This trip was planned at short-notice as a birthday getaway for myself when my husband was traveling for work. It was my first solo trip outside of my home country!
I flew out of Mumbai on cheap Lion Air tickets that came with no baggage included. I was traveling in June, with a lot of heat and rain expected, although I mostly only saw hot weather, only a couple hours of rain in total!
It was a week-long trip, only to Chiang Mai with only nearby day-trips. This was probably the longest I’ve ever booked a single accommodation for. I had booked a bed in a 4-bed female dorm in Hug Hostel Rooftop (recommended!), at about 200THB a night. The hostel was nice with friendly staff, a cafe for breakfast and a cute little rooftop bar.
Prior to going there, I had booked a tour with Elephant Nature Park. After reaching, I discovered it was entirely unnecessary, I could easily have booked a cheaper (but perhaps less ‘ethical’) tour once there at the hostel front desk.
The hostel front desk had a bunch of brochures to choose various tours and activities from, and they would book them for you. The tour operators would pick you up from the hostel. It was super easy!
This is a list of total actual spending in THB for a single person, travel in budget-style (June 2019), excluding international flights.
Total (THB) 12405
- hostel 1716
- elephant tour 2369
- cooking class 1066
- Other tours+tickets 754
- scooter rental 886
- transport 141
- food 3019
- drinks 438
- souvenirs 1476
- sim 123
- atm fees 414
I was flying from Mumbai and had a long layover at Dong Meung Bangkok, before my next flight to Chiang Mai. I started off by getting my visa, which was simple enough.
Since I had the time, I decided to get a Sim card. I got one of those sim cards being sold right at the airport. I could probably have gotten something cheaper outside, but this was really just so convenient. You just hand them your phone and they give it back to you with the sim card activated and ready to go. I had no problems with my phone anywhere on the trip, and had good internet speeds everywhere.
The food courts in the airport after the immigration counters had an unbelievable amount of (cheap) food! I had some interesting rice dish with various unnamed toppings.
The flight to Chiang Mai was short, and mostly full of locals. Once at the Chiang Mai airport, I had to find a way to my hostel. I had decided not to take a prepaid taxi, and instead find a songtheaw (a red shared-taxi typical to Chiang Mai). I had to walk outside the airport for a bit to find one, and was a little nervous, but eventually I made it to my hostel. I was incredibly tired by this point, having spent over 24 hours awake, so I had a quick meal of some mango sticky rice at the nearby food stalls, picked up some water from the 7-11, showered and went to sleep.
This day was for simply walking around the city and exploring the many many temples. I had to make sure my knees and shoulders were covered up, for entry to the temples. There are hundreds of temples all over the city! I must have seen at least 10 this day.
I started off early with a quick coffee at my hostel and then headed out. Breakfast was pork and rice at a small local restaurant. The pavement on the road near my hostel would come to life each morning with a number of vendors selling fresh vegetables, fruits and snacks for school kids. It was very interesting to see the things on sale.
By about noon, I got pretty tired from all the sun and walking and decided to get back to my hostel for a bit of rest, before heading out to the Tha Pae gate to see the sunday market.
While walking around the city, I found some really beautiful silver jewelry shops, with unique designs. I also had some not-so-yummy durian ice cream, that left me with onion breath for the rest of the day. I even made it to a cat cafe to kill some time!
The sunday market wa looong. It opened at 5pm or so and I was there at Tha Pae gate at 5pm. The entire road and a whole lot of side lanes were blocked off for the sunday market. I bought some bracelets and some cool souvenirs too. There were a LOT of elephant themed things, lots of food (lots!).. Jewelry, bags, clothes, paintings, footwear and all kinds of odd knick knacks.
By the time I was at the other end, it was night, I was exhausted and I wanted to go home and have a drink... which I had a at the hostel rooftop bar.
Day 3: Elephant Nature Park
An Elephant Nature Park came in the morning to pick a group of us up at the hostel. The park was about an hour away. The drive on the way was really beautiful.
After we reached, the day at the park started with us feeding the elephants- bananas, cucumbers, watermelon. We could touch their trunks, the skin was coarse and leathery. We then headed out for a walk in the park to observe the elephants doing elephant things, and to meet a few of the friendly ones.
The park overall had a very Jurassic Park feel - you know that opening scene with I think the brontosaurus?- with wide open spaces and these giants just hanging out.
We got to read about how they rescue all these different elephants with various injuries, saw some babies. Saw them mucking around in the river as well.
They had a buffet lunch (pretty good) and a little house where they kept a whooole lot of rescue cats! It was like heaven for me.
We got back at about 4pm to our hostel. To take some downtime and just cool off from the previous night’s drinking, I went to a McDonald’s. Later in the evening I roamed around the night market, which was really just more stuff like the Sunday market.
For dinner, I had the famous dish Khao Soi - Noodles in coconut gravy. It was pretty tasty!
Day 4: Cooking Class
I had signed up for a cooking class (sammy's organic) through the hostel front desk today. Although I had booked a full day class, it turned out to be only half day since nobody else had signed up for full day. The cooking was easy! Came out pretty tasty. It was at a farm owned by a vietnamese man named Sammy. The farm was about an hour’s drive away from our hostel (where Sammy picked us up). We had a short stop at a local market on the way to pick up some ingredients. At the cooking class, it was just me and one Canadian family with their two kids. We made 4 different dishes each. I made Thai green curry chicken, Cashew fried chicken, Tom Kha soup and mango sticky rice. It all came out tasty. They gave us all the ingredients, and we ate everything we made! Sammy and his wife showed us how to cook the dishes. The farm was also really beautiful. A very peaceful place.
Since I unexpectedly had the rest of the day off, I decided to go find a scooter to rent. On scooter rentals, mango bikes has great reviews and they have bikes at 200baht/day. They take a 1000baht deposit, so need to make sure I can spend that before leaving, once I return the bike.
After that, I filled Petrol and drove to huai tueng Thao lake! I ate a huge-ass fish and sat in a lake side thatched hut watching it rain over the lake. The area seemed to be some kind of tourist spot (?), but there were mostly only locals. The area around the lake charged a 50 baht entry fee, but I think it was worth it just because they ensured there were enough public toilets around.
This was a relaxed day and I didn’t do much. I started my morning at the local Warorot market. The market was small and cramped and full of all sorts of odd things. Tons of fabric stores, clothes, kitchen utensils, prayer stuff, dead animals, live animals, gold shops.. Nothing I could actually buy, but very interesting just to see.
After that, I went back to the base of Doi Suthep, and did the wat palat trail. The trail led from the bottom, up to the Wa Pa Lat temple from the previous day. It was nice! I saw a bunch of new butterflies. After that, I finally found a pastry shop. I had some burger and fries, and got myself a prisoner massage! Apparently, the ladies who give these massages were ex-cons. eI wonder what the lady who gave me mine was in for. I asked for a Thai Massage which was surprisingly not ticklish (no bare skin-to-skin contact), and also quite painful. I think I walked away feeling relaxed, can’t be too sure. I finally wound down at my hostel with a single drink and went to bed early.
This was my last day here. Again, I did not have much of a plan. I checked out the Maya mall, which was a lot like all the malls at home, except for the insane food courts, where I had some sushi.
The rest of the day was just spent mucking around the area with not much to do. By the afternoon, I went back to my hostel to pick up my bags, and roam around another mall to kill some time. I was super tired from all the sun. Eventually I did make it back to the airport. Fortunately, they stamped my passport right away, so I could go sit at the lounge after that.