Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a jewel in Chiang Mai’s crown

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

If you’re ever in Chiang Mai and can only choose one temple to visit, choose Wat Phra That on Doi Suthep. Doi Suthep is the mountain West of Chiang Mai, the smaller of the two in that area. The other being Doi Pui and together make up the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Although I haven’t been to every single temple in Chiang Mai, I have been to several and what makes Wat Phra That so special? It’s reportedly the temple that has a Buddha Relic, a piece of his shoulder, if I heard correctly. Now I didn’t get to see the Relic but this wat, to me, has a tranquil/serene “feel” to it, more so than any of the other temples I’ve been to in the Chiang Mai region. I truly lack the words to describe that feeling. No, it’s not like a life changing OMG Hallelujah kinda feeling…it’s more like a peaceful at ease feeling. I imagine “resting in peace” would feel like this. I’m not particularly religious but I do believe in certain principles from different religions. Yes, I’m a “confused child” haha.

Back to the Doi Suthep and one of Chiang Mai’s crown jewels, Wat Phra That. I’ll just do what the locals do and refer to the area as Doi Suthep. So how can one get to Doi Suthep? There are a number of ways both public and private. If you choose the private way, have a read of my post “Did I get scammed in Chiang Mai” for my recounting on private hire fiasco/scam that was run on me whilst going to a different “must see” Chiang Mai crown jewel. The most convenient way is to take a red songthaew to Doi Suthep. It can be as easy as flagging one down anywhere around the old city. A songthaew is a pickup truck with the back converted to bench seating. They operate like a public bus/shared taxi but with negotiable fare. The way to get a ride is you flag one down (like flagging a taxi) or they will honk at you, in which case just wave back if you want them to stop. Before you hop in, you have to negotiate your fare. The price will depend on where you’re going, how many passengers already in the songthaew and probably the way you look. So the better dressed you are, the less they will be willing to drop the prices. The number of people already on board will help decrease the price as well and/or if there’s no one already on board, you can pay a bit more and the driver will not pick up anyone along the way to your destination. Trips within the old city are $30-$40 TBH (as told to me by the hotel staff and $30 TBH is written on all the red songthaews (I can’t read Thai so don’t know what the context is) but as soon as you get outside the walled city they will start at $100 TBH (at least that’s always been the starting point whenever I asked). There are also different marked songthaews, the markings will indicate which attraction they are going to, so you can look out for those as those may have people in them already going to the same place making it cheaper for you to tag along (or at least you won’t be “forced” to pay the full single rider fare). If you prefer to hire out a songthaew (have it all to yourself) you can probably negotiate a price for him/her to wait for you and give you a ride back. If not, there are a lot of songthaews waiting up there to give passengers rides back into town. The only drawback is that they will not leave until the songthaew is full with 8 passengers so if you’re first on, there may be a wait. For me, I was lucky, I was the 8th. As I was about to pay the driver, 1/2 the other passengers started to negotiate a lower fare but to no avail so ya that’s something to consider too. Just to give you an idea, hiring out a songthaew cost me $350 TBH, I needed to get there as fast as possible but coming back only cost $80 TBH. The other public way are guided tours. Your hotel lobby will have info and be able to help you out, or you can find tour agent kiosks everywhere, seriously you can’t walk a block without seeing one. These are convenient if have minimal time and need a guide to show you around and/or rush you plus you won’t have to worry about haggling prices everywhere, where to go to the ticket booth etc. The private vehicles are in the form of metered taxis although you have to specifically book one from somewhere as they are nowhere to to be found on the streets. The only time I saw any were at the airport and twice in town dropping guests at a hotel. I’m pretty sure they will be the most expensive private car option with Grab taxi being the second most expensive. The least expensive is the non grab, private hires which the hotel can arrange for you and the tuk tuk’s (they look like motorized rickshaws) which you can flag on the street. Note: if you get motion sickness then take some motion sickness pills if you plan on taking the songthaew or tuk tuk. Also try to get on a newer model vehicle or at least one that doesn’t look beat up as that will affect the bumpiness of your ride as well as the amount of exhaust (if any) you’ll be subjected to.

Stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Local tribes girls on the stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Local tribes girls on the stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Local tribes girls on the stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Stairs leading up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep adorned on either side with giant King of Nagas’

Now that transport is sorted out and you’re at the drop off point of Doi Suthep, there’s two routes you can take up to the temple but first, there are shops/markets by the road side you may want to check out. If not, make your way to either the steps with the big archway (the left most stair case as you’re facing the mountain) if you’re looking to walk up to the Wat. If walking up stairs is not your cup of tea, take the path on the right where you can see ticket booths. That’s where you can buy tickets to ride the gondola up. I didn’t take the gondola so I can’t comment on the fees nor the ride. Taking the stairs isn’t that bad. you go up a short flight of stairs and it opens up to a plaza of sorts with statues to see and more shops and restaurants. From this plaza you can see the flight of stairs leading up to the Wat, kind of steep but not scary steep. If you see adorable little kids dressed in (I’m guessing) traditional attire of their culture, it’s ok to take photos but be prepared to offer a donation. They won’t be shy in asking for it. Although I had sniped a few shots of them from afar, pretty much without them knowing, as they were busy posing for other photo’s, I still walked by and gave them each a tip. I couldn’t help but feel sad, I didn’t notice their parents around and they were just hanging out, walking around the stairs. When you reach the top of the stairs you’ll be at the entrance to the temple area (not the temple grounds itself) and you’ll have to detour to the right because that is where the ticket office is and a snacks shop in case you need to buy a drink. Entrance fee is $30 TBH. Having taken care of the entrance fee you can enter the premises of where the actual temple is, you can see the stairs into the Wat in the photo below. The premises is quite big with lots to see and you can walk around with your shoes on but if you want to enter the Wat grounds, you have to take off your shoes at the designated area about a hop, skip and a jump away from the Wat’s entrance. No big deal, it’s relatively clean, as in free from debris as you can kinda see in the photo below. There’s more than enough room for shoes on the racks but there’s shoe lockers behind the benches too, just don’t forget where you put your shoes.

Pavilion area provides shade and benches for rest and removal of shoes.

