We took the last bus to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai at 6:00pm. Turns out we had booked the VIP bus, which was 512 baht for two people ($14). The seats were double wide and reclined a decent amount. They also had a leg rest that came out to ensure extra comfort. They brought cool towels, water and snacks to everyone at the beginning of the trip. The ride was about 2.5 hours and we met Chris, a New Jersey dude who moved to Chiang Rai 21 years ago. He gave us advice as to where to stay, where to eat, and things to do during our visit. When we arrived to the old bus station, currently in front of the 7/11 due to construction, Chris and his wife Ester offered us a ride to the hotel. They were super nice and gave us a mini tour on our way over! We were so grateful to have found such kind people willing to go our of their way to help out.
When we arrived at Le Meridien, we checked in and settled down. We grabbed dinner at the resort, as they were still serving the seafood buffet for another 45 minutes. The buffet was good, I think the street food and walking street would have been a better option that evening. However, Chris had said things close down pretty early in the town so we didn’t want to risk getting there and everything being closed.
The next morning we enjoyed an amazing breakfast at the hotel and as we walked back to the room I noticed there were bikes out front. We asked about the bikes and were told we could rent them for have of the day for 150 baht each ($7 total). This was significantly less than arranging transportation through the hotel to visit the white temple, which was 2,000 baht. So we decided to go with the bikes for the day to see the white temple. When we checked google maps it said it would be 16km (10 miles) to the white temple from the hotel. Being that we do not normally bike, we thought that we could handle this.
Well, we did not really take into consideration the fact that we would be biking in about 102*F (38*C) weather. The ride was pretty challenging. We stopped a few times for water, but we made it!! It was a really great feeling of accomplishment and well deserving of an ice cold gatorade. It was also well worth the incredible temple that we were visiting. The white temple or Wat Rong Khun was constructed in 1997, the white temple is a privately owned art exhibit styles after a Buddhist temple. We spent about 1 hour wondering the temple and admiring the art and detail throughout the grounds. Steven made a wish on one of the tassels and hung it up. We knew we had to make it back to the hotel so we grabbed another gatorade and relaxed for a bit under some fans in one of the cafes. We had to mentally prepare ourselves for the ride back, as our legs were already feeling like jello.
Sitting back on the bike was a little difficult, but got better as time went on. We made less stops on our way back. Mostly because I was in front and just trying to get back to the hotel. Steven said that my pedaling speed was very sporadic. I knew that I was definitely fluctuating throughout the ride depending on when I would get bouts of energy. Unfortunately for Steven, my bouts of energy did not coincide with his. Eventually, we made it back to the hotel and the concierge was very impressed with the fact that we had succeeded; he was very skeptical upon our departure.
We took a much needed break by the infinity pool overlooking the river. We watched the monks bathing in the water across the way and then decided to head into town. Every saturday and sunday night there is a street that is closed down to motor traffic for a market. It is called the walking street. There is everything from clothing vendors to food stalls and it is definitely worth planning your trip around the weekend. While we were walking down the street, we truly thought it never ended. It is a very long street market and everything is so cheap. We realized we had only had breakfast and were very hungry. We started out with some sort of dessert. It looked so interesting and the woman gave us a sample and we had to get a small batch of it. They were these very thin crepe like pancakes that you filled with colored, stringy sugar-like stuffing.
We then continued walking and I spotted pad see yew, I had to try it. The first thing I thought was Erica would be in heaven right now and the second thing I thought was OMG this is unreal. As we continued, we began to become overwhelmed and experience a little bit of FOMO. We couldn’t decide what to eat and which place to eat it at. We decided to try the sausages at one of the grill stalls. Oh boy, they were delish. I couldn’t tell you exactly what was inside, but they definitely had some hot peppers and spices that were great. The sausages were grilled to perfection and they were super juicy.
Next we decided we were going to try one of the whole chickens from the stall that was cooking them in large clay pots with coals at the bottom. Im pretty sure that this chicken is the best chicken I’ve ever had. They seasoned the chicken slightly with some sesame seeds and the rest of the flavor was natural. The skin was a crispy golden brown and they served it with their home made hot sauce. It was a brown sauce and it was a bit sweet but definitely had a lot of heat. I tried to figure out what it was made of and if I could buy it in the store or if it was home made. After some back and forth in english and Thai, I figured out that the chef makes the sauce himself. He didn’t seem to have enough for me to buy any and I’m not sure how that would have worked over the next 7 weeks of traveling. I think you just have to go and try it!!!
We ended the night with some coconut water and mango with sticky rice and coconut milk. Both were really good, nothing to rave about. We decided the mango sticky rice was better in Bangkok and Vietnam. After we were stuffed, about $9 later, we walked over to the night bazaar, which is open every night. They had traditional dancing and performing on two different stages. All around were vendors selling clothing and souvenirs. We headed back to the hotel after this to get ready for our early wake up and journey to Loas on the Luang Say Cruise.
Follow your tummy…
-Jess and Steven
May 8, 2016