So the wheel has come full circle and I’m back in Thailand where all my backpacking adventures began! I’ve been travelling for over a month with my sister and so far we’ve been to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and of course – Thailand!
From Laos I crossed the Border into Chiang Khong. It had been three days since we last had access to a shower so it was so nice to finally get clean and have a proper bed.
We had an early start the following day as we traveled by bus to Chiang Mai. On the way we stopped off in Chiang Rai to visit the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun). Over the past few weeks I’ve seen soo many temples but this one absolutely blew me away. As the the name suggests the temple is completely white which in itself is unique. Walking up to the entrance in the midday heat as the sun was reflecting off the building, the walls appeared to shimmer and it was incredible.
And inside was even better! The artist who decorated the inside had payed homage to all the traditional Buddhist designs however, he had also mixed it up a bit with images of animated characters such as Spiderman, Thor, etc. Everything about the premise didn’t seem like it should work but the juxtaposition between the traditional art and popular culture was actually amazing.
Throughout the temple we could see more and more of how popular art had inspired the design. It was really random – one minute you would be looking at a shrine to Buddha or a wishing well. The type of thing you would expect to see in a temple….
But then you would stumble upon a robot or something! For anyone visiting Thailand – The White Temple is definitely a must see attraction. It looked like it had fallen straight from Heaven.
Once in Chiang Mai, there were soo many activities we could do and so much to see that it was almost impossible to decide how best to utilise our time there!
On the first evening we went out for dinner in a really fancy restaurant to celebrate one of our new backpacking buddies’ 21st birthday. After that we got a tuk-tuk to visit the “Night Bazaar” which is a combination of night markets, food places, live music, bars, spa’s and more. It had an amazing atmosphere and we had a lot of fun! We ended what had already been an great night with the most incredible Thai massage – I left feeling so relaxed and happy.
After seeing the White Temple the previous day, I wanted to see some more of the lesser known temples which I was told would be less touristy but equally beautiful. Frequent readers of my travelblog will know that I have a general aversion to other tourists so this sounded perfect for me!
So I grabbed a map, pulled on my hiking boots and went on an impromptu Temple tour. There were over 50 temples within about a 40 minute walking distance from our hotel so my sister and I set off bright and early with the ambitious mission of seeing them all!
We saw soo many different types of temples and they were all so beautiful. It was especially nice as a lot of these were “active” temples so they weren’t just for show and people actually regularly prayed in them. Unfortunately, they had really strict rules so as women we weren’t allowed to go everywhere.
But by about midday the blazing sun had got the better of us and we had to cut our temple tour short and take shelter inside- we still managed to see about 11 temples though! Not quite the full 50, but I’m still really pleased with that considering we did it all by foot.
After the past few hours of walking, I convinced my sister that we both needed a massage to relax, despite the fact we had only just had one the previous night! Whilst hunting for a nice looking place, we stumbled across one of Thailand’s “happy ending” massage parlours. It was really strange to just see the sign post unhidden in broad day light!
We eventually found a legit looking place to get a massage – this one wasn’t quite as good as the one from the previous day though. The woman kept on trying to get into a conversation with me which was really sweet of her but it made it difficult for me to relax and actually enjoy myself. She eventually gave up trying to talk to me and starting talking on her mobile phone! We did get given these really cool spa outfits to change into though which was nice.
Chiang Mai is famous for its elephants – in every single place we saw the Zoo advertised as a “must see” attraction. We briefly considered going but I really don’t like Zoo’s so we decided against it. I hate the way in which the keepers break the elephants’ spirit to passify them so that people can ride them – it’s simply just awful.
A week before we visited Cambodia, an elephant actually died in the streets of Angkor Wat from exhaustion after carrying tourists. I know that there are some elephant sanctuaries which actually do a lot of good work but it’s so difficult to know which ones! Instead we found a suitable alternative which we knew for certain had NO risk to animals at all…
From here we got an overnight train to Bangkok where we tried to pack in all the things we hadn’t got round to the last time we were here. We went to China Town, saw the reclining Buddha and went to MBK center which was a massive shopping center which had literally everything you could ever want!
One night we went to have dinner at a Sky Bar which was really nice. The food was so good and the scenery was amazing. We were right at the top of the building so had the perfect view to see the whole of Bangkok. At this point we were saying good bye to a few friends we’d been travelling with for a while so this was all really bittersweet.
We thought we’d say good bye in style and decided to go and visit the infamous Khoasan Road! And it was honestly even more mad than I thought it would be. There were people literally selling live scorpions on the street for people to eat and stuff! Music was playing so loudly, people drinking, even vendors offering laughing gas (and other less than legal substances) for sale.
The night did not end here though! From here we got a taxi with some of our friends to explore Silom Night Market. It was so busy that when we stopped for my sister to say hello to one of her friends from back home who we bumped into on the streets (small world, eh?), we lost the rest of the people we were with! This was the beginning of the craziest night of my life…
One of the street reps told us there was a free “Cabaret” show on a few doors down. Me being the musical theatre geek I am, was completely sold by this. Turns out this was not the stage show I had thought it was but actually a lady boy show! After realising that this was going to be strip show we ran out into the streets. Whilst trying to get our bearings and find the night market we had come here for, we stumbled upon what can only be Bangkok’s version of a red light district.
We kept on getting stared down by the “ladies of the night” who clearly were not impressed by us being on their territory – I think they thought we were trying to steal their business or something. This thought was confirmed when a man actually tried to BUY me! I heard him start to negotiate a price with what must have been the Pimp of that street before I informed him and his friends that I was most definitely not for sale…
It was actually really sad seeing some of the girls on the streets though, some did not look any older than about 13! I hated it even more because there was nothing I could do in that moment to help them without endangering myself. After all the wonderful Thai culture we’d experienced over the past week, it was really eye-opening to see the dark side to it all.
After this we actually found the market we were looking for which was really fun. My sister bought a nice ring which she had been looking for and I bought my favourite thing – street food!
After this we went to see a live Muay Thai boxing match which was soo cool. We were sitting so close to the fighting, I could almost smell the fear from the “underdog” who was taking a serious beating from the other guy who seemed to be enjoying kicking his opponent in the face a little too much. I have always wanted to see a live match and this was such a good one to watch – the aforementioned underdog actually brought it back in the end and won!
We had initially wanted to stay in Thailand for another week or so to explore some of the smaller Islands but we had to come back as I have a really important interview for a Training Contract in London!
After living the nomad lifestyle for the past 5 weeks with just me and my backpack, I don’t think I am quite ready to trade in my flip flops for a suit but alas, the corporate law world is calling and I have responsibilities.
Luckily, I have some last minute stuff to sort out for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for The Improv Musical which I am the Marketing Manager and Co-Producer of which is super exciting. And then I am off to Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 7 days time so I still have so much more to look forward to!
I’ll hopefully be posting vlogs of all my back packing escapades really soon so keep your eyes out for that! To get notifications of all my blog updates directly to your inbox, don’t forget to click “follow” at the bottom of the screen.
It’s just me, Dammy, drifting back to reality…