North Thailand Part 1

We’ve been travelling through Northern Thailand for nearly two months now. Here’s a little video we made of Chiang Mai and Chiang Dao… We then moved on to Thaton on the Burmese border, took a river boat down to Chiang Rai, stopped back in Chiang Mai for Thai New Year, took an 8hr train from Chiang Mai to Phitsanulok and are now in Sukhothai which is western-central Thailand. Hope you enjoy the video!

Exploring Doi Suthep

These past few days I’ve been trying to keep as busy as possible and get out of the city as much as I can. Chiang Mai has been exceptionally hazy and reached 181 yesterday, pretty bad! On Sunday I ventured out a little later than planned due to jetlag kicking in. Left at around 9am and headed straight for Doi Suthep on my scooter, as soon as I started climbing the mountain it became clear that I wouldn’t be stopping any time soon. The ride was sublime, hardly any traffic except for the Songtauws (red taxis) climbing up slowly. The main road winds all the way up to the peak of the mountain, past many waterfalls and beautiful views. I can imagine my mum and stepdad cycling round here and absolutely loving it, after climbing a short way you’re greeted with cool air falling off the mountainside and the sweet smells filling your lungs. It really makes the pollution noticeable!

I rode up past Wat Doi Suthep, with busloads of tourists being dropped off, up to the Royal Palace and decided to stop and visit the palace. One problem, I had shorts on and the dress code for the royal palace is quite strict. What a wonderful excuse to ride all the way back down into old town to pick up a pair of trousers (even though they’ve got trousers you can rent for something like 50THB right next to the palace entrance)!

I’m riding back to the guesthouse along the moat road which surrounds Chiang Mai’s old town and lo-and behold there’s a police stop. The police quite aggressively direct all scooters to pull over and hand over their documents. I knew what was coming and admitted I didn’t have my international drivers license. I was mistaken that it would only be 200THB which I’d gladly pay, instead I was handed a 500THB fine with no way of bartering. Handed over the money, got my license back and rode off, already scheming on how I could avoid these road blocks in future :).

It was hitting mid day by the time I’d gotten to the base of Doi Suthep this time and I fancied a walk and some shade so I took the first turning and parked the scooter, hopped off and wandered into the Huay Kaew Waterfall which is free to enter. There are a few routes you can take, I took the ‘slippery’ route up to the higher waterfalls, seeing a few boys playing at the top of the waterfall piqued my interest and so I made my way up to them by following a steep little path to the right (at this point I really realise I need to take more pictures).

Ban Huai Kaeo – If you’re here at the base of the first waterfall, there’s a trail directly to your right.

Took the trail up and by now I was definitely getting a sweat on so decided to take a quick break. Despite it being a Sunday and lots of tourists mingling around at the bottom of the first falls, there was no one to be found further up apart from a few Thai boys playing further down. I found a spot in the shade and cooled my head down in the water.

Continuing on up past the small falls behind me I found part of the monks’ trail, marked with robes tied around the trees. Another scramble up led me to the waterfall where I enjoyed a bit of sunbathing with some boys playing in the waterfall.

I went back to the waterfall today and joined in on the swimming and jumping in all day, and sunbathed because I am ghastly pale at the moment.

After the waterfall I drove up to Wat Doi Suthep – it’s pretty impressive and worth the visit but very crowded (implying I wasn’t adding to the crowds?)

Construction on Wat Doi Suthep began in 1386 under King Kuena (r.1367-88) and was completed within a few years. The temple complex was periodically expanded and embellished over the following centuries.

Construction would have been an arduous task, with workers having to carry supplies through thick jungle: the road leading to the temple was only installed in 1935. The modern paved road was a joint effort of communities throughout the Chiang Mai region, each of whom contributed 1,300-foot sections.

According to legend, a magical relic multiplied itself just before it was enshrined at Wat Suan Dok in Chiang Mai. A suitable place therefore had to be found to shelter the new relic.

Unable to decide on the site, the king placed the relic in a portal shrine on the back of a white elephant and waited to see where the animal would take it. Eventually, the elephant walked up to the top of Doi Suthep mountain, trumpeted three times, turned around three times, knelt down, and died. The temple was immediately built on the miraculously-chosen site.

After Wat Doi Suthep I ventured further up the mountain, past the royal palace and up to the peak of Doi Suthep – stopping at a viewpoint looking over the village of Doi Pui Hmong – a tribal village which has a few markets.

At what I can only presume is the peak of Doi Suthep is a temple – Wat San Ku. In 1983 the fine arts department began excavation and restoration work on San Ku at the wish of H.R.H Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who had learnt that this ancient historical site had been looted and ravaged for a long time. Before restoration, San Ku was an ancient earth mound densely covered by trees. When earth and soil were removed, remains of Chedi and wihail bases appeared. Exploration of the pit in the middle of the Chedi base revealed many important historical artefacts. It was estimated that San Ku dates from 13th century A.D.

