Considering the unfounded horror stories I heard about Bangkok, I opted to spend the majority of my time in Chiang Mai, in the north of the country. No islands for me on this trip, that’s the unfortunate thing about traveling on school breaks. Since I scuba dive, I would want to dive in the islands and it’s tiring, I didn’t want to make the whole trip about that. Chiang Mai was supposed to be more low-key, laid back, and less hot than Bangkok. Here’s where the horror begins…
DMK traffic: It’s a good thing I left my hotel early (you wouldn’t think you’d need to leave 3 hours early for a domestic flight when the airport is “35 minutes away”, would you?) The highway infrastructure going to the airport is just horrible, it needs more lanes, and motor bike drivers weaving in and out of traffic must have a death wish. This picture heading into the airport doesn’t do the traffic justice. The trip took over an hour so I of course tipped the Grab driver (it was less than a $12 ride!)
Thai Lion Air should be called Thai LYING Air: When I book my trips, there’s a whole process behind it. I use Kayak to compare flight prices, then usually book directly with the airline or Expedia for points. BIG MISTAKE using Expedia for these Thai domestic flights! I booked my flight to Bangkok using JAL directly and my return flight on United directly as well. Expedia did not give me the option to choose a fare tier, you basically just get basic economy. Then because I booked through a third party site I was unable to pay for my luggage in advance when I checked in online. I didn’t realize any of this would be a problem until I got to the airport, and I’m an experienced traveler. According to their website, a 20kg bag is 405 baht ($16.) When I got to the airport, after waiting in a line, the woman said it would be $200 to check the bag because I didn’t pay in advance and it would be cheaper to buy a new ticket (my original ticket was $53.) I asked her where she came up with $200, she proceeded to tell me it’s $10/kg for excess baggage that isn’t paid in advance. At this point I got NY nasty, which I felt bad about after because there was a crowd of monks behind me and I’m sure the language barrier didn’t help. I told her I now had less than an hour to make my flight, I’m not buying a new ticket for the next flight at 6pm (it was only 2pm at this point), and if that’s the case I’ll buy a ticket to Phuket. She suggested I take some things out of the bag to put in my carry on to bring it down to 15kg; after I started to do this she said we can do it for $95. WTF?! This isn’t a market where you haggle, it’s an airport! At this point I didn’t want to be bothered anymore and just said okay, the most ridiculous thing about it was after she wrote the receipt out I just put the things I took out back in the suitcase and she didn’t say anything, so the weight clearly really wasn’t an issue. She also gave me a written receipt I had to take to a different counter to pay at, what if I just changed the number myself? I would never put up with this back home (then again it wouldn’t happen back home), but at this point I just wanted to make my flight. I was reluctant to fly Thai Lion to begin with because I researched it and they came in the bottom 4 of airlines in the world (I guess this is why), but I had no other choice because domestic flights are limited. On top of it, when I finally boarded the plane I thought “I must be on the flight to nowhere” because there was literally like 10 people. So my baggage was not weighing that plane down, maybe they were trying to make up for the lack of ticket sales? I saw them doing this with backpackers who couldn’t afford to pay, what then? You should always budget more than you think you need for your travels in case airlines try to haggle with you. It seems like we were getting the “farang” (foreigner/”white” price.)When I got to the gate, you take a crowded bus that drops you off at your plane, as if this couldn’t get any worse.The plane to nowhere!This is the Greyhound of airplanes, it makes Spirit seem like Emirates.No luggages in sight…But alas, we (the other 10 passengers and I) finally made it out of Bangkok!The sight of the mountains when touching down in Chiang Mai was enough to quell my lingering anger towards Thai Lying Air. Let’s see what happens on my return flight to Bangkok in a few days.
I finally arrived in Chiang Mai around 4:30pm. Fortunately I was in and out of this much smaller airport in 10 minutes, with a 10 minute ride to my hotel. Everything and everyone did seem a lot more relaxed and easy going here.Bangkok weather up top; the temperature swings in Chiang Mai down below are crazy.
Sunday night market: Sunday was a good day to arrive in Chiang Mai because they close Ratchadamnoen Road and vendors all set up shop. It’s open from 4pm-midnight, but it’s better to go later when it’s cooler. I took a nap and went around 9, it was only a 5 minute walk from my hotel. I know street food and eating at the markets are the thing to do in Thailand, but I felt uneasy about ruining my trip with food poisoning. Charcoal tablets are your friend, bring them to any country where the hygiene practices of the food you eat may be questionable. I also made sure I was up to date on hep a and b vaccines before I left and took the typhoid (Vivotif) vaccine for an upcoming trip to Africa. I know the risk of typhoid is low, but I figured since I had to take it anyway why not take it before this trip. So I ate pad thai with egg from the market, and I survived.That’s $1.12!
It’s hard to talk about food again after that picture, but after I was done browsing the market, I passed a place and decided I wanted papaya salad. This was at a “restaurant”, not a street vendor. After waiting a really long time, the (unfriendly) waitress finally brought it out, and I took a bite without realizing it had baby shrimp all over it. It was so gross I almost threw up in my mouth, I was literally gagging and spitting on the street. If you know me, you know this is not the lady-like behavior I indulge in. I politely paid the bill and left. She probably thought it was really rude I didn’t eat it, but I just can’t do shrimp, especially when it looks like bugs and I just saw that lovely display above. On the way back I saw one of (several) Thai massage places offering a 1 hour massage for 250 baht ($8), open until midnight. After all my flying and headaches today, I decided to go for it. The place wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, but it was legitimate (full of women getting massages, nothing shady going on), and it was unlike any massage I’ve ever had before. You put on loose cotton pants and a shirt (I did not want an oil massage), and lay on a bed behind a curtain. It was like every single barre/Pilates/yoga position combined into a massage. The masseuse bends, stretches, and cracks your body into a million different positions while giving a strong pressure massage; I’m glad I do barre on a regular basis because if I didn’t I think I would’ve felt like I played 18 holes of golf the next day. It was seriously the Kama Sutra of massages, I didn’t know you could give a massage 100 different ways in an hour, but for $8 I’ll probably go back tomorrow. It’s full body, scalp to toe, so you feel utterly refreshed after, migraines begone. I actually thought she was using hot stones until I looked, it was just heat generated from the deep pressure. She seemed really surprised (and grateful) that I gave her more than a 50% tip. I think $8 is a ridiculously low price for a better massage than I’ve gotten at luxury spas in NYC, and I feel bad for these women who are working long hours for such low wages with a majority clientele who probably doesn’t tip. I would actually say Chiang Mai is the new “backpacker’s universe”, but it’s still lovely in its own way and I have some really exciting things planned for the rest of my time here. Hopefully I don’t run into any more haggling on airline tickets!
🤢❓I tried to drink fresh coconut water after to get rid of the taste, then I downed half a bottle of listerine when I got back to my hotel and brushed my teeth 5 times.