This trip was actually very exciting because it was not planned! I needed to go somewhere to clear my mind and spend Christmas somewhere other than Saigon. Thailand is picked because I have several friends there (which I never met before, but I knew them for 7 years through an online game, and this was one of the reasons for the excitement).
I have 7 days until New Year, and I wanted to see Chatuchak Market in Bangkok on the weekend so the trip would be Chiang Mai first then Bangkok after. There are several airlines to fly to Chiang Mai, and I chose Nok Air because of the schedule was similar to my friend’s flight schedule. It has transit in Bangkok for 1.5 hours, at Dong Mueang Airport. I heard it’s a smaller airport compared to Suvarnabhumi Airport. And I never heard of Nok Air as well. It is one of the budget airlines from Thailand apparently!
On departure day
I went to Nok Air counter to check in. The staff asked me to show my return ticket back to Saigon. Hmm, this never happened before. Maybe because I only have visa now, no more resident card. I showed her my ticket and she finished the check-in. I also got a sticker along with a boarding pass. She told me to put the sticker on my chest once we arrived in Bangkok so that their staff can recognize me and issue the second boarding pass to Chiang Mai. Interesting. I’ve been in transit flight before but never had a sticker.
Since I still have quite some time I had breakfast first then when it was almost the time for boarding, I went to my gate. I sat on one of the seats there, and I saw a lady (the one that served me at the counter) was walking toward me and called my name. I was surprised to see here there, and surprised by the fact that she remembered me! She told me that she needs to change my boarding pass due to the seat next to me has a baby. She thought it would be inconvenient for me to sit with a family who has a baby. That is very thoughtful of her! I was amazed by the service.
I sat on aisle row, which was good. Easy to get out if I needed to go to the toilet. There were so many tourist groups in the flight. Mostly Vietnamese people, but there are some foreigners as well. The different thing about this airline compared to other budget airline is they gave us water! It was a small bottle, but still, very thoughtful. I saw the flight attendants also very detail on checking everything before taking off. They worked meticulously. If someone didn’t do something that they’ve been told of, the flight attendant waited until the person did it. It was not just a reminder.
They gave us an arrival card. I didn’t fill it out immediately which was a mistake because I had free time to do it on the plane and it could reduce waiting time when we transit. I will tell you more about this later.
Once we landed in Bangkok, I put on the sticker on my chest (as instructed) and tried to find the ground staff. But I saw no one. I kept walking by following the sign to domestic transit. There I found the counter of Nok Air and Air Asia. Yup, just two airlines, and small counter as well. I checked in to Nok Air and they asked about arrival card. I have to fill it up there because the next post is Immigration Passport Control. So I spent a little bit of time filling out the card, showed it to the staff, then she gave me my boarding pass.
Immigration counter was also smaller than usual. Only 3 counters there, and by that time only 1 was operating. After immigration, I had to go to security check where they don’t allow you to bring liquid. I had to throw away my water bottle there but kept the small water bottle from Nok Air.
And voila! I was inside Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok. I heard this airport was smaller than Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is true, but actually, it was not that bad. There are a lot of places to eat, shops, cafes/coffee shops, and even 7-11. All needs are covered enough. So tempted to buy Anello bag but I survived! No shopping until I’m in Bangkok. That’s the plan. Although, technically I was at Bangkok airport…
I waited for my flight in one of the gates, but then I noticed the announcement for that gate was for another destination! Oh no! I was at the wrong gate! I quickly checked the schedule on screen again and found my correct gate. It was far… at the other side of the airport. Luckily it got delayed, so I still had time to walk and even wait there. Got delayed for 1 hour.
Arriving in Chiang Mai
When I landed at Chiang Mai airport, on the way to baggage claim I saw an airline staff hold a paper with my name on it. I approached her and she told me to follow her. She brought me to somewhere which apparently International Arrival Hall! Other passengers went to Domestic Arrival. Okay, so I flew on the domestic flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but since I came from abroad I had to go to International Arrival. I was confused. My friend who flew from Indonesia at the same time was taking his bag at Domestic Arrival Hall. And I was on the other side of the airport! Anyway, I waited for my suitcase. It was taking so long to get my suitcase. An airport staff announced that there is a suitcase at the other belt. It was mine…
After I got my suitcase, the first thing I did was to exchange money from USD to THB. I exchanged it at SCB, seems like they have a good exchange rate compared to the other bank. But so much different though if you don’t exchange many.
The next thing I did was buying a sim card. I did some research before coming to Thailand and found out about this AIS sim card. It has a good internet connection and also a good deal for 7 days. Was 249 baht for 7 days internet, and surprisingly it lasts until now! So it is not like the tourist sim card that is expired after a certain time. My friend also bought local sim card but from a different provider. His was truemove, 299 baht for 8 days.
My friend landed before me with Airasia but he was at Domestic Arrival Hall, so I had to go there to meet him. It was a very easy access from Internal Arrival Hall. Once I got there, we were having a funny moment because I couldn’t find him nor contact him. His phone was out of battery! A friend came to pick us up and I never met him before so I didn’t know how does he look. It was so hard just to meet them even though the hall was not that big… Finally after about 10 minutes, I found both of them!
My friend came with a car so we went to his place easily, but if you don’t have anyone picking up you can always get a taxi to go to your hotel. It took us about 30 minutes to get to his place. He owns a hostel so we were staying there. It is called Box Hostel. Since there were no other customers, I could use the room by myself! Lucky me, because I never stayed in a hostel before and it kind of freaks me out a bit.
Chang Phueak Food Market
After resting for a bit, we walked out to a food market. There is one food market near the hostel, called Chang Phueak market. They have a lot of local food that we wanted! We walked around a bit and decided to order at Pad Thai cart. My friend ordered Pad Thai and I ordered Fried Mussel. We didn’t order drink because we still have leftover water from the trip.
Pad thai was really good. It was different than the pad thai that I ate outside of Thailand. Really recommended trying this. I love my fried mussel more though. It was so yummy and was not fishy (or maybe because I’m not that sensitive to fishy taste…). They were very cheap as well, 50 bath each. After dinner, I wanted to try Mango Sticky Rice. Of course, you have to eat this if you’re visiting Thailand! There were 2 places that sell mango sticky rice on that market, but the one which good was near the dessert cart, at the corner of the street. It was soooo yummy. I didn’t know that mango sticky rice can be more expensive than pad thai! It was 60 baht per portion.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar
We walked back to the hostel and met my friend’s sister who was about to leave somewhere with their dog. She offered to drop us off at night bazaar. Of course, we took the chance! She drove us there and left us.
The area for night bazaar is really huge! They are selling any kind of stuff. Many stalls were there and very busy area as well. Be aware of pickpocket!
Most of the stalls here need to bargain, or else you will get a pricey item. You need to bargain at least 30% off. But this place is really nice to buy a souvenir. There are bags, shoes, ceramics, lamps, dolls, Thai seasonings (red curry powder, green curry powder, etc), watches, snacks, paintings, adult t-shirt, children wear, toys, and many more! I can’t mention it all. You can also get a foot massage and fish therapy. I think it is a fun place to visit if you don’t mind crowded place.
I bought some coin pouches for a souvenir. It is a handmade and very cute as well.
There was a closed area as well, shops inside the building, but we didn’t see them all. I was tired and it was too crowded for me to continue, so we decided to go back to the hostel. We called Uber, and it costs us around 90 baht.
So far the first day was fine and nothing to worry. We rested for the day.
To be continued to day 2…