The nice thing about taking the bus rather than flying is that we don’t have to worry about how much things weigh, and can pack really quickly using the shove-it-all-in-there-and-lock-it-up method. Quickest packing to date.
After another good breakfast at the hotel we were off for our private day tour with Jermsak. I bet you’ll never guess how I found out about him. How about this: any time the contact is *not* someone I found out about on TripAdvisor, I’ll point it out. Spoiler Alert: that will never happen.
I took this picture of Sal at the Cat Bar in Chiang Rai. We were laughing about something or other, and his eyes were twinkling and I asked if I could take his picture. I captured it. I absolutely love this pic.
I love you, Sal. You mean everything to me. Happy Birthday!!!
We got up early and went to breakfast, compliments of the hotel. There was a nice selection, but while there I discovered I had forgotten the key and locked us out of our room. Do’h. It wasn’t a problem for them at the hotel, and it was slightly embarrassing for me.
Our guide, Charlie, was someone I found on TripAdvisor. Shocking, I know. He came highly recommended. Before meeting him he was very good at promptly responding to questions and offering suggestions for our half-day tour. Charlie was a good guide. One thing that made him different was he asked us questions; no other guides had really done that up until that point. He seemed very interested in our lives, and that was a nice change and helped the interaction feel less one-sided. He picked us up in his car, which was perfectly fine, but certainly not fancy at all; it felt like getting picked up by a friend and not like a hired service, which I liked.
Our first stop was the White Temple. I saw a picture of this when planning our Thailand trip the last time we were in Thailand and really wanted to check it out. This time we made sure to include it in the itinerary. It’s just so different from any other temple you see anywhere. You can read more about the White Temple here.
I also took a few videos:
The front of the temple with the hands from hell was creepy. Charlie made sure to point out the only finger that was definitely female – it had red nail polish and was giving the bird. Hahaha. Like other temples, when you go in you take off your shoes. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pics, which is really unfortunate because there were some unusual (to say the least) things you wouldn’t expect to see. Most temples have a story of Buddha, but this temples had more of a current events theme on one side with the twin towers burning, Elvis, a minion, an angry bird, George Bush, Osama Bin Laden, and some super heroes. A lot of strange stuff. The temple is still under construction, and the artist said it will be another 60 years before it’s done.
One thing I’ve noticed in Thailand in general is how they really believe in luck and do things to better their luck. There are a lot of people just going around selling lottery tickets, at the temples you can do the sticks to find out your fortune, you ring the gong three times for luck, etc. At the White Temple you could get a leaf for luck and write on it to dedicate it. I wrote one for our friend, and Sal took a video of it being hung with the others.
After the White Temple we went to an art studio. Every month there is a new show. I think Charlie said there were 32 artists in Chiang Rai. This month was a feature on Japanese Manga.
From there we went to the Black House, and you can read about it when you click the link. The Black House is really a collection of buildings, so we walked along the grounds and Charlie explained several of them to us.
After the Black House we went to check out a local pottery studio and store. It was OK. Not really my cup of tea, but they can’t all be winners, right? On the way back to the hotel Charlie told us that Jermsak was the best guide in Chiang Rai. We have him as our guide tomorrow. He did say he (Charlie) was #2. Sorta funny.
We got back to the hotel and rested a bit, having thoroughly enjoyed our ½ day tour. It was just the right length of time, which makes me slightly worried because tomorrow is a full day. We went and got linner (early dinner, late lunch) at Barrab. Tasty and very reasonably priced.
We then went for a beer, waiting for the Night Market to open. It’s pretty spectacular people watching. After our beer Sal suggested going to a rooftop bar that was supposed to be nearby. We were almost there, then ran into this place.
Yup, it was one of those cat cafes. Turns out my allergies were mostly fine and Sal’s were definitely worse than mine. Almost immediately after we sat down a small tuxedo cat walked to me, then barely accepted a few pets before going straight to Sal’s lap. He/She didn’t get up again until we had to go!
Sal was clearly the cat whisperer.
I had a buddy, too.
It was really nice to pet some cats you weren’t afraid you’d catch fleas or worse from. We miss our cat(s). I think the cats had a really nice set up and the establishment took good care of them.