SO MUCH GOLD!!! Was my first reaction as stepped through the entrance into the wat. I don’t know if it was gold leaf, gold paint, gold plated or what but boy was it impressive. Pretty much in the center of the temple grounds is the gold stupa with the prayer path around it. There are flowers you can buy and hold as you walk and pray on this path and then offer them to an altar of your choice. This prayer path is in between the stupa and a stone fence that has opening at the corners for entering and exiting the prayer path. On top of this fence, on two of the sides, are various statues and religious relics. Lining the walls to the temple complex are altars, prayer halls, statues and other religious artifacts. There are monks walking around doing various duties as well from what I saw when I was there such as “monk chats,” blessing ceremonies, sweeping of the grounds, putting up decorations etc. Along the walls that define the Wat grounds are open air but sheltered corridors with religious statues and artifacts and enough space for visitors to pray in front of. These corridors are sometimes broken up by rooms housing religious statue(s) with all the prayer amenities like kneeling mats, incense pots etc. There is also a larger prayer hall which more detailed and ornate and is where the monk chats/blessing were held. If you want the on location tourist shot, look for the golden tree/umbrella statue. This is the designated spot where an “in house photographer” will take the “tourist shot” that all the marketing shots were taken. The spot features a golden umbrella (or maybe it’s a bamboo tree), under which you’ll stand with the golden stupa in the background and hopefully a blue sky with a fluffy cloud or two. There will be assistants walking around that area trying to drum up business. If you don’t want to engage their services you can just wait until the umbrella is vacant and go get your shot. Although I planned to photograph everything, I kinda forgot to or maybe just too “taken in” by beauty, splendor, calmness and serenity of this place I really don’t have the words so here’s a few shots:

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

Inside the Wat Phra That temple grounds on Doi Suthep

When you’re done inside the Wat, have a look around the grounds. There’s a huge hall, gift shop (the usual items that you’d find in a temple’s gift shop are cheaper here than in any other place that I’ve been to), café type eatery, prayer bells, prayer halls, large statues, defunct museum (well that’s what it looked like to me) and a very ornate pavilion that over looks the valley. If you walk to the railing you will see the city of Chiang Mai and the airport, it’s quite a view if the weather is clear. I visited in early May and got ok weather, a bit too smoggy for detailed images but still a spectacular view. There were not many people so I was able to set up my tripod for some panoramic shots however I did get interrupted by a tourist who came right up next to me to shoot her panoramic shots, so I took some candid profile shots of her instead of landscape shots for a minute or so, lol. There also a very beautiful, colorful and well landscaped flower garden. It wasn’t until I was looking through the photos back at the hotel that I realized the flowers were fake.

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

Walking around Doi Suthep just outside Wat Phra That

I spent 3 hours at Doi Suthep not including travel time but could have easily spent hours more. I didn’t visit any of the markets or explore any of the areas not part of the temple grounds. I was there around dusk and the sunset sets behind the mountain but with the smog/haze/clouds it wasn’t that ‘wow’ Perhaps sunrise would be better as it would rise over the city when you’re viewing from the pavilion.

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All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

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What’s so great about the Tha Phae Gate?

Traffic in front of Tha Phae Gate’s plaza at night.

Chiang Mai’s Old City is on UNESCO’s list for consideration as a Heritage City and the Tha Phae Gate is the main gate into Chiang Mai’s old city located on it’s Eastern wall. The old city is shaped in a roughly 1.6 km by 1.6 km square area that used to be surrounded by a wall and moat with a gate at each section of the wall. With exception of the southern wall which has 2 gates. Tip: the ‘h’ is silent in the Thai language, this landmark is pronounced Ta Pay gate. That should help when you’re trying to let the driver know where you want to go/get to. Many will eventually understand if you pronounce the ‘h’ though.

A defunct stone elephant fountain at the edge of the moat.

So what’s there to do here? At first glance, nothing much. The first impulse is to get a selfie right in front of the gate and right in front of the metal plaque embedded in the wall. With all the mention of the Tha Phae Gate in anything related to Chiang Mai, when you’re actually standing in front of it, it’s pretty underwhelming, in my opinion. The walls on either side of the opening are rebuilt using red clay bricks (which looks too new) and has been said to not have been rebuilt according to historic records. The walls also end where the moat begins which may be an indication that the gate is not exactly in it’s original location. The wooden door and wooden door frame is mostly faded gray and water stained, making it look older than the wall. A hose runs up the door frame and across the gate’s opening to spray mist on people as they pass through the gate, not to worry it’s only on the really hot days and is quite refreshing. The stairs leading up to wall (from within the old city) are blocked at the top so you can’t get on top of the wall, too bad, but safety first. So just what is it about this place? I urge you to fight off the initial urge to snap the usual selfie’s and continue on your way, especially if you like to people watch or take candid photos. You’ll get lots of ‘usual’ shots like:

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

I spent a lot of time around the Tha Phae Gate. Why? because I found it very interesting. At all times of the day there’s always something going on. I didn’t feel this way originally though. The first time I visited this gate was late in the afternoon, right after I checked into my hotel and found the dental clinic I needed to be at the next day. My trip to Chiang Mai was solely for my sudden need for dental treatment which you can read in my post entitled, “Dental Holiday in Chiang Mai. Wait what? SERIOUSLY?!?! and the hotel I chose to stay in was The Signature Hotel @Thapae you can check out my review of it here. Both of these places were within 100 meters of the Tha Phae Gate, in a straight line and on the same side of the street. There is even a 3 story Starbucks, a 24 hour, 2 story McDonald’s and a Burger King within 50 meters of the gate. Consider going up to the top floors for different angle shots, especially at night if you want to get some light trail imagery (like in the first pic above) or try a sunset shot from the upper floors.

The sun setting on Tha Phae Gate.  Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you don’t have much time for sightseeing, I suppose 20 minutes tops and you’ll be done getting the usual selfies in front of the open gate as well as in front of the plaque and a few pigeon shots. If you budget 45 min to an hour, you may be able to get some of the locals to help you get even more dynamic images. Here’s how, find the locals that are either holding a sack (full of bird food), stick, hat or ball or a combination of those items. They may even be taking pics of other tourists (with phones and usually low to the ground) already or just throwing down food to attract the pigeons to one spot. You’re not looking for the locals selling little plastic bags of bird food, unless what you want is to just feed the birds, have them land on you etc. Once you find the local “tourist photographer” (as opposed to the local photographer taking candid/street shots with DSLR’s) you can approach them, if they haven’t come and approached you already. For an increased chance of them approaching you, stand close to the wall and try take selfies with the pigeons. I’m always too busy shooting to see how much people were paying but it can’t be that much, lotsa people were doing it and I mean lots! Don’t forget to bargain. So here’s how it works. Once you’ve agreed on the price and paid the person, you hand over your phone. They will guide you to a spot, throw down some bird food, and give you some general movement tips. There are three ‘poses’ that I’ve noticed that they use every time. One is the normal standing shot, stand however you like, another is a walking parallel to the wall shot and the last is you twirling on the spot. The photographer with your phone is sitting or lying down on his side and when he’s ready says something to an accomplice who then scares the pigeons, either by stomping, clapping or tossing an item in the air to get the birds to fly up. As a photographer I’d have to say that’s pretty clever and bordering on professional, they’re just missing the more detailed posing and maybe some dramatic lighting. After each shot you’ll be able to check your phone and do a retake if you’re not satisfied. From a distance I think I got some good shots, so I’m sure they did too. I chose to shoot from a distance because I was uneasy with all those well fed, startled pigeons flying around. Yes, there are that many pigeons especially on weekends when I’ve seen enough pigeons for 4 of these “photoshoots” going on at the same time against the walls on either side of the gate (on the plaza side). Note: the lighting is better on the right side when you’re standing in the plaza facing the gate. Also if you plan on doing the “photoshoot” consider exaggerating your arm swings when walking/twirling. The purpose is to create lines and/or angles which should add “tension” to your photos, it’ll look much better and natural than just letting your arms hang down at your sides.

