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Steve and Laura amonst the Wats and Elephants

Steve and Laura amonst the Wats and Elephants

Jan 28th, 2018, 05:00 PM
  #41  
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not crazy about chiang Mai

So Kathy, you get to say I told you so. We started out yesterday morning in good spirits - I even said, "this is how we like to see things," walking down the little streets in old cities. The trouble was, there were no little streets - at least not what I had imagined would be in a very old walled city. The walk just to get to the city gate was longer than the people at the hotel had said, and the distances on the map much bigger than they looked. So by the time we got there we were already very hot. And I'm just not crazy about being surrounded by so many people, and crossing the streets without lights when the traffic just keeps coming was scaring me (another westerner saw my face and assured us that Thais never run over pedestrians!) Even the lights with crossing buttons only give you 10 seconds to cross. So I think I would have been ok with two of the three (lots of people, traffic, heat) but not all three. We walked a while, with me getting crosser and hotter, and Steve getting increasingly nervous that I was so miserable. Finally found the cultural center/historical museum that was blessedly air conditioned, and quite interesting. We had wanted to get a sense of the historical arc of things, and the museum described it quite well. Found a little place for lunch, but wasn't very appealing so just ate the noodles. We talked about seeing Wat Chedi - but realized we would be doing so just to prove something to someone, so we gave up and took a tuk tuk back to the hotel.

I have decided the Puripunn is quite nice if a bit frou frou. The garden is lovely and we gave ourselves permission to just swim and rest and that was what we needed. Then we wanted to get dinner. We wanted to find something between street food and high end stuff - the kind of midrange place we usually eat at at home. We called several from the guide books that were either out of business, or already booked. Finally found the Rachamankha at the hotel by that name. called for a taxi (I was scared to take a tuk tuk in all that traffic plus it was hard on my back). Took a while for the taxi to come but I was glad we had opted for it as it was quite a long drive around the old city (I had no idea from the map that it was that large). The restaurant was lovely, perfect, in a beautiful outdoor courtyard with live music. East Asian cuisine - we had Roti stuffed with lamb and peppers stuffed with minced pork for starters, and then lamb masala (burmese style) and red curry duck. All was delicious and staff was great. Called the same driver to take us home and was glad of it. We are off in a few to Doi Inthanon and maybe an elephant or twol

Chiang Rai flower show



Black House


Mekong river
lauramsgarden is offline  
Jan 28th, 2018, 10:24 PM
  #42  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I would never say "I told you so" about Chiang Mai. It's true that I don't like it, but some people love it.We are all different.

I have to admit I get bored in CM. It is nice to hear about an excellent restaurant in CM, as the highly recommended ones we tried were just ok.

I'm enjoying your report!
Kathie is offline  
Jan 29th, 2018, 05:43 PM
  #43  
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A peak experience Day

Thank you so much Kathie and Annhig for your kind words.
So if the day before was a downer, yesterday was a total peak experience in all senses of the word. I had wanted to see elephants but we didn't want to do a whole day excursion, and we wanted to see Doi Inthanon as well, and time was limited. Steve did some research stateside and found a company Chiang Mai Driver Guide who put together a tour for us. We were picked up yesterday morning by our driver/guide Sarti who was absolutely delightful - he had a wonderful sense of humor and kept us laughing all day (btw - total cost for the tour was less than $200!).The car was very comfortable and he was an excellent driver
Our first stop was an elephant camp (read a few huts by the side of the road). it was probably not one of the "ethical" ones and I do feel badly about that, but geographically it made sense, and our driver explained it was one of the few that would let you just pop in for a short while. We didn't ride them (didn't want to) but did feed them bananas and sugar cane and it was a total thrill to be so up close (though I did keep thinking "don't step on me, don't step on me."
Then we drove up the road towards Doi Inthanon National Park. It is the highest mountain in Thailand, (2,500 km, 8,000 ft we think), and as we got closer we just kept saying, oh wow, oh wow. The roads are good - I don't like driving mountain passes but these did not scare me at all and there were good guard rails along the way. The scenery gave way gradually to jungle and high trees. We saw teak, banana, and lots of cultivated fields of strawberries, rice and other vegetables. At one point we had to stop as a herd of water buffalo crossed the road. We stopped at the park office for bathrooms (very clean) and then went down the road to a little place for lunch (guide said that the lunch at the park office is terrible). This was our best lunch in Thailand to date: Thai omlette, chicken with cashews, fresh vegetable stir fry and minced pork with thai basil - yum!

