Ordering Noodle Soup in Thailand Made Easy

Noodle Soup (Kuay Teaw) can be found on almost every street corner of Thailand from first thing in the morning to last thing at night. Here is a quick and simple guide to ordering soup on the streets of Thailand so that you can sample and try out lots of variations and find your favourite for less than a pound/dollar a bowl.

The Meat

A stand will usually be serving one particular type of meat; pork, chicken, beef or duck. There is also one other type of stand which sells boat noodles which I will explain later.

It’s usually easy to figure out which stand sells what as they generally have icons like cartoon pigs or chicken drumsticks, however if you are not sure, just look into the stand and check it out. Note that almost all stands regardless of the meat they sell, will have stacks of meatballs and fishballs, so looking at these will not give you much of a clue. If you are still not sure, you can point and ask. Moo is pork, Gai is chicken, Nua is beef and Pbed is duck. They will quickly tell you what they offer. The beef and duck soup will have a darker broth.

The varieties within the meat type

Once you’ve found the stand that offers the meat you fancy, you can then choose the cut of meat that you want and also add or deduct extra items such as dumplings, liver, blood cake, wantons and meatballs. Meatballs or fishballs are almost always included so knowing that they are highly processed is a good tip and you may want to ask for them to be deducted. ‘Mai Luk Chin’ ( I don’t want the balls)

Cuts you can get

Beef – Meatballs (Luk Chin), small cut beef (Nua Sod), and the soft beef (Nua Peuay).

Pork – Pork balls (Lukk Chin Moo), fish balls (Luk Chin Pla), minced pork (Moo Sub) Red Pork – roasted, seasoned pork loin (Moo Deng)

Duck – Regular duck meat (Neur), drumstick (Nong), wings (Bpeek), blood (Leo-od), intestines (Sai).

The Soup Types

Naam Sai

Naam Sai is a plain broth that is always yummy and tastes so different depending on which vendor you go to. This is the real go to dish for tourists and when the little veggies and garnishes are added, just tastes wonderful.

Naam Tom Yam

Naam Tom Yam is the same recipe as Kuay Teaw Nam Sai, but chili paste, crushed peanuts, lime juice, chili powder, sugar and fish sauce are added to give it that classic tom yam flavour.

Naam Tok

Naam Tok is broth where blood has been blended into the stock which it makes it totally delicious and gives it a deep brown gravy colour.

Yen Ta Fo

Yen Ta Fo is a pink coloured noodle soup served with fish balls, prawn balls, fried tofu, squid, morning glory and fried dumplings (giaw). The pink colour comes from adding red bean paste to the broth. The soup is a little sweet and it’s always a surprise as to what ingredients you will find in there.

Soup without the Soup?

You can also get your noodle soup dry by using the term ‘heng’ (dry). All the items will be cooked in the big container of broth but no broth will be added to your bowl. (The broth is served on the side.) You end up with something a bit like a noodle stir fry but the ingredients are boiled.

Boat Noodles – Kuay Taew Ruea

This type of noodle soup was first served on boats that were converted into noodle soup stations on the canals of Bangkok. Blood called “Nam Tok” is poured into the soup right before serving which gives the soup a distinct colour. It also has different herbs to regular soup such as cinnamon giving it a really rich and distinctive flavour. In the past, a person who sold boat noodles would have been selling alone so if the bowl was too big it would be difficult to hand over to the customer on the land. For this reason the bowl is usually small. Kuay Taew Ruea can come with pork, beef or duck depending on the vendor and liver and blood cake is often added. Don’t be put off by the term blood cake, it is delicious and soft. The featured image is boat noodles with beef.

Types of Noodles To Choose From

Rice noodles are called ‘Sen’ and come in various styles: sen yai (wide, flat fresh noodles), sen lek (thin, flat, dried noodles), and sen mee (thin, round noodles)  Other noodle types are: ba mee (egg noodles) woon sen (glass vermicelli made from mung beans) and mama (instant noodles) – what noodle you choose is entirely up to you, there are no rules.

 Man making noodle soup with pork and offal.
Man making noodle soup with pork and offal.

Making sure anything you don’t want stays out!

  • No entrails/intestines/offal –  ‘Mai Nai’
  • No blood –  ‘Mai Leo-od’
  • No liver –

Vegetables and garnishes

As your vendor prepares your soup you will see them adding veggies. They tend to be roasted garlic, bean sprouts, morning glory, parsley and sometimes spring onion.

Seasoning

The last step is to season your noodle soup to your liking which you do yourself at your table. Every table should have a little hand carrier with four kinds of seasoning in it.

  1. Dried chili flakes
  2. Fish sauce (salty)
  3. Sugar
  4. Vinegar and sliced chilies (sour)

Here is a little video which shows a Thai lady making noodle soup

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Images courtesy by Alpha of Flickr.com

 

 

How to get around Bangkok – The Bangkok Skytrain (BTS)

There are many ways to travel around Bangkok and it is probably far cheaper and more simple than you can imagine. Of all of the transport methods, including the river canal and the famous tuk tuk (which I encourage you to try)  the 2 rail systems provide the quickest way to get from one point to another. Here’s a quick guide to the Skytrain intended to make you feel confident about stepping out in Bangkok for the first time.

Bangkok Basics

Many people stop in Bangkok for 1 or 2 nights en route to beaches and islands but I would encourage you to stay longer and to stay on your way out of the country rather than when you first come in. If you stay in Bangkok at the end of your holiday you will be feeling braver, familiar with the heat, currency and the fabulous ‘Asian’ vibe.

Bangkok is best segmented into 2 areas when you are a tourist; there is the main city with it’s night life, restaurants, shops and the Skytrain and there is the other side of the city with the river, the Grand Palace and Khao San Road. Both areas of Bangkok have their glitz and glamour and both have a seedy side which most people are intrigued to get a glimpse of, which you can do relatively safely provided you take care.

The ultimate stay would be 3-5 nights which runs over a weekend, with some time spent in a hotel easily accessible to the Skytrain and not far from the hub of Siam Square and some nights spent down on, or near to the Khao San Road.

For reference, Khao San Road and The Grand Palace (popular attractions for tourists) are further west of the centre and are located in old Bangkok, near the river and has no direct Skytrain access. Your best bet for getting around this area is to take a  taxi.

Easy ways to get from the Airport to the City

If you are flying into Bangkok from an international destination you will be flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport which has simple and easy transport into the city. It is not too expensive to take a taxi from Suvarnabhumi  to anywhere in Bangkok, but it can take a really long time in and around rush hour.

If you don’t have a huge load of baggage, use Bangkok’s newest public transportation system, The Express Line which takes you directly into the city, skips all stations and brings you directly to the Phraya Thai Skytrain Station right in the centre of the city.

Getting Around Bangkok

There are two systems of Metro lines in Bangkok; the Skytrain which runs elevated over the city (called BTS) and the MRT, the underground system. However as a tourist you are unlikely to use the underground MRT but If you do, note that they have different ticketing systems so a Skytrain day pass won’t work on the MRT. However, it’s all so cheap and simple to use, so don’t worry about switching between the two.

Both systems are efficient, comfortable and air-conditioned. They don’t operate at night (there are night buses in Bangkok).The lines serve the east side of Bangkok and don’t reach the old Bangkok where the Grand Palace and the Khaosan street are located. They don’t reach the Chao Phraya river, except at the station Saphan Taksin

The BTS Skytrain

BTS Skytrain is very modern and very convenient. I’d recommend just buying single tickets because the chances are on your first day you will walk into one of the amazing malls and not reappear for at least 3 hours! If you intend to do more than 3 trips then buy a one day pass which is very cheap at 130 baht.

