Post by : clairealgarme
Post Date : January 1970
Travel Date : April 2001
Destinations : Bangkok ,Chiang Mai ,Nong Khai ,Udon Thani
Activities : Dinner cruises ,Elephant riding ,Others
It was my first travel abroad. I was bound for Bangkok to attend a conference from our regional office, which fell a week before the Catholic holy week and Songkran. With the holidays back home in Manila and the festive celebration in Thailand, I decided to extend my stay in this Southeast Asian kingdom.
On the first night, our office took us to a dinner cruise along the Chao Phraya river. While waiting for our boat, we watched people dining al fresco at the pier. As we started with our dinner on board, we spotted the Grand Palace glowing along the river bank. Neon signs of luxury hotels, banks, and other multinational companies filled the Bangkok night life.
The next three days was spent in the hotel listening to various speakers. After the conference, our real Thai adventure began. Thai friends brought us to the Grand Palace, temples, parks, local eateries, and markets, like the weekend market, Chatuchak. We tried the tuktuk, rode the sky train, and braved Bangkok traffic.
Of course, we didn't miss the famous red light district, Patphong. No, it wasn't the clubs or bars that drew us to this night spot but the night market. We looked into some goods that we hadn’t found in Chatuchak.
In those 14 days, we also spent a day in Ayutthaya, the old capital of the kingdom of Siam, which is about an hour or two north of Bangkok. Ruins of the palace and temples were almost everywhere. We found the famous head of Buddha wrapped around tree roots. We rode the elephant and took a boat ride around the river. We stopped at some temples and circled the entire area by boat and fed the fishes.
But what really made this trip more adventurous and exciting was our unplanned trip to Chiang Mai for the Songkran celebration. We got a train ticket from Bangkok to Nong Khai and a return ticket from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. There's the gap--our way from Nong Khai to Chiang Mai.
We rode the train headed to Nong Khai and spent a night onboard. From there, we hired a car that took us across the Friendship Bridge, crossing the Mekong River and entering the Lao border to Vientiane, where we stayed for three days.
When the day of Songkran arrived, Thai friends informed us that the ride going to Chiang Mai was getting difficult by the moment because of the festivities. It seemed everyone was on the road to Chiang Mai.
In haste, we went back to the Thai border and road the shuttle to Nong Khai. We missed the train going to Chiang Mai. What we had on our hands were our train tickets from Chiang Mai toBangkok. If we would pursue going to Chiang Mai, we had to gamble going to Udon Thani and catching a bus to our destination. Otherwise, we can just go back to Bangkok and forget about Chiang Mai.
We were on a crossroad. We were torn between taking the risk of the road to Chiang Mai, or going the safer route of Nong Khai to Bangkok, while kissing our train tickets goodbye (and waste on such good money).
The scent of adventure was in the air, so we threw caution away and boarded a bus to Udon Thani. Good thing we caught up with the next trip which was scheduled to leave 15 minutes after we got to the bus station. The trip of 51 kms to the south took us for just a few hours. It was already dark when we pulled over the bus station in Udon Thani. As soon as we heard that the bus going to Chiang Mai was in a different station, we jumped into a tuktuk to catch our bus.
Lady Luck was smilng down at us as we got in time. People were lining up at the cashier, which made us more nervous, doubting the wisdom of our decision. As we inquired, there were still four seats available, so we immediately purchased three tickets. Our seats were the backmost part of the bus; but, what the heck, could we complain?
It was an overnight trip on that northern part of Thailand. The bus even had a glitch which took almost an hour or more to fix. While we were supposed to arrive just after sunrise, we got in Chiang Mai late.
Our American colleague based there was to pick us up at the bus station but after hours of waiting, he thought we never made it and went home. As we arrived, we excitedly called him through a payphone to tell him that we finally made it to Chiang Mai for the Songkran.
It was a long road trip. But what even made it more challenging was all the water throwing which we encountered at Nong Khai, Udon Thani, and then Chiang Mai. But it was in Chiang Mai where we witnessed a parade of trucks and pick-ups filled with people armed with water guns and water bazookas. Roads were jammed and Chiang Mai was turned into a water dousing battleground. Cold water wrapped in plastic served as bombs.
We crossed the city square and rounded its periphery. Children and adults were playing everywhere and aiming at us. But, the funny thing was that locals thought our American host, who was a resident there, was our guest, while we, the tourists, as locals. Our American friendbecame the target, taking all the water thrown our way, although we didn't mind getting wet. With the extreme heat in Thailand, a splash of cold water was a welcome respite from the hot weather.
Afternoon came and it was time for us to leave Chiang Mai. We knew we stayed too short but experiencing Songkran there was entirely wonderful. As much as we wanted to extend our stay there, we couldn't because we couldn't cancel our train tickets and our flight back to Manila was scheduled the next day.
We spent another night on the train. As we arrived in Bangkok, the streets were deserted, which made our trip to the airport easier. Fourteen days went so fast. Yet, my first trip abroad was filled with learning, fun, and adventure. Thanks to Songkran and its showers of blessings.