This year, Rickshaw traveller Jaye embarked on his third Rickshaw trip. This time, he journeyed to Thailand where he sampled the mouthwatering cuisine, met some famous wildlife and explored mystical sites & ancient temples. Find out which moments made it onto his top highlights…
The River Kwai
“The day had been a long one with a trip first to the famous railway market, then a train ride along the death railway, a visit to the Hellfire pass and its Museum, followed by a visit to the famous bridge over the river kwai, so it was a nice relief to arrive at our hotel.
We were staying in the The River Kwai Jungle Rafts which, as the name suggests, are rafts floating along the river. The hotel had no electricity so we all had our own lanterns. After checking in, we donned life jackets and spent the next two hours jumping in the river, riding down in the current, climbing out, walking back and repeating- like being a child all over again!
Cycling in Sukhothai
Up early at 7am to get a head start on the heat today. I rented a bike from the hotel for less than 50p and headed to the Historic Park. Being a temple lover this was my ideal way of spending the day.
I entered the park after paying 100 baht for me and 10 baht for the bike and headed clockwise around the park with the aim of leaving the main Wat Mahathat to last. There were many smaller temples scattered around the park and it was really easy to get around on the bike.
After visiting all of the smaller temples it was time to visit Wat Mahathat and… wow. Just wow. It was by far the best temple I have seen in Thailand! It’s huge and way more intact than any of the others. It’s must have been incredible when it was built. It was the principle temple of Sukhothai and comprises of the main chedi, assembly halls, mandapa, an ordination hall and 200 subordinate chedis.
On a Saturday the temples are open late and all lit up so I was lucky to be here on a Saturday and didn’t want to miss the experience so I nipped back to the hotel for the afternoon before returning just before sunset to the park.
I did a quick tour of the key temples taking pictures of the sun setting behind them before heading to Wat Mahathat. With the sun going down and the light changing the atmosphere in the temple was very different. Very peaceful and slightly eerie. I had the temple almost to myself and I imagined just how immense it would have been when it was in its full glory. It would have been breathtaking.
At 6:15 the sun went behind clouds and ruined my sunset so I just waited for it to get dark and for all the lights around the temples to come on. Whilst waiting, the wind started to get really strong and black clouds started rolling in. Then it started, the rain, lots of rain, rain like I’ve never seen before. I got under cover for a while and waited but it didn’t look like stopping anytime soon. As I don’t like to be defeated by a bit of rain off I went around the temples taking pictures of them all lit up. What an simply amazing day.
A day at the elephant sanctuary – Chiang Mai
Today I was off to the Elephant Nature Park. Our guide for the day was Nancy. She said the park has 70 elephants, 500 dog and 250 cats. 5 of the elephants are babies with one being only 3 days old! On the way we watched a film about the elephant nature park. The park is run by the Save Elephant Foundation. The elephants have all been rescued from illegal logging, circuses, or zoos and are either injured or have been abused.
The first thing we did was feed the elephants. They eat 100kg each per day and we fed them watermelon. I fed an elephant from the shade as our guide explained how to do it. After, we went to visit an injured elephant that had broken its leg in an accident when it was a baby. Then we went to see the oldest elephant in the park; a 70 year old ex-circus elephant who had been used for logging before she was rescued.
We then headed to the river and watched the elephant’s bath. There were several adult elephants as well as a baby who was really naughty and kept running around and splashing in the water.
The sanctuary is also home to 500 dogs and 250 cats which were mainly rescued during floods when their owners leave them behind. The sanctuary’s aim is to rehome the cats and dogs but this is hard in Thailand, so hard in fact that they even offer to transport them to USA, Canada and Europe for people if they want them.
At 14:15 it was time for the highlight of the day; elephant washing! This involved throwing buckets of water over them and using a brush to scrub them down. I think we had as much fun as they did!
I had a free day in Chiang Mai and I wanted to visit Doi Suthep Mountain and Wat Phra That which is at the top. Just after 7 I left to find a Songkaew to take me to Chiang Mai University. The first one wanted 60 baht so he was dismissed 🙂 I haggled with the second one and we agree on 30 baht.
When we got to my destination I jumped out and paid the driver 50 baht. It had taken us 40 minutes to drive across town in the traffic. There were already 3 other people waiting so with me that made 4 and we couldn’t leave until there were 10 people. No fun haggling! How long would it be before the other 6 people turned up? Within a few minutes another 2 people arrived, making it 6 but then we waited for another 15 minutes before 2 more people turned up making it 8. After some negotiations I managed to get the driver to take us. I don’t do waiting very well and was getting impatient!
We arrived just before 9 and I climb the 304 steps to the top. I went straight inside the temple and … wow. There is gold everywhere being intensified by the sun!
I spent about an hour in the temple and then wandered outside to take in the view of the city. It was a bit smoggy but the view was still amazing. The temple looked just as stunning from the outside with all the gold shining in the sunlight. I spent almost 2 hours in total before I left. This is a must do for anyone visiting Chiang Mai.
Cycling around Chiang Mai
I wanted to see the temples around the city and figured renting a bike was the quickest and easiest way. I had a map of the city and a rough idea of where I was going so off I went. I headed to the east gate of the city and along the main east west street before heading north and visiting Wat Pan Ping. This looked beautiful is the sunlight.
I was heading to the northeast corner to Chiang Man which is the oldest temple in Chiang Mai but passed a number of beautiful temples along the way. Wat Chiang Man was the first Royal temple built in Chiang Mai in 1296 and it contains a number of significant artefacts including a crystal Buddha and marble Buddha. The former thought to have been made 1800 years ago in Lopburi and the later about 2500 years ago in India. Wow!
The sacred elephant stupa in the same complex is just unbelievable. It was built in 1295 and is breath taking. It’s a stupid surround and held up by elephants. Next I headed west and out of the west gate and to Wat Suan Dok. It was about 2km outside the city. On the way I stumble across Wat Phabong so popped in to take some photos. They are all just stunning. It was starting to get really hot so having the bike was great as it was far easier than walking and there was a breeze. The traffic was entertaining but you just had to wing it. Wat Suan Dok was huge. They certainly like their gold here. It was unbelievably ornate and decorated in a huge amount of gold. It was built in 1373 and the chedi is 48m high and covered in gold. It shows a mix of Sri Lankan and Sukhothai arts.
Next it was back inside the walled city and to Wat Phra Singh. Formally Wat Lee Chiang, Wat Phra Singh has been an important Wat for Chiang Mai for over 700 years. It had been home to one one the most renown Buddha images which was going to be presented to the Chiang Mai King because the chariot that was carrying it broke down at this spot. This Wat was gold and more gold.
I continued to head east to Wat Phan Toa. This Wat was originally the living quarters for the monks for Wat Chedi Luang. In 1875 prince Inthawichatanon dismantle and rebuilt King Mahotra Prather royal residence here. This Wat is different than all the others because it is made of teak.
Finally I went to Wat Chedi Luang. This complex was huge and had many sub temples. Many had images of Buddha and one had a reclining Buddha in gold (surprise!). I finished at the temple and cycled around Chiang Mai taking in the scenery. I ended up in China town and found a huge market so I stopped and locked up the bike and took a look around. They sold everything and it was all split into sections. Food, clothes, toys, kitchen goods, car parts. You name it and they sold it. I grabbed a bottle of water and went on my way. I ended up doing a full circle around the outside of the city. What a fantastic day.”
Sounds like a fun-packed adventure, Jaye! Thanks so much for sharing with us.
Create my travel plan