Chiang Rai (Mar 1-3): A Peculiar Temple and Some Kind of Sickness

Chiang Rai was when I finally got sick with something… I’m still not exactly sure what it was, but may have been a combination of carsickness, food poisoning, and overheating. Once again, I booked my bus tickets on 12Go, and I had to go back through Chiang Mai in order to get to Chiang Rai. I had read reviews that some people’s first bus ended up arriving late so they missed their second bus. Therefore, I wanted to leave ample time between my two buses so that it wouldn’t end up happening to me. I booked my first bus for 8am, which was scheduled to arrive at noon, and cost 215 baht ($10.05). I booked my second bus for 2:15pm to arrive in Chiang Rai at 5:50pm for 289 baht ($12.61AUD). On Friday morning, I got up at 6:30, got ready, packed up, took a quick look at the sunrise, and started my walk to the bus station so that I could get there 30 minutes in advance.

On my walk, I saw the monks collecting alms, which I was contemplating waking up early for in Chiang Mai to watch. The monks go out every morning at dawn to collect food from the locals, and they were followed by all of the dogs. One of the dogs joined me on my walk and walked me all the way to the bus station, which was great to have the company! The dog was so excited and happy, but I felt bad for bringing him to the bus station because there were a bunch of bigger dogs that kept trying to run after him. Once I got to the station, I went into the 7-Eleven to buy some dog treats but the dog wasn’t interested in them – he must only eat human food! Anyway, I took the advice of some people and didn’t eat anything beforehand because apparently it makes you more sick on the car ride. Another girl had said that she bought motion sickness tablets halfway through her trip, and they ended up not working and just made her drowsy. I had bought motion sickness tablets, but I didn’t want to risk feeling drowsy all day so I decided not to take them. Maybe it was the wrong choice though… We started the journey back to Chiang Mai and once again, I was in the back seat, leaning all over the place. At one point, my bag of food came loose from under the seat so many people (including myself) just spent the next 20 minutes watching my bag roll from the left side of the vehicle to the right side of the vehicle and back. At the halfway point, I decided to get some coffee but still decided not to get food. I wasn’t feeling too great and was now understanding how people who get carsick feel. We got to Chiang Mai an hour earlier than scheduled (at 11), so I went to check in to my next bus and asked if it would be possible to get on an earlier bus, but the lady said that they were all full. Therefore, I had about three hours to kill. I found a restaurant called Black Coffee Smile, and decided I needed to force myself to eat something. I still wasn’t feeling well, but I hadn’t eaten all day and by that time, it was 11:30. I ordered a cashew chicken with rice and a coke.

I had the choice between a small or large coke (which I assumed was a can or a bottle) and since I knew that I would be there for awhile, I opted for a large coke. What I wasn’t expecting though, was for them to bring me a 1.25-litre bottle of coke! Anyway, eating still didn’t help my stomach feel great – I actually think that it ended up making my stomach feel a bit worse. I spent the next three hours waiting for my stomach to settle, but it never did. I went to where my next bus would be and was so relieved to see that it was an actual-sized bus and not a 14-passenger van. I knew that these buses wouldn’t be able to do twists and turns as fast, so it should end up being easier on my stomach. The bus arrived right at 2:15, we all got on, and we started our 3.5-hour journey to Chiang Rai. There had been a warning on the ticket about the air conditioning being extremely cold, and to be prepared when going on the bus. I noticed everyone around me was shivering and covering up, but I was wearing a tank top and shorts the entire time and never started feeling cold. I think it actually helped with making me feel better. We arrived in Chiang Rai and once again, my hostel was way out of the city centre. I had to order a Grab because otherwise it would be a 30-40 minute walk, and I didn’t feel like carrying my backpack for that long. The Grab was only 70 baht ($3.05 AUD), so it really wasn’t that bad. I was staying in Grace Hostel and paid 200 baht ($8.86) per night in a 16-bed female dorm. The hostel was run by a really sweet lady who drove everyone to the night market every night, and also got up at 5am each morning to make breakfast for everyone who’d be travelling to Laos. I also really liked the set-up of this hostel because there was a huge shared shower and toilet room (rather than having only 2 or 3 separate bathrooms), and even though the room was 16 beds, each bed got their own pod so you still got lots of privacy. The hostel owner asked if I wanted to go to the night market and said we’d leave at 6:50 (in a half hour). I said sure but as I was preparing my things, I started questioning whether it would be a good idea for me to go. I felt like I’d feel better if I threw up, but I really hate that feeling so I didn’t let it happen. I went to the night market with a girl from Finland and a guy from kind of all over the place. The hostel owner stopped at the clock tower, which does a light show for 7 minutes every night at 7pm.

Then she dropped us off at the night market, where we walked around and searched for food. The other two got dinner, but I knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to eat so I just got a smoothie for 25 baht ($1.09) and we chatted while they ate. We decided to walk back to the hostel afterwards and then chatted for awhile before going to bed. Surprisingly, I still didn’t feel hungry before going to bed so I only ended up eating one meal that day.

