Thailand Travel Tips

Visited in February 2014

Hello: sounds like “Sa waa dee”
Thank You: sounds like “Cough kuin”
Currency:  Thai baht ($1 = 30 baht)


People have been talking about their travels to Thailand for decades.  Aren’t you just a little bit curious?  Whether you’re interested in the temples and ruins of the Buddhist civilization, the cities offering culture and shopping, the hill country where you can escape the heat and enjoy the outdoors, or the endless beaches, there is always an adventure waiting.

The Thai people are friendly, almost everyone seems to know a few words of English, and Thailand gives you more for less.  I found good hotels ranging from $25-$60/night.  And you can pay as little as a few dollars a night.  My splurge budget resulted in my own room with an en-suite bathroom, Wifi in the room, air conditioning, a TV, a refrigerator, and in some instances breakfast was included.  For lunch and dinner, you can save money by indulging in the great street food - grilled or fried chicken, a variety of soups, fruit on a stick, noodles or rice dishes and even dumplings.  For those who like to experiment, you can crunch your way through fried scorpions or crickets, also sold in the street.  Whatever you decide, you won’t go hungry.

One reason I stopped in Bangkok was to arrange my visa for my trip to Myanmar.  It was easy enough to do but you will need to set aside time for a couple of days to complete the process and I’ve provided more information later on this page.

Bangkok

Where should you stay?  What are the key areas?  Are you shopping or sight-seeing?  If sight-seeing, you will probably want to stay closer to the old city and the Chao Phraya River.  Many people like to stay close to Khao San road which is a backpacker haven, close to the river and to the Grand Palace.  I found when wandering around this area that I could deposit many travelers into two camps - the “hippie burn outs” and the “hippie wannabe’s”.  I don’t think I need to describe the representatives from each camp.  You can imagine the Keith Richards look-a-likes versus the twenty somethings traveling in small groups with the printed yoga pants, dreadlocks and tattoos.   

If you want to shop then you’ll want to stay in the Sukhumvit area which is saturated with shopping malls from bargain to high end and seemed to be an area to get a taste of the middle class life in Bangkok.  Although the area is still full of tourists, daily life swirls around you.
 
Taxis are a cheap way to get around Bangkok and even a 30-40 minute ride to a hotel from the airport costs about $6.00.  But you will not be receiving a seat belt as part of this bargain ride.  How is it that the driver has one he can wear but there is not one for the passenger?  The safety brain-washing of the Western world makes you believe that you need one.  One of my drivers laughed outright when I asked him about my seat belt.  “You don’t need.  I am careful driver.”  I should have challenged him to unlatch the seat belt he was wearing as we speed along the highway dodging in and out of traffic.


Sights:

National Museum of Bangkok -  This is a good starting point for a visit to Thailand and to Bangkok.  I found it was a great place to learn more about the history of Thailand.  Start with the first hall, the Siwamokkhaphiman Hall Gallery of Thai History, to get a sense of the history of the country and the roles of the kings from Rama I to the present.  Other buildings house relics from Thai history and the kingdom.  While I was there, I was able to enjoy a special exhibit of Theater Art featuring colorful costumes and masks that well represented what many regard as the beauty of this culture.  
The museum is small in comparison to Western standards but there seems to be great care in presenting many of the exhibits.  And then, in some buildings, I almost felt like they had cleaned out closets, quickly set everything on shelves and then moved on.  All in all, I think it was worth the time as I enjoyed leaving with a better sense of Thailand and the history.


The Grand Palace and the Emerald Buddha - The Grand Palace is one of the most popular sights for tourists and arriving early won’t allow you to miss the crowds.  The streets surrounding the Palace are filled with tourist buses.  However, arriving early does help you to beat the heat of the day.  This is considered to be Thailand’s most sacred site so dress appropriately for access.  This means long pants and no sleeveless shirts.  For those who arrive without proper clothing, for a small deposit you can borrow more appropriate gear for your visit.  


