Sunday, 12 March 2017

December 2016 - Thailand (Bangkok & Chiangmai)

Spent 5 days in Thailand this December with family! I was always averse to holidaying in Thailand due to some preconceived notions and fear of Thai food but this trip changed my perspective on this beautiful country! Also I'm craving some Thai food now. Tom yum, pad thai, basil chicken!!!

We were looking for a place with cool (but not cold) weather to go to so usually people will suggest Australia & Hong Kong, but I've already been to those 2 places this year, so we decided to visit Chiangmai, and added Bangkok since it's the capital after all.

We booked Jetstar for Sg -> Bkk (~$150/person), Thai Smile for Bkk -> Chiangmai ($67/person) and Tiger Airways for Chiangmai -> Sg (~$47/person). The total was around $300 per person including taxes.

Day 1 - 18Dec2016
An interesting start right off the bat when we checked in and found out we were all sitting in different places cos budget airline :( It was a short 2h flight - I slept and woke up and we were landing already. Didn't even need my motion sickness pills!

The first thing that happened (after the bloody long immigration queue & getting sim cards) was getting scammed LOL. So when you exit the airport, there's a machine that prints out a slip of paper for a taxi based on the type of car you select. The driver told us that for 4 people, we should have asked for a van not a sedan, then told us that it'll be 600 baht flat rate without meter, and took the slip of paper that the machine printed out to direct me to his lane. So my sister was super suspicious and she googled and that was the exact modus operandi of scammers lol. We went into detective mode and started snapping pics of the car plate and the dude's license and we were gonna write in to the airport taxi staff haha but in the end we didn't cos we're lazy. It's not that we wanted a refund or anything (honestly its just 10 bucks difference so its not a big deal) but it's really not a nice first impression for the country.

But anyway, we booked Four Points by Sheraton which is a beautiful hotel. Service was impeccable and immediately overturned my initial horrible first impression of the country from the scam. It's pretty pricey considering the options in Bangkok, but I think it's worth it la.
We booked 2 rooms, 1 with a queen bed for our parents and 1 with 2 singles, but somehow we ended up with 1 room with a king bed, and another room with 2 QUEENS. So my sister and I got a queen bed each :O All 4 of us could have just squeezed into 1 room! And it's connecting room too so it felt like a suite haha my parents were so pleased.

After settling down, we took Uber to Platinum Mall, but more things went wrong because there was a super bad jam so we took a reallyyy long time and still had to alight in the middle on nowhere and walk to the mall. I felt so bad for the driver because he was in the car for about 30min and only earned like 5 bucks from us. Will it even be enough to cover his petrol :/

We finally reached Platinum Mall, which is like dongdaemun x5 haha. MADNESS.
Went to grab lunch at the food court first cos we hadn't eaten much since breakfast at the airport. I was shocked by how cheap everything was. No wonder Singaporeans love coming to Bangkok. (Also, Platinum Mall was chock full of Singaporeans. I felt like I was in Singapore). We ordered pad thai, rice with basil chicken, thai noodle, some thai yong tau foo, crepe, mango sticky rice and a watermelon smoothie. I think all that cost us 15sgd, and was super nice. God I love Bangkok!
Didn't take any pics of the food cos we were starving!

Then it was an amazing race to cover 2 zones of the mall in 1.5h. Being the speedy and efficient shopper I am, I bought FIVE tops, 1 skirt, 1 laptop case and 1 mask in that 1.5h. (Though I have to say, at this point when I'm writing this post 2 months after the trip, the laptop case zip has spoiled :/)
It was 730, and we walked to Neon night market which is just a short walk away. But we could only spend a really short time, before rushing to another night market. The night markets are closed on Mondays so we had to rush them on Sunday, and even then didn't get to visit the biggest night market which is the one near the Thai Cultural Center.
Display at Neon Night Market
Took Uber to Artbox night market!! The Uber driver was a young boy and he took a wrong turn so he just went against traffic hahaha what a lawless place. Artbox is a modern and hipster night market and I really liked it. Though unfortunately we reached at 930 so many shops were already closed. The clothes were more expensive so we didn't buy them, but we did manage to get lots of souvenirs!

We had dinner at the food stalls and the tom yum pizza was the bomb I LOVE it. I don't even like tom yum! and we also had this tiny fried chickens which are suuuper nice!

We took Uber again back to our hotel because really, it's already super cheap plus divided by 4 people, it's cheaper than taking the trains.

Day 2 - 19Dec2016

Continuing our eat-shop-eat-shop lifestyle.
Had breakfast at a random food court. Green curry! Which is my favourite Thai food, but I couldn't handle the spiciness.

Then went to Terminal 21. The clothes are significantly more expensive here so we didn't buy much, but went to After You dessert cafe to get their famous toasts!