You can purchase a Rabbit card or a monthly/weekly pass for the BTS from the kiosks but it often does not work out cheaper for short stay tourists. Note that the trains stop at midnight though after which I advise you to take taxis.

insideofBTSSkyTrain

 How to buy a ticket for the BTS Skytrain

The most common method and easiest for tourists is to simply insert coins into the ticket machines located just before the barriers. Beside each machine is a map showing your present location and the rest of the BTS stations.

It’s all in English so is very simple to follow. On the ticket machine press the number of the station. Insert your coins (coins only) into the machine until it counts down to zero. A thin credit card sized ticket will then appear from a lower slot. If you only have notes go to the kiosks located beside the barriers and they will give you change.

Single Ticket for SkyTrain

Travel easily on the BTS Skytrain

Now that you have the BTS ticket proceed to the metallic barriers and choose one with a green tick. Place your ticket into the lower slot on the barrier and the ticket will be taken in and pop out on top as the barrier pulls back. Take the ticket and walk through. Don’t delay too much as the barrier only stays open for about 5 seconds.

The platforms are named with the last station on the line. So if you need a station before that one, then go to a platform with the last name on that line. When you get on the train there will be a map above the doors showing you where you are and the next stations. There are also announcements telling you what station is next.

As the station you want approaches an announcement will be made. Be prepared to leave promptly. To exit the station, first insert the ticket into the slot in front of you at the barrier which will be one level down. Since this is a single ticket, it will not reappear this time but the barrier will pull back so you can exit.

EasydirectionsonBTSSkytrain

 Top 4 places to visit by the Skytrain in Bangkok

  1. Chatuchak Market at Mor Chit Station
  2. Patpong Night Market at Saladeang Station
  3. Terminal 21  at Asoke Station
  4. Siam Square at Siam Station

 

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Featured Image courtesy of Anton Strogonoff of Flickr.com

7 Thai Fruits You Should Try on Your Holiday

Every holiday should be an adventure especially when it comes to trying new foods. Thailand has delicious fruit that is incredibly cheap such as bananas, mangos, watermelon and papaya, but if you want to try something exotic, check out these 7 Thai fruits that are tasty, healthy and unseen in western shops.

 Durian ทุเรียน (thu-rian)

Durian
Durian

Reputed to be the king of all fruits, this fruit is massive, sometimes weighing in at more than 10kg. It has a very strong smell which means most people store it outdoors (yes it really is that bad) but although the pungent smell sometimes turns many western people off, it tastes creamy and delicious. You either love Durian or hate it but Durian is one of the most popular fruits in Thailand so it’s worth trying. Durian is available as a paste and Durian derived snacks are popular. It is in season from May to July.

 

Pomelo ส้มโอ (som-o)

Pomelo

The Pomelo originated in South East Asia but has been grown all around the world for centuries. It is the largest citrus fruit around and sometimes weighs more than 2kg. Pomelo tastes like a sweet, mild grapefruit with little of the grapefruit’s bitterness and its rind is very thick. Pomelo is normally sold in peeled segments as it is difficult to peel yourself. It is delicious and Thais also attribute many healing properties to it. The season for Pomelo is August to October.

Rose Apple ชมพู่  (chomphu)

Rose Apple
Rose Apple

Shaped like a bell and about the same size as a pear, this fruit is crunchy, refreshing and not too sweet, kind of like a cross between the taste of a cucumber and a pear. The rose apple is very common in Thailand and not expensive to buy. From bright red to pink or sometimes green, Rose Apples are worth trying for yourself since they are hard to describe. The season for Rose Apple is May to July but they can be found all year long.

Jackfruit ขนุน (khanun)

JackFruit
JackFruit

Even bigger than a Durian, it is not unusual to see a 30kg JackFruit. It is the largest fruit to grow on a tree. Jackfruit is made up of hundreds of flowers that are fused together and you eat the “fleshy petals” that surround the seed (which is the actual fruit.) It tastes better than it smells, mango/peachy/pearlike. The texture is a little stringy and quite soft when it is overripe. Personally I don’t like it too much.

 Longan ลำไย (lamyai)

longkon2-aee39
Longkon

Brought into Thailand by Chinese immigrants hundreds of years ago, Longan was first planted in Bangkok and then in the North. It is in the North that the fruit has flourished and become one of Thailand’s largest export fruits. The most famous species is the pink longan produced in Chiang Mai. Its flesh is pinkish and thick and sweet, larger than a grape but smaller than a plum. The longan or “dragon eyes” is so named because of the fruit’s resemblance to an eyeball when it is shelled. When you start to eat this fruit it is hard to stop because they are so delicious. Luckily a bunch is very cheap to buy.

 

Mangosteen มังคุค  (mongkhut)

Mangosteen

Mangosteen is delicious and has a limited season so if you see them I suggest you snap them up. The flesh is incredibly sweet and juicy but don’t eat the seed inside each segment as it is bitter. You’ll need a knife to get in through the purple skin and then just segment it like an orange. The fragrant, fleshy fruit is both sweet and tangy.

 

Rambutan เงาะ (ngo)

Rambutan
Rambutan

In bright spikey red with a greenish tinge, the Rambutan is beautiful. You buy them by the kilo and they are a bit smaller than an apricot. A Rambutan’s taste is sweet, and juicy. Breaking open the skin reveals a firm whitish fruit containing a seed. You can use a knife or your teeth to get in as the spikes are not sharp in any way.

 

 

 

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Featured image courtesy of Aidan Jones via Flickr.com

Helping you get familiar with the island of Koh Phangan

View looking out over The Sanctuary, Koh Phangan

The island of Koh Phangan has more than 20 beautiful white sandy beaches which are perfect for those looking to unwind and relax. Aside from the mayhem of the Full Moon Party – for the other 28 days of the year, it is a peaceful spot, full of yoga classes, more low key parties, nature, waterfalls, snorkeling and mountain trails.

Here is a blog about the 4 main areas of the island of Koh Phangan, which are all distinct in terms of landscape, types of beaches, reefs, nightlife and accommodation. We hope this little taster of the island of Koh Phangan helps you to decide where you would like to stay on this amazing island and where you may like to explore on a motorbike or with a local driver.

Koh Phangan Map
Koh Phangan Map

North West

Haad Yao Beach, Koh Phangan
Haad Yao Beach, Koh Phangan

The north west of the island of Koh Phangan is known for its beautiful beaches, stunning sunsets, laid back vibe and the best snorkeling and dive spots. The area offers many lovely resorts and well run local restaurants and is a great option if you are looking for a quiet environment. Koh Phangan’s north west coast is where you will find the island’s most diverse coral reefs. It’s possible to snorkel and scuba dive off the beach at Haad Salad, Haad Yao and Mae Haad.

Many of the beaches along this stretch are less built up than the south east and south western parts.  The north west coast of Koh Phangan is one of the best places to watch the sunset on the whole island. Almost all year round you can witness the stunning evening views along the north west coast, from Haad Khom, right down to Srithanu Beach. Also in the north west of Phangan is Chaloklum which is a working fishing village where you can watch the local fisherman depart and arrive from their daily catch out at sea. Dive centres also use Chaloklum as their main port for taking customers out on diving or snorkel trips.

The north west coast is also home to the longest beach on Koh Phangan, Haad Yao. Stretching almost 1km, Haad Yao beach is big enough to attract the crowds in high season while still leaving more than enough room for everyone. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and resorts here to accommodate your needs whether you’re party goers, or an older person looking for peace and chill.

The areas surrounding Srithanu beach, are popular with the spiritual community. This part of the island has many open spaces, both at the beach and in the jungle, that it creates the ideal place to practise yoga and meditation. There’s lots of well established and well priced yoga retreats, detox centres and holistic practitioners in the north west of the island especially.