Wat Pho - Definitely worth the nominal entrance fee to see the giant reclining golden Buddha.  This is also known as one of Thailand’s leading schools of massage so you can supplement your visit with a traditional Thai massage.

Flower market- A nice market for wandering to see fruits, vegetables and of course, loads of flowers.  I was there in early February and woman were busy creating ornate and original arrangements for Valentine’s day.  There is no shortage of photo opportunities and as this was recommended to me by a local, there were very few tourists.

 

Wat Arun - This temple is probably most famous for the photographs taken at night, the temple’s glowing lights contrasting with the dark stretch of river.  You can visit by day by taking a specific water taxi from Pier #8.  Steep stairs lead you to the top for views of the surrounding area and the river.


Siam Ocean World - An aquarium that is a bit overpriced but it is a pretty good way to spend an hour or so, especially if you have children.  The shark feeding was quite contrived but adequate.  It is pretty incredible to stand under the curved glass tank and have sharks swim over your head.  Displays include incredible jellyfish, sea horses, eagle rays, penguins, otters, and enormous crabs.  


The Golden Mount - Officially known as Wat Srakesa Rajavaramahavihara, this Wat houses Buddha relics given as a gift from the government of India.  Be ready for a short climb to the top which may be best enjoyed in the cooler morning hours.


Jim Thompson house and museum - If you are a fan of architecture or just interested in seeing a beautiful home, this is a great place to visit.  This is the house of an American who promoted and progressed the recognition of Thai silk.  But that is not the whole story of why he is famous.  There are excellent guided tours to give you the history and the mystery surrounding him, as he disappeared in 1967 in Malaysia with no clues as to his fate.

 

Long-tail boat ride through the klongs:  This can be an expensive venture alone so I waited until my last few days in Bangkok when I would be meeting my friend.  She was eager to explore and we could rent our own boat to explore on our own terms.  Negotiate the price.  It is a perfect way to see the back “roads” of Bangkok's Chao Phraya River as you work your way through the channels seeing the contrast of shacks struggling to remain attached to the river bank and then the manicured and groomed homes with gardens belonging to another class.  We passed under bridges being traversed by small groups of monks wrapped in bright orange robes and waved at children who stood watching the curious tourists work their way down their “street”.  When entering and leaving the series of small canals, we had to pass through locks and wait our turn while they filled with water.


Obtaining a visa to Myanmar:  It’s easy to visit the Myanmar embassy and secure a visa for travel to Myanmar but you should probably plan a couple of days for this venture.  Visas are single entry for 28 days and valid for three months so make sure your dates of travel are within the three month range.  First, check the calendar to make sure the office is open on the days you plan to visit as the office closes for Thai and Myanmar holidays.
Next, check the Myanmar visa web-site (www.myanmarvisa.com/bangkok.htm) to make sure you understand the procedure.  The office is open for applications in the morning (9-12) and open in the afternoons (3:30 - 4:30 p.m.) for visa pick-up.  Basically, you will need your passport, 2 passport size photos, a copy of your passport, your address in Myanmar and proof of travel out of the country (usually your airline tickets).  I know they have been revising the procedure, so check for the latest requirements.  
Once in Bangkok, the office is located about 2 blocks from the Surasak station on the BTS Skytrain.  You will want to arrive when the office opens or even a little before, as people starting queuing early and the office only accepts applications in the morning.  Make sure you get an application to fill out while in line unless you have printed one and filled it out in advance.  
You will need to glue one passport photo to the application and they provide glue in the visa office.  I was able to go into a small self-service photo booth the day before for the passport photos.  
The amount you pay for the visa depends on whether you request same day, next day or three day service.  I decided on the three day service since that was the cheapest option.  You will pay once you are called to the window and receive a receipt which you will need for pick-up.  When you return to pick up your passport and visa, you will come in the afternoon.  Again, the line starts before the office opens and moves quickly for the pick-up.  The process ran smoothly overall and I found a few sites where people had actually taken photos and described the process step-by-step which was helpful.  