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

Female tourists interacting with pigeons.

Warning for the ladies…if you’re wearing a light, loose dress and stand near the wall, if there’s even a slight wind, it’ll hit the wall and lift your dress/skirt. Even the mass of pigeons taking off from around your legs is enough to lift your skirt. Trust me on this, I’ve never been flashed so many times in my life! Not only that, there are A LOT of photographers around. Could be tourists snapping selfies with the pigeons around you or taking pictures of the pigeons on you or the locals just hanging around some selling bird food, some looking out for the cops. Then there’s local photogs getting their street/candid photography fix, or tourist photogs like me, people watching, sniping shots when something happens. On the off chance that you get there and no one is feeding the birds, it’s because the cops just went by and confiscated all the food. There’s signage around to let you know that you’re not supposed to feed the birds. Just stick around for a bit, the locals will come back with more food.

Local police confiscate a big bag of bird feed from the locals.

Local police confiscate bird feed from the locals.

If that’s not interesting enough for you, there’s local ice cream sellers (coconut flavor), artists doing portraitures (I didn’t notice any caricature artists). Then there’s the odd trinket souvenir vendor walking around. Most of the vendor come out after sunset. I was fortunate enough to catch a tv commercial in the making complete with “fake family,” backdrops, shooting assistants and a model shooting water from a fire hose attached to the fire truck. I’ve also seen some kind of parade/procession start from the plaza and then proceed down the street. Most nights there is a musician or 10 sitting around playing tunes. If you’re lucky, like me, you might run into a protest. The one I saw was a cruelty to animals / don’t partake in the animal sanctuary attractions protest.

A family taking refuge under a big unbrella

A woman spraying water from a fire hose.

A tourists taking photos on the stairs going up the wall at the Tha Phae Gate.

Individuals wearing masks protest against animal cruelty.

To get the most out of your time, if you like taking photos and shopping, is on Sunday around dusk to try to catch the sunset a bit earlier if you’re into the tourists and pigeons schtick and later if you like light trails by traffic. You can sit upstairs in Starbucks or McDonald’s to get some traffic light trail shots. Other things to do at night would be wait for the hand crafted (mostly) vendors, toy sellers, ice cream vendor and occasional a snack vendor. If you’re here on a Sunday evening you’re already at the easiest starting point (from outside the old city) to the famous Sunday Night Market. Just walk on through the gate and you’re at one end of the main street of this market. Be careful though because the gate is actually part of an intersection although not many vehicles go through the gate, there are some once in a while. If you’re a morning person, you can also get a sunrise shot over the gate when you’re standing facing the gate from inside the old city.

A car driving through the Tha Phae Gate at night.

Nightly market at the Tha Phae Gate.

Local couple shop at the Sunday Night Market

Watching the sun rise over the Tha Phae Gate from within the old city of Chiang Mai.

Here’s a few more shots:

 

Sunset at Tha Phae Gate

A couple sneak a kiss while feeding pigeons.

A man decorates his motorcycle with colorful materials he finds on the street

Street artists selling his drawings in front of Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Consider following me for updates to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

PS. If you want to check out my other ‘works’, you can find them here:

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Did I get scammed in Chiang Mai?

Tourist posing in bikini in front of a waterfall

I think i did but you know what? I’m not mad because if it was a scam i think it was a really good scam! Plus, not that it shouldn’t matter, the actual amount was pretty small. Ready to laugh at my expense? Here goes…

I was told by the hotel staff that Doi Inthanon is a “must see, you can’t say you’ve been to Chiang Mai if you don’t go to Doi Inthanon.”  Well, if that’s the case, I better go or at least research it, right? Oh, in case you haven’t read my “Dental vacation, wait what? SERIOUSLY?!” post, the reason why I was in Chiang Mai without having done any research on things to do there was because of my last minute need to get some dental treatment. Have a read if you’re interested in dental vacationing.

Anyways, Doi Inthanon is a national park that is on one of the mountains at the tail end of the Himalayan mountain range. It’s the highest point in Thailand and a source of great pride, I’m guessing, from the way it was described to me by the hotel staff. On this mountain are hiking trails, waterfalls, a monument in which the remains of a King of Chiang Mai is entombed. There is also 2 stupa’s in a park dedicated to a king and his wife as well as a temple. The mountain is also home to tribal people who were poppy farmers (think opium) until a king seized it all and made them farm something else, like flowers. There are a few trails that you can hike with one of them being a mandatory guided one. You have to hire a local guide (member of one of the Hill Tribes) to guide you. This particular trail is not too difficult and will lead you to a more waterfalls. Yup, I wanna go.

So what are the options? At the time I was trying to get there (early May 2019) the options were $800 TBH to rent a car (You must have an international drivers license by law but a tour agent said as long as my drivers license is written in English it will be allowed), even though mine is, I didn’t chance it. I didn’t want to drive on the “other side” of the road and I didn’t want to get potentially scammed by the usual vehicular scams ie dents, damages etc. I also didn’t want to mess with getting gas and fiddling with insurance. Same applies to renting a motorcycle/moped (I don’t know how to operate one anyways) and it’s at least an hour and a half drive. So my only options were a tour which ranged from $800 to $1200 TBH but included a lot of stops like tribe’s markets and a hot springs, which according to reviews was just a hole in the ground and nothing else. According to the tour agent you’d get to spend at most 45 minutes at the top where all the good stuff is. That just won’t cut it for me and the exorbitant amount of time I take to make images. So what’s left was taxis and private guides with a car. The hotel offered to get me a taxi for $3500 TBH and the driver will take me wherever I wanted to go and wait at wherever I wanted to stop. Private guides with cars were upwards of $4000 TBH and a Grab driver tried to sell me on $4500 TBH when I told him it was way too expensive he told me $3200 TBH to get up to the Visitor Information Centre which was about 1/2 up the mountain. When I declined that he dropped the price to $2800 TBH, WTH?! Right? Lol. OH! Forgot to add, if you get a cheap price ask them if the price includes gas, because you don’t want to get waylaid after the fact OR you can offer to pay the gas at the gas station to ensure you pay the actual amount and not some inflated figure. Anyways, I really had no choice but to go with the taxi service that the hotel (The Signature Hotel @Thapae, click here if you want to read my review of it) offered to get me. When the front desk clerk got off the phone, she informed me that the price would be $3200 TBH. BONUS! The wait for the taxi was about 5 minutes and the clerk told me I needed to pay the driver upfront. I figured it should be ok, it’s arranged by the hotel, right? The clerk then, in Thai, spoke with the driver and informed me that she told him all the spots I wanted to go, another bonus! Even though the vehicle wasn’t one of those slick looking metered taxis, it looked well cared for.

