| Part 1:
Introduction + Chiang Mai
This was a brief 5-days trip to the Chiang Mai area in northern
Thailand with the family. I had already visited Chiang Mai twice in
1998 and 2001 and Chiang Mai is a mass tourism destination with a well
developed tourism infrastructure, so I wasn't a particularly exciting
and adventurous trip.
The trip went better than I expected. We chose a hotel about 15km
northwest of Chiang Mai in the mountains, far away from the noise and
chaos of Chiang Mai, but very suitable for the small kids due to the
multitude of tourist attractions in the area. Had I stayed in Chiang
Mai city it would have been shopping every day with the missus and her
mother. Like this instead we spent a lot of time in wildlife places,
relaxed in the hotel and went shopping to Chiang Mai only a couple of
times. The trip to Chiang Rai and the Laos/Myanmar border rounded up
our stay in northern Thailand.
Despite not being a beach place, the area offers a lot to families with
kids in terms of attractions and things to do.
in Thailand are still moderate and overall trips to the country are
very good value. We paid for instance only the equivalent of 30
Euro/night for a room like a palace. What added to the cost were those
taxi trips to Chiang Mai and all those attractions in the area.
Thai food is delicious. The food court in the Robinson food court in
Chiang Mai is a paradise for food lovers. There is a wide range of
dishes and desserts to choose from, offered at unbelievably low prices.
The Ruen Ariya resort is a mid-range with that kind of Thai palace
rooms. Beautifully decorated, richly furnished, with excellent
amenities and a very moderate price. The hotel also has its own (small)
pool. The only thing is that it is located 15km out of Chiang Mai in
the mountains, so it's less suitable if you want to visit Chiang Mai.
/ Exchange rate (August 2012)
1 Euro = August 2012
1 Euro = 1.23 USD
ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a
Cirrus/Maestro ATM card.
phones and prepaid cards
surprise, upon arriving in Chiang Mai we were given SIM cards for free.
Quite interesting. We used however truemove H SIM cards, bought in a
7/11 shop. The problem with these SIM cards was that the network was 3G
only and the coverage in the mountains was poor. Then there was an
issue with the card balance which dropped to zero very quickly.
Probably it was due to the Internet access, billed by the KByte. Maybe
a flat rate package existed, but the problem was that in the 7/11 shop
nobody knew how to set up the SIM card or how to book a data package.
In any case I would recommend to avoid this SIM card and buy one in a
shop with knowledgeable staff capable of speaking some European
Internet access we used mostly the WLAN network of the hotel. I also
had mobile 3G access via the smartphone, but didn't use it much due to
the issues with the 3G network.
like we visited northern Thailand during or at the beginning of the
rainy season. The weather was mixed in the first two days with a number
of rain showers, then improved markedly over the last three days.
The usual set to tropical vaccinations are needed.
VISA on arrival for all ASEAN nationals and nationals of many western
and developed countries.
Thailand is a very safe place.
- One of the highlights was the trip to Chiang Rai and
the Golden Triangle. The countryside is beautiful.
- The area in the mountains around Mea Rim is full of
places suitable for kids (wildlife, elephant camp orchid farm etc.)
driver of the Ruen Ariya hotel used to drive us around to the
attractions near the hotel. For trips to/from Chiang Mai we used taxis.
9.8: Kuala Lumpur (LCCT
-> Chiang Mai
Ariya Resort, Chiang Mai. 1175 Thai Baht for the room, booked through
asiarooms.com. The Ruen Ariya is a hotel located about 15km north of
Chiang Mai in the mountains near the village of Mae Rim. The room the
give us is like a palace. Beautifully decorated in Thai style, sort of
a mini apartment consisting of a big bedroom, a pre-room and a bathroom
with shower. The room has an LCT TV, A/C, fan, phone, free WLAN, a
safe, a fridge and beautiful furniture. Nice bed. Great value for the
low price we pay. The hotel has a pool. The only drawback is the
location far away from Chiang Mai.
sunny in KL, a bit windy, doesn't feel that hot. Overcast in Chiang Mai
and some rain. Probably it's rainy season in the north of Thailand.
