I last left off my Thailand story in Ayutthaya where I biked around to visit the ruins of the ancient city, ate delicious food and made friends with fellow travelers. I loved Ayutthaya and I couldn’t wait to get to Chiang Mai, a city that everyone I met spoke with reverence and excitement. I was told I would LOVE it there. That Chiang Mai was amazing and the best place in Thailand.
They were right, I did love Chiang Mai, I just hated my hostel.
Taking the Train to Chiang Mai
Everyone wants to take the overnight train to Chiang Mai. I had to take the day train because the tickets were sold out for 2 weeks but, I didn’t mind. I love train travel and I got time to read, write in my journal and relax.
I took a second class train and it wasn’t bad. I had plenty of leg room, we had a stweardess, air conditioning and the food provided was actually delicious. But, there were cockroaches on the train. I have never seen cockroaches on a train before in my life. I was extremely grossed out when they appeared on the wall of the train and I had a window seat so got to see them up close and personal. However, I decided to “just deal with it” without it taking away from the pleasure of the moment. I sprayed the bugs with bug spray, pulled the curtain over the wall and forgot about the bugs.
The Worst Hostel experience in Thailand
I almost don’t want to tell you where I stayed in Chiang Mai, but I think its important to share the worst hostel experience I had in Thailand.
Things started off well at the when I got there. Wua Lai Hostel is located just outside Old Chiang Mai and close to the Bumrung Buri Market which is opened day and night.
I really wanted to like Wua Lai Hostel as it had everything going for it – location, it was newly built, clean and had a great outdoor patio space. But, it was hard to ignore that the staff was scare most of the time, no one was available to cook the advertised breakfast or to book a tour with. I don’t know if it was because it was Makha Bucha Day or the weekend, but it was at odds with the other places I’ve stayed in to-date.
The thing that really made my stay horrible were the two White Boi’s who were the only other guests there. They were “long-term guest”, the guys that go to Thailand and end up staying indefinitely and “working at the hostel.” Except these guys weren’t actually working. They never manned the front desk or cleaned or did anything resembling work.
When I first arrived, I socialized with the staff and WB’s in the common area. Everyone seemed friendly and we fun. However, it turned out that the WB’s had no interest in interacting with anyone other than the staff. They forgot my name and pretty much ignored me for my whole stay there. The worst part was that I was the only other guest there, we shared a dorm room and our beds didn’t have privacy curtains, so it was pretty evident that I was being ignored. I didn’t take their behaviour personally as they treated all other guests in this manner, but it made for an extremely unwelcoming atmosphere.
Lesson Learned: Not every “backpacker” in Thailand is actually that friendly or open to getting to know other travelers. Some of them are the same pretentious, judgemental people you come across at home.
The Good Parts of Chiang Mai
I was only in Chiang Mai for 2 full days and I spent as much time out of the hostel as I could. Luckily, there is enough to do in Chiang Mai to keep a solo traveller occupied – gorgeous temples, architecture, markets, great shopping and plenty of restaurants and coffeehouses. I was also there during Makha Bucha Day, an experience that deserves its own post.
Few big differences between Bangkok and Chiang Mai are:
- You can walk everywhere in the old city of Chiang Mai and see everything.
- Chiang Mai has an abundance of restaurants and coffeehouses.
- Chiang Mai is more conservative, the prohibition on selling alcohol during certain times is actually followed.
- The architecture is completely different.
First Day Snaps
Samlarn, Ratchamanka and Prapokkloa Road
There was a lovely randomness to Chiang Mai. The architecture was quite different from what I’ve seen to date in Thailand. It was fun just to wander around the city taking photos.
Restaurants are a bit more pricey than the Street Markets, but sometimes you get tired of eating by the road while you sit on a stool. I stopped to eat a light lunch of Fried Morning Glory at See You Soon Cafe on the corner of Ratchamanka and Prapokkloa Road.
It was easy to stumble upon random things in Chiang Mai, like this abandoned and destroyed building, with family pictures still left on the walls.
Having learned my lesson after Ayutthaya, I took my time visiting Chiang Mai. It is cooler in the North and easier to walk around for hours without getting heat stroke. And I did a lot of walking on my first day, I visit 6 temples, including Wat Phra Sing and Wat Chedi Luang, visited the Saturday Night Market on Wualai Road and saw the Makha Bucha Day celebrations.
So while I had terrible roommates, I was in an amazingly city on the weekend and there was a lot of interesting things to see and do.