Saturday 27 June 2015 – Chiang Mai
I booked an additional night in the CH Hotel directly across the road, booked through the Hotel.com app. I’d booked more than 10 nights through it on the trip so far, so I qualified for a ‘free’ night to the value of about AUD$40. The room (deluxe, including breakfast, was $47, so a cheap night.
Bought a 20 baht iced coffee from a street vendor (terrific) and had some boat noodles with pork for breakfast (delicious). The tour has certainly increased my confidence of eating and ordering like a local.
Spent a few hours wandering the old city, seeing more temples (wats). Lashed out on a chicken baguette for lunch (TB90) in a little café. It was good – real bread and mayonnaise with the slightly unusual addition of the big local sultanas for added sweetness.
It rained a bit during the afternoon, but not heavily. Apparently, the rains have not come so far this year and crops are not growing as they should. Soon had recommended a massage place (Home2) so I got a one-hour oil massage. These seem to vary. The one I had in Krabi involved and oil deep tissue back massage; the rest followed Thai massage techniques. This one involved some Thai technique but was mainly the application, Swedish technique and then wiping off oil for back, legs, arm and chest. As a result, the neck and shoulders didn’t quite get the attention they needed (I’ve had a slightly niggly back since Bangkok, the results of that cramped and lengthy train ride from Hua Hin – next time pay the extra for the express service). But for 250 baht (about AUD$10) I’m not complaining as it was still quite relaxing.
It’s Saturday and the Saturday ‘Walking Street’ market was set up on the street where we’d had lunch on the first day in Chiang Mai. It ostensibly commenced at 4pm but at 4.30pm they were still setting up. Apart from a lot of food and beverage stalls, it seems to be more handmade crafts than the tat at the night market and I would probably have lingered and bought some things if I’d had more time. However, the Australian ladies – Leoni, Jacquie and Nicola – had invited me for drinks at their hotel at 6pm, so I went back to my hotel, checked in, washed and set off to meet them.
They had moved for their final night to the boutique riverside Ping Nakara Hotel. It was delightful. A chap in a solar topee met me at the gate and ushered me to reception. The ladies were ensconced on a covered veranda overlooking the pool. It’s a boutique hotel in a renovated mansion, very tasteful with all white décor – Raffles-meets-Somerset Maugham.
The ladies had ordered drinks. I decided that given the surroundings, a G&T was the only possible choice, and as it was happy hour (2 for 1), we chugged through two each. The hotel had a very nice restaurant and they asked me to stay for dinner, which was delicious Thai food. They have been wonderful travel companions and great company. Leonie in particular has readily laughed at my awful jokes, Nicola and I have swapped travel stories and Jacquie is great company with a dry sense of humour. It was a lovely evening and a great way to wind up the tour. I would have stayed later, but this was my last chance to hit the night market and buy a few gifts, so at 9pm I walked down to the market, which is literally at the back door of my hotel for the night.
A big covered pavilion houses the bulk of the stalls along with numerous bars, restaurants and massage places. Stalls spread along the street (the branded knockoffs seemed to be outside, with the inside more scarves, silks and handcrafts (mostly made in China, I suspect). So I bought a silver ring for 400 baht, three silk scarves for 280 baht, some embroidered zip bags (5 for 100 baht) and some elephant key rings that I’ll use as Christmas decorations (100 baht). It was fairly gentle with a lot of marked prices and what bargaining there was, was very good natured.