The easiest (at least cheapest) way to get from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai is by bus. We booked tickets on Greenbus Thailand’s VIP bus for a mere 258 TB ($7.15 US) per person. There is a cheaper bus, but we figured as cheap as the tickets were, that we could be VIPs! And, we were a little nervous about the quality of the non-VIP bus; on our previous trip to SE Asia, we had seen some pretty uncomfortable looking buses, so figured we could splurge for once and spend the big bucks to be comfortable.
The trip would take 3 hours and pass into hill country. In other words, bumpy and winding roads. I don’t know if the suspension on the VIP bus was any better than the regular buses that make this trip, but it was a bit “turbulent”. I didn’t get motion sick but was wishing that I had remembered to take a “just in case” meclizine, my magical cure against tummy distress. At least we had nice, wide, comfy seats to ride in! We were given a bottle of water and a small snack when the bus left the station. If you take this trip, a small hint for you: save the water for later. There is no bathroom on the bus, nor does it stop (unless the driver needs a pit stop). A 3-hour ride with a full bladder on bumpy roads is not my idea of fun!
We reached Chiang Rai right on time and were pleased to find our hotel easily from the bus depot. It was only a few blocks away, and for once, we did not get lost heading in the wrong direction. We were staying at the Wiang Inn, which is a large hotel that seems to cater to tour groups. We were greeted with glasses of cold juice, which was a nice touch. After stowing our luggage in our room, we headed to the restaurant for lunch. We had seen a nice buffet set up while checking in, but they had just closed it by the time we were ready for lunch. Bummer! The menu was quite complete, though (obviously) heavily skewed toward Thai food. I decided to get some Khao Soi. The waitress warned me that it would be very, very spicy. So, I picked another dish. Yup, too spicy. She told me that the only two things on the menu that weren’t very spicy were Pad Thai and fried rice. Pad Thai may be one of my favorite foods, but I have had it so often that I was hoping for something different. But, I didn’t want to pay for my lunch choice later (if you get my drift), so wimped out an ordered the Pad Thai. Clayton got cashew chicken; he said it was very spicy indeed. I wonder if the food in northern Thailand is extra spicy compared to other Thai food. I guess we shall find out!
I was disappointed to find that the internet at this hotel was just as abysmal as the internet at the last hotel. I had been hoping to be able to update my blog, but unless I can get a reasonably fast connection, it would be impossible. Frustrating! We also had hoped to be able to use our Amazon Fire Stick to access some English-speaking tv, but without internet access in our room, that too would be impossible.
Time to get out of the room and scope out our food and massage choices! We took a walk down the main drag. Let’s just say that this town is not too scenic…but, there are plenty of choices as far as tours and activities. We found a few potential massage spots and tucked away the names to look up later on Google. We also found a few places to eat that we wanted to look at reviews for.
Since we had a late lunch, we decided on the dinner of champions: cake and coffee at the local cat café. The cats here were very, very mellow. Unlike cat cafés in the US, there was no charge to visit with the kitties. Most people seemed to be there to use the free internet as opposed to interacting with the cats.
We headed down to the night market, which was only a few blocks away. Just like in Chiang Mai, we found stalls selling all types of elephant pants, shorts, and skirts. But, since we are now a bit further north, we also found clothes made by some of the local hill tribes. They are very colorful. However, I know without a shadow of a doubt that I would never, ever wear them back home, so was not tempted to buy any. Past the clothing and trinket stalls was a courtyard area that had a stage. A group was warming up, getting ready to play Thai music. Past the courtyard was a food court area where one could get all types of interesting looking food at very cheap prices. We were not hungry since we had a very late lunch, but may return another night to try out a thing or two. I think I may skip the plates full of snails, though.
I didn’t take many pictures today; not too much of interest to take pictures of! Tomorrow, we have a full day tour booked that should be pretty amazing, so will have lots of pictures in my next post.