North East

Tong Nai Pan Beach, Koh Phangan
Tong Nai Pan Beach, Koh Phangan

The north east of the island Koh Phangan is surrounded by jungle and known for the relaxed atmosphere and seclusion from the crowds. The beautiful small bays are stunning and the luxury resorts of Koh Phangan canmainly be found here. The rugged mountainous coastlines are some of the most beautiful on the island. Giant boulders nestle into the clear turquoise waters, creating a striking look and feel. Bottle beach (Haad Khuad) is a popular beach for day trippers and despite being very much on the tourist trail is still very peaceful.

The Thong Nai Pan beaches also sit on the north east coast of Koh Phangan. Thong Nai Pan Yai and Thong Nai Pan Noi are beautiful bays, great for swimming with pristine white powdery beaches. The area has retained its laid back village vibe and offers a range of accommodation to suit every budget. Also in the north east area of Koh Phangain, hidden away on the eastern side of the island is Than Sadet which is a gorgeous bay where you are guaranteed peace and tranquillity. There are only a couple of places the stay here, all which are basic bungalows but it has a lovely vibe and is well worth exploring.

South West

Descending to ThongSala, Kph Phangan
Descending to ThongSala, Kph Phangan

The south west of the island of Koh Phangan is a good choice for those who want to be near the nightlife while staying in a more quiet area than Haad Rin. There are lots of transport options to take you to Haad Rin for the shopping and night life and the area also has the main port of Thong Sala which has become a very cool shopping destination in its own rignt. The south west of Koh Phangan is a central location to explore the island and there are many great beach side resorts to choose from.

Thongsala the heart of Koh Phangan The town has dozens of attractions and shops and all the amenities you could wish for on a small island for locals and tourists.  Unique boutique shops are springing up to cater for the more discerning shopper and there are plenty of handicraft shops to keep the tourists happy.  The main ferry terminal for Koh Phangan is situated in Thongsala, so beaches surrounding the town are rarely used for beach goers since many boats come and go from the pier, and the beaches are not kept clean.

Hin Kong and Wok Tum are just south of Srithanu. Here the beach is narrow and long and the shoreline runs parallel and very close to the coastal road. For uninterrupted views out across the ocean and to Angthong National marine Park, stop by Plai Laem beach which is at the base of Khao Hin Nok, a mountain that dominates the landscape, making it an area of rounded boulders and views over the national park.. This stretch of beach is certainly a beautiful setting for those who enjoy capturing those picture perfect photos of paradise.

South East

Haad Rin Beach, Koh Phangan
Haad Rin Beach, Koh Phangan

Haad Rin is located on a small peninsula at the most Southeastern tip of the island of Koh Phangan and is the epicentre of the famous Full Moon Party and the island nightlife in general. The village has a really nice vibe outside of the full moon party time and has some great shopping opportunities, international restaurants with great priced food, and has lovely hand made jewellery for sale too.  Despite one of the beaches along this coast being the venue for the world famous Full Moon Party, this area also has many small secluded bays ideal for total relaxation.

We hope this little introduction helps you to get oriented with the island of Koh Phangan. It’s a perfect island to spend a month or two exploring at your leisure especially on a little motorbike. Even the Full Moon Party can be quite a lot of fun if you take it in your stride. Enjoy!

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Image courtesy of flickr.com – Featured image Stefan Magdalinski view over The Sanctuary, Haad Yao Beach by, eric molina, looking over Thong Sala by Ian XYZ and Haad Rin beach by Fabio Achilli

Bangkok Shopping: Asiatique The Riverfront

Asiatique in Bangkok

‘Asiatique The Riverfront’ is a stunning open-air night time shopping and dining experience next to the river in Bangkok. The riverside complex opened in 2012 and features over 1,700 shops, 40 restaurants, a cabaret show, a puppet theatre, a glamorous Muay Thai show and a giant ferris wheel. It also has a 300 metre long boardwalk and a tram. The huge warehouse complex is very trendy right now and the cool Bangkok crowd come here a lot at the weekends. Here’s some key highlights Asiatique.

The main portion of Asiatique The Riverfront is a shopping area located in the old warehouses of the East Asiatic Company. Asiatique is themed on Bangkok’s past as a trading post during the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Originally this was the pier where teak wood was traded and many of the original buildings have been retained. The name “Asiatique” honours the Danish “Asiatic” freight company, which helped construct the port at the end of the 19th Century.

Tourists who visited Bangkok previously, only saw the river when sightseeing boat tours, but the river is the essence of old Bangkok, more so than the malls and the terrible traffic, so people are increasingly drawn back here, and this explains the popularity of this exciting night time experience. While Asiatique The Riverfront is popular with tourists, it also caters to the style-conscious locals. Most shops are locally owned small businesses, but a few big names are found here as well including an Apple Store.

Asiatique and the Mekhong Ferris Wheel in Bangkok
Asiatique and the Mekhong Ferris Wheel in Bangkok

Calypso Cabaret

The renowned Calypso Cabaret has made its home here. Twice nightly, a glittering extravaganza is performed featuring Thailand’s talented transgender performers, singing out their hearts in stunning costumes. You will enjoy show tunes, Chinese love songs, Korean pop and Japanese Geisha dancing. There is something for everyone. Kids will giggle at the ladies dressed up as ostriches and the slapstick comedy, and grown ups will marvel at the talent of these Thai performers.

Muay Thai Live – The Legend Lives

Also at Asiatique The Riverfront is “Muay Thai Live – The Legend Lives”, which theatrically and energetically tells the story of Thailand’s famous fighting art of Muay Thai.  Imagine a montage of fight scenes from your favourite Hollywood movie all performed metres away from where you’re sitting. The engaging plot and athleticism of the actors is inspiring. The show was created by the internationally acclaimed Ekachai Uekrongtham who directed the movie,  ‘Beautiful Boxer.’  Muay Thai Live – The Legend Lives  show starts at 20:00 Tues – Sun (closed Monday) and runs for just over an hour.

The Joe Louis Puppet Theatre

The Joe Louis Puppet Theatre is also located at Asiatique The Riverfront and is a traditional puppet performance but with modern choreography. It will take your mind on a wonderful, mystic and sometimes funny journey of ancient Thai characters. Joe Louis was born in 1922 to parents who were both khon (masked drama) performers and puppeteers. Joe Loius himself performed from a young age in a Thai Folk Opera Troupe as comedian and a puppeteer. He started his own puppet troupe after Second World War, then in 1985 he formed the now famous ‘Joe Louis Puppet Theatre’ with his children, performing adaptations of epic Thai literature, such as the Ramakien. The Joe Louis Puppet Show is now run by his nine children at Asiatique.

Calypso Cabaret Dancers, Bangkok
Calypso Cabaret Dancers Bangkok

Four districts of Asiatique

The Factory District

The Factory District is where the fashion shopping happens with over 500 small shop located in the old riverside warehouses. You find lots of cool fashion targeted at trendy Thais, designer items, handicrafts,  home furnishings and there is also an Apple Store.

The Waterfront District

The Waterfront District is what you see when you first arrive by boat. You find upscale restaurants lined up along a boardwalk, including Thai, Italian, Korean and Seafood. This area is full of photo opportunities including the giant Ferris Wheel and live concerts are also held here.

The Town Square District

The Town Square District  is a mixture of Thai & Western influences. There is a large sports bar, international food, and a live events area. Some independent cafes are dotted around and this area also houses KFC, Pizza Company and MK.

