Our stay in Chiang Mai saw us experiencing a range of activities and sights, from bathing with elephants, staying in a treehouse, standing on the highest peak in Thailand, learning Muay Thai and even having a Police Officer trying to extort money from us!! (More on this later)….
Since we left New Zealand we have always been very diligent when it comes to our daily budget however, we definitely let our hair down in this respect during our stay in Chiang Mai. More lunches/dinners out at brick and mortar restaurants rather than the small family run establishments we are normally use too, more afternoon wines and beers, as well as visiting a few more attractions. Our daily expenditure was still under our targeted budget, however if you have been following our adventures to date you would know we normally target to be at least $50 NZD a day under it. I think our Chiang Mai budget does not necessarily reflect it as being more expensive than anywhere else, but more of the fact that we were not so guarded with our money. In short, we could have quite comfortably visited and stayed for a lot less than what we actually spent.We definitely had our fair share of highlights in Chiang Mai but we also had our lowest point since starting our awesome world adventure which came on the second day in Chiang Mai. After hiring a rental car to spend the night at the Rabeang Pasak Treehouse north of Chiang Mai, we were driving back into the city along one of the main ring roads when we came across a Police checkpoint that was stopping all the scooters. However, upon seeing a family of foreigners driving a rental car we were quickly directed to the side of the road as well and I was asked for my licence by a Thai officer who had customised his uniform with of all things, a skull bandanna across his lower face. After presenting my New Zealand Drivers Licence I was asked for an international licence, knowing this was not required in Thailand I said that I did not have one. This clearly was not the right answer for him and so he said it would be a 1000 Baht fine ($40 NZD) or, and here comes the kicker…. if we paid him 500 Baht cash right now there would be no ticket and we could carry on; now the bandanna was making sense! After spending nearly 13 years in the New Zealand Police, one of the least corruptible police forces in the world, I found this hard to take, so I even told him that I used to be a Police Officer thinking he might show some loyalty to me. This failed to sway him and he kept repeating 500 Baht, after a little more back and forth we knew we had to try something else so as a last attempt we rang the rental car company and asked them to speak to the Police Officer. After what seemed like an eternity on the phone, he came back to us and said “You Leave”, and with that we quickly drove away; however not before Lincoln started to ask questions about the interaction and why the Police man wanted money from us. This was quite a hard conversation to have with a 8-year-old, especially one whose father was a Police Officer and his Grandfather still is. They say honesty is always the best policy so Paula and I took turns at trying to explain what had just happened and that unfortunately, although 99.9% of all Police officers are always there to help, some are also after an easy dollar, or baht in this case. Although this should not stop either him or Braxton ever asking a Police Officer for help in the future should they need it.
Now onto more positive memories of Chiang Mai as we definitely were not going to let this one bad experience have any effect on our time in Chiang Mai or even Thailand for that matter. Two of the things I was most looking forward to experiencing throughout South East Asia were the famous market places and historical temples. First off, if you actually tried to get to every temple in Thailand you would have no time for anything else, and besides we have no interest in visiting each and every one so we tend to pick and choose which ones to visit. Generally these are decided on their history or due to something unique about them or their location. As such, we visited a handful of temples while in Chiang Mai and as always these did not disappoint and provided a great school lesson with both of the boys.Both the day and night markets in Chiang Mai definitely were a highlight and are some of the best we have been to so far, with both the Saturday and Sunday night markets standing out as the places to visit if you come to Chiang Mai. Both are very large and the stalls displayed a range of items, from every Thai souvenir imaginable, to artwork, to on-the-spot massage and of course, wonderful food. Something about the sights, sounds and smells of Thai Markets gets me excited each and every time I visit one. Two are never the same and I think the whole ‘not knowing what the next stall is going to have or what is around the next corner’ always keeps me interested and wanting to explore more. As much as I love the large well known markets, give me a smaller, little known market or bazaar any day of the week. The ones where you are the only foreigners in the whole place, no one speaks much English and you get a real glimpse into the lives of the locals.
We had two accommodation spots in Chiang Mai and our review of both can be read here –
Average Daily Spend – $152.16 NZD ($20.34 NZD under budget per day)