So off we went, we chatted a bit which consisted mainly of him trying to get me to change my destination to one an additional 2 hours away! I declined and he proceeded to informed me that we would make a pit stop to put in gas and at that rest stop I should use the toilet and or get some snacks because there won’t be any from that point until the top of the mountain. Awesome, sounds like a plan. About 45 minutes into the drive, the driver woke me up because we were at the pit stop. Darn meds always get me, lol. So at the gas station, the driver gets out, to check the engine compartment with an attendant, while another attendant put in gas. He closes the hood and pays and we drive over to the parking area for our snack and toilet break.

Fifteen minutes later we were on our way and roughly 45 minutes later we reached the Doi Inthanon National Park check point where I had to get out and pay the entrance fee of $300 TBH (foreigner’s price). I got back into the car and off we went to the first waterfall and then he starts complaining that the weather is so hot. Well, ya but it’s supposed to get cooler the higher you go. After all, it’s recommend in all the brochures and tour info guides to bring a jacket because at the top is the only place in all of Thailand where there’s “snow” (actually frost). Anyways, we get to the parking area of the Sirithan waterfall and I get out to go check it out while he pops the hood to “cool” the car because the weather is too hot (it really is hot in Chiang Mai, hotter than Singapore). I haven’t realized anything is wrong yet at this point, I’m already heading down the trail. The trail is pretty short and down a slight, stepped incline with sturdy hand rails that ends in a platform quite far from the falls. There are paths to the falls but they have been closed (looks like for a while now since the paths were overgrown) and blocked with “Do Not Enter” signs. So you’ll have to settle for view of the falls from between the trees. Roughly thirty minutes go by and I’m done and back at the car and we’re off again. Driver carried on as if thre were no issues and I asked if the car was ok, and he replied yes, it’s just too hot and Mitsubishi cars aren’t made to go up mountains. No clue how or why he came up with that…

Sirithan Falls within Doi Inthanon National Park.

Sirithan Falls within Doi Inthanon National Park.

Sirithan Falls within Doi Inthanon National Park.

Sirithan Falls within Doi Inthanon National Park.

So just before the next tourist spot, Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail, I can see white “smoke” coming from the under the hood and the driver complains again of the weather being too hot and we pull into the parking area just as the car stops. I thought the driver just stopped the car in the middle of the area to let me out since he was telling me to go see the waterfalls and that the car just needs to “cool down”. I headed towards the trail but was stopped by some people under a makeshift gazebo. Apparently I had to pay for a guide to take me on this trail ($300 TBH) and that it’ll take about an hour and a half to get to the end point and that’s where my driver will pick me up. Well, I didn’t think too highly of the hike so I turned around just in time to see the car’s hood popped up with lots of white “smoke” billowing up and my driver along with some tour bus drivers pushing the car to a better parking spot. I went to enquire about the car and was reassured that it was ok and that it only needed to cool down but for now just go on the hike. I saw some people handing him water as he tried to pour some into the radiator. Hmmm, something is off but well, what else could I do since I’m already there. I might as well go on the hike, better than sitting around watching him pour water. So I paid the fee and off I went with my guide leading the way. Since the tour group before me was already full and had left, I get a guide all to myself, but I’m pretty sure I paid more than the participants of the tour group, as I saw the stack of money left by the tour group. Maybe my math is wrong or there’s a group discount, lol. Along the way, you’ll be able to see some of the opium poppy farms that have been converted to flower farms and 3 water falls, one of which you can swim in the resulting pool of water at the base. As you come up to the flower farms, you’re actually right up at the edge of the property. Where we were, the plants closest to use weren’t in bloom so I asked if we can go in, the answer, from another guide (we caught up), was “no”. My guide was looking around (don’t know what he was looking for but I was looking around to find a better shot and when the other group left, my guide motioned me over to where he was and he took me further into the farm, bonus! My guide mentioned that it will probably change to marijuana farms when marijuana becomes legal in Thailand. Interesting. Along the way, if you’re thirsty, there’s water, if you dare to drink it. Someone stuck a bamboo tube to catch some run off water and there’s even a makeshift bamboo cup for you to use. From where the water came from, I couldn’t see but it looked awfully sketchy to me. As I had two bottles of Gatroade with me I declined a sip but my guide drank some so it’s gotta be safe, right? I have to say, I found these waterfalls quite impressive and by now, I’m totally over the car ordeal. The hike is all down hill and really steep in some parts but not that bad if you can handle stairs that can be described as ladders in some sections. I’m actually quite content with this hike, my guide wasn’t rushing me at all and was a good sport about me taking photos with him in them and including him in my selfies (he was reluctant but obliged). He even pointed out things along the way and tried to spot birds and animals. As we reached the end point I was taking pictures of the other tourists taking their photos as my guide went to talk to another guide. They both came up to me to inform me that my driver couldn’t or didn’t want to come down then go back up again to the summit so I had to hike back up the friggin’ mountain. I thought to myself, YES!!! I can still get to the top of the mountain to see the other stuff. Well, my enthusiasm quickly died as we hit the first of the very steep inclines. Truth be told, I had to stop 3 times to catch my breath and at one point I felt light headed, my guide was cool about it and not laboured at all. I asked him how many times he hikes this trail he said 3 and I said something like, lucky he doesn’t have to walk back up each time like now and he replied, “no no no walk down, walk up is one time. Every day three times”. Well damn! No wonder he’s not fazed! I feel I need to also note that, as you can see in the photo’s, he’s wearing slippers! What you don’t see in the photos is my backpack with camera gear/tripod, and my waist pouch with 2 DSLR + attached lenses.