The Chareonkrung District

The Chareonkrung District  is where you find more than 1,000 shops selling handicrafts, home decor, souvenirs and all sorts of other items from local vendors. The famous Joe Louis Puppet Theatre and the Calypso Show can also be found here.

Asiatique The Riverfront, Bangkok
Asiatique The Riverfront, Bangkok

How to get there

Take the BTS (skytrain) to Saphan Taksin station, then walk to the river. There you can take a free ferry boat to Asiatique The Riverfront which takes about 15 minutes. Enjoy the lovely view of the Chao Phraya river on the way. The free boat starts at 4:30pm and the last boat leaves Asiatique back to Saphan Thaksin at 11:30 p.m. The free boat is the easiest way to reach Asiatique The Riverfront on quieter nights, however the queue for the free shuttle is often long, in which case a taxi can get you there from Saphan Taksin BTS for around 70 baht.

 

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Images courtesy of Flickr – featured image by Prachanart Viriyaraks, Ferris Wheel at night and Shopping Street by Michael Saechang. Calypso Cabaret photo courtesy of Calypso Cabaret

Chiang Mai Essentials – Top 13 Chiang Mai temples to visit and love

Wat Chaing Man, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second major city and the capital of the north. It is located in the Himalayan foothills and used to be the capital of the Independent Kingdom of Lanna (1296–1768). it is a wonderful city to visit, perhaps making the top 20 cities of the world in our opinion. There are over 300 temples in the Chiang Mai area dating back to 1296 when the city was founded. Here is a list of our top picks for Chiang Mai temples in and near to the Old City.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai
Wat Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

This mountaintop temple is a must see if you visit Chiang Mai. You can travel to, and explore this temple in about two-four hours since it is only 13km outside the city. The climb up to the temple is a little tough because the staircase is steep, but you don’t need to be super fit to make it up. Doi Suthep was founded in the 14th century and today is the most important temple for Theravada Buddhists in the north of Thailand. It is a journey every Thai Buddhist is recommended to make at least once in their life so it is not just a temple but a pilgrimage too.

The temple is beautiful with many stunning statues, sections and courtyards. There are many representations of the Buddha, ornate dragon statues, and also lots of relics. The views are also spectacular.

This temple was built around 1383. King Keuna of Chiang Mai selected a white elephant to carry a holy relic of the Lord Buddha to what would be its resting place. The elephant wandered up Mount Suthep until it came to a place where it finally laid down. A Temple was built on the spot to house the holy relic, and both remain there to this day.

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai
Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

Wat Chedi Luang is particularly beautiful and also imposing. Built in 1401, the structure was damaged during an earthquake in 1545, but it remains mainly intact. You can still see the massive elephant carvings and they are a wonderful photo opportunity. The temple is particularly lovely at night, when it is lit up. Nearby, there is an ancient tree planted next to the city pillar, meant to protect the city and its grounds. This tree is huge and because of its sacred purpose, will not be cut down.

Wat Prasingh

This temple is located right in centre of the Old City and is is the largest temple within the old city walls. It was constructed in 1345 when a Lanna king built it in his father’s honour. The temple’s most sacred relic is the very old and famous, (now headless) Buddha called Phra Singh Buddha. According to legend the Buddha came to Thailand from Ceylon to Ayutthaya and then to Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang and back once more to Ayutthaya. In 1767 it arrived in Chiang Mai where it has been ever since.

An historic scripture repository is also located at this temple. Repositories were designed to protect the delicate paper sheets used by monks and scribes to keep records/document folklore. The walls of the temple are covered with murals illustrating Lanna customs, dress, and scenes from daily life.

Wat Chiang Man

Situated in the northeast corner of the Old City, this was the first temple to be built in Chiang Mai. It was built by King Mengrai in 1296 as part of the original city construction and it it is alleged that he lived here while the city of Chiang Mai was being built.

Of all the Chiang Mai temples, this temple is an exceptional example of Lanna style architecture. The golden Chedi surrounded by carved elephants, which can be found at the rear of the complex, is a favorite among visitors. The ornate red roofs and gold carvings on the newer temple buildings are also stunning and perfect for a photographer to take wonderful pictures. Housed within the temple are two rare Buddha statues, the Crystal Buddha and the Marble Buddha.

Wat Umong

Wat Umong, Chiang Mai
Wat Umong, Chiang Mai

Wat Umong is a beautiful but simply designed temple, located in a forest environment. It is located 2km west of the Old City on Suthep Road, nestled into the foothills of Mount Suthep. Built in the 14th century for a revered monk, it was then abandoned for nearly six centuries. This forest temple and cave complex is very beautiful and distinct in style to other temples in Chiang Mai.

The corridors under the temple are a unique aspect of Wat Umong and no one really knows why they were made. They still have visible paintings from the 14th century.  This temple is close to Wat Suan Dok and is a great chance to get out of the city into the countryside and see a temple in a lovely woodland setting.

A large and very simple Chedi sits on the flat hilltop above the corridors of Wat Umong and is very splendid to look at among the trees.  A key highlight can be discovered when you look at the many trees throughout the complex and see that they are decorated with hundreds of Buddhist proverbs in both English and Thai. It’s a truly unique experience to come here.

Wat Doi Kham

Although small, Wat Doi Kham is well worth a visit. Of all the Chiang Mai temples, this has the biggest legend associated with Buddha and his supposed travels in the region. Legend has it that this site was established long ago by Buddha himself when he met and converted the indigenous Lua people to Buddhist practices. There is a 17 metre tall white Buddha statue, a beautiful gold Chedi and there are also lovely views of the valley below, making it a great photo opportunity for those who love to take pics of beautifully located Buddhist temples.

Wat Suan Dok

This temple, constructed in 1371 is built on what were once a 14th-century Lanna King’s gardens. Interestingly, some of the temple’s Chedis contain ashes of the old Lanna Royal Family. You can also view a Buddhist relic brought from Sukothai in 1371, which split into two a long time ago. The other half is buried at Doi Suthep. A 500-year-old bronze Buddha image, one of the largest in northern Thailand, is also at Wat Suan Dok and is well worth visiting. Located 1km west of the old walled city on Suthep road. The temple is currently the site of a Buddhist University and also has a large open-air sala.

Wat Bupparam

Wat Bupparam, Chiang Mai
Wat Bupparam, Chiang Mai

Wat Bupparam is located 500 metres outside of the Phrae Gate of the Old City. It was built in the 15th century, and houses beautiful statues and ornaments including three famous Buddha images, a painted wooden Buddha, a gold leaf Buddha, and green gemstone Buddha. The gardens surrounding the main building are filled with flowers and statues, some kinda quirky – you should check it out for yourself!

The architecture of the temple is different from typical Thai temples, and there is a specific reason for this. The main temple structure was originally built in 1497, but in 1561, when this area was occupied by the Burmese, Burmese monks had the temple’s structure changed to suit their style rather than abandoning the temple altogether. Normally Thai temples are a rectangular shape, while this one is crossed shape with a tower in the middle. The 400 year old Chedi also has a Burmese influence and is guarded by the typical Burmese golden lions.

Wat Jed Yod

Wat Jed Yod is situated near to the Chiang Mai National Museum on the northern loop of the ring road. Built in 1455 by King Tilokaraja, its name means “Seven Spires”.  It was modeled on the Mahabodi Temple in India, where the Buddha supposedly achieved enlightenment. The Chedi contains the ashes of King Tilokaraja who famously organised for the World Buddhist Council to come to Chiang Mai. Wat Jed Yod was built to host the Eighth World Buddhist council which was a massive honour for the Kingdom of Lanna at that time, so of all the Chiang Mai temples, if has great relevance to the history of the Buddhist religion.

