After having never been to Thailand before I entered through the North and spend my first three weeks in this area. With never being any further south than Udon Thani I think I’ve seen a very different side of the country to the regular tourist. The South is, of course, yet to come and I’m sure it will be a completely different experience, for one there will be no need for a hoodie morning and night. I really like what I’ve seen of the country so far and its all been really well priced, I’ve not done much in the way of tourist attractions, rather, just hanging out and I’m getting by on less than £10 a day, which is what some people told me I’d be paying for the room alone.
Transport is so cheap here, a 7 hour bus journey from Udon Thani to Sukhothai cost me roughly £4 when the same distance in Laos would be three times the price. The food here is also really cheap and a meal of curry and rice can be had for 80p if you know where to look. I am mildly apprehensive about The South and hoping that there is still the same abundance of street food and cheap restaurants and that everything isn’t aimed at the rich package holiday fiends who tend to lack the knowledge of what things should actually cost as it still seems cheap compared to ‘home’.
Udon Thani was a cool city, with the best food night bazaar I’ve seen so far, which even had live music. It doesn’t really have anything in the way of tourism and there is very little English spoken. I believe there is one tourist attraction in the form of a farm that grows dancing orchids that respond to music. However tempting this was I gave it a miss. The city itself is big and just a standard functioning city, it was a good introduction to how the Thais live. There are a few expats here but in the standard guise of creepy middle aged British and German men with a Thai woman on their arms. I struggle to get used to the morals of this and wonder why on earth the Thai women go for these men as their situation is nothing like a dire as that of the women in Cambodia. But perhaps there is something I’m missing and the standard Thai guy treats their women badly? I’m in Pai at the moment and due to its slightly alternative scene it’s the first time in Asia I have seen the Western woman with the Thai guy, the guys do generally look more westernised though and almost more like how you expect Japanese to dress; alternatively with a pony tail and goatee, not in a business suit.
Our second stop was Sukhothai which I also enjoyed, we had really good accommodation for £2.50 each, and super fast internet which is a rarity. Again the town itself had a very local feel but we found a few good places to eat straight away, including a very local breakfast place that consisted of a plate of rice with two side things i.e a marinated boiled egg and stir fry for 60p, included in this price is a very sweet Thai girl trying her best to speak some English. The ruins in Sukhothai were smaller and in worse repair than we expected but we’ve been to Angkor so will inevitably be disappointed with any ancient temples henceforth.
Chiang Mai was the next stop and after hearing everyone saying how amazing it was I was sure to be disappointed. I think most people who say that only go to the one place in the North so for them it is hugely different. For me Chiang Mai was too big, it just felt quite like a standard city, I expected at least the architecture to be old or quaint but it was just sort of ordinary. If you have a reasonable budget there are many courses (cooking and massage) and treks that can be done from Chiang Mai and I think this equates to a lot of the appeal.
Our next destination was Pai and this was much more up my street. The night market has much more unique stuff from local artisans and unlike Chiang Mai you can walk at whatever pace you wish instead of being in a stream of people. It’s a small town in the mountains and the surrounding countryside is spectacular. The place is a tourist hub and although there are many pretentious hippies (some of them taking to busking which I find wholly confusing) there are still plenty of places that feel local and are well priced. This won’t be the last you hear of Pai as I’m spending Christmas here.