Chiang Rai: a Great Hub Town

Wat Rong Suea: the Blue Temple

“Where are you going today?“ I’m asked this question each morning as I pass by the front desk of my hotel. My reply is always the same. “No where!” Now, I’m almost to the end of my second week, in Chiang Rai, and I’ve yet to visit the White Temple. Perhaps it’s because I went to the Blue Temple first. I used Grab. It’s like Uber. You can order food, transport, get packages delivered, etc. The cost was less than $3.00, for the 7 minute trip. My thoughts? Not for me! Waiting in line for other tourists, seeking that perfect shot, gets old fast. Watching tourists carrying around their sneakers, rather than leaving them outside the temple, was maddening. I had a nice lunch and went home in a Tuk Tuk.

Flower Festival Parade

If you have a social media account that’s based around traveling, you sort of have to play tourist. Having great content and being the expert (for your followers) is the point. GhettoGirlTravels doesn’t do that. My accounts, (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube), document how I’m spending my day. I’m not sure anyone could plan a trip around my content. First off, I have no idea of what I’m doing? A few days ago, I went for coffee and ran into a parade. There’s no set itinerary. I research a country and then just go. I also like to settle into a place, learn to say (at the minimum) hello and thank you in the local language. I think it’s a Returned Peace Corps volunteer thing.

Melt in Your Mouth Cafe

Yesterday, I walked to the Melt in Your Mouth cafe. It looks out on the Mea Kok River. A fellow guest at my hotel suggested that I go. The day before, I suggested that she go to the Chiang Rai Flower Festival. I set out, without my Hotspot and Google Maps kept redirecting me. So, I asked a group of local teenagers. They got me going up the correct street. I then asked a guy taking pictures at this cool looking coffee shop that I will revisit. He told me the right way to turn. Finally, I asked a Grab delivery driver. Luckily, he got me going in the “Google Map” direction and the updates returned. Once there, I ordered a Coke and a glass of ice, then sat. The view was amazing.

Ribs & Company

Today’s adventure was finding a screen shield for my iPhone. And although I love having people think that my phone is too scratched up to steal, I couldn’t see over all the marks. I started my search at the Chiang Rai Mall, more Box Store than shopping mall. No luck, but a good suggestion from the salesperson, along with “You don’t speak Thai and I don’t speak English” hand directions. At the end of the street, I double checked with a tourist walking past. He didn’t know, but pointed out a tour guide shop, two doors down. Perfect! They told me that the store I needed was just another two doors away. I made my purchase and then treated myself to bbq ribs and a root beer.

Hub Town: Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai feels a lot like my old Peace Corps Hub Town. In Ethiopia, Debre Birhan was an hour from my site. With no bank or post office, in Kotu, my hub town was the place for getting mail and pulling money from my Peace Corps bank account. I was allowed to leave my site four days a month. I would head to my hub town, after school, each Friday. Once in town, I’d check to see if a room was free at either of my two favorite hotels. One or the other always had a spot for me. Then, it was all about a hot shower, (after six days of sponge baths), and ordering my favorite tuna salad, with a pineapple Fanta.

Sharing my room with a Lizard!

Chiang Rai just feels like my spot. If I’d taken that invitation, to serve in Peace Corps Thailand, back in 2008, I’m sure I would have found my way here. I’ve certainly had a restful time. After two weeks, the hotel staff knows me. The breakfast crew has started practicing their English skills with me. When I got out of a cab (no I didn’t walk back from the Melt in Your Mouth cafe), a woman from the front desk ran out to greet me and help me up the stairs. With only breakfast service, at the hotel, I’ve had a few dinners at the café next door. They’re always happy to see me. When I asked if I could have my order to go, the owner said no. She then told me to sit down and eat. That’s when you know they like having you around.

Love is all you need!

I’m very happy with my choice of returning to Thailand. My first trip was in 2006, for my 50th birthday. I think I was here for all of two weeks. I booked the Millennium Hilton in Bangkok and hired a car from the hotel to pick me up from the airport. I booked an executive level room at DusitD2 in Chiang Mai and setup all my excursions from the hotel: an elephant ride (as was done back then), Thai cooking class, and a visit to an Orchid farm. Finally, I flew south. After leaving the airport, I traveled for an hour, in a traditional long boat, to the Koyao Island Resort. This was all on top of five days in Beijing and time spent in my arrival and departure city, Hong Kong. And, yes, I went to Hong Kong Disney on my 50th birthday.

Now retired, I can travel at a much slower pace. No need to jam three countries into a three week vacation. Today, I’m simply following visa guidelines and staying in each country for the length of their “on demand” airport visa. At some point, I’ll have to apply, (India, for example). Until then, there’s a long list of countries I can get into with just some crisp US dollars (to pay for the visa) and my passport. I see many more Hub Towns in my future! XOXO—GGT

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