Wat Pan Tao

The main temple of Wat Pan Tao is constructed entirely of teak panels supported by 28 massive teak pillars. It is one of the few remaining all wooden structures of its sort in Chiang Mai. It has a three tiered roof with golden colored roof finials, shaped as Naga snakes on its roof ends. It was built in the late fourteenth century and its survival is a miracle. It is one of the last remaining wooden temples of that era and since it is next door to Wat Chedi Luang, it is easy to visit. The elegant wood carvings that decorate Wat Pan Tao are also beautiful.

The Wat Pan Tao temple complex also contains a large white Chedi, a small bell tower and the monks private living quarters. A number of Burmese style lions on the outer wall guard the temple complex and a heavily decorated gate provides access to the temple grounds which is also very beautiful.

Wat Srisuphan

Not far to the south of the Old City is the traditional silver-making district. Located around Wualai Road, this area is dotted with silver shops, but is probably best known to tourists as the location of the Saturday Walking Street Market. However, there is also an amazing new temple here too.

Wat Srisuphan was built in 1502, although little remains of the original temple. The temple is now the focus of renovations that started in 2009 and are designed to make it a centerpiece for the ‘silver village’ it serves. The entire surface of the hall, inside and out is covered in silver, as is the roof, and all sorts of ornate silver statues, signposts and ornaments are being added. This is a modern masterpiece and worth a visit for sure. It is marvelous to see a Thai temple decorated in silver rather than gold. The monks at this temple are particularly tourist friendly, always ready for a chat.

Wat Pha Lat

Wat Pla Let, Chiang Mai
Wat Pla Lat, Chiang Mai

Architecturally, this not a spectacular temple, but setting wise is amazing. There is a waterfall running through the temple grounds and a stunning view out over Chiang Mai.  It’s on Doi Suthep mountain and it was used by pilgrims heading to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep as a resting spot when there was no road and no cars. Wat Pha Lat is a complex of small temples and beautiful stone statues that focus around the waterfall. The temple area is incredibly peaceful, blended into the nature in a wonderful way.  There are no shops, no crowds, just the peace of a temple, stunning views and a waterfall.

The walk up the hill to Wat Pha Lat takes 35-50 minutes from Suthep Road, and you should probably wear trainers to do it it. Orange robes wrapped around the trees to mark the path up the hill to the temple. Wat Pha Lat, means ‘Monastery at the Sloping Rock’.

Wat Phan On

This temple is located inside the Old City on Ratchadamnoen Road and was built in 1501. The large golden Chedi is a recent addition however, built in 2007.  The Chedi is gold and has red nooks adorned with gold statues, which creates a beautiful red/gold contrast, a theme which continues inside the temple. The interior of the temple building is highly decorated and there are very ornate gold carvings on the  red doors and windows. These details make this temple stunning to photograph.

 

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Chiang Mai Essentials – Top 13 Chiang Mai temples to visit and love 2 PI

Images courtesy of flickr.com – Featured image by 60D

Watch a Krabi Sunset on a Teak Siamese Junk Boat

Pla Luang, Siamese Junk in Krabi

If you are staying anywhere on the mainland of Krabi Province e.g. Aonang, Railay, Klong Muang or Tub Kaek and want to have a unique experience, try the sunset cruise on an old teak Junk. Only 1,800 baht, the cruise starts at 2pm and ends at 7pm. Guests get to snorkel, cliff jump, eat a Thai buffet on the deck at sunset and also swim in the beautiful bio-luminescence after dark.

This beautiful wooden boat called ‘Pla Luang’ which translates as ‘Noble Fish’ can hold up to 30 people but usually caters to 10-20 guests on a regular day. This Siamese Junk was originally a trade vessel over 100 years ago and has been beautifully restored. The boat transported goods all over South East Asia and while this is not a luxury cruise as such, it offers more comfort than either a long tail boat or speed boat and also allows you to imagine how Thailand, or Siam as it was called would have felt in the 19th and early 20th Century.

The atmosphere is fun with good music on board but is also child friendly. The snorkelling is also excellent. There is a western style bathroom on board and cocktails, beer and spirits can be bought from the deck bar. There is also free water, soft drinks and complimentary fruits. The teak deck is perfect for relaxing and taking in the ocean views and there is plenty of space to sit on the cushioned seats or cushions on the deck floor. You can lay back, relax, and after sunset, chill out under the stars. The Krabi sunset cruise takes in all the sights around the beautiful islands, but avoids anchoring in the busy tourist spots.

You can book your cruise with Krabi Sunset Cruises or check out the excellent reviews for this boat trip on Trip Adviser.

Pla Luang, Siamese Junk in Krabi

Pla Luang, Siamese Junk in Krabi

Pla Luang, Siamese Junk in Krabi

 

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Images courtesy of Krabi Sunset Cruises

Chiang Mai Essentials – orientation and key sites inside and outside the city walls

Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second major city and the capital of the north. Thailand is a very long country from North to South and Chiang Mai is actually nestled into the foothills of the Himalayas. This gives it a very different vibe to the southern areas of Phuket and Koh Samui which are a 2 hour flight away. While the city is a sprawling metropolis, the old city has remained intact as have old colonial areas, riverside mansions and chinese quarters. The area is also home to more than 300 temples, making it a stunning place to visit. Here we give you the essentials of visiting Chiang Mai, which should mean you get to pack in as much in as possible. As usual there is a handy map at the bottom.

Why should I visit the city of Chiang Mai?

Chiang Mai can best be described as a sanctuary. The pace is laid-back, the cooler (ish) weather is refreshing and the landscape is stunning. Chiang Mai used to be the capital of the Independent Kingdom of Lanna (1296–1768) so is steeped in history. It is 700 km north of Bangkok and sits along the beautiful Ping River. Chiang Mai could only be reached by a 3 week river journey and jungle trek until the roads and rail came in the 1920s. This isolation helped keep Chiang Mai’s distinctive culture intact. Chiang Mai is one of the best places in Thailand  to experience both historical and modern Thai culture existing side by side. It is also a great launchpad for exploring the mountain areas that border Burma and Laos.

Getting to Chiang Mai

By Plane

Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) receives up to 28 flights a day from Bangkok (flight time 1 hour 10 minutes) and is also a hub for flights to other northern cities such as Chiang Rai and Mae Hong Son. The airport is 3 km/15 minutes from the city centre.  Non metered taxis charge 180 baht for up to 5 passengers to anywhere in the city. Metered taxis start from 40 baht plus a 50 baht service fee and you pay at the Meter Taxi counter.

Bus from Bangkok

A variety of buses leave frequently from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit), with choices of price, comfort and length of trip. The trip is long so we recommend you opt for a luxury night bus but take a jumper because the aircon is super cold. At the Arcade Bus Station in Chiang Mai, where you’ll arrive, public songthaews or taxis are available. Buses take around 12-13 hours from Bangkok.

By train

Services from Bangkok’s Hualampong Railway Station leave on a regular schedule and take 13-15 hours to reach Chiang Mai. We recommend the night train in the classes where you get a bunk bed. Try to book the one which arrives into Chiang Mai later in the morning so you can see the landscape as the sun rises. It’s simply stunning.

The famous walled city

History is abundant within the moat encircled ‘Old City’, which retains some of the wall and all four gates. The old city of Chiang Mai is a great location to see the north’s diverse cultural identity that includes Art, cuisine, architecture, festivals, handicrafts and classical dance.

Inside Chiang Mai’s city walls are more than 30 temples dating back to the founding of the kingdom in 1296, with a combination of Burmese, Sri Lankan and Lanna Thai styles, decorated with beautiful wood carvings, Chedis, Naga staircases, Buddha statues and gold covered Pagodas.