Experiencing Bangkok:
Although there has been recent unrest in the country, I was in Bangkok during the political demonstrations and then the elections so I had anticipated possible travel issues.  For the most part, everything was accessible but there were a few areas where the streets were closed.  It didn’t really disrupt much for the week I was there.  On the day of the elections, I was expecting more issues, but the one polling place I walked by was quiet.  A few people were sitting under a canopy alongside a park by the river with tables holding large cardboard boxes to receive ballots.  No one was demonstrating and there were no issues.  Of course, there were a few areas with disruptions and these were the sites profiled on the news.  Remember that stories on the news don’t always show the full reality.


When I visit a city, I want to know what it feels like to live there.  Not as a tourist but as if I had to get up and go to work, have lunch, take the train home and then go shopping for dinner.  As part of this experience, I wanted to explore the various modes of transport in Bangkok and after taking the water taxi (very popular and very cheap) and using taxi’s, tuk-tuks and the Sky Train, the next adventure was to ride the bus.  Specifically, the #15 bus.  
I was headed to Sukhumvit and asked the woman at my hotel if it wouldn’t be faster to take a bus versus the water taxi and then the Sky Train.  “Yes, you can take the number 15 bus.”  Great.  Easy.  I only had to walk across the street and catch the bus.  Well, not everything turns out as you expect when you travel.  I felt like a cat waiting for a mouse.  I peered down the street again and again, trying to squeeze myself into a small square of shade, dripping with sweat and hoping and waiting for the bus to appear.  And waiting.  I was afraid to leave, because I was sure that as soon as I stepped away, it would glide by, taunting me.  Was it mythical or extinct?  I began to think it was extinct.  “I’ll give it another 10 minutes, well, maybe 15.”  Buses by every number kept stopping, people descending and ascending the few steps as I watched forlornly from my small spot of shade, eyeing the 7-Eleven across the street, wondering if I should tempt fate by running inside to buy some water.  
After over an hour of waiting, the number 15 finally pulled itself from hiding and appeared before me.  I stepped on, feeling strangely victorious.  The bus looked like it was a leftover from another era, no air conditioning and only about six other passengers.  I took a seat and then spent the next 40 minutes analyzing my map in comparison to the street signs until I realized the bus was not taking the presumed route.  Finally, I admitted defeat by pushing the stop button and abandoning the number 15 so that I could double back and walk to my destination.  There was no attempt to collect my fare, even though I asked, which probably amounted to about ten cents.  I later learned that one of the main streets was closed because of the demonstrations which might have explained the unplanned rerouting.


Once you tire of the heat and the crowds, you can easily escape to one of the grand malls where you can retreat from cigarettes, crowds, and the heat and humidity.  High end stores and chain food restaurants fill the fanciest malls and you can safely eat and drink whatever is available.  Garrett’s popcorn, a Chicago specialty, had a line so long they had moved most of the line outside of the building and the attendant warned me that it could take an hour.  Really????   For popcorn????  Despite suffering from an acute popcorn deficiency, I declined.
After surveying the mall map, I focused on a destination for entertainment - the deluxe movie theater.  And what a treat!  The movies were in English with Thai sub-titles, you picked and reserved a specific seat, and even the popcorn was better than at home, much lighter and with a touch of sweetness.  Ahhh!!!  I settled into my comfy big chair, ready to watch the movie when I suddenly realized a disturbance behind me.  I turned around to see everyone in the theater was standing!  On the screen was a film playing with moments from the life of the Thai king and everyone was standing in respect to this anthem.  I slowly stood up, hesitant as I had no idea what the proper protocol should be.   And that’s not all.  The following evening I heard the same anthem in the street around 6 p.m. and everyone stopped, standing quietly in respect.  I saw this repeated in Chiang Mai as well.  What an incredible cultural moment!