I check out at 11am, then wait for 15 minutes for a shuttle bus to the
airport terminal. The hotel staff promised it would arrive in 10
minutes, so after 15 minutes I simply walk to the airport terminal with
my luggage. It's still early to meet Shirley and the kids, so the first
thing I do is have some breakfast in an Old Town White Coffee
restaurant. Then I move to the meeting point near the KFC restaurant
and wait there.
Shortly before 1pm I get up. Suddenly the kids run towards me.
Apparently they have been here since 12:30pm, but didn't see me. Big
family reunion scene.
We have some lunch in this KFC restaurant, then check-in and proceed to
the gate. Long queues at the foreigner queues at the passport check,
but we proceed directly through the counter for Malaysians which is
empty. It's good if two members of the family are Malaysian.
The Airasia flight leaves on time and lands on time in Chiang Mai. Some
turbulence in the final phase of the flight before landing.
Baggage retrieval and immigration proceed smoothly.
At the passport check counter and later at the baggage retrieval we are
handed free SIM cards. Incredible. I remember 20 years ago these SIM
cards cost 30 DM (=15 Euro) to make and now they are giving them away
for free. How prices have dropped over time. This free SIM cards
however do not seem to offer good terms for what concerns Internet use,
so I don't use them.
We catch a taxi for the resort. This will cost us 650 Baht, the
distance is 25 km, as I later find out by checking Google Maps. The
driver offers to show us around in Chiang Mai for 1500 Baht for one day
(eight hours). A day trip to Chiang Rai costs 4500 Baht. A bit pricey
in my opinion, but then the car is big.
So we reach this nice resort in the middle of the mountains. Actually
these are not mountains (the terrain is quite plain), it's just that it
is a rural area. Some comment/complaint from Shirley why I chose the
hotel in the mountains, far away from Chiang Mai. Because otherwise you
spend too much time shopping, darling. Ha ha ha... Activities possible
here are jungle treks, elephant rides, visits to monkey and crocodile
places etc. But of course we'll also do some shopping, otherwise the
ladies will complain too much.
In the evening we chill out a bit. Swim in the pool, have dinner in the
hotel, walk to a nearby 7/11 store for some shopping.
In the hotel we meet a couple of Chinese from Lijiang who came here by
car with the kids. 1900km done so far in four days. I'm guessing that
perhaps they crossed Myanmar to reach Thailand, or perhaps Laos in case
the northern part of Myanmar is off-limits for tourists. Chit-chat in
Chinese with the guy, good to practice my Mandarin. Tomorrow they are
driving to Bangkok. Will take them 11 hours according to Google Maps
(> 700km). And then they want to continue to Malaysia, then all the
way back to China. All this in 15 days.
This guy is really tough. Well, I guess also his family is tough (he is
travelling with his wife and two daughters, 4 and 12 years old). I'm
surprised his ladies are not rebelling because of so much driving. They
have a good and big car, sort of a compact minivan, made in China. He
paid 130000 Renmimbi 10 years ago for it. He tells me that by now the
cost of living in Lijiang is higher than in Thailand, which is
interesting. It used to be that China was cheap in the past, but by now
it is quite possible that the price level in China has increased above
the Thai one.
This Chinese family is surprised when they see my two daughters, who
look almost completely European, talking Mandarin to each other. Why do
the European girls talk Mandarin to each other? I explain that my wife
is Chinese Malaysian. My girls and his girls befriend each other. For
me it's an interesting experience, because it's the first time I meet a
family of Chinese who are travelling like this.
The guy tells me it's the first time he is travelling abroad (before he
did only trips in China). A-ha, salaries/incomes in China have risen so
much, that now average or let's say middle class Chinese families take
the car and travel abroad. Although I guess that this guy must have
been having a decent income for quite some time, if he could afford to
shell out 130000 renmimbi for a car 10 years ago. Probably he could not
have done that if he were a Foxconn factory worker.
I have to say that I like this guy, his attitude, his interest for new
things and desire to explore new places, his positive attitude towards
the future. If there are more/many people like him in China, China can
This is something I have noticed about the Chinese in general. They are
good at business, work hard and are willing to work hard, learn very
fast and once they have learned something they make no more mistakes.
This is something I cannot tell of many Europeans who despite learning
something (slowly), keep on making the same mistakes, again and again