Phae Gate (East Gate)

The east entrance to the old city of Chiang Mai is a great area to shop, eat and spend a few hours soaking in the atmosphere. The Three Kings Monument and several temples such as Chedi Luang, Phra Singh, Chiang Man, are in this area. It also has museums, boutique shops, restaurants and cafes. The Sunday Night Walking Street is here as well as the Saturday market and it is close to the Ping river, making it very picturesque.

The hipster/yoga scene

Chiang Mai has a thriving arts culture. There are many galleries, jazz venues and vespa clubs, not to mention some amazing coffee shops, antique shops and food trucks. Chiang Mai is also a hub for many yoga sanctuaries, yoga studios, detox retreats and massage training schools. It also has some world class vegetarian restuarants. The international nature of the city also means that you can find cuisines from all over the world including Japanese and Indian.

Temples

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai
Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai

There are over 300 wats/temples in the Chiang Mai area dating back to 1296, some inside the old city and some outside. The most famous is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which overlooks the city from a mountainside 13 km away.

Here is a list of our top picks for temples in and near to Chiang Mai.

Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang is particularly beautiful. Built in 1401, the structure was damaged during an earthquake in 1545, but it remains mainly intact. You can still see the massive elephant carvings and they are a wonderful photo opportunity. The temple is particularly lovely at night, when it is lit up. Nearby, there is an ancient tree planted next to the city pillar, meant to protect the city and its grounds. This tree is huge and because of its sacred purpose, will not be cut down.

Wat Prasingh

This temple is in centre of the Old City and is is the largest temple in the city. It was constructed in 1345 when a Lanna king built it in his father’s honour. The temple’s most sacred relic is the very old and famous, (now headless) Buddha called Phra Singh Buddha. According to legend the Buddha came to Thailand from Ceylon to Ayutthaya and then to Chiang Rai, Luang Prabang and back once more to Ayutthaya. In 1767 it arrived in Chiang Mai where it has been ever since.

Wat Umong

This forest temple and cave complex is very beautiful and distinct in style to other temples in Chiang Mai.  The corridors under the temple still have visible paintings from the 13th century, and the Chedi is plain but appropriate for its wonderful woodland setting. Wat Umong is one of the oldest temples in the area and is a great way to see the countryside around Chiang Mai. This temple is close to Wat Suan Dok.

 Wat Doi Kham

Although small, Wat Doi Kham is well worth a visit. There is a 17 metre white Buddha statue and a beautiful gold Chedi at this temple and there are lovely views of the valley below. Legend has it that this site was established long ago by Buddha himself when he met and converted the indigenous Lua people to Buddhist practices.

Wat Suan Dok

This temple is built on what were once a 14th-century Lanna King’s gardens. Interestingly, some of the temple’s Chedis contain ashes of the old Lanna Royal Family. You can also view a Buddhist relic brought from Sukothai in 1371, which split into two a long time ago. The other half is buried at Doi Suthep. A 500-year-old bronze Buddha image, one of the largest in northern Thailand, is also at Wat Suan Dok and is well worth visiting.

Markets

Night Bazzaar, Chiang Mai
Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai

Warorot Market

Warorot Market, also known as China Town is a sprawling indoor/outdoor market just 2 minutes north of the Night Bazaar and next to the Ping River. It is where the locals shop and has cheap clothing and other handicrafts that aren’t typically seen in Thailand’s other street markets. It is open every day from morning to around 8pm. Warorot Market also has really good street food at reasonable prices.  Peruse the many fabrics, spices, tea, and dried fruit at your leisure and know you will get better value here than at the very touristic ‘Night Bazaar’.

Anusarn Market

Anusarn Market is on Chang Khlan Road near the end of the Night Bazaar and is open every evening until midnight. It is a busy outdoor food night market with lots of little Thai, Indian, and Western restaurants and food stalls. It is a great place to relax and eat after visiting the night bazaar. There are some nice little massage shops here too and a good old fashioned Irish Pub.

Friday Morning Hill Tribe Market

This is a fresh produce market held every Friday morning near to the Mosque on Chang Khlan Road, not far from the night bazaar. This little market is where the ethnic minorities who live around Chiang Mai bring their own distinctive food products to sell. It is really interesting to look around and try out the exotic fruits.

Night Bazaar

The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is the city’s most popular market for tourists so expect to do some hard bargaining for some not so genuine souvenirs. There are plenty of stalls selling clothes, handbags, candles, soaps, home décor, postcards, textiles etc. and the atmosphere is bustling, festive and laid back. Since the night bazaar is in a popular area there are plenty of food and drink vendors and even some international chains, including Burger King, McDonalds and Starbucks. The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar is located on Chang Khlan Road, just outside the city gate on the east side. Hours are from sunset to about midnight, with some shops and stalls closing earlier.

Sunday Walking Street

On Sunday evenings, the street just inside the Tapae Gate is closed to traffic and stalls selling local handicrafts as and food are all open for business. Many foreign visitors don’t know it exists but it is a great shopping attraction.

Outside the city

View from Doi Suthep Temple, Chiang Mai

Wat Prathat Doi Suthep

This mountaintop temple is a must see if you visit Chiang Mai. You can do this whole trip in about two hours since it is only 13km outside the city. The climb up to the temple is a little tough because the staircase is steep, but you don’t need to be super fit to make it up. Doi Suthep was founded in the 14th century and today is the most important temple for Theravada Buddhists in the north of Thailand. It is a journey every Thai Buddhist is recommended to make at least once in their life so it is not just a temple but a pilgrimage too.  The temple is beautiful with lots of sections, courtyards and views. There are many representations of the Buddha, ornate dragon statues, and also lots of relics. The views are also spectacular. On a little side note, be aware that children dressed up in local costume outside the temple should probably be at school and it is best not to encourage parents to earn an income from them.

Doi Inthanon

This is the highest peak in Thailand, and the national park that surrounds it is stunning. You can do some trekking and hike the mountain, or take a stroll on a shorter route. It is a two-hour drive from the city and if you hire a driver and a car (around 2,000-3,000 baht per day) you can have a full day on the mountain and see most of the sites. There is also a camping option here and nearby to the national park a Golf Resort. The walk to the top is easy or you can drive most of the way. Despite being busy with tourists, the summit offers some great views, especially between October and December, before the haze/smog hits. On the way to the summit you can visit the Stupa containing the remains of the last King of Lanna, King Inthawidhayanon.

Sirithan Waterfall  and Wachirathan Waterfall are both worth visiting too. Wachirathan is developed with a carpark and restaurant, whereas Sirthan is just at nature intended. You should also consider stopping at the two Royal Chedi’s on the way back from the summit. The two huge Chedi built in honour of the current King and Queen of Thailand have been built on opposing peaks and are very impressive Each is a temple type construction with lovely wall carvings and paintings. If the stairs to the top of Chedi looks daunting, you can get escalators to the top. On the main road opposite the Ranger Station is a Thai sign showing the start of a short, self-guided nature trail which leads to a boggy area where you can find the rare red blossomed Rhododendron. This area is is a good location for bird-watching.

Bua Thong Sticky Waterfalls

This series of 7 waterfalls and the surrounding area is perfect to spend a day visiting. The wooded area surrounding the falls is serene and peaceful and you can walk up the waterfalls like steps (hence the word sticky in the name, because they are not slippery as you would expect)  For between 300-800 baht, you can hire a songthaew or tuk-tuk driver to take you out and back.

Huay Tung Tao Lake

This reservoir is beautiful and relaxing and only 10km from the city of Chiang Mai. It sits at the base of Doi Suthep and is popular with locals and ex-pats rather than tourists.  You can rent a bamboo hut on the lake to eat a delicious meal from the local vendors and hire a large tube tyre, or pedal boat to relax in on the water. It’s perfect for swimming and the water is very cooling on a hot day. It is simple to hire a driver and organise to be dropped off at the lake and then picked up again later.