Then came the total highlight of the day - a two hour hike through the jungle to the waterfalls, led by a lovely Karen tribeswoman (young lady dressed in traditional skirt and wearing flip flops the whole way) the flip flops astounded me as much of the walk was over very slippery bamboo stairs, and bridge over the river and I had a hard time keeping my footing, even in sneaks. It was gorgeous, amazing, phenomenal - you get the picture. She said there were gibbons in the jungle but we didn't see them, but much birds, butterflies and of course flowers. She showed us the flower farms and strawberry fields from her village as well as the coffee plants. Our guide had explained that when the park was formed they wanted to move the Karen and Hmong tribes that lived there but they basically said "no way" and so were allowed to stay. They had been getting by on cultivating opium but the government helped them transition to coffee instead (hence the plethora of coffee bars all throughout Thailand), and she said starbucks assisted her village in their coffee production. The hike ended (I didn't fall into the waterfall - yea) at her village where we ground our own coffee before drinking a lovely strong cup. I had been concerned about this part of the itinierary as I had heard of the viillages being "human zoos" but she and two other guides were the only ones around, and truly the village looked very prosperous - fields were beautiful and large, houses very nice. This was truly one of the peak experiences of my life and I will treasure it.

I'm going to push post as we leave in a few for the plane to Krabi - may be back if I have time.
lauramsgarden is offline  
Jan 30th, 2018, 07:47 AM
  #44  
 
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More fab photos - I love the one at the top of the "girl" in the flower dress.

Great that you had such a good day after a less great one. As you say sometimes you just have to accept things aren't going to work out as well as you hoped and move to plan B.
annhig is offline  
Jan 30th, 2018, 06:57 PM
  #45  
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It doesn't get any better than this

So to finish our day in Doi Inthanon - after very strong coffee in the Karen village we set off with Sart to drive to the twin Pagodas near the top of the mountain. But alas it was not to be - can you guess why? (spooky music) yes, you guessed it. THE PRINCESS had followed us to Doi Inthanon and we were told that the road was closed to the rest of us. We made the best of it and went all the way to the top of the mountain to see the shrine to Rama V I believe (or maybe the IX) who founded the park, and to read the exhibit about the flora, fauna, etc. The view was amazing! We finished the day at the Hmong market - I would have bought much more but wanted to make sure we had money left to tip the driver. Still - replaced Steve's lost wedding ring with one we bought there for $3 - it just seemed like such a perfect moment. (don't worry - he is priceless to me so the price of the ring is immaterial). Throughout the day whenever we saw a dog our driver would say - oh no, a tiger! he said there are a few left in the park, and we were told gibbons as well.

That night we were too wiped to go out so had a mediocre but beautifully served dinner in the peaceful hotel garden.
Yesterday morning we caught a cab to the Chiang Mai airport. In retrospect I give Puripann high marks for everything except storage space!

Chiang Mai airport was easy to negotiate - I was impressed that they scan your baggage even before you enter the terminal - a very smart idea US security could learn from. ironically the food available within the terminal was much better than in Bangkok - go figure. I had brought a sandwich from the hotel just in case as I didn't want to risk blood sugar spikes. The air asia flight was on time, but pretty cramped. I enjoyed chatting with the young chinese couple with baby sitting next to me.
Upon arrival we were met by the representative of the Pimalai resort where we are staying - whisked to a van, and then onto a speedboat (we were the only passengers) and two hours later (with a brief detour through the limestone outcroppings for pictures) we were met at the dock by the hotel representative with leis - and from there the fantasy vacation just got better and better.
someone on Fodors made the original Pimalai recommendation and whoever you are THANK YOU.
We have our own private villa with an infinity pool and separate living room and bedroom looking out over the jungle to the Andaman Sea. I love thaat we have to keep our doors shut to keep out the monkeys (hope I get to see one). We feel like we are in a heaven we could not possibly deserve and are drirnking in every moment. I have a feeling the trip report will be pretty dull from this point on - beach, massage, swimming pool, eat, drink, be happy. But who knows, I'm keeping an eye out for the princess. We may have adventures yet.

view of the Himalayas -Doi Inthanon


waterfall doi Inthanon



flower farm in middle of Doi Inthanon - our Karen guide and yours truly
lauramsgarden is offline  
Jan 30th, 2018, 08:49 PM
  #46  
 
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Beautiful!!
CaliNurse is offline  
Feb 1st, 2018, 12:19 PM
  #47  
 
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more gorgeous pics, thanks, and the hotel sounds fab. What a great trip!
annhig is offline  
Feb 1st, 2018, 02:21 PM
  #48  
 
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What a wonderful experience!
Kathie is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2018, 03:56 AM
  #49  
 
