Hi all forum members,
I'm going to attempt a trip report - but have so much info for you - you'll have to bear with me. This is part one, which is the first five days we spent in Chiang Mai before heading up to Chiang Rai. This was our 5th trip to Chiang Mai - our first was 15 years ago, our last in early 2007. My husband and I traveled with our two sons aged 11 and 8.
Firstly we arrived at the CM International Airport from KL on a clear, sunny day - we flew Air Asia - the plane was brand new, not a single complaint from us. The airport is clean and a breeze to negotiate. You are greeted by an army of touts as soon as you get outside. We headed straight to the taxi counter immediately in front of the departure doors. We had to pay 50B airport tax and get a coupon for the driver and then we paid by the meter to our guest house. Total 68B on the meter.
Our cab driver was No 76 Mr Payon - Ph: 081 8824701. During the transfer he offered us 700B for a four hour (half day) service or 1400B for a full day service anywhere around the general Chiang Mai area. We later took him up on this.
Our first four nights of the trip we spent at the Baan Orapin. This was on the advice of forum members and TA reviews (rated no 1 B & B in CM). We were not disappointed. I'll review the hotel fully in the review section - but need to say a huge thank you to everyone who recommended this place. It is just over the river from Warorot Market. There is not a single thing I would change about this place. It is family owned - the most beautiful setting with an old Thai home (owned by their grandmother) in the middle of the property. We had a suite with adjoining room - right near the pool and waterfall. Orchids everywhere - four posters beds and the most fabulous staff. Our two boys are constantly telling us they want to go and live with Pepsi (the owners cousin). He made our stay so special. There's so much more I could say about this place....
The street it is on (Charoen Rat) runs along the river and is a wonderful neighbourhood to explore. Turn out of the left of the hotel and you pass a convenience store and several art gallery type shops you then hit the footbridge which takes you over the river to Warorot Market. It's a really nice and very short walk. Also right near the foot bridge is a wonderful place called 'Reginas'. Regina is a colourful, local character - you have to see her shop/restaurant to believe it. It's jam packed with everything under the sun - and full of her life story. The place is a little run down but the food is awesome (her grand daughter cooks) - it's also right on the river and has a lovely garden out back.
I also have to mention the pink tea house just next door - Vieng Joom On. DONT MISS THIS! I dragged my husband and three boys along - reluctantly. It is so beautiful - right on the river, full of antiques and the food is awesome. They have this plate of 9 tiny cakes - all delicious. Also very fresh food. We went back again later in the trip.
If you turn right out of the Baan Orapin you come to The Gallery, The Riverside and the Good View. All great places to while away a few hours at night for a drink and a meal. They have bands, river views and a real buzz. We had dinner one night at the Gallery and it was a great meal in a beautiful setting. Probably the best riverside restaurant we ate at - and good value as well. A real treat.
A tuk tuk ride from this side of the river to the night market or to the old city is 50B and less than 5 mins. We loved the location. We got to know lots of the local characters - the washing lady just to the left of our hotel is a scream. She answered the door one day with a towel around her and her hair full of shampoo. She delivered our washing on her push bike with basket on front.
We called our airport cab driver for a four hour (half day) trip. He was busy but sent us another driver - Mr Somchai No. 169 Ph: 083 8612644. Mr Somchai arrived half an hour after our call - four hours for the agreed price of 700B (all inclusive). Firstly we went up the mountain to Doi Suthep (20 mins away)- we love this place. The walk up the stairs isn't too bad and the view from the top - awesome. Our boys love ringing the bells at the top. There is a great little cafe for a coffee break and lots of photo ops. Just make sure you wear pants that cover your knees to get into the temple area. We spent about an hour at the top while our driver waited down below. From here we went to Bor Sang Umbrella Village to stock up on some fans and umbrellas and then to our favorite village the SAA paper village (Ban Ton Pao). This paper village is well worth the visit - right next to Bor Sang. I bought about 30 large sheets of beautiful hand made paper - I use it to wrap around art canvas' to hang on the wall at home. No problems bringing Never had a problem bringing this paper or umbrellas, fans etc back into Aus. We always declare them. The only things they take are things with plant leaves or petals or seeds - also elephant dung paper isn't allowed. The four hour trip was great value for 700B.
We also spent a morning exploring the bookshops up near the moat area. Just outside of the Tha Phae Gate there is about four fantastic book shops (new and used) with editions from all over the world.
Another morning was spent wandering around the Warorot Market area. I was prepared for the pig heads but the live eel squiring on the floor at our feet was somewhat freaky. There are lots of great shops on the street around this area - not so much inside the building. Although later in the trip we were visiting our sponsor child - so we were able to buy blankets, towels etc here to take on our visit.
As well as the things above we fitted a lot more into these days - including massages, meals out and about and a visit to 'Miss Chocolate', another great cafe near the Baan Orapin. (the name says it all).
One highlight of these five days was the Sunday Walking Street. This is one of my fav experiences of Chiang Mai - literally hundreds of stalls with amazing hand made things - clothes, toys, photo cards, leather goods, portrait artists etc. It runs from the Tha Phae gate right through the moat area and kicks off around late afternoon. Heaps of places to eat and very ambient. By amazing co-incidence I ran into destination expert 'Lanna Focus' at the market and was able to thank him in person for all of his help with our planning. 'Hi' if you are reading this.
We didn't want to leave the Baan Orapin - but we had three nights in Chiang Rai ahead - then back to Chiang Mai again. See next trip report.