Children of Laos, Burma & Thailand

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Thailand and Laos (and Myanmar if I can manage it)

Hello, Sawatdee kaa and Sabai dee,

My next trip will be Thailand and Laos, and this is all about the before, the trip and the after - similar to my Malaysia/Cambodia blog. I am putting together from start to finish - tickets, do's and don'ts, tours, where to stay, places to see, things to do, as well as useful extras like transport, good places to eat, what to wear, climate, tourist traps, tricks and tips and whatever else I can think of that will be useful.

If you have any tips or advice, please, feel free to leave a comment and add your bit - whatever you think may be helpful or interesting.

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

63. Chiang Mai Station

A Tiresome Little Person ~ Beware The "Friendly" Taxi Driver
Chiang Mai station is very pretty and I took lots of photos. I went outside for a smoke - this annoying little git asked did I want a taxi? "No", says I - I'd bought a cappuccino (or what passes for cappuccino in Thailand) and said I wanted to take photos, book a ticket etc.

Next time I'll know to keep my big, fat mouth shut and say, "No thank you" and turn away. He said he'd wait for me. I was wishing he'd go away, I couldn't relax and just take my time soaking up the atmosphere - I'd love to have gone across to the little shop just outside and sat there a while.
I guess I must have had "I'm a first timer here and a bit of a dill - take my money!" stamped on my forehead!

Anyway ... back to my impression of Chiang Mai station -

Elephants and Flowers
As I said, the station was very pretty and as we exited from the platform, there's a huge elephant with white tusks set amid a display of flowers, shrubbery and palms. As you walk a little further on, there are two elephants with a gong in the centre. I was quite taken with a large, wide sign advertising the Chiang Mai Nightsafari. Sadly, I didn't get to see it. But - there's always next time.

Above: Chiang Mai railway platform

The Concourse
There were many people milling around, a vibrant, cornucopia of humanity. There are fruits for sale, cafe foods, souvenirs, even sunglasses for sale. It's a well-appointed station with a tourist information counter, dining facilities, a ticket & information booking office and of course, a large photograph on the King. Lovely decoration hung from the ceiling. As you can see in the photo lower right-hand side, the time is almost 12 noon.

Above: Tickets and Information
I booked my ticket Nong Khai to Bangkok - a second class sleeper, lower berth with air-con. Cost was 758 baht - $24.61. I would advise those wishing to take the train to opt for the lower berth, not only do you not have to climb up and down, (very hard on arthritic knees!), but when you wake in the morning, you can see the pretty mountain scenery as the train enters the highlands and traverses Doi Khun Tan National Park and mountains between Lampang and Lamphun Provinces. A bit of trivia - the old name for Lampang was Khelang Nakhon.

The Gardens
Above: Gardens
This area was visually pleasing and lent an air of charm. There were little ponds water lilies, beautiful flowering potted plants, Victorian-style lamplights, ferns, waterfalls and water features, garden statues in the shape of animals which all added up to a "cottage" effect.

Above: Exterior
The row of shops in the lower left photo consists of a coffee shop, a blind massage place, gifts & souvenir and a food/restaurant shop - to the right of this is an outdoor beer type garden.

Tiresome Little Person ~ Part 2
Remember that annoying little person who I couldn't shake off? You know, the taxi driver person? Well I felt extremely uncomfortable with him hanging around me like a spider waiting to catch a fly, and although one or two other chaps approached, I didn't really get the chance to speak with them, this self-appointed one shooed them off! Anyway, I indicated I was ready to go, he took my suitcase, walked to his vehicle which turned out to be a decrepit looking thing which had no suspension and was none too clean looking. I remembered to ask him how much. He wanted (can't remember just at the mo) but what I thought an outrageous price. He said it's a long way - at least 20 minutes. He lied - it was less than 10!

He dumped a big, heavy folder in my lap and said he could take me around CM and wherever I wanted to go. I leafed though it out of courtesy and there were scores of letters extolling the goodness and wonder of him. Some even dated back to 2003!

I just said I had friends in Chiang Mai and I'd see them first - he kept pressuring me till I finally told him point blank my friends had organised to take me around and they were going with me. This shut him up. He didn't bother to remove the folder either. I put it on the dashboard.
Note: There wasn't anybody who had organised trips - it was a white lie but had the desired effect.
All in all, it was a good learning experience - we live and learn. Next time, I won't be so green!

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