The Real Thailand
The Real Thailand
Southern Thailand was a whirlwind. All the backpackers, boat journeys and islands blur into one. I’ve got to say Thailand hasn’t been as cheap or cultural as expected, especially down south. I felt like in North Thailand however, we we’re able to see the REAL Thailand.
Finally a STARBUCKS. It’s weird, whilst at home I’d say I’m pretty open to trying new things. Hell if I’d been offered an insect to nibble at – I probably would. Coffee however, should not be messed with. In Thailand they are SUGAR addicts. To be honest, I think the buzz comes from the amount of sugar they put in the coffee not the actually caffeine. It makes sense really – they have so many coffee shops because of the sugar crashes they must get! So, as you can imagine when we saw a western friendly coffee shop we were straight there – I actually ran.
“1 low fat (Thai people don’t get the western term skinny) latte with a sugar free shot and 1 low fat green tea latte”
We we’re set. Starbucks in hand ready to rumble – what could go wrong?
Chana Place – bubble burst. We’d pre-booked one night, thank god just one, through booking.com as a ‘recommended’ hotel. Chana Place was run by a large Chinese company who used the facilities as clock work, one in one out. It felt like a Chinese prison, picked up and dropped in the middle of Chang Mai’s old town. Anyway, long story short – after being woken up by a friendly cockroach we packed our bags and left. Luckily there was a stylish Guest House literally 100 yards away. 3 LAAN PLACE – it was stylish, clean, modern and extremely reasonable. For a 100 baht more than Chana Place it was a no brainer. Lifters Tip – When booking online don’t go with recommended hotels as these hotels have just paid websites more for advertisement and 2. Only ever book 1 night somewhere, so if you don’t like it you can move the next night and if you won’t be charged a cancellation fee.
Chang Mai Street Market
On our first night we heading to a bustling street market. We picked up some sushi which was very reasonable, 5 baht a piece (10p). We then grabbed some steamed fish that had been cooked in a Thai broth with fragrant spices. For the street food in Thailand there is some things to avoid. Many Thai people add an unbelievable amount of sugar and even MSG to their desserts and fruit shakes. The way around this is to ask for NO SUGAR or MSG when getting a shake made. Also, be careful about the meat. Check the stall has an ice bucket where the raw meat is otherwise stay well away – don’t step any closer.
The morning started off really well after finding an amazingly organic and wholesome café, Janes Kitchen.
Janes Kitchen – £££
I knew we’d found a gem when I read ‘only organic and no processed’. I ordered a VIT – C juice, full of oranges, carrots and turmeric alongside the birdseed granola. Ash ordered a homemade PB Jelly and banana sandwich alongside some scrambled eggs. The juices were very fresh and the birdseed granola was packed with goodness – I only wish the portion size was larger. The only downfall was the coffee but on the whole it was a great find and I would really recommend. It is a little pricey but I guess you get what you pay for. For me it was perfect but for someone like Ash whose happy with eggs on toast, you’re probably best sticking to the hotel breakfast buffet.
We were recommended by an American group we met to head to the other side of the university to check out the trendy coffee and boutique shops. So we did. Yet when we got there it looked like an alley way. At this point, after a long day of travelling and a cockroach alarm clock we were about to throw in the towel. We then saw a sign for one of the famous temples so in the light of reason we thought why not? We hitched a taxi ride up with a couple from Hong Kong. Initially I had suggested walking up to the temple, no wonder the taxi man laughed. It was 12km up hill – there was a couple of moments where I thought the taxi man was going to ask us to get out and push! The temple was impressive but again, sad to say, I think the culture of Thailand has been slightly ruined. Too many tourists have walked the steps and travelled around the isles that the Thai people seem to have a instant dislike to any westerner. I was not allowed into the temple because my shorts were too shot. Who doesn’t like short shorts? Nonetheless I openly offered to rent a pair of trousers so I could enter the temple yet almost immediately myself and our Hong Kong friends were name called by a young Thai boy be hide the counter.
Don’t get me wrong – I can understand why people from Thailand may have stigma towards westerners. After seeing the state of some of the southern beaches you realise the impact that young partying westerners have had on once a beautiful place, yet I will not be shouted at or disrespected. Rightly so, we told him to keep the trousers and headed back down into the city where we were dropped off at the RIGHT location this time, situated near Maya Shopping Centre.
The most impressive things about Maya shopping centre was the toilet. I kid you not, this was a multifunctioning, all talking, singing toilet. There was several buttons, to clean, dry, hotter, colder, more water – it was incredible. However at this point, with the most impressive thing about Chang Mai being the toilet we were feeling a little unenthused.
Ristro8 – ££
We had been told by the Hong Kong couple, also coffee addicts, that Ristro8 were world renown. The set up was very cool and minimalistic with a spiral staircase and earthy tones. To order you had to choose a type of bean and the way which you’d like it pressed. The coffees came on a cool wooden plack and we weren’t disappointed. The craft that goes into each cup is pretty exceptional. Ristro8 are the world leading coffee art champions, who knew there was even a competition? Nonetheless the coffee was pretty great.
Salad Concept – ££
We came across the most amazing little restaurant. It was simple yet the food was perfect for health fanatics. On arrival you were given three little books. These were like tick lists to create your own salad or wrap and then another for your drinks. Although I know there are many fast food places like subway with similar concepts, the variety and food was exceptional. I chose a raw tuna wrap filled with olives, avocado, rocket, peppers and spinach with a side of Thai mint dressing. Ash went for a chicken wrap with a protein shake. We loved it so much that we went back for dinner! So if you’re looking for a healthy fix then head to the salad concept!
