Friday, April 13, 2012

Chiang Rai - quaint gateway

April 9/10 and 12/13, 2012

Our Air Asia flight from Bangkok landed into Chiang Rai airport late in the evening on April 9. The airport is small, yet modern, and has a comfortable and unhurried air about it. 

We had decided on a variety of accommodation during our trip to Thailand. A seaside resort in Khao Lak. A homestay in Chiang Rai. A guest house up in the mountains by the Mae Kok River. Finally, a large hotel in Bangkok to round off our 2012 summer Thailand experience.

We opted to stay at Baan Bua Homestay on Jed Yod Road, right next to Wat Jed Yod. We had emailed our arrival dates about a month earlier, and reconfirmed over email and phone. "Don't worry, our staff will be at the airport.", we had been assured. Sure enough, the "staff" from the homestay was standing at the arrival area holding up a placard, with a broad smile (but, of course!). "The flight was a little late.", I said apologetically. "Oh, no problem.", he replied. The 10 km drive took to the Homestay about 20 minutes. 

Chiang Rai is indeed a "no hurry", little city, ideal for a gateway to the regions of Thailand further north and east.

Baan Bua Homestay turned out to be a wonderful 2-storey bungalow with a lot of teak used in the construction and for furniture that is polished and well maintained. A sign at the entrance of the homestay requests you to leave your footwear outside. Wi-Fi is available at no charge. An interesting sign greets you as you climb the stairs. The stairs and floors are make of wood, so one does need to tip-toe around.

The bright pink exteriors are complemented by bright green interiors. Polished and clean, though.

A no-frills Thai-Chinese restaurant (Muang Thong) is located within a few minutes walk. Open past midnight, when most other bars and restaurants shut down, this eatery is a convenient option. That was our dinner option around 11PM since we had reached Chiang Rai rather late. Junior loved it.

Service is quick, the food is equivalent to general street food. A large TV is available to watch sports and games till late in the night. Entry requirements do not mandate that you wear a ManU t-shirt. 

The balcony at Baan Bua Homestay is ideal to sip a cup of morning tea or coffee before heading down for breakfast.

Breakfast is cooked and served by the hard working duo who run the homestay. 

A glimpse of the home-cooked breakfast options.

The Baan Bua couple team is absolutely All-in-1, their work ranging from answering phone calls to driving to front desk staff to cooking to laundry to ironing clothes to cleaning the rooms and looking after their two children... busy from morning to night, yet exceptionally cheerful and helpful, always smiling.  

We left our clothes for laundry, and our strolleys, as well, at Baan Bua and headed to My Dream Guest House for two nights. Our river and mountain experience is here: 

April 12, 2012

The long tail taxi brought us back to Chiang Rai on April 12 around noon. A 100B song thaew ride took us Baan Bua Homestay, via Baan Bua Guesthouse nearby, where the driver took us by mistake. The best landmark for Baan Bua 'Homestay' is Wat Jed Yod.

Lunch was at a Thai restaurant on Jed Yod Road, opposite the temple. The two little daughters of the owners were busy sprinkling water at passing vehicles and people, as far as their littler hands could throw the water, their gentle version of the Songkran celebration.

Wat Jed Yod is a very relaxing temple complex. The monks were also getting set for Songkarn.

Exquisite Bonsai trees in the compound.

Wat Jed Yod was built over 500 years ago, modelled after the famous Mahabodhi Temple in India. Jed Yod means Seven Parks, there is much to see in the complex. 

The internal chamber contains a very large, seated Buddha along with mural paintings along the walls. The hall is ideal for sitting a while and absorbing the quiet atmosphere.

The two sides of Jed Yod Road are, ironically, lined with a series of bars and restaurants. Fortunately, the atmosphere is very subdued and low key, unlike that in many other cities. Quite a pleasant atmosphere. Some bars play Thai music, while some play English music. The entire stretch appears highly family friendly. 

As we walked along, most of the bars and restaurants were preparing to celebrate Songkran. We hopped along, sometimes running zig zag, to avoid the sprays of water. It was all very non-violent, though. The atmosphere was very friendly, everyone was smiling, bowing their heads and sometimes waving or folding their hands. We did get a little wet, and were quite happy about being able to join in the celebration. 

The Night Market nearby has the usual assortment of souvenirs, clothes, bags, footwear and food stalls. We came across a stall where the seller was skillfully making tuk-tuks using discarded soft drink cans and wires.

There are about fifty food stalls. Here is a picture of an interesting stall. Looking only, no ordering. Okay, okay.

In case you are wondering why looking only, no ordering, this is what the menu displayed.

One of our choices was the rather conventional Hot-Pot spicy Veg Soup. Yummy. Do you notice a sense of relief that the 'boys' had not got too adventurous?

The other part of dinner was Pad Thai Noodles with a huge assortment of colourful veggies. 

Ok, time to settle down and enjoy the Night Market food.

Meanwhile, a variety of dances were being performed in the stage at one end of the Night Market.

A view of the food and entertainment part of the Night Market. Lively, colourful, buzzzing and colourful.

Chiang Mai is an extremely pleasant city to walk at night. The Clock Tower is a pretty piece. The area around is quite popular with families and the younger generation.  We walked back to Baan Bua Homestay along Jed Yod Road. As you pass the bars and restaurants on the street, nobody asks you 'Where you going?'. Good time for a little beer. Inside the bar, nobody asks you 'Where you from?'. 

The next morning, it's coffee, breakfast, pack and ready to leave. 

We take a detour and visit Wat Rong Kun, popularly known as the White Temple. Though it was the Songkran holiday, the crowd was not too bad. The temple is beautiful, stark white, with millions of mirrors.

As you walk into the central complex over the bridge, you pass a sculpture depicting what looks like hundreds of hands and skulls belonging to tormented souls reaching up, like souls pleading to get liberated. Well, that was my first impression. 

Mirrors, mirrors everywhere. This was along the pathway to the central sanctorum. 

Photography is not allowed inside. Lots of 'modern' mural themes surrounding a large Buddha statue. Peaceful, cool and quiet within. 

The beautifully sculpted part at the side of the sanctorum. The complex is fairly large, and contains ancient caves. We had to get going, though. 

Outside the White Temple by the stalls, is this ubiquitous place for offerings, found all over Thailand, on the streets, inside building complexes, just about everywhere. Reminds me of Bali and Goa.

Now, on to Chiang Rai airport to head to Bangkok for Songkran, excited about the experiences that lie ahead and the prospect of getting well soaked. 

-=-= April 13, 2012

Related posts:

Guest House, Mae Kok, Rafting and the Hill Tribes

Songkran in Bangkok (without a raincoat)

Khao Lak - a slice of heaven

Similan Islands and the Moo Moo

Thailand - Menus - Khao Lak


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