Taking Taxi’s - It is easy enough to CATCH a taxi in Bangkok but that doesn’t mean that it is easy to reach your destination.  Most drivers will know the English for the main sights but one day we asked our driver to take us somewhere other than a typical tourist spot.  We thought it would be simple enough to give him a street name and location and he would drive us there.  Once he stopped to signify that we had completed our journey, which took an abnormal amount of time, we were not at our suggested destination, and were, in fact, quite far from it.  
We had convinced ourselves he was on an alternate route since many streets were closed from the demonstrations.  How should we explain the problem when we spoke no Thai and his English was non-existent? Time for Google translate!  We were close to a train station which would allow us to take a train directly to our destination but the fare was almost three times what it should have been.  It was easy to negotiate a discounted fare for the mistake using Google translate.  Remember, when in Asia, “saving face” is very important.  If you are pleasant and make sure not to become angry or yell, and remain cordial, everyone wins.  I typed in the message, handed him my phone with the Thai translation, he nodded, we paid the lower fare and all was good!


Crossing streets:  There is no “pedestrian” right of way philosophy in southeast Asia. It is one of the things I find funniest about Asia considering how kind people are to one another on foot.  Every time I see a crosswalk, my American brain tricks me into thinking I have found a safe place to cross the street.   But depending on where the crosswalk is located (hint - stop lights are the only place crosswalks seem to work), people may or may not stop.  I began to think it was some sort of crude targeting device designed to lure unsuspecting pedestrians into the path of motor vehicles.  We are so safety minded in the Western world that we take for granted that pedestrians have the right of way.  Don’t make that mistake in Asia or you may suffer some dire consequences.  I even saw a man pull a woman out of the way of a motorbike after the walk light had turned green and she foolishly thought it was safe to venture into the street.  Cross with great caution and once you decide to cross, keep moving.  The good thing is that the traffic seems to adapt its pattern to flow around you.   


Buddhist culture:  Even though I have traveled quite extensively in Buddhist countries, I still don’t know all of the formal rules concerning the religion.  For instance, women cannot sit next to a monk. It’s not as if this is a constant challenge but when on public transportation such as the water taxi, it can be an issue.  One morning, I was on a packed boat and when I finally spotted a seat, I decided to enjoy the opportunity to sit for a change.  I did notice that it was next to a monk and something told me that I was not supposed to sit next to him so I sat a little further down the bench so as not to be in direct contact with him.  That wasn’t good enough.  The monk himself did not need to do anything as a man standing off to the side caught my eye and began waving me aside.  So I scooted even further away nodding that I understood what he wanted me to do.  At that moment, another young man came to the rescue by hurrying over to drop into the space between me and the monk.  At this, I exchanged smiles with the man who registered the original warning now that the dilemma had been resolved.  Another man leaned over to say, “You can’t sit next to the monk.”  “Yes,” I said.  “I just didn’t think about it when I sat down.”  Even school girls on the water taxi kept their distance and seemed to always avert their eyes as they walked by.  And the monks remain serene and silent as the dance of avoidance is carried on around them.

 