Local guides for the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flower farms on the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Have a drink of this “clean” run off water on the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tourists enjoying a swim and the view at one of the waterfalls on the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Me and my guide in front of a waterfall on the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Nearing the end of the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Parts of the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Parts of the Pha Dok Sieo Nature Trail on Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai, Thailand

By the time we got back to the car, a little more than 3 hours had passed and I was drenched, head to toe from sweat. Lucky I brought a hotel hand towel. My hiking shirt was so drenched I could wring water out! Not as quick dry as I believed it to be, haha . The car’s hood was down and I asked about the condition and again, driver said it’s ok, so off we went. Not even 10 minutes later we see smoke again and this time my driver gives up and finally admits we can’t make it to the top but on the way down he’ll take me to see some “more beautiful” places. With no choices and getting frustrated, I said “fine”. He makes a U-turn and drive a ways before finding a spot to stop the car. So now that I can’t get to the top, I’m getting mad and worried about being stuck in a busted car with no view. Flashbacks of my first car, a 1979 Mustang, and all the engine problems it came with didn’t help. But I thought, if this car can still run and all that it needed was water then the issue wasn’t that bad and the smoke wasn’t smoke, just steam. I guess my face showed my unhappiness as he started to apologize profusely while blaming the weather and Mitsubishi (for making crappy cars) and insisting that the places he was going to show me were “really beautiful.” Now I’m thinking i was lucky I didn’t let him persuade me to go to the other place or I would have seen nothing! So all the way down the mountain, every time the over heating light came on, we had to stop, sometimes he put in some water and we’d continue. Before we reached the bottom of the mountain he did take me to see another waterfall.

To get to the Wachirathan Waterfall you drive down this, what looked to me, like a one way path but you can just barely fit two cars, something to note if you’re driving. The area around the waterfall is nice. There are gift shops and a coffee shop where you can get some food and drinks. There’s also a short trail you can follow to see where the water pools and get closer to the falls. Apparently you can play in the water further along the stream even though there are signs posted saying “no Swimming”. After almost an hour, I make my way back to the parking lot and the car isn’t where it was parked when I got out. Great. So I whip out my phone as I walk towards the souvenir shops at the lower half of the parking lot to buy a drink, thinking I’d just call the hotel to send out another car hopefully cheaper than it would cost to get a Grab taxi. At the lower half of the parking lot is where I see my driver waving at me. So I skipped the drink and got into the car, thankful I didn’t have to spend anymore money for transport on this excursion.

Wachirathan Falls within Doi Ithanon National Park

Wachirathan Falls within Doi Ithanon National Park

As soon as we reached the bottom of the mountain, lots of steam billowed out and we had to stop. Luckily, I guess, it was in front of a residential type area where at least I can get out of the car and walk around and find something to drink (I finished the 2 bottles of Gatorade on the hike back up the mountain). Plus my driver was out of water and had to go look for some. I thought nothing of it until he came back and told me he found some water at a public restroom just across the street. As he was gathering his empty water bottles, he turned to me then said “oh there’s a police station beside the restrooms”. I wondered why he mentioned that, not like I could steal his busted car, right? Or did I look like I was gonna hurt him? Anyways, he came back with the water for his car and I told him I was gonna find something to drink and he quickly volunteered to go buy some, his treat. Well, that’s nice. When he came back I watched him pour the water into the radiator(attempting to anyways because the steam just kept pushing the water away). Took him awhile to figure it out or maybe he got tired of refilling his water bottles so he waited until we couldn’t see the steam coming out the radiator before attempting to pour anymore water in. It was during this time that he brought out a cloth and started wiping the engine compartment and I realized that the car was spotless inside and out and so was the engine compartment. There shouldn’t be any engine issues if someone is this meticulous with his car, right? At this point I started taking pictures and looking for the radiator cap because I remember not being able to touch the cap due to the extreme heat when I had engine problems in my Mustang, so how did he get the cap off so quickly? I couldn’t find the cap. Having filled the radiator, we continued on. A little ways into the drive, I was taking pictures out the window of the sunset (better than nothing, I had try to get some shots) I was vaguely aware that the driver was reaching around the front compartments. A few minutes later he exclaimed something along the lines of “I found it” and showed me the radiator cap! What The @$#%@^@! As soon as he could, he stopped to put it on. After that, all the while driving he kept complaining that the weather was too hot and that the cap didn’t solve the problem because the over heating light came back on. About 45 minutes away from the hotel we stopped one last time in front of some houses along the highway and he went into the yard of one of them and came out with a big bucket of water. I don’t know if kept the radiator cap on or not after that, I just gave up caring.

Taxi with overheating issues

Taxi with overheating issues

Taxi with overheating issues

Taxi with overheating issues

Back at the hotel, he wouldn’t discount the fee with the excuse that he took me to additional “beautiful places”. I reminded him that he took me to one other place, his response was continued apologizing. Quick math…if I had paid for going up 1/2 way it would have cost me about $2800 TBH according to the Grab driver I spoke with days ago, so this driver now is only ripping me off $500 TBH which is about $22 SGD. I’m just too tired to fight over $22. So I walked away and into the hotel. The front desk clerk, the same one who got me the taxi asked me how it went and when I told her of the car problems she tried to go outside to argue with the driver but he had already left. She apologized for my troubles and making an effort to call someone, I didn’t stick around to find out, I was tired and hungry.

So if you book a cab and the car + driver shown in the above pictures show up, don’t take it. Unless you think my ordeal is just a series of unfortunate events. For me, the icing on the cake was the strategic use of aircon in the car. Now this was a good scam, totally didn’t see this one coming, a $22 “life lesson”, cheap right? LOL.

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16 days in Chiang Mai’s Old City

pedestal with the map of Chiang Mai’s old city on top

Chiang Mai’s “Old City” is the area, roughly 1.6 km by 1.6 km, surrounded by a moat and at one time walls. There’s not much left of the original walls, only the bastions on each corner and at remnants at the 5 gates. All look like they have been mostly restored, you know they look old but not as old as they should look according to how old they are supposed to be. Also some look too straight and symmetrical for that time period. Anyways, Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city nestled in a valley next to the Ping River. Thailand’s highest peak is about an hour or so drive away which is one of the tourist attractions of Chiang Mai. It’s call Doi Inthanon if you’re interested in checking that out. I tried, it didn’t work out, more on that in my post entitled, Did I get scammed in Chiang Mai? Chiang Mai is listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage candidate list has been granted the title of Creative City by UNESCO. Not really sure what that means, but it sounds cool.