On Saturday morning, I got up at 8, got ready, and had breakfast in the hostel. This hostel breakfast actually had food other than toast, and provided pancakes, boiled eggs, cereal, and bananas. The girl from Finland (Paulina) joined me, and we decided to check out the White Temple together. The hostel owner told me that I should exchange my Thai baht into US dollars, and THEN exchange the dollars into Laos Kip when I got to Laos because I’d lose less money that way. This actually surprised me because I assumed I’d lose less money by changing baht into kip directly. Paulina and I walked about 15 minutes to a currency exchange place so I could change all of my money, and then we continued another 20 minutes to the bus station. We found a big sign that said ‘White Temple’ and saw that the bus was supposed to leave in 4 minutes (good timing!). We got on, paid 20 baht (88 cents), and arrived at the White Temple about 20 minutes later. We had to pay 50 baht ($2.18) for entry, and it was extremely crowded when we got there!! Online, there are so many pictures of people alone with no one around, and I have no idea how they would have managed to get a picture like that unless it was Photoshopped. The White Temple is extremely unique because the person who designed it added a bunch of random features, such as heads hanging from trees, or a bunch of hands coming out of the ground.

It was bizarre, but cool to see! We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the temple, but I was glad that I was with Paulina because she had read that there were cartoons inside (and I totally wouldn’t have noticed them if I wasn’t with her). As soon as you walk in (almost behind the doors), there are random characters added into the painting such as Spiderman, Harry Potter, Angry Birds, Michael Jackson, Sailor Moon, etc. It was really entertaining trying to find them all! We walked around the grounds for awhile and then decided to go back into the city to get lunch.

We weren’t too sure where to find the bus (because there weren’t any written bus stops) so I quickly read a couple of blogs, and we found a police station with a wooden pergola beside it. As soon as we got there, a bus came so it was great timing again! When we got to the city, we walked around for a bit to find a restaurant. It’s very difficult for Paulina because she’s deathly allergic to peanuts (which is one of the main ingredients in Thai cooking), so it’s not as easy for her to walk into one of the cheaper establishments because she needs to be sure that there isn’t any cross-contamination. I think I would be so paranoid if I were her! Anyway, we found a restaurant and both got green curry with rice, and then we were planning to go to the Black House afterwards.

However, we ended up staying at the restaurant for two or three hours just chatting and by the time we decided to leave, I think both of us were fine with just finding another cafe to relax in. We found another cafe, and stayed for another two hours there. This was another situation where we clicked so well, and talked about anything and everything – we had so many conversations that I’ve never had on my entire trip (many conversations tend to get quite repetitive). We decided to walk back to the hostel to reorganise so that we could come back for the Saturday night market, which was supposed to be much larger than the regular night market (it went for 2 kilometres!). The hostel owner drove us (me, Paulina, and a guy from the US) to the night market at 7pm. We walked along the length of the market, and then walked back to where the “food court” was. In the middle of the food court was a dance floor, where we were surprised to see so many people all doing the same dance moves. However, most people didn’t really look like they were enjoying themselves and were doing the moves robotically, so it was more comical to watch. We walked around looking for somewhere to eat, but I wanted to make sure I could get something that I could actually SEE being cooked. The problem with many of these food stalls is that most of the stuff is just sitting there – the sushi, the cooked sausages and skewers, the noodle dishes, and I can’t help but question how long it had been sitting there. Finally, we found a stand that was actually cooking their food, and their dish was oyster omelette. I’ve read great things about oyster omelette, so I decided that it was finally time to give it a try. However, this oyster omelette was definitely made with mussels, and I’m not sure if there were even any oysters in it. Paulina ordered first, and she got the more-cooked selection. Then I ordered and they gave me some of the less-brown selection. We all found a place to sit in an area where they had a bunch of mats and small coffee tables, so we took off our shoes to go on the mat and then sat around one of the tables. I tried one of the mussels but it was a bit too chewy for my liking (I’m very picky with my seafood and the way that it’s cooked), so I put them all aside. We sat there for quite awhile and enjoyed people-watching all of the dancers in the middle of the food court. Then at 9, Paulina and I decided to walk back to the hostel because I had to get up at 4:45. However, when we were walking back, I suddenly started overheating and I felt like I was going to throw up again. It was bizarre because I had eaten two meals that day and felt fine, and all of a sudden, that familiar feeling was back. Right before we got to the hostel, Paulina asked if I wanted to go into the grocery store to get some food for tomorrow (because I’d be on a 7.5-hour boat ride with no food) and we stepped in. After 30 seconds, I said I couldn’t stay and I needed to go back to the hostel. We went back so I could sit down, and I was feeling like crap for at least a half hour. I was so close to going to the bathroom so that I could throw up. It was nice that Paulina sat and chatted with me to keep my mind off of everything, and we actually ended up talking until nearly midnight. I felt much better by that point, so I got ready for bed and decided I’d deal with the lack of food the next day. Love always

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