Sven & Kari Rosvall
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Thailand 2005

Thailand 2005

Holiday to Thailand

Thailand has always been a place we have wanted to visit some day. So when a friend of ours, May Murphy, wanted to go to Thailand to visit her son David and his girlfriend Lynne, we saw the chance of seeing Thailand with local guides. May was happy to have some travel companions on the long journey.

We had originally planned to start the journey in Chiang Mai, in the north of Thailand where David and Lynne currently live. Then we would travel southwards to Phuket where they lived earlier. Unfortunately, the tsunami on Stephen's Day 2004 changed those plans and we decided to stay in the north for the whole stay and do excursions from Chiang Mai.

Monday 17/1

Arrival in Chiang Mai. David and Lynne met us at the airport and guided us to the hotel. The weather was warm and welcoming. After unpacking and resting a bit, we had a walk around the markets stalls near the hotel. The girls had foot massage (outdoors), while the boys tried out the local beer in a bar nearby, run by an eccentric Englishman who had settled in Chiang Mai. We then sampled some local treats and looked for a noodle bar for supper. Kari was delighted with her pad thai a favourite vegetarian dish with tofu and bean sprouts. We had keow kha moo pork leg on rice another local favourite. There were lots of stray dogs lying around the streets, a bit disconcerting at first. As for the streets they are treacherous to walk along full of holes, stones, debris and dangling live wires!

Tuesday 18/1

Shopping in the local department store. David and Sven sneaked away for a session in an Internet cafe. May had to buy presents for the grandchildren. Ah, the joys of grandchildren! Lunch at food court, enjoyed crispy duck on rice with sweet sauce, Kari had pumpkin curry and veggies. Sven was hunting for a new digital camera, but none of the shops had good enough cameras.

In the evening we went towards David & Lynne's apartment. We stopped by an optician where May, Sven and Kari ordered new specs. They were so much cheaper than back home so we couldn't resist. Even Sven got an order in after very long deliberation on which frames to choose. Then we celebrated all the shopping at David and Lynne's local street bar. Chicken with ginger in a white sauce on rice, Kari had home made spring rolls, delicious! washed down with the local beer chang, which means elephant beer.  These street bars are simple arrangements with a very small menu, but with very good prices.

After the meal we finally arrived in David and Lynne's apartment. They have a nice view over the city from their apartment, which was situated on the 7 floor. Kari tried out foot massage on Lynne, David and May. Luckily they liked it.

Wednesday 19/1

Started the day with a bath in the hotel pool. Went into central Chiang Mai. It is an old city with an old moat and some remains of an old defence wall. The wall had been restored around the Ta Pae gate so we could see how impressive it was in its days. We had lunch in a vegetarian restaurant that was combined with a book shop. We walked around the old city.  Not much left any more, but it still had a calm atmosphere. We visited an old temple, Chiang Mun. It is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai.

After this sight-seeing we needed some recovery and searched for a Thai Massage parlour. A taxi driver suggested a massage school and drove us there. This was an interesting experience for us. Thai massage means a lot of stretching and slow deep muscle treatment, exactly what we needed after our walk.

We finished the day by visiting the Night Market. The market opens after sunset, when it isn't blazingly hot anymore. The market consists of two big arcades with lots of stalls with everything a tourist might want. There were lots more stalls on the streets outside the arcades, making the Night Market a large area of the city. We tried a local speciality in one of the food courts in one of the arcades, fresh mango on sticky rice with coconut sauce. Sticky rice is a special kind of rice that is grown in the mountainous areas of Thailand. This was very refreshing in the heat.

Thursday 20/1

David brought Sven on their little motorbike to rent a car. Such a pleasure to go through the Chiang Mai traffic compared to Dublin. Cars leave a bit of room for each other and for motorbikes. Could not believe it. Got a nice little car with air conditioning but without heating.

Took the car up the Doi Suthep mountains, west of Chiang Mai. Visited Hmong hill tribe village. The hill tribes are different groups of people with their own culture and traditions, completely different from the Thai. They dress in distinctly different clothes and have their own languages. The Hmong village seems to thrive on tourists. The whole village is full of stalls where you can buy Buddha statues, silk etc.

On the way back, we stopped at the Doi Suthep temple. It is situated on the edge of the mountain, overlooking Chiang Mai. The temple is very beautiful and it seems to attract a lot of tourists. No wonder with the view you get from here.