Mae Ngat Dam and the Floating Houseboats

The floating houses at Mae Ngat Dam are a wonderful getaway for a small group of friends. Only a 35 minute drive from the city of Chiang Mai, the cute little houseboats on the water can only be reached by a 15 minute boat ride.

These floating houses are a series of basic one-room cabins connected side-by-side and float on the lake’s surface.  There are several companies, each operating a group of identical bamboo cabins that open up to a wide wooden deck spanning across their front which has little restaurants. On the deck is plenty of space for relaxing, and it’s the perfect location to jump off to go swimming and tubing. Kayaks here are about 150 baht an hour and you can also hire fishing rods and fish off a kayak.

Phu Ping (or Bhuping) Palace

This Royal Winter Palace, built on a small mountain outside Chiang Mai has wonderful landscaped gardens and is open to the public when the Royal Family is not in residence. The palace itself which was built in 1961 and is not particularly exciting, but the extensive gardens are picturesque including tropical flowers, old trees and giant bamboo. The rose garden is very popular with Thais because it is only in the north at higher altitude that roses can bloom. The Palace is located on Doi Buak Ha mountain, about 20 kms North West of the city of Chiang Mai. It is along the same road as Doi Suthep Temple but about 4 kms closer to Chiang Mai city.

Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden

This is Thailand’s best botanical garden and is dedicated to the conservation of Thai flora. It holds collections of rare and endangered species and is situated in the lush mountains of Doi Suthep, about 20km outside of the city of Chiang Mai. Three major streams in the area converge into one on the land, providing year round water, and the regional climate is ideally suited to the project of protecting rare species.  The gardens and the many glasshouses are stunning and a must anyone who wants to relax around a plethora of tropical colours and scents.

Flight of the Gibbon

Flight of the Gibbons is a company which runs is a zipline through the 1500 year old rainforest high above the forest floor. Located 40 minutes outside of Chiang Mai in a national park it features 5 km of ziplines which connect lookout platforms, lowering stations, and sky bridges. it is a wonderful adventure and comes well recommended on TripAdviser. At 800 metres, the longest zipline in Asia can be found here and there is also a chance to see gibbons in the wild. As part of this tour you can hike up the 7 tiers Mae Kompong Waterfall. The whole thing will take 7 hours from pickup to drop off and food and drinks are included.

Easy ways to get around Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Songtheaw

If you are visiting the old city and nearby you can easily walk between locations. Otherwise there are several bicycle hiring companies here. If you are a good driver it is simple to hire a car or motorbike which is a good option if you intend to leave the city and head for the hills. If you don’t want to drive yourself, you could hire a private car or mini van for the day, which lots of tourists do to avoid the busy group tours.

By songthaew (pronounced song-tee-ow)

These covered pick-up trucks have two long bench seats and are a really good option in Chiang Mai. They mainly have fixed routes, picking up passengers at any spot along the way. Red songthaews, however can be hired outright and will take you anywhere you like. Fixed route songthaews generally start at Warorot Market. White ones go to the eastern suburb of Sankampaeng, yellow ones go to Mae Rim in the north, blue songthaews go to Lamphun in the south, and green songthaews travel to Mae Jo in the northeast. They all charge a 20 baht flat rate..

By tuk-tuk

Tuk-tuks are a quick way to get around. Fares are usually 40-50 baht for a short trip and 50-100 baht for longer distances.

What are the seasons like?

Chiang Mai is cooler than elsewhere in Thailand but still pretty hot and humid throughout the year in the daytime. It does cool down very nicely in the evenings though, making it perfect for night time shopping at the open air markets. You made need a sweater if you go up into the mountains and especially if you are staying overnight up in the hills between October and Feb which is their ‘winter’ and temperatures can drop blow 10 degrees at night.

  • cool/dry season is  from mid Oct-mid Feb
  • hot season from is mid Feb-mid Jun
  • wet season from is  mid Jun-mid Oct

Is there a downside to visiting Chiang Mai?

Like all cities in Thailand there is a overly touristic side to Chiang Mai and also a seedy side. Also between February and April, a nasty smog hits the city. In recent years it has got so bad that I recommend that you do not visit during these months especially if you are travelling with kids. Also, you might have noticed that I have excluded all attractions involving hill tribes and animals. There is a lot of exploitation in the north of Thailand for both animals and the Hill Tribe people and if you intend to view/work with them then please research the credentials of the organisation you are paying. Do not go jungle trekking with elephants as it is very bad for their backs or have them perform tricks. I have also excluded Chiang Mai Zoo and the Tiger Kingdom from my recommendations because there are animal welfare issues at both places.

I hope this has given you lots of information about Chiang Mai and some tips on what to see. Enjoy your stay at this wonderful heritage city.

 Map Of Central Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai Old City Map

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Images courtesy of Flickr.com Featured image by Igor, Wat Chedi Luang by Alpha, View from Doi Suthep by Christine Olson, Night Market Photo by Connie Ma

Koh Samui Beaches – 7 world class Thai beaches

Lamai Beach, Koh Samui

Koh Samui is an amazing holiday destination. As Thailand’s second largest island, it has an airport with quick transfers to all beach locations. One of the best things about Koh Samui is that there is a main road that loops around the entire island but it is set far back from the beach. This means you have a nice bustling road with shops, restaurants and bars, but the beaches are tree lined and quiet. At 25 km long and 21 km wide, this Thai island has something for everyone. Here is an outline of all the main Koh Samui Beaches.

We recommend that you choose your beach carefully, using this blog and other online tips to make the right choice. After you know which beach is right for you, you can then choose your hotel. There is a map at the bottom to help. Good Luck!

Mae Nam Beach

Maenam Beach, Koh Samui

Mae Nam beach is a lovely, quiet, 7km long beach which is shallow at low tide so great for small kids. This beach is less protected than Bophut, Chaweng, or Choeng Mon so can get choppy but this attracts kite surfers. The beach and the beachfront resorts are really far from the main road giving it a remote, tropical feel that visitors love.  There is high end and budget style accommodation on Mae Nam beach and visitors come year after year. With more than 70 resorts and hotels nestled into beachfront, Mae Nam is popular with longer term travellers because there are some good quality long stay apartments here that are very affordable. There are some relaxed beach bars in Mae Nam that are open late into the night but if you want a busy nightlife, Chaweng is only 2o minutes away.

Bophut Beach

Bophut Beach, Koh Samui

The sand is not as powdery as other Koh Samui beaches but the scenery at Bophut is beautiful and the water calm and great for swimming . The beach itself is nearly 2km long and there are some really lovely resorts here to suit any budget. The highlight of this beach is that it has a thriving village as part of the area that pre dates tourism and so there are some authentically Thai things to see. Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village is a collection of chic shops, restaurants, and bars that have a Chinese/French vibe due to its colonial history. The effort that has been put into making this a trendy place to visit is impressive and it is a great part of why you should consider staying on this beach in particular. Most of the accommodation is on the beach rather than in Bophut’s Fisherman’s Village.

Bang Rak Beach

Big Buddha beach, Koh Samui

Bang Rak Beach (sometimes called Big Buddha beach) is at the northernmost tip of Koh Samui. It has nearly 40 hotels and resorts to suit everyone’s budget and has a 4km long beach but because it it not totally pristine, the accommodation tends to be cheaper. Bang Rak is a good place to stay if you intend to take a speed boat to the Full Moon Party on Koh Phangan since there is a pier that can take you. Bang Rak has a more hippie vibe than other beaches and it is still possible to find beachside fan aired bungalows. There is a relaxed party atmosphere at night that is lively enough to suit most people. Bang Rak Beach is a favourite with many who don’t want to see any big brand chains such as McDonalds or Holiday Inn. For budget travellers, this is my top pick of all the Koh Samui beaches.