Yesterday I spent most of the day inside, away from the heat and pollution and catching up on lost sleep from jet lag – I started reading Chronicles Of The Future, a book recommended to me by Kate (who is still feeling very fragile but is working on her jewellery and excited to come join me) – in the evening I tagged along to a Hindi ceremony at the local Indian temple, just north of Chiang Mai old town and had some delicious veggie Indian food.

Today I returned to the waterfalls and sunbathed all day, chatting with the odd tourist that came by and swimming with the Thai kids. At around 4pm a group of monks came to cool off with us too! I managed to miss two police stops by driving on the other side of cars and acting oblivious, but was flagged down just outside old town on my way home but managed to bluff my way through paying another fine for not having my license. I pulled over, showed a little disdain at the fact I was pulled over and quickly flashed my now out of date ticket from last week. On my merry way back to the guesthouse! I stopped by Mr. Mechanic to pay for a few more days of scooter time and then went to Talat Somphet Market in north-west old town for some fresh noodles and veggies to make myself a noodle soup in the guesthouse kitchen, delicious but I added far too much chilli!

Here’s what PhoneTrack is looking like so far after a week

That’s all for today, I’m shattered for some reason (9pm here). Thanks for reading!

Wat, Where?

All settled into Chiang Mai, realised just now that I hadn’t explained what the plan was for these travels. I’d been working as a contractor at Immediate Media for the past 16 months, fresh out of University and really enjoyed the work. Living at home still in the UK and commuting 3 and a bit hours every day was very tiring, anyways.

The plan:

  • Thailand: 2 months, stay north of Bangkok until it’s time to leave, then we’ll bus it into Cambodia
  • Cambodia: 1 month – no plans yet apart from staying near Angkor Wat for 7 days and getting a weekly pass, I hear it’s huge and you can explore.
  • Vietnam: Start out in Ho Chi Min down south and make our way up slowly over the course of a month, spend two months in northern Vietnam where we know a few people!
  • Laos: Laos doesn’t really have a thriving tourism industry, more research to be done but we’ll spend around a month there
  • Nepal: From Laos we’ll fly to Kathmandu where a friend is going to be working at a school, help out with the IT a little and hike
  • India: From Nepal I’d ideally like to do a land crossing into Uttar Pradesh which is northern central India, then work our way down counter clockwise through New Dehli, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore etc.
  • Return home?

We plan on travelling until the money runs out, living modestly and sustaining ourselves through a little freelance work online here and there. I know Digital nomads get a bad reputation for not integrating with their surroundings so we’ll be very conscious of this. We’d also like to volunteer at a few places along the way, we’re still putting together a shortlist.

Days 2 and 3

Yesterday I was still catching up on Jetlag and working on my WP theme, there’s a lot more to do on templates other than the bog standard posts and I do feel bad for not using a MVC/MVVM framework and do need to work with React more.

I went out for a walk around Chiang Mai’s old town as I’m staying just inside the border, it’s a beautiful place that’s really keeping it’s heritage, despite it’s streets being way too small for all the traffic it wasn’t built for. Yesterday was quite hazy due to it being the burning season right now, the burning season is when Thai farmers burn their land to prepare it for the following year, it’s an old and illegal practice which fills Chiang Mai with smoke due to it being surrounded by mountains. The smoke flows down into Chiang Mai and hovers around for a while, it’s a common topic when speaking with other tourists or taxi drivers.

I’ve been tracking my movements using PhoneTrack – an owncloud application which allows me to set up a client on my phone which in turn sends my GPS coordinates every 5 minutes to the server. If my phone’s offline it’ll cache the data and send once it connects. Here’s yesterdays wander round old town I took (including the taxi ride in):

I started out on Samlan road (bottom left with the ‘I’ symbol) and headed North, Samlan road where I’m staying at Ma Guesthouse is a rather busy street due to it being one of the larger roads that connects old town from North to South. Up where I turned right, there’s a huge temple called Wat Phra Singh (Wat == Temple) which I’ve not yet explored and only admired from afar. I’m going to resist the temptation to google and write about Phra Singh as I want to visit it and do my own research so that’ll come at a later date. I turned right onto what looked like a busy road and passed lots of cafes and trendy bars, as well as some market stalls and restaurants, the usual stuff. I kept wandering until I found a temple that looked less ‘intimidating’ and entered Wat Phan Tao, it’s completely built out of teak wood on a stone base and is one of the older temples in Chiang Mai’s old town, dating to the 14th century. Round the back of the temple there’s a stunning gold Chedi and and a stream running through the grounds, a small but extremely peaceful place and highly worth a visit.

