The beauty of the temples is incredible.
But, my greatest takeaway is that the Thai people may very well be the most polite nation that I have visited yet. And, I don't just mean hospitality workers that are normally expected to be nice. I mean every day encounters; at the supermarket, on the bus or subway, on the street. It is amazing.
This huge, sprawling city is all about visiting Temples. And, you will see plenty, like Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Saket. But, also The Presidential palace is a must see.
Getting around Bangkok
So many options! And, so many more being built. By 2023, and 2024, Bangkok is going to be very well served by public transportation rail lines.
The blue line subway is modern, convenient ,and very clean. This is the best way to get around if you are close to it. Fares range up to about 40 baht depending on how far you are taking it. Paying the fare is simple. When entering the subway, go to the ticket counter, tell them what stop you need to go to, and pay the fare. They will give you a little plastic disk that you will wave at the scanner at the entrance. When departing at your stop, simply drop the plastic disk in the slot and walk through.
Busses are plentiful, slow, old, and likely the least desirable way to get around. However, fares are really cheap. I paid 10 baht for a fare, but, with traffic, it wasn’t much faster than walking.
Another option, if you are close to the canal, is to take the canal boat. These run about every 12 minutes, and move quite quickly, undeterred by traffic. Fares run up to 21 baht if you take the whole length. Paying the fare on a canal boat is simple. Board the boat when it arrives. After, a fare collector will approach you and ask for your stop. Tell them and they will collect the fare, and give you a ticket. This is an honor system, so if the fare collector doesn’t see you just wave them over, maybe holding up your baht to let them know you need to pay. These boats are not much used by tourists, so you may even get a reminder from the collector when your stop arrives. This happened to me twice out of the 6 or 7 times I used these boats. It was nice to know they were watching out for me to make sure I got to where I was going!
If you want to see the beauty of Thailand and visit the temples, but want something slower and more relaxed than Bangkok, then Chiang Mai is the place for you.
The historic center of Chiang Mai is walkable, and you can enjoy the temple after temple; stop at a cafe, maybe do a little shopping. But, a key to Chiang Mai is also to get out of the center to places like Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and Wat Phra That Doi Kham.
Getting around Chiang Mai
There isn’t a whole lot of public transportation in Chiang Mai, however, the city itself is very walkable, so it is not needed. You could walk the entire circumference of the city center is 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
For those times that you don’t want to walk, just grab a tuk tuk. They are fast and cheap, and can be found about everywhere.
Scooter rental in Chiang Mai
There are plenty of places to rent them. And, I saw many ads for prices starting at 100 or 150 baht per day. But, realistically, expect to pay 300-400 per day. Just fill out a form, and leave your passport as a deposit, and off you go. They didn’t care anything about a driver’s license. I did, however, ask for a 5 minute demo on the workings of the scooter, to make sure I knew some basics like how to open the gas tank.
Driving around Chiang Mai in a scooter is quite simple, and I always felt safe. Obey the speed limits, wear a helmet, and mimic the locals. Being able to lane split saves so much time when traffic picks up!
This was also the best way to explore the Temples lying just outside the city, which I found to be more beautiful than the temples in the city center. Also, the weather gets a lot cooler getting out of the center.
Getting there and away Chiang Mai
Arriving at the airport, getting a taxi is really quite simple. Simply go the exit for taxis, and someone with a clipboard will ask you where you want to go, and they will give you a price, and hand you off too a driver. I love this system, as it prevents the tourist ripoff in the taxi. My fare was 150 baht (about $US 4). Getting back, I paid 200 baht. Still not too bad.
At the airport, I was checking in to fly back to Bangkok, then connect on internationally. Even though when I bought the ticket, it said I would have to check in again in Bangkok, that was not the case. If you book a Fly-Thru ticket on AirAsia, they will handle the transfer, and you will have to check in at the international check in in Chiang Mai.
Check in at Chiang Mai for international was thorough and fast. There were no lines at all. Check in at the counter (she asked for vaccination proof). Then, take your bags to luggage check in where they will check and swab your bags.
Then, head up to immigration and security. Once through, there are a number of shops for your wait. I sat in the waiting area with about a dozen shops and hundreds of seats…but only 2 passengers in the whole area when I arrived.
After arriving in Bangkok, I was met by an airline employee at the gate, along with 1 other FlyThru passenger. He escorted us to the CIQ area for passengers, and we went thru a mini immigration and security check (again, no lines). Then, onto our connections. I made sure I booked a long layover for this extra process. It was not necessary as everything went really fast
Airbnb in Thailand
This is perplexing. Technically, most Airbnb’s are illegal. It is only legal if the host has a hotel license, which most don’t. Plus, the building I stayed in even had a sign that says daily and weekly stays are not allowed.
Yet, the building staff accommodated a regular flow of Airbnb guests, they even handled the key handoff at the building security desk, and I never had a problem. So, at this time, it seems like everyone is happy to look the other way to keep the tourists happy.