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Thanks for sharing your trip with us and enjoy the R & R! Sounds like it's been a fabulous vacation!
progol is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2018, 06:13 AM
  #50  
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This must be heaven

I haven't posted for the last few days because blessedly we have had no adventures to report. Very un-Steve and Laura esq we are giving ourselves permission to hang out here and just be. And oh what a glorious place this is to hang out. I have never been in such an exquisitely beautiful place, or such a beautiful hotel. The Pimalai is gorgeous -everywhere. Every building is constructed to make the most of the incredible vistas and views, and it is all designed with such grace and elegance. Even the public restrooms have gorgeous views (one had a window that looked out on a lantern situated exactly in the middle in such a way that it felt like you were looking at the moon). lush vegetation, aqua marine ocean. heaven. This is also the most luxurious hotel we've ever stayed at (we'd better not get used to it - it's the Embassy Suites for us once we return). Our "room" is actually two separate rooms - one a large bedroom with sitting area and huge bathroom and dressing room, and the second, separated by our own private plunge infinity pool with a couch, chaise lounge and tables to sit at, and then the second room is a living room (we've hardly used it) with a kitchen and separate bath attached (the bath has come in handy). While we talked about going on a snorkeling cruise or taking a cooking class we decided that we are going back to mucho stress and it would be really good for us to just be and relax and take it in.
So our days consist of sleep late, go to outrageously good breakfast buffet (I've finally let go of the need for bread at breakfast and am enjoying noodle soup, gyoza and fruit - although I usually end up with a pineapple croissant at the end) Then we catch a cart to the beach which is white sand and mostly empty, swim in the emerald green ocean (about 75 F I'd say), eat lunch, swim at the pool which has all sorts of cool little architectural features, read our books, and then Steve takes a nap and I go to the spa to be pampered, then maybe we swim in our little pool and go to one of the restaurants for dinner. I did have fun writing a facebook post about the adventure of being "scrubbed" with folgers coffee. The only "less than" aspect of Pimalai is that the food has mostly been so so. But it is made up for by the incredible friendliness and helpfulness of the staff - just so sweet and accommodating

The pool in our room



restaurant


one of the pools
. The only other caveat I would say is that this is not a good place for someone with mobility challenges. The hills are quite steep, there are stairs everywhere, and to get between buildings you really do need to use the little carts which are hard to climb up to. I don't think it would be fun, or even feasible to stay here if you use a walker or wheelchair.

So we have one more day of heaven, then back to Bangkok and home the next day. We are making plans to watch the superbowl from our Bangkok hotel that morning (Go Eagles!). Here are some pictures from the Pimalai
lauramsgarden is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2018, 06:53 AM
  #51  
 
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Looks so beautiful! We stayed at a very nice resort on Kata Beach - but of course didn't have the privacy you are luxuriating in. We thought the ocean water was closer to 90 degrees there than to 75 - I wonder if the shallow bay makes a big difference. In addition, we did one of the John Grey kayaking trips, and swam in the open sea for about a half hour - sea temps seemed warmer than 75 there, too.

Ha - I felt the same way about all the stairs at our resort - I think every special place is on a hillside in order to take in the incredible views. Glad I don't have mobility issues, as the elevators were few and far between.

Are you staying overnight at the Airport Novatel in Bangkok? We did, and thought it was the perfect place to take a break on our way home - before the long flights home on China Southern. I especially loved that once we arrived back at the airport in Bangkok and picked up our checked bag, we just walked to the hotel kiosk, and they immediately whisked us into a private van and it was only about five minutes to the hotel. Nice little surprise, as I wasn't sure how we were going to get to the hotel. Free shuttle back to the airport the following day, too. Nice pool, a few okay restaurants, and they book you into your room in 24-hour increments, so regardless of what time you arrive, your check out time is not before 24-hours. Great idea for an airport hotel.

Enjoy your remaining time in your gorgeous suite!
scdreamer is online now  
Feb 2nd, 2018, 08:46 AM
  #52  
 
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What a fab looking place. I don't blame you for staying put and enjoying it to the full.
annhig is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2018, 03:36 AM
  #53  
 
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Wow! Looks heavenly! Enjoy every moment of it and soak in it! I'm all for pampering and enjoying it! Post a few more pictures if/when you can so the rest of us can drool in the privacy of our home!

