We’ve just returned to Loei after our travels up to Chiang Mai. I’ve somehow accumulated over 900 photos! I’ll be sifting through them this weekend and posting the trip up in separate parts. All in all it was a great trip, we’re glad we were able to make it happen and we both achieved the dream of riding on an elephant (which was a mix of terrifying and terrific!)
The journey to Phitsanulok (pronounced [pʰít.sa.nú.lôːk]) was fairly uneventful and we spent 4 hours trundling along windy roads into the mountains and back down again until we reached our hotel the 2.5 star Amarin Nakorn. I had originally picked this hotel because it’s located near the train station
and because it’s cheap. However, that night with the intention of being proactive about buying tickets, we entered the train station only to be told that there were no trains going north due to repairs to the track and it wouldn’t be finished until next month.
Which meant another bus journey which would take just shy of 7 hours, and the bus station was the other end of town to our hotel.
The hotel’s shower didn’t work, we had asked for a double bed and got twin beds, and the place was practically deserted except for the room next to us had a loud TV and with the dimly lit hallways it reminded me of the Hotel Earl from Barton Fink (mosquitoes and all!)
Here’s a few photos:
Breakfast wasn’t something worth getting up for but it was free, so afterwards we took a taxi back to the bus station where we were immediately hustled into a coach we were told was going to Chiang Mai but was leaving now. Despite a 15min stop where the driver got out to buy what looked like a phone case covered in pink glitter we arrived in Chiang Mai 7 hours later starving and exhausted as apparently food stops are not something Thai bus drivers seem to care about.
Chiang Mai was very busy and swarming with white people! Having come from Loei it was very strange to suddenly not be stared at or have people grabbing my arms and wanting to shake my hand, but to be looked at as a tourist again. Every white person seemed to be annoyed when they caught sight of another as though they were making everything less exotic. It was all very odd.
We got to Chada House our hostel where I’d only booked one night in case we didn’t like it, but although the room was very basic (there was a towel where a bed sheet should be) it was clean, cheap and the woman running the place spoke English and was very nice. The next day we upgraded our room from ‘basic’ to ‘standard’ which meant we had a blanket instead of a towel and a TV as well.
On the first night Jack found us a place to eat called “Mad Dog’s Farang Food” which became a bit of a hangout for us as we’d both had enough of rice and noodles and western food was definitely on the menu. I definitely think I was in some kind of starvation mode prior to this as I was suddenly starving and managed to out eat even Jack (:P)
There wasn’t much of a temperature difference between Loei and Chiang Mai (IMO) but back in Loei the kids were coming to school wearing coats and the shops were selling wooly hats! It’s 30 degrees. Chiang Mai however (same temp) and everyone’s wearing skirts and strappy tops.
We decided to book two tours whilst we were away, one to visit an elephant camp and ride on an elephant and the second to visit Doi Suthep the temple at the top of the mountain. I’ll cover these later.
As we were back in a city we decided to visit one of the two large shopping complexes they have in Chiang Mai with the intention of seeing a film as we miss going to the cinema. We decided to see Thor 2. It was quite straightforward getting a ticket from one of the machines and the film was in English with Thai subtitles, perfect. This meant we experienced the moment when just before the film starts everyone has to stand and watch as a reel showing stills of the Thai royal family play with the national anthem. You must stand and remain still in silence until it ends.
Thor 2 was great and we both enjoyed it and our Thai cinema experience (the chairs are much more comfy than the Odeon.)
We decided to explore the mall a little and get some food. Here’s some photos:
There was a huge Christmas tree in the middle spanning the height of all 4 floors and a small display at the bottom. It was weird seeing something like this when Christmas just doesn’t exist for us at the moment, but it was nice.
I took a picture of some of the window food displays as I like how they show you the meals using this fake mock-up. There was a train that was moving around one of the floors, it wasn’t on a track and the driver seemed to like going wherever we did so there was lots of darting out of the way.
Strangely, we were two of the only westerners in the mall and this seemed to be where most of the younger Thais were hiding when we hadn’t seen them out and about before.
I’ll update with the elephants and Doi Suthep later.