Headed to Union Mall next to do more shopping, and then went back to Platinum Mall since we didn't manage to cover everything the previous day.
Huge Christmas display along the streets.

Dinner at Greyhound cafe! Amazinggggg. We ordered so much food and it amounted to about 60sgd only my god! Greyhound just opened an outlet in Singapore, but prices will probably be 3x more ex :(

Going to Chiang Mai the next morning so that's the end of our short 2 day stay at Bangkok. It's a lot more modern than I thought! I kept imagining Cambodia (went there in 2010 on a service trip), but the places we went to in Bangkok were more like Orchard Road.

Day 3 - 20Dec2016

Headed to Chiang Mai on Thai Smile and I loved the airline! It's kinda like the Silkair to Thai airways. Service was great and seats are super comfortable. A far cry from Jetstar imo.

We took a taxi to our hotel, DusitD2, which was sadly, not as luxurious at Four Points. They wanted to upgrade us but the rooms were on a smoking floor so we were like nooope. I'm hypersensitive to cigarette smells :/ (Also, practically every illness has smoking as a risk factor. So much healthcare costs could be saved if they just ban it! But I digress...)

We spent the entire day just walking, from the hotel to multiple temples, then coming back to for high tea at the hotel, followed by the entire night bazaar. Luckily, the weather was perfect for walking - cool and not humid so you won't sweat, but not cold enough that you have to wear an extra layer.

Our first stop was the gate between the old and new city! Once past the gate, we visited SO MANY temples.

I usually don't like night bazaars because it's always crowded and hot and full of imitation goods, but I really liked this one. It wasn't so crowded and the weather was great, and the stuff sold are really interesting!

There were so many artists, and it's not like they buy it wholesale from somewhere but all of them are sitting there painting on the spot. Incredible.

Dinner was at this outdoor place with lots of stalls. Great food, great prices haha.

Got some ice cream rolls too! 

Day 4 - 21Dec2016

Day trip to Doi Inthanon, the highest point in Thailand! There were 8 people - 4 of us, 1 German guy, 1 black American girl and 1 American couple, with our very friendly guide and driver!
It was a 1.5h drive there, before the start of the terrifying 2h trek deep into the mountains. We were walking on bamboo stairs, and even the paths are just damn narrow. I slipped a few times and was so thankful to be alive each time lmao.
Snake skin :O
Our cute guide who always poses for me whenever I aim my camera in her direction hehe

Coffee plantations!
We stopped at some coffee place halfway, and it was really nice!

A short walk before we arrived at a village of the Karen tribe, which is surprisingly not the long necked tribe we were expecting. They cooked lunch for us, and omg nicest chicken wings I've ever eaten. All the food was SUPERB T_T And the ladies we saw were really naturally pretty. Such a wonderful community!!
Didn't manage to snap all the dishes :( Best chicken wings ever!
After lunch, we headed to to the pagodas built for the king and queen's 60th birthdays. The pagodas and the views were absolutely gorgeous.

Last stop was a big waterfall, then 1.5h back to the city.

Headed to the night bazaar again at night to buy more nonsense haha :D

Last dinner!

Day 5 - 22Dec2016

Last day in Thailand :(
Went temple hopping! Booked a taxi via our hotel. Unfortunately the taxi driver was really unfriendly :/

First up was to Doi Suthep, the 'most beautiful temple in Chiang Mai'. Also wayyyyy too crowded imo.

Followed by Wat Suan Dok, which is hands down my favourite temple because it was devoid of tourists, and isn't it just beautiful.

Wat Phra Singh

Lastly, the Silver Temple, where females are not allowed to enter the temple :( I was so angry lol! 

Last meal at the airport!

And lastly, to end the eventful trip, we had the great misfortune of running into a bunch of tourists from a certain country. Look at the lack of queues for the immigration counter.

Someone brought in her water, got caught during security, went in to ask everyone to drink it up and got shouted at by the security officer, THEN had the audacity to say the security officer was rude lmao.
It was 430 and our flight was 455 and we were still there (because they can't read english so they clogged the lane reserved for ASEAN passports) so we tried to ask them to let us go first and they were so unwilling. They wanted to check our tickets to ensure we weren't lying, thought we were Thai and asked us to go to the Thai passport lane. And when I kept saying 'ASEAN lane' in Mandarin, they were like 'bu zhi dao'. SIGH.

Post-trip comments
This was a really enjoyable short getaway and really changed my impression of the country. Great shopping, even better food, with valuable culture experiences. I loved it, and would definitely come back and visit other parts of Thailand too.
On a side note, I started watching The Face Thailand and is now a Bee Namthip fan haha. Even started watching lakorns over the usual korean dramas! It's quite sad that there aren't many subbed lakorns though.