Thai massage:  The first time I went to Thailand, I went to a small island called Ko Samui.  I stayed in a small bungalow at a resort and was very impressed that I could afford such a nice place just steps from the beach and an authentic Thai massage.  Yes!  The mystical and alluring Thai massage! I scheduled one for the next morning and was thrilled that it was to take place on the beach.  At my assigned time, I walked down and located the Thai massage center.  It was a small tent, open on three sides, more of a canopy with cloth walls for discretion.  The open side faced the ocean.  I settled myself as instructed, face down and prepared to relax.  Yeah, right.  A Thai massage is not exactly relaxing.  The small Thai man began to twist and pull my arms and legs in contortions that didn’t seem quite possible even for a flexible person.  I was a bit surprised but said nothing as the pulls and twists were complimented with the relaxing and more traditional component resembling Swedish massage.  Just as I started to really relax, my body sinking further and further into the blanket covered sand, I was jerked back into reality as I realized that the small man was now walking on my back.  Should I stop him?  I’m not that big!  But then I decided that he knew what he was doing and he probably weighed less than me.  In the end I felt great and I scheduled another session for the following day.  
On this repeat visit to Thailand, I wanted to partake of the Thai massage yet again and the streets were filled with offers.  Almost as good and a little easier to enjoy is the foot massage.  Most foot massages will also include a back and shoulders massage which should include a few arm twists and contortions for the full Thai effect.  It is worth every dollar and since it is usually between $6-$10, you can treat yourself every day.  I decided that the foot massage must have evolved as a way to keep feet happy when they are in sandals and flip flops all the time.  And if your feet are happy, the rest of your body seems to follow.


Hotels I used:  New Siam II Guest House, close to the Chao Phraya River and the Dream Bangkok Hotel, Sukhumvit.


Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is only about an hour flight from Bangkok and the fares were cheap on Asia Air.  Arriving in time for the flower festival, I quickly dropped my things in my room and prepared to explore.  I walked along until I reach an area where the street was closed and a street fest sprawled before me.  Shopping, shopping, shopping.  And my first Thai cowboy.  Yes, a man with a white hat and boots on stage singing with his guitar.  There was music, food, and flowers.  It was the Flower Festival, but food and clothing vendors were everywhere as well.  
It was another great opportunity to indulge in street food and I was hungry.  I stopped to watch a dark substance being rolled into a banana leaf.   There must have been a look of skepticism on my face because a Thai woman asked me if I spoke Thai, and when I said no, she offered me a morsel from her own roll.  How could I say no to such an offer?  It was good!  I tasted it and nodding my head, bought one for myself.  And I loved the spirit of someone wanting to share something good with a stranger.  I know I would do the same.   
As I wandered down the road, I indulged in roasted corn on the cob, as if I was at a street fest in the U.S..  The streets were full of people celebrating and enjoying Saturday night.  This was one point in the trip where I just wanted to sit with someone and talk and have a beer, enjoying Saturday night like everyone else.
As I started to make my way back towards the hotel, the sun setting behind the mountains, I bought some chicken on a stick and enjoyed the Thai version of fast food.  As I finished, I was offered a live Burmese python by a young man in a booth for a pet shop.  I took the snake and gently handled it while asking him questions.  But the best part was watching these young men try to offer the snakes to young girls walking by with the requisite cringing and screams at the sight of a snake.  Doesn’t really matter what country, boys will be boys.


Sights/To Do:
Chiang Mai has a lot to offer and the biggest question is how to spend a week there.  Some options - hiking in the hill country, a yoga retreat, cooking classes, and visiting one of the elephant parks.  


Wats - An exploration of Wat Phra Singh offered a garden of sayings from sanskrit and led to lunch with a monk.  He just didn’t look like a monk because he was an American.  He was sitting outside one of the temples with a sign offering to answer questions about Buddhism.  I stopped to talk and found out he was a retired professor from Texas who had been practicing Buddhism for 40 years and now lives in Thailand.  Sometimes these unplanned experiences are the best part of travel.  I had an interesting conversation about Buddhism contrasted with traditional western views and enjoyed lunch with someone new.


Night Bazaar - Not as impressive as I thought but if you like to shop and are looking for traditional Asian souvenirs, this is a good place to start.  


Flower Show - This is a once a year event and I happened to arrive on the weekend of the show.  There was everything you expect at a festival - dancing, floats, food, special entertainment and fireworks!!  The amazing floats created entirely from flowers displayed giant horses, swans and other creatures sparkling with thousands of tiny lights that glowed against the night sky.  The streets were filled with displays of beautiful orchids, roses, and other flowers, their brilliant colors fresh and vibrant in the evening light.  Crowds of people wandered through the streets enjoying the festive occasion.