So what is it that makes Chiang Mai such a hot tourist destination and blogger destination? I’m really not sure. Maybe its the cost of living being so low coupled with the adequate internet Wi-Fi service? Maybe its the allure of potential legal marijuana? The flower farmers were opium poppy farmers before so you know they have the know how to grow stuff. As for the tourists there are a ton of things to do in Chiang Mai from temple visiting to mountain hiking, a water park in a canyon, river rafting, atv riding and taking cooking classes, paintballing and zoos. Then there are tours on Segway’s, bicycles and mopeds/scooter in addition to the bus/van tours. If you’re not into tours, you can rent cars (need an international drivers license), mopeds/motorcycles, bicycles or those electric skateboard things with the handle. The more unique activities would be the elephant sanctuaries and tiger sanctuaries. I’ll let you decide for yourself whether they are “good or bad”. I personally don’t mind them if the animals look well treated but I never got around to going. What I’ve listed is probably only a drop in the bucket as to the amount of activities there are judging by the display of brochures I see in the shops. The reason why I went to Thailand, this trip, was because I needed some dental work done and I was informed that Thailand’s dental practices were top notch and inexpensive. I chose Chiang Mai over Bangkok because Chiang Mai was cheaper both in dental prices as well as accommodations. If you’re interested to know more, here’s my post about it, Dental Holiday in Chiang Mai. Wait what? SERIOUSLY?!?! Overall, I found Chiang Mai to be less ‘hustle bustle’ and less traffic than Bangkok but more “touristy”. What do I mean by that? Well, many Thai people in Chiang Mai, can speak Mandarin. I thought it was because of the amount of Chinese tourists at first until I was kind of forced on a hike (Details in my upcoming failed Doi Inthanon excursion), on which I had to pay for a local hills tribesman to guide me on, told me (in very broken, sporadic English) that people on the mountain speak Mandarin because of their proximity to the border. He tried explaining it in Mandarin to me but I can’t understand Mandarin. Although I tried to reason it out, I couldn’t. The northern borders of Thailand are Myanmar (Burma) and Laos, I didn’t think they spoke Mandarin there. Anyways, I was quite startled to be spoken to in Mandarin by customer service staff in many, many shops/restaurants I visited. Another indication of the large number of tourists are the sheer number of shops offering tour packages, it’s like there’s one every 10 shops as you walk down any street. If you’re interested to visit the Hills Tribes people, there are plenty of tours. The “Golden Triangle” tours will take you to the area/river delta where the borders of Thailand, Myanmar and Laos meet. Don’t worry if English is your only language, I’ve found that speaking English in Chiang Mai isn’t an issue as everyone could understand me and for the most part I could understand them. The only time I had a language barrier was the time I had a tour guide, yup, I don’t understand that either.

Aside from the abundance of non Thai speakers everywhere, so are the local forms of transport, songthaews and tuk tuks. Songthaews are pickup trucks with the bed converted to benches on either side and a roof. The red ones service the general vicinity of the old city and the yellow ones travel further out, although you can hire a red one to take you wherever you want provided you can agree to terms on the price. I’ve also seen black ones and maroon colored ones, but have no clue where they go. Songthaews operate like shared taxis, anyone can flag one down, negotiate a price and hop on. Usually, the more riders, the cheaper the fare gets. Although all the red ones have $30 TBH fare written on the side in English, the rest of the wording is in Thai and I’d like to think it means minimum amount because every time I’ve flagged one to ride in the vicinity of the old city, the first amount the driver would say was $100 TBH. For some reason I was always flagged the empty ones. Note: I always check the price on Grab before I try to flag a songthaew, so if I can’t get a ride on a songthaew for significantly cheaper, I just book the Grab taxi. Having said that, I only rode the songthaew’s two times in the 16 days I was there. There were a few occasions when the songthaew was $20-$30 TBH cheaper than the Grab but I took the Grab anyways because I didn’t want to deal with the heat, sit on a bench in the back of an enclosed pickup truck (the small little side windows didn’t help much, and the exhaust smell ain’t that great either) and I got motion sickness the two times I rode in the songthaews plus it gets so tedious to negotiate a price every time. I tried taking the tuk tuk’s (motorized rickshaw) too, the motion sickness for me was not that bad, much more ventilation and the driver doesn’t stop to pick up passengers. Tuk tuk’s are usually more expensive than songthaews which puts them in the Grab taxi price range, unless you’re really far from the old city. You have to negotiate a price before you get in too. Thank goodness for Grab because while exploring on foot, I found myself in many places where I didn’t see any songthaews or tuk tuk’s around. If you do plan on using Grab keep in mind that you can’t use the funds in your Grab wallet to pay for your ride because it’s not available at the time of this writing. Almost forgot, there are metered taxis but the only place where I saw them was at the airport and only once, in town, that was dropping off tourists at a hotel.

Hailing a songthaew, then negotiating the fare with the driver.

View from the inside a songthaew

Neon lit Tuk Tuk’s available for hire

Metered taxi

Languages and transport aside, I found Chiang Mai to be abundant in artistic stuff like paintings, drawings, carvings, crafts. I even found some graffiti! There are many night markets that open up on the streets/sidewalks in different areas around Chiang Mai and they all start around 7pm and you can watch them start setting up around 6pm. You’ll find a lot of hand made stuff along with all the art stuff. The big nightly street market is the Night Bazaar which is East of Tha Phae Gate, lots of stuff to see there. There are a handful of vendors at Tha Phae Gate too but mainly just handmade souvenirs and an artist or two. On Saturday’s just outside the Chiang Mai Gate (also called Pratu Gate) is where, from what I was told, the silver smiths peddle their works. I went there once didn’t see much silver. Saw a lot of street food vendors though! If you’re into silver jewelry, there are plenty of shops all over the place, good prices too. On Sunday’s is the mother of all night markets. They close off streets within the Old City to facilitate this night market, it’s pretty awesome, I got to see it three times! Prices are low and then you can bargain if you so choose to, they kind of expect you to anyways. It gets really crowded but civilized. For the most part people try not to bump you and give an apologetic gesture if they do. The vendors aren’t pushy and genuinely nice, IMO. Never did I feel threatened or mobbed by a bunch of kids asking for money, nor were there homeless/less fortunate people sitting/lying around unlike Bangkok. Most of the less fortunate were actually trying to earn instead of beg by playing a musical instrument, dancing or singing.

Street artists selling his drawings in front of Tha Phae Gate in Chiang Mai, Thailand

If you’re into seeing/visiting temples, then Chiang Mai is for you. They have big ones, small ones, new ones, centuries old ones, and nationally recognized ones. It’s impossible, I think, to walk 10 minutes in any direction and not see one. After a week and a lot of walking, I thought I saw them all which I later learned was a mistake. One evening as I was returning from one of my walk abouts, the front desk clerk asked me how my trip was thus far. I told him it was awesome, I loved all the temples and stuff and now that I’ve seen them all, didn’t know else I should do. You should have seen the wide eyed look on his face as he said, “all 300?!” You should have seen the wide eyed look on my face as I said, “300?!?!” I think I visited maybe 30ish. In my defense, I was only looking at the ones with stupa’s and missed a lot of the smaller ones because I just didn’t see/notice them. So upon further “inspection” on my walk abouts, I don’t know if there really are 300 temples but there are a lot, some are really, really small as in just a small shack or two housing a statue or two and a space for prayer. Anyways, it became an adventure of sorts. Speaking of adventure, there is also an area where excavations have yielded ruins of temples. You can take a buggy ride, for a fee to visit them all or you can try to find them all by yourself. If you do try to find them all yourself, please, please don’t walk! I tried didn’t get very far, plus there are loose dogs (don’t know if they were wild or not), a lot of them not too friendly, had to fend a couple off with my tripod once. I did find a few pretty cool looking ruins though, made it worth it for me coupled with being able to see how the local people live because these ruins are scattered in residential areas (found horses in some yards too)! Wish I had more time to go back and take the buggy ride though. If you’re interested in that area, it’s called Wiang Kum Kam, I’ll make a separate post about it soon.