‘Our’ cats were the only ones who laid in our laps on their own, though, so nanny nanny boo boo! We strutted out when we left. Just kidding.
We headed to the Night Market and did a tiny bit of shopping. I didn’t think it was as good as the Happy Street from yesterday, but we didn’t see the whole thing. We’ll probably check that out tomorrow. After walking back to the hotel, it was again called a day!
We got up, finished packing, and had some of the yummy apples Mr. Oat gave us for breakfast. Thank goodness for the larger suitcase; packing was much easier. We listened to the World Series a bit, too, which is something we’ve done pretty much every day it’s on. Sort of funny to be listening to baseball in the morning here. We checked out painlessly, and got a cab to the airport. There wasn’t any traffic, so we ended up getting there very early. Fine by me. I hate rushing on travel days.
We did web check-in the day before, so only had to go through getting the luggage tags and doing the self check-in of the actual luggage. There is always someone there helping, which makes it easy. After we were done checking the bags in, we made our way to security. That had gone remarkably easy and it was so nice having that new suitcase – everything felt light! We were almost to security when Sal asked, “Where’s your blue bag?”. Good grief! I had left it where we checked in the luggage. I ran back and found it where I’d left it. The Air Asia worker barely blinked at me; I think they are running on autopilot there. According to Fitbit, my heart rate was 125. I haven’t sprinted like that in quite some time! I was so embarrassed. I didn’t think I could get more embarrassed until this happened after we ate breakfast at the airport:
Someone has a little addiction problem.
I used the restroom before the flight and there was this sign: **pic** wat?
Eventually it was time for our flight. We were in row 27 because we hadn’t paid extra for seat assignment when we bought the tickets. Luckily the flight was only 1 hour and 20 minutes long, because our knees were touching the seat in front of us. Our flight was a bit late, again, of course. What else is new with Air Asia? I figure anything less than an hour late is on time when you have very low expectations.
Speaking of Air Asia, I forgot to mention that I got an email from them the day before saying one of our upcoming flights was cancelled. We spent some time figuring out what our options were and researching other flights and got sorted almost painlessly. Almost. But really, when you have this many flights you can’t possibly think they are all going to run smoothly. Especially on budget airlines.
We made it to Chiang Rai and some young girls were doing a dance routine near the baggage pickup, raising money for education. Very cute.
We found our hotel driver and got in a van that had a video that was basically a promo about things to do and see in Chiang Rai. I was quite shocked the vehicle had the name of the hotel (Le Patta) on it, because I thought this hotel was quite small. We got to the hotel and I realized it was more midsized. The check-in people were very kind and after some fresh juice they took us to our room, which was really three rooms – a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom. Very nice. And we were told our minibar was free and they restock every day. Nice surprise as there was water, snacks & beer.
We chilled out on the patio for a bit, enjoying the pool view and reading. It was quite pleasant. After a bit we decided to head to the bus station and get our tickets for our next destination. The bus station ended up being more of a bus parking lot. I didn’t get a picture, but I’ll get one the next transfer day…
We walked from there to a bar called Cat Bar, for a couple of beers. I thought maybe the cat bar had real cats. Nope. Very hole-in-the-wall. And weird. But I liked it.
After some refreshments we walked the long way to the Happy Sunday Street which was their big Sunday market. On the way walking there, there was this incredibly loud noise and it took a second to figure out it was birds. Wow. Nic, skip this one. We finally got there and started browsing. Sal and I think the market was ½ mile long. It kept going and going, then at the end you turn around and look at the other side. It was much busier than expected, too. A video to show you how crowded it was.
By the time we finished my dogs were tired. I had emailed the hotel asking how much a tuk tuk was from the market to the hotel and was told 50-60 baht (it was less than a mile). When we got to the tuk tuks the man said ‘100 baht’, which was exactly what Sal said he’d say. Sal countered with 40, and the man scoffed and said 80. We eventually settled on 70, so although we got ripped off, it was for $0.30 as opposed to $1.20 and that feels like a small victory. Yes, we argued over less than $1. It’s just the way it is here and part of the fun.
Blurry, but in case you aren’t familiar with what a tuk tuk looks like:
After a long day, we called it a night.