Choeng Mon Beach

Choeng Mon Beach, Koh Samui

Cheong Mon Beach is a crescent shape white sandy beach, plus 3 other quiet bays to the north and south. (Plai Leim, Thongson and Thongsai bays)  The 4 beaches combined have more than 130 hotels mainly in the 3-5 star bracket but other than jet skis on the main beach of Cheong Mon, the area is peaceful in a very good way. Only 15 minutes from the main tourist centre of Chaweng Beach, Cheong Mon is more peaceful than the number of hotels it has suggests. The area caters to a slightly more upmarket and older crowd, with much of the night time entertainment kept inside the resorts. This area is very popular with French and German tourists and so the cuisine of these nations are well represented here. This area has something for everyone apart from those who want a big party scene. It is also very popular with expats because it is quiet but still close to Chaweng Beach and the party life there.

Chaweng Beach

Walking towards Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui

With more than 200 hotels and resorts, Chaweng beach is the main tourist area on Koh Samui. The beach is 7km of stunning white sand and is great for swimming. The north and south ends are quietier while the main strip of beach gets busy with tourists and seaside activities. At dusk the beach is taken over by candle lit restaurants serving barbecued seafood and other excellent dishes. The main street is packed with shops, bars, restaurants and nightclubs and it can be a lot of fun especially for the younger crowd. All sorts of accommodation is available and while some folk may spend their nights enjoying the regular nightlife (including some girlie bars) there are some very high end clubs up in the hills that have a global reputation.

Lamai Beach

Lamai Beach. Koh Samui

Lamai Beach is the second busiest beach area on the island of Koh Samui, with more than 160 resorts and is full of lots of hustle and bustle. However the beach itself is really stunning and fairly quiet in areas although the main slip of beach has bars and jet skis. It is a great beach for swimming and there are quieter beaches that are easy to reach from Lamai. The fact that Koh Samui does not allow high rise buildings does mean that Lamai it is still quite charming. There is plenty of shopping and eating options and lots of night life after 10pm. There are many girlie bars lining the main road in Lamai but they are easy to avoid if you want to do so. Lamai has a large expat community and because of this you will find lot of western style bars and restaurants. As with all beaches in Koh Samui, you will find accommodation of every kind here. The most expensive resports are on the beach front.

Lipa Noi Beach

Lipa Noi beach, Koh Samui

Lipa Noi has 2 beaches and has around 30 hotels and resorts making it a small and quiet place to stay. It has fine white sand and is shallow at low tide, making it ideal for kids but only good for swimming at high tide. The area doesn’t really have any nightlife and is more popular with the over 30’s. It does have some lovely restaurants though and good access to shops, a supermarket and a local market. The famous Nikki Beach Club is also located here.

That concludes our brief outline of Koh Samui Beaches. We hope it gives you more of an idea of the location you would like to stay. Good luck!

Map of Koh Samui Beaches

 

Map of Koh Samui

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Koh Samui beaches Images courtesy of Flickr.com. Featured image by irumge (Lamai Beach) Mae Nam Beach by Per Meistrup, Bophut beach by Christian Schmitt, Bang Rak Beach by Ben Grantham, Cheong Mon beach by Brian Fagan, Chaweng beach by Aarron Toth, Lamai beach by jipe7, and Lipa Noi beach by Patrick Cam

 

Destination Weddings: Thailand. How to legalise your marriage under Thai Law

Thailand is a wonderful location for a wedding and a real favourite of those planning a glamorous destination wedding. There are amazing wedding locations, wedding planners and awesome hotels all ready to cater to you. However, unless you officially get married in your own country prior to coming to Thailand, you will need to legalise your marriage under Thai law. This blog simplifies the steps of this process for you, so here goes: 

4 steps to legalise your marriage under Thai law

  1. Get a document certifying that you are eligible to get married signed by your own embassy in Bangkok
  2. Translate this into Thai
  3. Get the English and Thai version authenticated by The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok
  4. Go to any district office with all your papers and passport to formally register your marriage (or get a wedding planner to help you have a legal representative come to your wedding to do this)

Will my Thai marriage be recognised in my own country?

Please check with the embassy of your own country but for the UK, if you have legalised your marriage under Thai law then the marriage will be automatically recognised under UK law. The Thai marriage certificate will be in Thai only but you can get a “sworn translation” from a translation agency so that you can use the document for legal purposes in the UK.  The consular section of your embassy in Bangkok can arrange for your marriage to be recorded in the UK. This is not a legal requirement but can be handy if you lose your certificate.

Here are the 4 steps explained in more detail if you want to get officially married in Thailand.

1. Affirmation to Marry

Thai authorities require every foreign national wishing to marry in Thailand to obtain an ‘Affirmation of Freedom to Marry.’ This cannot be obtained in your home country so you will need to apply to your country’s embassy in Bangkok. The affirmation is a form that confirms that you are legally free to marry and has to be signed by you in the presence of a consular official. The procedure is that after you have signed the document at the embassy, you return the next day to collect it and by this time it will have been countersigned by an official from the embassy. Your embassy will charge you for this service and they will need your passport and evidence of termination of any previous marriages too. (divorce certificate or death certificate). Make sure you take original documents and not photocopies.

2. Translate the Affirmation

Once you have obtained the ‘Affirmation of Freedom to Marry’, the form needs to be translated into Thai and there are many translation services near all the embassies which is helpful.

3. Authentication from Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Now that you have the ‘Affirmation to Marry’ and the Thai translation, submit these forms to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok. The ministry authenticates the forms and returns them to you the following day. Don’t miss this step out as it is the only way to legalise your marriage under Thai Law. Note that this office will be very busy since all nationalities will need to get a signature here. A fee is payable for this service and if you are not in a hurry and don’t want to hang around Bangkok, you can submit the forms to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by post. Many translation agencies can help with this.

Address of Ministry of Foreign Affairs

4. Get Married At The District Registrar (Amphur Office)

Once you have all the above paperwork, visit any district (amphur) office which is similar to a town hall. This can be done anywhere in Thailand, not just in Bangkok. For the marriage to be valid under Thai law it must be registered at the amphur office so you are officially married on the day that you register at the this office. Don’t forget all your documents including translations and your passport. There is not usually any need to make an appointment, but go with somebody who can speak Thai.

You have 3 months to do this after the first 3 steps have been done, after which the documents are no longer valid.

If you have a Thai partner they must submit their Identification Card and their House Registration Certificate in order to legalise your marriage under Thai law.

Once the marriage registration is completed, you and your husband or wife will both be given a copy of the Marriage Registration Certificate. And that is it you are married and your marriage is instantly recognised practically anywhere in the world!

Marriage Registration Certificate

Final Tips

1. Here is a document which outlines all of the above by the British Embassy along with their suggested format for the Affirmation to Marry document.

2. If you want an agency to help you complete all or any of the above, we recommend Red Elephants Legals

3. If you want a wedding planner who can take care of all of the above, have the Registrar come to the wedding instead of you going to the amphur office, and organise your wedding and/or honeymoon, we recommend ‘Take Us to Thailand’ – http://takeustothailand.com/about/

4. Getting married officially in your own country BEFORE/AFTER coming to doing a blessing style wedding in Thailand means that none of the above has to be done.

Enjoy your wedding!

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how to legalise your marriage under thai law PI

Featured Image by Evo Flash via Flickr.com