An ornate white and gold stupa with a cloudy blue sky in the background

Chiang Mai’s famous bar street has a lot of bars and happy ending massage shops (you can tell because you can’t really see into the shop and there are plenty of girls trying to entice you inside) on both sides of the street. The other massage shops that are on the up and up, in case you’re wondering, has people, usually female that just greet you or just smile and nod as you walk by. You can see into the shop and you’ll notice it’s an open area, many times not even curtains to separate the patrons. So you can be pretty sure there’s no “extras” in those. Back to the bars, on the weekdays, it’s really, really quiet like I’m one of 5 guys walking around and there aren’t many customers in the bars either, maybe 1 in 5 bars and the few bar girls around won’t even bother to look up. The weekends aren’t much better although there are more bar girls hanging out in front of their shops and more enthusiastic about trying to get patrons plus the music is louder. There are days when there’s Muaythai bouts held in the boxing ring which is located down this sort of alley lined with bars that opens up to a sort of cul de sac in which the boxing ring is in the middle surrounded by more bars. Those days make it more interesting although you have to pay an entrance fee but since some of the bars have a back entrance off a side street, you could enter those, buy a beer and sit close enough to see the action thereby skipping the entrance fee to see the fight. As much as I love beer, I didn’t see any bar that was interesting enough to drink in. It was much more fun sitting in a restaurant facing the street near Tha Phae Gate and watch the tourists or head into the Night Bazaa where there’s this area like a huge outdoor food court and beer stalls. Much, much more people here than on the bar street. They have live bands too which (I don’t mean this in a mean way) perform covers in the local style English which I found very weird yet interesting. Some people get up and dance when they hear their jam, so that’s fun to watch too.

Muaythai Chiang Mai Boxing Stadium.

There are (as far as I saw) 3 shopping malls, two modern ones with global brand name shops and one older, more local one. I went to one of the newer ones, called Central Festival, to extend my phone plan since the sim chip that I got from the airport was only good for 8 days (there’s one kiosk selling sim chips where the luggage belts are and one after you exit customs). Central Festival was pretty new looking and prices were not local prices, I checked out some camera gear and it’s pretty much the same price as in Singapore. The local mall, named Kad Suan Kaew, I literally just walked into it without knowing it at the end of one of my walk abouts. Most of the shops were closing up so I didn’t get to see much. The local shops prices looked reasonable, the recognizable, global brand names were the usual price so really nothing special about the shopping malls. I much prefer the street markets.

One of the newer shopping malls in Chiang Mai

Local style shopping mall in Chiang Mai

The more I think about it, the more I’m thinking that Chiang Mai is my favorite destination thus far I think Chiang Rai has something to do with it too. I’ll post a write up of Chiang Rai soon too. So consider following me for updates to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry. The only thing I have to “complain” about is that, to me (and don’t flame me for this) I found that in general, it’s all about the money in Chiang Mai. What I mean by this is when you’re going about paying for your songthaew/tuk tuk ride and don’t give exact change, don’t be surprised if they don’t give you your change unless you ask for it or remind them what the agreed upon fare was. I’ve had this happen when buying food or souvenirs from street vendors too. In the temples I found the sheer number of donation boxes somewhat of a let down. Some temples have an entrance fee too with different prices for locals and tourists. It’s my theory that your attire will have an impact on pricing as well and be aware of this in the shops that don’t have price tags on their items. Grab drivers may try to offer you their services for your other trips which is good, but the prices may not be. Best to know where you want to go and a general idea of how much it would cost via other modes of transport. Almost forgot, if you take pictures of locals who look dressed up in cultural garb, chances are they will ask you for money afterwards, especially the kids. If people offer to take your picture, they’ll ask for a tip afterwards. The amount of the tip they ask for depends on what they do to get  you a nice shot (more on this in a later post). Don’t be put off by this though, it’s just a part of life, I suppose and happen everywhere too.

I love Chiang Mai mural by the roadside at night

Consider following me for updates to find not only my other travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans but also photography related news/reviews and the occasional contest entry.

All the photos (unless otherwise noted in the post) were taken by me and are available for sale. If you’re interested in buying an image or three, 😃 please don’t hesitate to contact me for more details. Thanks in advance!

Comments & Critiques are always welcome, as are upvotes and resteems.

Thanks for viewing and best wishes!

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The Signature Hotel @ Thapae Review

Signage at the entrance of The Signature Hotel @Thapae

The Signature hotel @ Thapae (in Chiang Mai, Thailand) was the perfect hotel for me because it was only a 3 minute walk from the dental clinic that I had chosen to have my treatment done at. Check out my dental vacation post for more info on why I chose to have my teeth fixed in Chiang Mai, Thailand. My online search for accommodations was actually really frustrating as I was juggling the cost of a 16 night stay with proximity to the clinic balanced with cost as well as safety/security and cleanliness. There are a lot of accommodations around Chiang Mai’s Old City ranging from hostels to 3 star hotels. The four and five star hotels are further out from the Old City. After having walked around and seen much of the area, I consider myself very fortunate to have chosen The Signature Hotel @Thapae.

I basically skipped over the hostels, even if they offered private rooms. These hostel are really inexpensive. I’ve never tried staying in one but considered it at one point until I realized I needed somewhere safe to store my camera gear while I was at the dental clinic. So I started looking into 3 star hotels because the lower starred ones, I think, were also the hourly ones but don’t quote me on that.  Plus a lot of the reviews on cleanliness wasn’t flattering at all for many of them. There were quite a few 3 star hotels in the area around the Tha Phae Gate, where the dental clinic I went to, Dental4U is located (just a hop, skip and a jump away).  I had a difficult time choosing one but I finally settled on The Signature Hotel @Thapae because it had the least amount of negative reviews (well, negative in terms of what I wouldn’t tolerate). What I mean by that is the complaints of neighbors being too loud is something I chalk up to as “normal” and things like “room was too small” don’t really bother me because I only use a hotel room to sleep and I don’t need much room for that. The reviews that do bother me are the cleanliness ones and safety/security ones. Another major consideration for me was vicinity to food. With my many food allergies I wanted to know where some major fast food outlets and their distances to the hotel. There was one that I was seriously looking into because there is a 24hr McDonald’s on the premises but the cost is significantly higher per night than the Signature Hotel plus I got a really good discount booking it via Expedia. The great thing about booking through Expedia is that you pay the hotel via Expedia so there’s less opportunities for checkout shenanigans like what happened to me at the Datong Hotel in China. Oh, the fast food joints are within 10 minutes walking from The Signature Hotel @Thapae.

