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This is Part 2 of our Thailand posts. Click here for Part 1.
Leaving Chiang Mai is a lot like cutting off your own arm without anaesthesia.
Excruciating and next to impossible.
We had been to 16 countries, but as much as I loved them all, none of them felt quite like home. Chiang Mai changed all that. I’m not sure if it’s the people, the climate, or the food that I couldn’t get enough of, but even after two months, I still couldn’t convince myself to leave.
Wanderer felt the same way, so we had to find something truly magical to break the Chiang Mai spell.
That something appeared in the form of what I like to call:
Thailand’s “Nightmare before Christmas”.
Now, that might make no sense to you what-so-ever, but that’s the first thing I thought of when I saw “Wat Rong Khun” or “The White Temple” in Chiang Rai, a small town 3 hours North of Chiang Mai.
Don’t let the innocently white facade fool you.
As you get closer, you’ll quickly see the insta-nightmare that could’ve only come from a Tim Burton-esque brain.
Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, wanted to portray heaven and hell, so he made this scene for your viewing pleasure all the way to the temple.
Ahhhhh. So soothing.
But guess what?
That’s not even the freakiest part. The freakiest part…was INSIDE.
I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures of the inside, with it being a place of worship and all, but just google “chiang rai white temple interior” and you’ll see I’m talking about.
We spent a good half an hour inside, just walking around, trying to decipher all the symbolism and statements about the meaning of life, and the entire time feeling like we were on acid.
After travelling around the world, we’d seen our share of temples and churches, but nothing like this. Other temples were pretty and opulent to look at (with the exception of the bone church in Prague), but this one made you think. And that, at the end of the day, is what makes great art great.
Even if you have to be on a TON of acid to come up with it.
So that was our introduction to Chiang Rai, and we loved it. Even though it’s a smaller, more quiet version of Chiang Mai, that temple alone is worth the 3 hour trip.
Plus, it also has this:
Take a wild guess as to what this is.
Is it a vault for gold bars?
A room for the King’s throne?
The Queen’s walk-in closet?
Nope, nope, and nope.
This, my dear Revolutionaries, is a toilet.
Yup. You read that right.
And not just any toilet. The most beautiful toilet in all of Thailand.
Or it was…until I got there:
Aren’t you glad you came to this blog?
And now that I’ve scarred you for life, let’s move on to the other places we visited, like Bangkok, which apparently holds the record for the most visited city in the entire world!
We were both pretty shocked when we first heard that.
I mean, c’mon. How could the most visited city in the world not be London, Paris, New York, or Tokyo?
But it’s true. With over 32 million international visitors in 2016, Bangkok reins supreme over its rivals.
And I could see why. Not only did Bangkok have a ton of attractions (Grand Palace, Reclining Buddha, floating markets, Khao San Road) and delicious food, it also had its share of green spaces.
Like Lumpini Park, which is my favourite spot in Bangkok, and in my mind is basically the Central Park of South East Asia:
Even famous shows like “Asia Express”, the Asia version of the Amazing Race, gets filmed in Bangkok. While we were at the train station, after being mistaken for a local, we were asked by one of the contestants whether we had a clue for them.
After we helpfully drooled a lot and gave them blank stares, they quickly ran off.
So after working up an appetite from chasing the film crew around and pretending to totally be part of the show, we decided to pig out in Chinatown.
Here’s what we ate:
As it turns out, Bangkok was more expensive than Chiang Mai, but still didn’t do much damage. Chiang Rai was just as inexpensive and helped to balance it all out.
So now that we’d been to the cities, it was time to discover the gem that makes Thailand one of the top destinations in the world.
The Thai beaches.
Stay tuned next week for Part 3 where we discover the most glorious sunset of all sunsets.
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14 thoughts on “Let’s Go Exploring! The Land of a Thousand Smiles Part 2”
I have a soft spot for Asia. When I retire, I’m not planning to even set foot on the European continent at all. Western culture, cuisine, people just don’t appeal to me much. Just being honest.
BTW, did you guys visit China or Hong Kong (or are you planning to)? Hong Kong is truly a gem. Expensive certainly. Not sure you would be able to stay there for 2 months while under budget.
What’s wrong with European cuisine? Perfect mix of bland over cooked soggy veggies and grease.
I tend to favour Asia food over Western food too, but ruling out an entire continent is a bit extreme. I mean, if we hadn’t go to Europe, we would’ve never been to Switzerland or Greece, two of my favourite places in the world. I would say other than safety concerns, it helps to be open-minded when you’re traveling. You never know what you’ll be missing if you don’t give it a shot.
I grew up in China so the appeal of visiting it doesn’t hold as much appeal for me. Though my mandarin would come in handy…
I heard great things about Hong Kong. We had a layover there one time but didn’t have time to visit the city. We may visit in the future since Wanderer has family there.
Oh man that Tom Yum Goong looks divine! The Papaya salad looks good too, but I’ll pass on the offal soup.
Bangkok is a big city — what’s the best way to get around it on a budget?
Now…I’m gonna go have some nightmares about the White Temple.
Best way to get around Bangkok is by subway. Convenient and cheap.
Another great post. Thank-you. Since we wish to someday emulate your lifestyle and follow in your footsteps around the world, I would love it if you could add a couple of sentences that provide some context. When were you there, where did you stay, how did you travel to that destination? Adding a cost as well would help me understand your annual costs and with my own budgeting. You have sometimes added this info in the past but would love it every time you write a blog like today’s.
Thanks for the feedback, SJF. The reason I didn’t add the budget for this article is because we didn’t stay very long in Bangkok (only 2 days) and Chiang Rai was a day trip out from Chiang Mai so there were no additional hotel costs. The food prices and transportation were also comparable to Chiang Mai (which I included in the last Thailand post).
Those are good notes though, and I’ll be sure to add it to part 3, my next post.
Yes! I’m reading this after lunch hahaha, no more food cravings! Anyway, Thailand sounds amazing, but those statues are scary!! Buddhist temples have really scary “demons”. I blame my fear of scary movies on the plenty of Buddhist demons I see on TV growing up.
I like scary, odd things. I guess I’m weird like that.
And yes, very smart of you to read this AFTER lunch 😉
How do you guys pay for everything when you are abroad in countries like Thailand? I imagine your portfolio is mostly in CAD (or part USD), so how do you convert all of this to Baht without losing a bunch of money on fees? I imagine this could be a drain on limited resources.
Good question. We use a credit card that doesn’t add the 2% bank exchange fee so we get the exact exchange rate. This card also gives us hotel points, allowing us to book free hotel stays. We’ll be writing a detailed post about it in the future.
Oh and there is a $5 fee to take out cash so we try to use credit card whenever possible. A lot of food vendors don’t take credit card, so generally we try to take out cash only 1-2 times a month and leave it in the airBnb or hotel room for safe keeping.
Hi Kristy & Wanderer,
Nice. It’s great to know that both of them are enjoying in Asia. What’s the next itinerary after Thailand?
what Canadian credit card do you use that does not have any foreign exchange fee? I am planning a trip to Thailand pretty soon? it will come in handy then. thank you
Hi FIREcracker, what Canadian credit card do you use that does not have any foreign exchange fee? I am planning a trip to Thailand pretty soon? it will come in handy then. thank you