The area is just a typical bus stop where you can find shops, restaurants and the hot spring where the local vendors boiled their eggs to be sold for the tourist.
Another 1hr drive and we arrived at Wat Rong Khun or commonly know as the White Buddhist Temple. The temple is now privately own by a local artist who funded its repair and renovation. The artist believed that his work is an offering to Lord Buddha that can give him an eternal life. The exterior of the temple is extravagant with intricate details and design. On the contrary, the interior lacks details and design or maybe I just felt weird on what was painted inside the temple. The temple is still under renovation when we visited. Nevertheless it is still worth a visit and know its history.
By the way, the golden structure behind me is just a public toilet in the White Temple. 🙂
Mekong River Cruise
Next stop will be the Golden Triangle, an hour away from the White Buddhist temple. This time we will revisit our history lesson in high school during Mekong River Cruise and learn the trading history in the Golden Triangle – opium and heroin black market. Boat ride is optional for 300baht (around 8USD)
While cruising the Mekong River, the tour guide explains the rich history of the river including its black market history. It was called Golden Triangle as it was surrounded by mountains of three countries – Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. You can read more information here about Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent (Afghanistan).
The Golden Triangle Boat ticket
Don Sao Island, Laos
A quick stop on the side of Laos is included in this tour – Don Sao island. Here you can heck out the exotic products of Laos. Free taste of their local gin or whiskey is being offered if you have the guts to try. Well, i just had a sip and i think it’s already a good try. Picture below is one of their cobra-ginseng flavored whiskey
We were suppose to have a quick stop in Mae Sai for some souvenir but our tour guide decided to bring us to a temple at the top of the mountain. Indeed it’s a better choice – the place is relaxing. Mae Sai is the northernmost part of Thailand and serve as Thailand-Myanmar border crossing.
The last stop is the Karen Long Neck Village. This is the part of the tour that realizes my imaginations watching Nat Geo channels -to experience and see the tribes you just watched on tv before. Karen Long Neck Hill tribe, known for spiral brass coils around their necks, are actually an ethic tribe from Myanmar and not from Thailand. There are several reasons why they put coils on their neck according to anthropologist – as protection form wild tigers, it protects them from being slave form other tribe as they look less attractive or to resembles a dragon with long neck as an important figure in the tribe folklore.
Tips and estimated expense report
|Flight (round trip, Bangkok to Chiang Mai)||Php3000.00|
|Accommodation (3nights,private single room)||Php1800.00|
|Day 1 Tour||Php1500.00|
|Day 2 Tour (plus Php400 for Mekong River Cruise)||Php1600.00|
|Food and tuktuk expenses (free lunch in tour)||Php700.00|
Total = Php8600.00
If you have extra time, you may opt to use overnight buses to Chiang Mai from Bangkok that will give you more savings – cheaper bus fare and you save one night hotel accommodation.
For comparison purposes on Day 2 Tour- if you want to do a DIY to Chang Rai, 3-hour bus is available for around Php800.00 round-trip (20seater). You have to consider also the transfers from one place to another which is an hour away from each other (Php 200 may be enough for public transport). I had difficulty researching this info before my travel that is why I opted to join a group tour. If anyone has tried this DIY travel using public transport please feel free to leave a comment below as reference for future travelers.
Entrance fee for White Temple is 50baht (~Php70.00) and for the Karen Long Neck Village is 200Baht (~Php270). It may have cost you around Php1300.00 for DIY plus your lunch expense. So for me, Php300.00 difference for the comfort of traveling to a distant location is a reasonable choice.
If you are a single traveler, you can save on accommodation in a dorm style hostel – for 3nights will only cost you around Php600-Php800.00
Additional savings from your round-trip Bangkok – Chiang Mai transfer by bus, paying only P2000.000 for 1st class bus or Php1200.00 for 2nd class instead of Php3000.00 airfare
A total of Php2800.000 savings for you.
Php5800.00 for 4D/3N itinerary
Next… Enjoying Phuket, Thailand