Flashpacker

‘Flashpacker’

This little cutie is a term that I thought was reserved for the particular author of my guidebook…and then I kept seeing it.

The thing is, although I find this term somewhat irksome, there is the other part of me that finds it to be spot on.

Although I like to travel and always on a smaller budget, I’m not a youngster anymore and I do appreciate some creature comforts, like little things called cleanliness, and my own bedroom and bathroom. I’m not talking luxury hotel, but in Thailand for a few extra dollars, the step from backpacker to flashpacker (which still resides firmly lower than mid-range, and much lower than top end) feels like a major luxury.

For example, right now I am staying at a beautiful and inexpensive place. It is not the bottom of the barrel by any stretch of the imagination. This is Thailand the price of something not that great with shared bathroom, is as low as $3.50. You can often find a basic clean place with its own bathroom for as low as $5.00 -$6.00. But spend between $10 – $15 and you can get something truly extraordinary…hence the term flashpacker.

Maybe I am exactly the person they are writing about when they say flashpacker: someone who has been a backpacker, but now wants something just a tiny bit nicer. After spending a few nights in some not very great places for about $6.50 a night, moving into the $11 range made a huge difference. far as I’m concerned for a few dollars, it is sooooo worth it.

This is my room in the $11 range in Chiang Mai.

Nice closet, refrigerator, and multi-language TV.

This is the view from my balcony at my 'flashpacker' hotel in Chiang Mai

I’m sure at times I’ll stay in cheaper accommodation again, but it’s nice to know there are a lot of places out there that, for a few extra dollars make staying there worth every single baht.

Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai

It’s time to get a new visa after being here nearly a month. I wanted to take a look at Chiang Rai, because I know there are a lot of schools up here and beautiful countryside around. Most people do their ‘visa runs’ at Mae Sai into Burma and back. It’s the cheapest and a little bit closer, but I wanted to head to Chiang Khong and stop by Chiang Rai on the way.

A Songthaew in Chiang Mai - sometimes know as the red bus

My transportation of the day included: a songthaew (meaning two rows. It is basically a covered truck with two benches to sit on in back), my feet, on the back of a motorbike to the bus station with my big backpack while my driver navigated flooded streets, bus from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, then a bicycle taxi. Most of the bus ride to Chiang Rai was through gorgeous countryside. My favorite thing that exists many places in Thailand are the trees that line the road wrapped in the saffron colored cloth. I felt safe in all my modes of transport, but saw the aftermath of a motorbike crash that I wish I hadn’t seen just before arriving in Chiang Rai.

The countryside near Chiang Rai

Rice fields near Chiang Rai

Chiang Rai is significantly smaller than Chiang Mai with a lot fewer tourists. I looked around at some pretty basic guesthouses then upped it to flashpacker and was quite pleased.

Fish pond outside my flashpacker hotel

My flashpacker room in Chiang Rai

The night market in Chiang Rai seemed the place to go for food and shopping. Lots of things here to eat and not eat.

Yes, lots of insects for dinner. Perhaps the other white meat. I couldn't do it.

What I did NOT eat, but hope to someday get up the nerve to try. They are exactly what they look like - insects.

What I DID eat - a delicious vegetarian hot pot soup thing cooked over a bucket of coals at my table.

My dinner in Chiang Rai

Yum!

I didn’t spend much time here, and would like to explore further, but it’s October 1st now I’m on to Chiang Khong before my visa expires because I want to stay in Thailand for a while.