Sunday Walking Street - In the evening, the street closes and it seems that every vendor in Chiang Mai sets up shop on the street.  You can shop for clothes, food, and a wide spectrum of gifts and accessories as you push your way through the crowds.  It is actually a more relaxing way to shop as you are not dodging motorcycles, scooters and cars.  Food booths are set up inside the walls of some temples and the variety of food will quickly quench your appetite as you sample dumplings, vegetables and every kind of meat on a stick.  


Wat Phra That - This golden wat sits on the slopes of Doi Suthep mountain.  It is worth the trip and don’t let the staircase intimidate you.  It’s not really much of an obstacle or a work-out unless you are completely unfit or have a disability.  On the way up the mountain, I took a songtao (small truck serving as a taxi) and I met a man from Finland who was going to spend a week in meditation.  It is always interesting to meet people on different journeys and Wat Phra That is a destination for many people who are interested in a course in meditation.  Hailing a songtao (small truck) is the best way to get to Wat Phra That from Chiang Mai and is only about a 30 minute ride.  You might not have too much negotiating power on the way there (about 150 THB) but you should be fine on the way back with a full truck as the per person prices drop dramatically.


Wat Chedi Luang - I happened upon this wat in the early evening and walked into the chanting of monks.  I sat down in the temple to listen to the mesmerizing chanting.


Elephant Nature Park - There are several places to see the elephants in northern Thailand.  In most cases, these are elephants retired from the logging industry that are now used for tourist rides or they are animals seen as “livestock” with little rights and often treated very cruelly to be used in the tourist industry.  
The camp I visited takes these elephants and brings them to the camp to live their lives with other elephants, their only job is to quietly interact with the tourists that support the camp with their visits.  However, no one is riding these elephants.  As a visitor, I, along with my small group, was able to walk among the elephants, feeding them watermelon and bananas, and gently petting them.  They seem to be content with this interaction, their “mahouts” nearby so they feel safe with the strangers.  One female named Medow, had been so abused during her life as a worker, that she had a broken leg, back and hip.  All had healed but she was not able to walk without a visible limp and yet, she seemed happy to be part of her herd.  Two other elephants had developed a strong bond because one was blind and depended on the other to lead her around.  It was also amazing to see baby elephants running through the crowds of people, curious as any other small child, while the mother was off to one side completely trusting and unconcerned.
 Despite the crowds of people, the elephants elegantly walked about and people respectfully gave them the right of way, if you could hear them coming.  I was a bit annoyed when I felt someone push my arm to one side, perceiving that someone was trying to push past me to take a photo and when I turned around, it was an elephant who had gently reached out with her trunk to push me aside as she walked by.  I had to laugh as I never imagined an elephant sneaking up on me!
I hope that the money I spent to enjoy this day is used for what I intended - to preserve the lives of these great, intelligent animals.  I made a conscious decision to not participate in any activities that included riding elephants as I don’t feel this is the best way to enjoy them and I’m too aware of the cruelty they endure to train them for such a job.  You do need to book well in advance as the few daily spots sell out quickly.  Check the website for more details.


The Thai Farm Cooking School - Want to make your own curry?  Gain a good understanding of how to make delicious Thai food?  Like most cuisines, it’s not all about following recipes.  I reviewed several schools before selecting one.  There are several schools in the area, but since this one also had an organic farm, I decided that a market stop, the farm and the cooking was a great combination.  The setting was peaceful and beautiful and the small group was great.  Each of us made 4 different dishes and our instructor, Liam, was a delight.  If you are at all interested in cooking, it’s a great way to spend the day, meet new people and come away full.


