Chiang Mai and Phi Phi Trip Report

Old Mar 26th, 2007, 01:05 PM
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Chiang Mai and Phi Phi Trip Report

Thailand: Chiang Mai and Koh Phi Phi March 10-23, 2007

Part One: Chiang Mai

After a year and a half of research on Tripadvisor, Fodors', Scubaboard and other various sites, we finally left with our group of 6 to the "Land of Smiles". I am unsure of individual prices as we used Reef and Rainforest as our tour agent. They did a hell of a job, utilizing their local agents Arosa Travel in Thailand. Very impressed with transfers etc.
From San Francisco, getting there is just hell, no 2 ways about it. It takes 2 days to get to your destination and even though Singapore Air was the best, it still sucked being on an airplane that long! You sleep, you eat, you read and then do it all over again!
Finally arriving in Chiang Mai, we stayed at the Royal Princess Hotel downtown. While this commuter hotel was a bit "tired" in appearance, it fit our needs perfectly. The location is stellar, right in the middle of the Night Market! Starbucks on the corner and the best massages right across the street. The hotel was clean and neat but just a bit murky. The hotel staff while very friendly, did not have fluent English speaking desk help. We managed to get by with a lot of smiles and laughter. They had flowers on the pillows and a sweet turn down service. The pool was simple and sufficient. The morning buffet breakfast was yummy, mostly euro/american meals. The one dinner we ate there, was pretty good Thai. The rooms are spacious and cool. The mini bar wasn't bad either!
Chiang Mai is a weird blend of old and new. The culture is old school. Lots of Hillside Tribe people wandering the streets, selling their wares and really old temples stuck in nooks and crannies. Yet McDonald's and 7-11 are right around the corner. We rented motorbikes and headed up the Mt. of Doi Suthep. Now everyone back home told us we were insane to rent mopeds and ride in this City. We would surely die as traffic was not only on the left side of the road but "dangerous and scary". What we found was more like being in a video game. Yeah, you had to be alert, but it was fun as hell. And gave us the freedom to come and go to sites as we wished. Unfortunately, the week we were there, they had uncontrolled burns in the countryside, cause a huge layer of smog to hang over the City. It burned your throat and eyes but we survived! LA on a good day as I saw it! On top of the mountain, we hit the Royal Palace Gardens first. Be sure to wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders, or you will have to buy farmer Thai pants as we did. Kind of look like karate pants but funnier looking. Very comfortable though!
The gardens were exquisite. Beautiful and peaceful. They have music playing and it was just so lovely. Make sure you hike all around and don't miss the bamboo forest at the top.
Next we drove down to the Wat (temple) of Doi Suthep. This was a really special place, even for a non-Buddhist person such as I. The long stairs are character building for sure, but you can take a trolley up if you don't want to sweat as much. We wandered around in the back rooms and found a monk who blessed us by tying a string around our wrists. Something so simple was so enchanting. It was a good thing too because I needed that blessing as I almost hit an elephant driving down the mountain. They didn't teach elephant evasive maneuvers in Driver's Ed. Getting gas was a trip as we had no idea what to do. The people were so nice to us and helped out a lot. Learn a few Thai phrases and you will be amazed at how locals go out of their way to help you.
What a first day!!!!!
The next day we just wandered around the Old Walled City visiting all the old Wats and such. The City is very easy to negotiate. I reallied on my Nancy Chandler map a lot and felt like an old pro. The City is beautiful. Lots to see and experience. Wailai road with the silver shops was great fun. As well as some of the antique shops. In the afternoon, we got some beer (Chang) and just laughed our way thru the streets. Note to fellow travelers: while it is "legal" to walk around with beers in the open, they did not tell us until days later, it is considered "rude". So sorry!!!! No disrespect intended! We ate at this really wonderfully authentic restaurant on the river, Tha Nam. We ate a lot with apps and drinks and it worked out to like $6 USD per person. Outrageously cheap! Outside dining was really nice with a little local band playing softly.
We then went to the Elephant Conservation Camp near Lamphang. What a treat. You really get a close up and personal veiw of life for an elephant. This is a rehab kind of place for old and abused elephants. Kind of like and elephant hospice. The mahouts were so kind with the gentle giants. I was expecting a dog and poney show but was pleasantly surprised. The bathing routine was hysterical with everyone getting wet. Made me wish I had taken the 3 day Mahout course. Next time!
Spent the afternoon tooling about Chinag Mai while some of my group went south to the old ruins of Wiang Kum Kam. They enjoyed their trip as they took a guide (arranged at the tour desk of the Royal Princess) with them. Dinner at the Riverside Restaurant. Now this restaurant was raved about on Tripadvisor but I have to say, it was just OK. The location and atmosphere was nice but the food was too "americanized" for my taste. The band was playing Beatles cover tunes pretty well, though.
To each their own. I loved Chiang Mai but it was larger and dirtier than I expected. The unusual smog didn't help. I am not much of a city gal though so take that with a grain of salt. Still, very fun and really exciting.
At the crack of dawn we were off to Phi Phi via Thai Air..............
Stay tuned........
ScubaSusie is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2007, 01:19 PM
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Super start. We also stayed at the Royal Princess and I agree that it was tired but functional. You said the massages across the street were good. Did you try the massages in the basement of the RP? Some of the best we've had. Prompt posting prevents penalty. FCPA and PPS non-funded.
Gpanda is offline  
Old Mar 26th, 2007, 04:04 PM
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We tried to get massages in the basement of the Royal Princess but were told they no longer do them due to some flood or something. The little place to the right (right next to the 7-11) had most excellent 30 min foot massages too. I think we paid $2 USD something crazy like that.
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 11:17 AM
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laartista is offline  
Old Mar 27th, 2007, 02:31 PM
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I can't wait to hear about the diving part of your trip!
kat_in_the_hat is offline  
Old Mar 27th, 2007, 07:12 PM
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very interesting start..thanks
rhkkmk is offline  
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