In the evening we went to get a nice dinner at one of the restaurants on the banks of river Ping. David and Lynne's favourite places were already full so we tried a nearby restaurant called the Gallery. It looks nice with the trees between the tables on the sloping bank. The food took very long, especially for Lynne. When Lynne finally got here food, the meat was about 90% fat. This could have been accepted in a street bar, but not in an expensive tourist restaurant. Of course Lynne sent it but the waiter refused. Big arguments in English and Thai, calling over the manager. Eventually they agreed to give here a replacement, but by this time the rest of us had finished our meals. The waiter was very frustrated when Lynne wanted to cancel with the words "my family are all finished". We felt very honoured to be part of Lynne's family. Afterwards, we had a good laugh about the whole thing, especially the confused waiter with his girlish behaviour. Finished the night in the hotel with a bottle of local "whisky" made from sugar canes.

Friday 21/1

Got up early-ish for a longer day trip around Doi Suthep along the Mae Sa valley. It is very mountainous and the roads are very winding and steep. We had to use the first gear quite often of the little car. Stopped in Samoung for refreshments before entering the Mae Sa valley to see an elephant park. When we go there they had just closed the park. But we managed to see a few elephants from a distance.

We had lunch at a craft village with beautiful garden and great food. Next stop was at an orchid farm. Amazing variety and colours.

Then back to Chiang Mai. We had some laundry to pick up, got foot massage and a small evening meal in a student cafe. We had seen lots of kids on the main street outside the hotel for a while. They said that the Queen would pass by on her way to the summer palace in the Doi Suthep mountains. They all wanted to get a glimpse of her. The royal family of Thailand is very popular. We wanted to be part of this event too and waited. Nothing happened for a very long time. Then we saw more and more police positioning themselves in corners before they stopped all the traffic. We knew that our wait was over now. Then we saw a big motorcade driving by in a great speed. We think we saw a face of someone resembling the queen in one of the limousines. Poor kids, they didn't get to see much of here as a reward for their long wait.

Saturday 22/1

David and Lynne brought us to a tribal museum on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. We would get more background to the hill tribes of northern Thailand. Unfortunately, the museum is closed on weekends. David could not believe it, "Thais are always open to tourist money!" Instead we went to Huay Ting Tao lake where Thais go on weekends. We rented pedal boats and got a tour on the lake and then we had lunch there.

Then on to Bor Sang which is famous for its umbrellas. The whole town is built around the umbrella industry and umbrellas are sold in every corner. Walked along the main street until we needed some refreshments.  David showed us how to order ice tea and coffee in plastic bags. On the way back we stopped at a silk factory. Very up-market and expensive. They had a big par for busses. But it was nice to see what they do with silk here.

We had dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. They had good Thai food. David and Lynne saw that they had western food on the menu and couldn't resist burgers and chips. If they knew they would get sick the day after they would have stuck with the Thai food.

Sunday 23/1

We had planned to go on a two day trip north-west into the mountains. David tried to upgrade the car for the mountain trip but the car rental was messy and couldn't provide the car. David was very patient but had eventually to give up because of his stomach. Instead we had a lazy day by the hotel pool. We had our first meal without David and Lynne helping us with the menu. We felt proud when we got the food and weren't overcharged. David and Lynne managed to come the hotel later in the afternoon. Kari went to a beauty parlour near the hotel to treat herself with manicure and pedicure.

Monday 24/1

Kari and Sven went on a tour in the mountains on their own. David and Lynne were still not up for a tour with the car. May decided to stay with them.  The main goal with the tour was the elephant camp that we missed on Friday. Had a great time there. We got a ride on the back of an elephant and saw a show where they showed what elephants can do. Kari loved the elephants, but she was curious and scared at the same time. The elephants seemed to be well treated and were showing off their own characters instead of being treated only as circus animals. This was one of the highlights of the whole holiday for Kari.

Evening in David and Lynne's apartment. Lynne cut Kari's hair. Kari was very happy with the result.

Tuesday 25/1

David and Lynne had recovered now and we set off in the morning for a trip north-west to Pai over the mountains. It was a very scenic route up and down the mountains. Sometimes the road was on the ridge of the mountain and we could see the landscape both to the right and to the left. In Pai, we stayed in log cabins, overlooking the river.  David and Lynne had been here before and recommended these cabins. Kari and Sven took the car to a hot spring and to a canyon to see the sunset.