Trekking in the National Park - Doi Inthanon - I was able to book a private guide along with another couple I met.  I had hesitated to join any of the group tours because they all seemed to offer the same itinerary - trekking, elephant rides, bamboo rafting and visits to hill tribes.  It just sounded so contrived and touristy.  Instead, our guide, Mameet, lead us through the jungle with stops at waterfalls, to a small hill tribe village where we were the only “tourists” and through our guide, we were able to talk with the people.  We only saw about six other trekkers the entire day.  Was it an authentic experience?  I think it’s hard to have that almost anywhere anymore.  But it was a nice day spent walking through the jungle, enjoying the outdoors.


Food:  As in Bangkok, I really indulged in good street food.  However, I did try this place which was down the street from my hotel and I recommend for those “Western” cravings.
By Hand Cafe - Excellent hand tossed pizza.  I spoke to the owner and after only four months, he is full every night and there is good reason.  Some of the best pizza I’ve had anywhere.  He explained how he had researched the best way to make the pizza before opening his small restaurant and it was a lovely experience to eat there.

Hotel:  I stayed at the CM Apartments booked through Agoda.  The location was great and it was a small and simple room with a washer and dryer on site.  


Chiang Rai
People told me that Chiang Rai was a place with a much slower pace than Chiang Mai.  And it didn’t sound like the new tourist hot spot like Pai.  It was only a three hour bus ride so I decided to make it the next step in my journey.  The hardest part was buying a ticket.  I had done some googling and decided I would take the VIP bus (only $9, AC, big reclining seats), but you had to buy the ticket at a bus station, specifically the Arcade bus station, which was not too convenient to where I was staying.  I finally managed to get there and buy it the day before as there are limited buses.   When I arrived, I was glad I did since the first two buses of the day were already sold out.  It was probably not even a three hour ride and a very cheap comfortable way to travel.  When I arrived in Chiang Rai, I only had a short walk to my hotel.

Wandering around in the evening through the Night Bazaar, I could see what people said was true.  It was small but active and just the pace I needed before flying back to Bangkok to end my stay in Thailand.


Sights:

White Temple:  This is probably the main sight for the area and is a stark white modern interpretation of a temple that simply glows in the sunlight against a blue sky.  It is definitely worth a visit and lies just outside of Chiang Rai.  You can take a bus for less than a dollar, or you can hire a tuk-tuk or taxi to take you there, wait while you explore, and drive you back.  
Trying to be frugal with my travel dollars/bahts, I took the local bus to the famous Temple.  The woman collecting fares on the bus keep her eye on me to make sure I knew when to get off and, more importantly, where to catch the bus back to town.  She physically took my arm and pointed to the police station opposite the corner where I got off, saying “You go police station, way back!”  Awesome!  I don’t think I would have automatically gone for the police station but it gave me an extra vote of confidence in the frugal fare.  
I explored the temple when ready to go back to town, I found a bench to sit on and wait for the bus as instructed.  And I waited.  And waited.  Then, a new Isuzu SUV pulled up and stopped off the side of the road, between me and the police station and a man jumped out and ran into the station.  Once the man returned to the car and they seemed ready to leave, the woman on the passenger side, opened the door and they asked, “Where you going?”  I explained that I was waiting for the bus.  They asked again, “Chiang Rai?”  “Yes, yes” I answered.  And with that, they invited me into their car and gave me a ride back to town.  
They spoke just a little English, and since I speak no Thai, the woman and I began communicating through Google translate, she using her iPad and me using my iPhone.  As I got out of the car, we exchanged names so we could connect on Facebook.  And now I have a new friend named Sirinya.


Clock Tower:  A rather ornate golden monument in the center of a busy street.  It seems strangely out of place in this small town but it does create a nice photo.

Food:  I indulged in street food at the Night Bazaar and found a couple of small places to eat where everything was delicious.  There were places filled with the few tourists visiting the city, but if you are adventurous and try whatever looks good, you will probably have a good experience.

Hotel:  I stayed at Grandma Kaew House as it was walking distance from the bus station and the people who owned it were very helpful with information.  It was new and a fine place to stay.

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