January 15, 2014

Chiang Mai, Thailand: Temples and Pandas

Chiang Mai is known for mountain trails and trekking but being the newbie, we chose to explore more on the cultural side. The reason why we picked it in the first place was to discover things that we don't (or we won't) see in the PH. For one, temples. I have always been fascinated with temples because of the rich history behind it.

Played with pigeons while practicing our Segway
FYI, the temple architectural styles are built in Lanna Thai. Lanna used to be a kingdom in the Northern part of Thailand until it was overthrown in the 16th century and broke it down to small kingdoms. Next, food! Thai cuisine definitely hits the spot. From restaurants to street stalls, i'd eat Thai food any day. Three, culture. Some mistake me for a local whenever I say 'Sawadee Ka!' (hello). Most of the people we met are very friendly and helpful in arranging our tours and transportation. Plus, the fact that it was safe walking around the foreign city gave me such a rush. We even got lost while looking for this hidden but well-recommended Gelateria. So enough talk. First, let me give you a little tour around old Chiang Mai. Special credits to Segway Gibbon for letting us glide effortlessly to the city.

All aboard!

Considered to be the first and oldest Wat in the city and was erected by Chiang Mai's founder,
King Mengrai in 1296 (Source: Lonely Planet)

The Wat Pan Tao was originally built as a palace for Kings. 

What you'll see inside are hugely decorated walls filled with figures, angels, mythical creatures.
Too bad you can't take photos. 

Wat Chedi Luang used to be one of the tallest structures in Chiang Mai until an earthquake hit it. The Emerald Buddha occupied this temple but was transferred to the Temple Palace in Bangkok

The Three Kings Monument, where the former rulers of Chiang Mai stayed.
The one in the middle is King Mengrai, along with other 2 kings, working together to build the northern kingdom. I saw a coconut vendor by the way and taught me how to say coconut in Thai.

I taught him how to say it in Filipino too. Maphraw, meet Buko!
The tour lasted for 2 hours but it felt like half the day. It showed us a more fun perspective of the city. Before going back, our tour guides brought us to this super chill coffee shop and let us try their complimentary Nai Cha drink. :)

Authentic Nai Cha.

Our super cool tour guides Captain Jackie and Captain Moo. :)

Patricia, driving the segway like a pro.
The captains let us play around with the pigeons before returning the machines to the building. We had so much fun and if you ever visit Chiang Mai, take this package. It's super worth it. :)

We took the red jeep and headed to our next stop, the Chiang Mai zoo!

When we started researching for our itinerary in Chiang Mai, we found out that their zoo has Pandas!
This is Lin Ping, the athlete!

Chuang Chuang, the glutton who just literally ate bamboos. THE WHOLE TIME!
Oh there you go. He waved!

And Lin Hui, the pooper. At first I thought he/she saw us waving. So she came down from her cave, turned around and pooped all those yellow digested bamboos in full glory!
(Am I too graphic? Sorry.)
We saw other bunch of animals like tigers, ostrich, elephants, giraffes but we really came here for the Pandas.

On our way back, we realized that taking a train back (with the possibility of having another 3-hour delay) to Bangkok would cost us our flight schedule. So we went to the bus terminal (thanks to Emily, from the Segway Gibbon for recommending us a good bus service) and got us a ticket. 

Crossing bridges
Lovely view from the tuktuk
We dropped off near the Night Market so while waiting, we tasted Mr. Sakoi's Rotee!

And we also tried their grilled sausages. Nothing great. I had a bad stomach after this.
We had burgers this time. Time for a little Western treat.
After our heavy meal, we went searching every street and corner to find this hidden Gelateria. 

This huge half-dog half-human installation welcomed us

Having this super smooth and milky pandan - avocado gelato was worth the cardio.
I didn't even mind my bad stomach.

And so our night ended here. We went back to the hotel and had the best bath ever. :)
The following morning, we had breakfast buffet then headed to the bus station. We took the 9am 13-hr ride back to Bangkok. My stomach was behaving badly and I felt really sick. Oh and this was my first encounter with the floor toilets. Yep, the rumors were true. Squat then go.

We arrived in Bangkok at 10 PM, our flight was at 12MN. We were down to our last baht so instead of taking a cab, we took the motorcycle cab where they really showed their superiority on the road. They dropped us off at the train station. We ran, rode, went out after 2 stops, and headed to the next train that led straight to the airport. The last two hours were excruciating. My mind was in berserk while my body felt sluggish. I didn't even know whether it was fever or stomach ache or even a bad case of LBM. (sorry again) I felt sorry for my best friend because she had to assist me all the time. I learned my lesson the hard way. Always bring meds because a disease can hit you anytime. Our plane landed and we boarded on time. As soon as I sat down, I immediately fell asleep and woke up in Philippine soil.

I had a rough time in the end but everything else about this trip was remarkable. I celebrated my 24th birthday on a train, saw pandas, met new people, viewed the old city in a fresh perspective, ate my heart out, and rekindled my friendship with my best friend.  Traveling opened my eyes and gave me purpose to work harder. Thank you Thailand for being my first trip and it won't definitely be the last. On to the next! :)