When the taxi driver dropped me off in front of the hotel I was like, “what the heck? Where is it?” The driver pointed down this lane looking walkway and I thought, “aw **** what did I did I book this time….” Once out of the taxi I had to cross the road, although it was a one way street it was pretty busy and in between the vehicles there were mopeds, scooters and motorcycles zipping and weaving about. Walking down the path was pretty nice actually. It was mid afternoon and an employee was spraying water on the plants on either side of the walkway and wetting the pavement in an effort to cool the area down. Once seeing the hotel at the end of the path, I was relieved, it looks good, clean and well maintained as opposed to some of the ones I’ve seen on the way there in the taxi. I walked through the door and was greeted cordially by the front desk employee who was checking in other guests at the time. When it was my turn to check in, he apologized for the delay and proceeded to get me checked in but couldn’t match the name on my passport to the name I used to book. When I told him to look under ‘Ray’ he exclaimed “OH! It’s you…we upgraded your room, for free of course, because the room you booked is too small to stay in for 16 days!” All I could say was, “awesome!” After getting my room key and a printout map highlighting where the local areas of interest were as well as “good” restaurants he remarked that 16 days was a long stay and that I must really like Chiang Mai, I chuckled and told him this is my first time here and that the dental clinic that I was here for needed 14 days to complete my treatment he looked surprised/shocked and wished me well and pointed to a stack of binders with tour info in them that I could peruse if I wanted. I thanked him and went up to my room. It’s worth mentioning that everyone I’ve come across in the hotel could converse with me in English and every single one was polite and courteous…every single time I saw them. It was quite refreshing especially the days when my mouth was sore/sensitive and those time when I was hangry (angry when hungry) because I couldn’t eat yet. Be sure to have some cash when you check in, as there is a $1000 TBH deposit fee refundable upon presentation of the receipt at check out.

Narrow driveway leading to the entrance of The Signature Hotel @Thapae in the morning.

Narrow driveway leading to the entrance of The Signature Hotel @Thapae at night

Below are some photos of the room. As you can see, the room is quite nice! Well, I’m impressed, I’ve been in worse and certainly not expecting this nice a room for the price I was paying. So awesome! There’s a bathroom, a closet, a full length mirror on the wall, a safe, a mini fridge, a night stand and a desk and a huge bed with a cushioned step (I have no idea what that’s for. I used it to put my phone on). Also plenty of outlets for me to plug my devices in. The only thing fixed so that you can secure your laptop on with a laptop cable lock is the metal bar to hang your clothes on in the closet. Not really a problem for me as my laptop (more like a netbook) will fit in the safe. I do use a laptop cable lock to secure my rolling suitcase for when I have to leave some camera gear in the room. Basically I loop the cable through the closet’s metal rod and the tumbler section of the lock goes into my suitcase and I use the built in zippers TSA lock mechanism to lock the zippers. The space between the zippers has just enough room for the cable to fit through. The room had no odor, the toilet was clean, as was the shower stall (I read a review that the shower stall was really dirty, so I brought slippers and never used them) and a large sink. The sliding closet door also doubles as the bathroom door, meaning when you close the closet, the bathroom is open and when you open the closet, the bathroom is closed. No biggie, only me in the room so I never have to close the door while in the bathroom. House keeping comes everyday and replenishes/changes what you’ve used, like the soap, shampoo, sanitary pads…at one point I had like 8 of them because I kept putting them on the shelf under the sink along with the other stuff I don’t use. Anyways, they finally noticed and stopped giving them to me. On the days, I was too tired/sore/lazy to get up and requested not to have my room cleaned, they’d tie a plastic bag on my door handle with two bottles of water. I’m not a big water drinker but there in Chiang Mai OMG it feels like I’m in a desert and along with those 2 free bottles of water a day, I consume 2 bottles of Gatorade and at least one more bottle of water! It’s SOOOOO HOT THERE (late April to mid May)!

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Room 202 at the Signature Hotel @Thapae in Chiang Mai, Thailand

The only thing that I wished were better at the Signature Hotel @Thapae is the food. Why? Because there isn’t any. The restaurant was “permanently closed” but the seating is still there. No vending machines either. Not that big a deal I guess, as there are street vendors, restaurants and a 7-11 within a minute’s walk. Speaking of restaurants, there is one called Ratana’s Kitchen a few shops down from The Signature Hotel, the food there is good and the prices are lower than any of the restaurants up and down the street though not tourist prices they are higher than the mom and pop shops. What else is up and down the street? Of course there are massage shops, as far as I can tell, the legit ones, as there aren’t any curtains or barriers so any “extras” will be seen by all. There are quite a few jewelry stores (silver), some art shops, tour agencies and a coin op laundry mat which was well lit and very clean! A packet of detergent costs $10 TBD as does a packet of softener. The washers and dryers are a bit small and costs $40 TBD each. Takes about 2 hours to get a load washed and dried. I had to do laundry twice because everyday my outfit will be sweat soaked! The hotel did have laundry service but I figured it was more expensive, plus it was a great way to use up the $10 TBD coins that were getting pretty heavy.

NOTE: when I went to checkout with my luggage, I took the elevator down and noticed that there was a sign indicating that some snacks and drinks were available for purchase at the front desk, don’t know how I missed it but I did (you can’t see any drinks or snacks at the front desk either).

Some final notes on the Signature Hotel: It’s very close, as in walking distance, to many of the touristy stuff as well as the night life. I didn’t see any real parking areas on the premises, just enough space around the entrance to fit 2 vehicles or one vehicle and maybe 5 or 6 mopeds/scooters/motorcycles so if you’re planning on renting something, keep that in mind. Also note the width of the path, it’s just barely wide enough to fit an SUV. Oh, a few more hangers would have been nice too, I only had three.

I’m really impressed with this hotel, some of the fixtures and things look pretty new, especially the elevator which uses touch buttons like on your smart phone, I found it kinda annoying because my fingers sometimes aren’t able to ‘activate’ the sensor (on my phone too) and so I have to press/touch repeatedly to get things to work, I ended up just using the stairs as I was only 1 flight up. The aircon unit the room is the split type and the outside section is right outside the window so if you’re not used to hearing aircon noise or you’re a light sleeper, it may disturb you. I only really noticed the aircon when I first get back to the room and turn it on then it quickly just fades from my mind.

Elevator touch panels inside

Elevator touch panels outside

My overall impression of the Signature Hotel @Thapae is that it is more than adequate for a family vacation hotel. The price was great for the quality of room and the service/staff was awesome too. When I go back to Chiang Mai, I will definitely be staying there again.

I will be posting more about my shenanigans in Chiang Mai. Consider following me for updates on this Chiang Mai trip or to find not only my toys and collectibles posts but also my travel bloopers, blunders and shenanigans posts, photography related news/reviews posts and the occasional contest entry.

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