After researching all the gyms in Chang Mai, we opted for the ultimate body building gym. Our journey alone was unforgettable. We decided to experience the ‘tuk – tuk’. Why now I don’t know. We hopped into the open aired motorbike death carriage and suddenly James Blunt starting playing on all cylinders. We we’re whizzing down a highway singing James Blunt ‘Your beautiful’ followed by Micheal Buble’s ‘Home’.
Go Gym had based not only the logo but also the interior of the gym on Americas famous Gold Gym. Apparently ‘copyright’ rules don’t apply here? Anyway the gym was massive, had it’s own little shake café providing pre and post workout drinks and included all essential equipment for a keen weight lifter or cardio bunny. However if you’re one for classes and yoga this is not the place to be.
Basil Cookery School
Cooking is one of my greatest passions and Basil cookering school delivery on all counts. Our guide and chef, Apple, was brilliant, educational and very funny. For 1,000bht (20pounds each) it included all of the following!
Pick up – 8:45am from your hotel
Market tour – Discuss typical Thai products and prices
Cooking – Learn how to make 6 Thai dished of your choice (Appetiser, Curry and homemade paste, Stir fry, Noodle dish, Thai Traditional dish and dessert)
30 minute break – X 2 to try all your yummy food or you can place in doggy bags to take home
Cook Book – Dropped off and given a Basil Cook Book to take home
We would really recommend booking a cookery course in Chang mai – there are loads to choose from but we loved this one as we got to learn to cook a variety of dishes. Again we we’re able to cater to our ‘healthy lifestyle’ as you can reduce the oil / sugar quantities in the recipes to suit. The experience did make us question how Thai people are so thin though – the amount of oil and sugar in the recipes was unbelievable, noodles, curries, appetisers – everything had sugar in it – so again be careful when eating out!
Chang Mai hold lots of Mauy Thai boxing matches. We went to a local match which was brilliant. We got to see 6 matches both Male and Female. No they weren’t professionals but, they could definitely throw a punch. Out of 6 shows there was 3 knock outs!
Why we didn’t do elephant riding or tiger kingdom?
Don’t get me wrong I understand why a lot of people do it. To be able to say you’ve touched a lion or fed an elephant is pretty special. However, both myself and Ash and BIG animal lovers so we did a bit of research beforehand so we knew all about the ethnicity of these places.
We crossed off Tiger Kingdom off the list straight away after hearing that the tigers were drugged to make them docile. They are bred in captivity so are never given the opportunity to explore the real world.
We pre-booked 4 nights at the Piranda hotel. It was very central and the hotel offered a free car shuttle to the BTS (sky train) when needed. Although the surrounding area was a little seedy, Nana Plaza, it was pretty amusing. Ash was adored by all the lady boys and often got his arm stroked when walking home at night. There is a short cut which takes you around the main strip but if you want to experience the REAL Thai culture then have a stroll down Nana strip. Otherwise you can get a taxi straight to the hotel. Note: Taxi men in Bangkok are real con-artists. Don’t get in the taxi unless they agree to put on the metre. We we’re told on several occasions a price that was double or triple the cost of the metre reading!
Bangkok is NOT cheap. Again street food is pretty scary looking in Bangkok so we stayed away. Instead we found that the malls had amazing food courts. These we’re always full with Thai people and they were scattered all over Bangkok. The BTS drops you directly outside the malls too! All you do is add money to a card and you can walk around the food court and order food. There is lots of traditional Thai options, Fruit/juice bars, grills, frozen yogurts etc.. so lots of choices of healthy alternatives. Our favourite food court was…. Mall. P.S They even do takeaways if you fancy having a healthy meal on the go!
Walking Sunday Market
If you want some bargains then head to the Walking Sunday Market in Mon Chit. The BTS stop is a 2 minute walk from the markets – you can see it from the BTS bridge once you’re off the train, then just follow the crowd off people – although you kind of have no choice as it’s very busy and especially if your small I was basically carried on a caverourbelt of people. Lifters Tip – if you have little children make sure you have them attached to you via a lead or carrier.
The Market was incredible. It had over 15,000 stalls. If your in search of ‘genuine fakes’ then you’ll pick up anything and everything here. Again make sure you haggle or find a place where you like a couple of things as you’ll get more for your money. The street food here was the only we tried in Bangkok. We had the popular and traditional ‘chicken and rice’. This is very clean and comes with a bowl of chicken broth!
Koh San Road
If you can only fit in the Sunday Market or Koh San then opt for the Sunday Market. Koh San is just a smaller scale of the market with annoying taxi men!
Many people opt to take the river tour. Instead we took the taxi boat which was 25p per person and then rented bikes in one of the parks. This was a fraction of the price and gives you lots more flexibility!
Fitness in Bangkok
As previously stated Bangkok is not cheap so I would recommend booking a hotel with a gym/pool. This will save you both money and time. It’s a big city and although taxis are cheap, both the journey and day passes will mount up pretty quickly.
Liftus Thailand Tips BREAKDOWN: CHECK OUT OUR TIPS ON YOU TUBE!
1. When ordering food always ask for NO SUGAR OR MSG
2. When in big cities book a hotel with a gym
3. When booking hotels go off the reviews NOT the ratings
4. Pre-pack protein powder sachets – perfect to combine in your shakes due to the small portions
5. Don’t be afraid to get extra – if you need extra protein just ask for extra chicken or an egg
6. Street food – only buy if meat is stored in ice – Chicken and Rice was our go to dish
7, Protein Bars – We took some with us and where possible bought more for travels – this reduces snacking on processed plane or convenient food
8. Fly with Thai Only airlines when flying in Thailand to save £££
9. Don’t wear short shorts when going to religious areas – yes those trousers at the bottom of your bag may actually come in handy
10. Go on the metre – don’t get in a taxi in Bangkok unless they agree to turn the meter on