NYC is 18 degrees now
progol is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2018, 06:42 AM
  #54  
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SCdreamer - thanks for the advice - we ended up booking a hotel by the river as our flight isn't until 3:30 the following day so figured we might as well enjoy one more nice evening. We are at the Shangri-la tomorrow night - I'll let y'all know how it goes.

we had one last unplanned adventure. Tonight we ate at the beach grill at the resort - very nice seafood and turf buffet, when all of a sudden the lights went out. They kept going on and off all evening. The hotel is now on a generator - looks like the rest of the island is out - kinda spooky. Glad we brought flashlights,hope the generator makes it till the morning or it will be a warm night. I feel for those who donn't have the backup, but it does remind me of how fragile all our comforts are. We wondered what the cause was as there is no bad weather or anything. ok, to bed - see y'all stateside.
lauramsgarden is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2018, 07:26 AM
  #55  
 
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Still following this great trip of yours. Looks wonderful!
jacketwatch is offline  
Feb 3rd, 2018, 06:01 PM
  #56  
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SCDreamer - did you write a trip report? would love to hear your adventures.

one other I forgot to share. Two nights ago eating at the beach bar/restaurant all of a sudden we noticed people standing and pointing at something. Of course we had to check it out. It was the amazing lunar eclipse that we had forgotten was happening, blood orange moon - just exquisite. Slowly, like a wave rolling through the restaurant everyone stood up to watch - tourists from England, France, Germany, China, the US, Belgium, Thailand and all of the waitstaff just standing together in wonder at this miracle happening before our eyes (lucky to be seeing it in the evening and not at 5 am like the folks back home). It was a wonderful reminder that in spite of all of our differences we are still passengers on the same earth.
lauramsgarden is offline  
Feb 4th, 2018, 06:02 AM
  #57  
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home again home again

True confession (since none of you know me) I started the morning with a skinny dip in our private little pool (I had to do something while my husband got ready - right?) Unfortunately all good things must end and at 11:30 they came for our luggage and where the luggage goes we must follow. I don't think there will ever be another vacation quite like the Pimalai. The trip back was speedboat (very fast, different route this time, hugging the shore - interesting to see all the other resorts on Koh Lanta), and then van to the airport. At that point the day got sloggy. The line to check in for Bangkok air was very long and not well managed. At the last minute a rep from the Pimalai found us and helped with the luggage, but by then we were pretty well through anyway. Plane was half an hour late and the boarding pretty hot and chaotic, but once seated the flight was quick. It still amazes me that they feed you on airlines in Thailand even if the flight is only 1 hour (the food however was some kind of fish and looked pretty inedible).

We are staying our last night in Thailand at the Shangri-La - we arranged for a ride from the airport and their rep met us and helped us out which was great especially since one of our suitcases is on its last legs. Oh, best part of the air journey was that in the airport I found a gorgeous stuffed elephant to adopt to join our creatures from prior trips. (photo will follow - still working on a name for him). We decided to stay by the Chao Praya again as the layover is 23 hours and didn't want to spend it at the airport. Check in was gracious and easy (though I do think the bell hop costumes a bit much). We decided to eat our last night at the Thai restaurant at the Changri La (too tired to venture out) and was glad we did - the food was lovely as was the setting by the river (minced chicken in peanut sauce on rice crackers, dumplings with minced chicken and shrimp, lamb curry iin yellow curry sauce and a rather spicy lobster). now waiting for our sticky rice desert before piling into bed. Best part of the dinner though was surprise performance (twice) by traditional Thai dancers (wondering if it is anything like what you saw in Chianng Mai SCdreamer). I'll try to post a video later.
also had fun talking superbowl trash with Americans at the next table over. The plan is to watch it from our hotel room at 7 am tomorrow. Go Eagles
lauramsgarden is offline  
Feb 4th, 2018, 06:33 AM
  #58  
 
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What a wonderful trip report you have fashioned, Laura! I’ve enjoyed every one of your posts. And, no, I didn’t do a report. I always think I will, and then I just don’t have the discipline.

As as I armchair traveled along with you, I was so envious of all the amazing culinary adventures you had. I’m in awe of your advance research and wish we had done the same, although I was never in any danger of going hungry in Thailand.

Thanks again for your posting. I’m more than a bit sorry it is coming to an end, and I also think you and your husband would be wonderful travel companions ... I rarely bestow that honor on anyone whose trip reports I read ... but you are adventurous, funny and spontaneous. Necessary qualities for a successful journey anywhere!

Hope your flights home on CSA are as boring as ours were, and that the jet-lag fairies bless you.
scdreamer is online now  
Feb 4th, 2018, 09:42 AM
  #59  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
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Great trip report. Enjoyed it beginning to end. Thanks for posting from the road!
Lolazahra is offline  
Feb 4th, 2018, 11:08 AM
  #60  
 
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Wonderful report! Thanks for posting.
Kathie is offline  

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