The night was cool. The draughty cabins made it feel like camping in a tent, but with proper beds. Cosy!

Wednesday 26/1

Slow morning while David, Lynne and May visited the hot springs. They reported that they had boiled breakfast eggs in the springs!

In the afternoon we all tried to travel to Ban Wat Chang along a newly built road in the mountains with wonderful scenery. But there were still road works that made the journey slow and difficult. We had to turn back and had lunch in a very small village. Not many tourists come this way. The locals were looking at us with big eyes.

Thursday 27/1

Up early for travel back to Chiang Mai. We had to return the car before noon. Back to the hotel to relax and a swim in the pool.

Went to a food fair near David and Lynne's place in the evening. There were lots of different kinds of food from all parts of Thailand. Unfortunately, there was also a live band playing very loud so we had to leave to save Sven's ears.

Friday 28/1

Slow start by the pool. Sven and Kari went to central Chiang Mai in search for camera. Found cheap software on the way. Eventually found two shops with the FZ-20, but the prize was not low enough.

Went to a thai dance show in the evening. We were seated on the floor with food served in small bowls in front of us. The floor was very hard and we were not very used to sitting on the floor. There was more and more food coming in during the show. There were lots of traditional dances dressed up in beautiful clothes. After the main show and food, we were directed to a hut with hill tribe dances.

Saturday 29/1

Short day by the pool because of a wedding party. Went for massage and then for food in a massive BBQ place - Maw Fai. There was a big buffet where we got the food and fried and cooked it on a frying pan on our table. It was fun to cook our own food and try out various specialities.

Kari and Sven went to the night market in search for a Buddha statue. Kari found small parasols for decorations at home. After a long search we found a good enough Buddha.

Sunday 30/1

Sven and Kari went to the National Museum. It contains lots of history of Chiang Mai and the north-west corner of Thailand. Afterwards we continued to Buak Haak City Park and had food nearby. Ran across David, Lynne and May in the park. Saw thai volleyball. The players stand around a circle and try to kick a ball up in a basket hanging above them. They can use any body parts except the hands. Looked very tricky. Evening meal near David and Lynne's flat.

Monday 31/1

Long morning by the pool. Met Roger & Ingela from Sweden. Lunch and then Kari and Sven went to Sompet market to buy cashew nuts and oranges. Killed some time in an Internet cafe and drinking tea before going to Wat Suan Dok for a monk chat in the evening. The monk chat was very interesting and they were very much listening to us. Back to the hotel and then to David and Lynne to see a video of their travels in Thailand. This gave us a teaser for another trip to Thailand.

Tuesday 1/2

Slow day by the pool, and simple lunch. May & Lynne made their nails. Kari had a last massage at the hotel. Dinner on a river boat in the evening. Lovely food and atmosphere and good view over the banks of river Ping. Unfortunately they tried to overcharge us, almost doubled the bill, but they couldn't escape Lynne's watchful eyes.

Wednesday 2/2

Departure day. Packing and trying get a last dose of sun before leaving. Sad goodbyes, David and Lynne have been so kind and helpful to us. A final surprise is a 500 Baht airport tax, and they don't accept credit cards. Well, there was an ATM nearby. Kari was the favourite target of the mosquitoes in Bangkok airport. She got more bites in the few hours in Bangkok than during the whole time in Chiang Mai.


Thailand is a very cheap country, and people are smiling, but are they friendly in their heart? On several occasions they tried to top up our bills. But David and Lynne know their trick so the restaurant had to correct the bill.

As we find the Thai they looked at us as we were ATMs. David and Lynne could tell us stories from the darker sides of Thailand. There is a lot of corruption and the legal system is very strange to us. For example if there is an accident, not many people stop to help because the police will accuse anyone present for causing the accident.

But for us tourists, this is a wonderful place to come. The weather is fantastic. The street crime is less then back in Dublin. Yes, there are pickpockets, but not much armed robbery. So if you just hold on to your wallet, you will be fine.

We enjoyed our holiday very much. Thailand is a beautiful country with friendly people. We understand why so many westerners settle here. Thanks, David and Lynne for helping us so much.

Copyright 2005 Kari & Sven Rosvall