The goal was to get to Bangkok, Thailand by van and have a short stopover until we got to the train station in time to take transportation to northern Thailand and the city of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. Our travel day started at 7:00 by van pick up in Battambang. We arrive at the bus office with several other people and then are instructed to take a tuk-tuk and luggage to somewhere else; turns out the somewhere was a bus depot out of the center of town, this place was bad, garbage all over, just a few people hanging out and really hot.
The bus arrived. To our surprise it was a sleeper bus—but not like the ones we had before where passengers are in seating that is prone or semi-cami. No, the seating is on designated bunk beds—2 in each bunk. The sheets were clearly rumpled and dirty. We passed the time with Netflix movies as we rocked from side to side. Not a terrible problem for us, but others where sharing bunks with strangers. This was an unexpected blemish on Cambodia’s reputation. In the end, all went well.
We arrived at the Cambodia/Thailand border; there was no clear directions as to the process. Our bus driver just pointed in the direction of the border and left. This is our 90th move and 25th country so we know the drill on third world border crossings, but it is still a shock to senses to walk across a border on a dirt road with tuk-tuks, trucks, bikes and vendors shouting to you to buy their goods.
Our new 4 person informal group stuck together, that included Janet and Frank, and lovely Nevis from Ireland, and handsome Manfred from NZ. Finally, we checked through at the Cambodian border exit. We passed through the Thailand Border control where Nevis became light headed, so we gave her food and water and another trekker carried her gigantic backpack for a while. We where now inseparable.
We walked to a depot where we joined 5 other Thai’s in a van for the 3 hour drive from the border to Bangkok. There was some wrangling as to the number available seat, but we got it all worked out so our group stayed together. We met our goal and we got to the train station in time. We decided to take the night sleeper train for a 12 hour ride to Chiang Mai. The train was rustic, which means the bathrooms were open to the track. We had upper bunks across the aisle from each other, they were fine and AirCon was powerful. Some new friends from Belgium, a young couple, had the bunks below us. They were very nice and in fact—big save-- found Frank's fallen Iphone on the floor. They gave us some tips on Australia as they had just visited to Scuba at the barrier reefs.
We arrived in Chiang Mai at 10:00 am for a total of 27 hours in 3 vans, 2 tuk-tuks, a sleeper bus and sleeper train. Our hotel was Twenty Lodge in the city center. The city center is defined by the brick rampart and moat that circled this ancient town, which held off invaders for 7 centuries until finally conquered by Burmese. We liked the location close to the city center, the lodge, the pool, and the hospitality. Our host greeted us with cool towels, fresh juice and an early morning check in. After a quick nap, great lunch and a dip in the pool we were ready to go again.
Chiang Mai is a very religious center with 120 Buddhist temples in the area along with many monasteries for monks. Each is decorated in glorious fashion with bright colors and protective dragons, and of course a large main Buddha figure surrounded by other Buddha in various states of reflection. The interior walls of the temples are usually painted with holy figures and murals. From our hotel we trekked around town to view seven (7) temples. Several where having a celebration on this day so it was a lively scene. At the city center was a wonderful sculpture called the ”Three Kings”. (see top photo above) This commemorated the early leaders that established northern Thailand independent of Burmese invaders. This part of Thailand was governed by the”Lanna” tribe. Here are some photos about the temples, and especially the protective dragons.
We did take a ½ day tour up to the peak of the mountain towering over the city. Here, we experienced another grand temple and spectacular views. Driving down the mountain we stopped at a small village with beautiful gardens and waterfall; also some nice shop—we bought some goodies. The most excitement really came from the van driver who obviously dreamed of growing up and being a “Formula One” driver. This is the second time in Thailand that we broke out some “Dramamine” to forestall motion sickness.
The food here is excellent. We ate at one restaurant twice; it was close, had specialized selection, and good ratings from Trip Adviser. We also ate at JP Chicken Shack. Small hens rotating on a spit then cleaved into smaller parts. Very good.
We walked to the Travel Hub offices to purchase tickets to the proverbial ”slow boat” to Laos (not China). This will be a new adventure. The tour group picks us up by van and transports us near to the Thailand/Laos border. This was a very short trip into Thailand. We will be back in 10 days when we meet the kids in Bangkok for much more fun.