Wat Phan Tao Chedi, Chiang Mai

I wandered around a bit longer and started to feel hungry, the abundance of restaurants really daunted me, on top of being vegetarian and certainly not knowing enough Thai to convey that I didn’t want any meat in my food! I followed my gut instinct (get it? 🙄) and headed in what I thought was the direction back to Ma Guesthouse. After a while I stopped caring about the practicalities and decided to head for the next place that had outdoor seating and a few locals. I found Tom 1 Baht and sat down to be served by a really shy but lovely waitress and wrote a postcard. An hour later and a belly full of Tofu Pad Thai (ordered a second one it was so heavenly) & a large Chang for 135THB (£3.11. €3.48 $4.28).

Tofu Pad Thai @ Tom 1 Baht

Today, Ma hooked me up with a scooter and helmets from Mr. Mechanic (just outside the old city walls) for just 150THB(£3.46, €3.87, $4.76) per day, it’s a 110cc Honda Scooby and runs like a charm! Make sure to give your scooter/bike a once over when getting one and to take pictures, but Mr. Mechanic seems like a very reasonable place to rent from. It’s just outside old town so very convenient for me, plus they dropped it off.

I spent most of today just pottering around on the scooter to get used to the traffic and roads here, couldn’t get an international driving license because the post office was closed due to snow before I left so if I’m pulled over it’s a 200THB fine and I’m off on my way again.. If you do get pulled then make sure to get a receipt so that the next time you’ve got proof you’ve recently paid the fine (read: bribe).

I met a really nice couple staying at the guesthouse today, a girl called Sarah who has been teaching at the primary school in old town and her Laos friend, Bok who sells advertising, they invited me out for dinner so we rode our scooters to Riverside, a westernised restaurant on the main river. Food comes at a premium here and you can expect to pay around 100THB for a main – still reasonable, considering the views!

After dinner we went to check out a Hot Air ballon festival and fireworks. That’s it for today as I’m supposed to be leaving at 6am to take the Monk’s trail up Doi Suthep, a mountain west of Chiang Mai.


First post

This is my first post in a long time so expect it to be a little rough & rambling.

I arrived in Chiang Mai at around 4pm yesterday evening, sadly Kate had to miss her flight due to falling ill just 24 hours before we were due to fly. She suspected a flu coming on and started feeling very ill after rushing to get a batch of her jewellery finished in time to leave, working with very little sleep all week. The day before our flight I finished packing and went to take care of her but she started to feel even worse after taking lemsip. We left for A&E in a flurry of snow at midnight after she started throwing up and not being able to stand on her own. Despite it being nearly impossible to get there and passing a few abandoned cars the doctors were very helpful and swift. Kate was diagnosed with having had a bad reaction to all the paracetamol, as well as a virus. 4 hours later, she’s been given fluids with glucose to take care of the paracetamol, as well as some meds.

The plan was to get to LGW in time to call our insurers to see what could be done, speak to Norwegian air and find out if we could move both flights but it became apparent that postponing both of our flights was impossible and to go through insurance would take weeks if not a month. I had to make a decision on whether to cancel the whole trip and re-book or to fly alone and cut our losses to just one missed flight, booking her on a later flight. I also felt like all of the anticipation about leaving and the momentum I’d built up in the weeks leading up to our trip would leave me if I cancelled. Might be good for me to just get out there, however much I miss Kate.

The flight from LGW to SIN was delayed by around three hours which prolonged my sleep deprived state but as soon as we took off I napped for a few hours. Some of the rest of the journey was spent knocking together a basic wordpress theme based off of Solarized – a colour palette I use in terminal and my IDEs. It’s basic so far but I’m kinda happy with it, planning on working on it whilst waiting for Kate to arrive in about two weeks. I’ll have a go at Google’s Machine Learning Crash Course as well whilst here.

I deleted my last WordPress instance after having become resentful of the fact that I wasn’t using something more ‘edgy and cool’ like ghost or medium or steemit which a lot of people seem to be doing nowadays. For now I’ll keep using WP as it’s familiar…

Met a nice older couple on the flight from LGW, both from Bristol who are spending a few weeks in Phuket to unwind. They own a chippy and he’s currently experiencing the pain of getting a website developed and for some reason is paying £50 a month to have an app built with no upfront costs, not sure how that works.. The original plan was to grab lunch in Singapore with Kate and meet a friend from university but after the delays I didn’t want to chance it. Spent the 3 hours I had mooching and using free foot massagers in terminal 2, thanks SIN!

So I arrived in CNX and took a cab to Chiang Mai old town, checked into Ma Guesthouse and promptly fell asleep. Woke up to a breakfast of fresh fruit, toast, sticky rice with coconut milk and banana bread, amazing what £9 a night can get you!

Off to check out old town today, it’s a lovely 22c right now, hazy skies due to the ever growing pollution out here (165 / unhealthy at the time of writing).

*Obligatory edit: A falling bird-turd hit my laptop moments after posting this 🙂