Not sure how to start writing about Chiang Mai, I have been in this city for 10 days and I feels very homely, Thai people here are super welcoming and warm. In many ways is very like Colombia lowlands, like Girardot, at nearly the same elevation and weather. Full of motorbikes everywhere Chiang Mai is the city of good manners although many people don’t speak English they will still nod and smile, nod and smile, nod and smile… repeatedly, they are great at it.
Chiang Mai is a vibrant heaven for backpackers and trekkers, the city is full of travel agencies which can arrange from Elephant Sanctuary visits to 5-6 trekking hill tribe adventures.
Upon my arrival at Chiang Mai train station, I started to feel the dynamism of the city, the station is super clean and less crowdy than for example than Hua Lamphong Bangkok station. Good food and coffee places to sit down.
There is a tourist information desk and as usual lots of tuk-tuks, songthaews, and taxis ready to take passengers to their destinations. I took the first one that came along as I was desperate to get to the hotel, leave my bag and start walking around the city. Luckily, my hotel was walkable to the centre and I do love walking everywhere.
Chiang Mai “old city” is bordered by a defensive wall, which was built in the 19th century. The four corners still remain and are very useful as a reference when walking around the city. My “must do” list activities include temples visits, trekking and walk lots!! Here the highlights
Wat Phra Singh, which is the most admired temple in Chiang Mai, entry 20 bath, beautiful murals. The temple holds a significant Buddha statue: the Phra Buddha Sihing. A huge golden shiny pagoda, “supported” by elephants is also found at the back of the main shrine, the view of it is super wow. Great place for pictures.
Wat Chedi Luang, the compound comprises a historical pyramid, a big temple and then few smaller buildings. Women are not allowed to go inside some of them though, which was a shame because I could peek some stunning murals. Nevertheless, what I saw was very inspiring. The big temple is gorgeously decorated! Very peaceful atmosphere.
Wat Phan Tao: This temple built of timber, which was a different experience of a Thai temple. During my Sunday market visit, I discovered that the night market is along this street. Though small, there is something simplistic about its beauty. The wooden pathway at the side of the temple is superb.
Lanna Folk Museum: Entry 90 baht. I really liked visiting this museum. Very interesting collection of artefacts and costumes of Lanna people, from relics, dances, talisman, kitchen utensils, Lana Buddhist offerings etc. Interesting stories about the past and presence of the local community. From religion to superstition and clothes to language I absolutely loved the murals. Air conditioned so excellent to visit slowly and in detail. Right opposite of the famous three king’s monument.
Wat That Doi Suthep: Frequently referred to as “Doi Suthep” as this is the name of the mountain where it’s located. It is located 17 km far away from the city. It is a sacred site to many Thai people. For this visit, I decided to take on the popular songthaews, which are like shared taxis. I firstly walked to Chang Mai University from my hotel for 40 minutes, I could have taken a taxi, but I really wanted to walk it. From the University, there are many songthaews available. However, since the journey to the temple is 40 minutes they generally wait for at least ten people to carry out the journey, which cost is 80 baht round trip, (based on minimum ten people).
In my case, I had to wait for a while for people to arrive, once we had seven people confirmed we negotiated the price with the driver at 100 baht each. My negotiation skills are certainly improving here in Thailand! Everything needs to be bargained.
It took us 40 minutes to drive the mountain and I was started to feel a bit sick since I forgot to take my travel sickness pills. Once I arrived I started with the 306 steps staircase, which is bordered by mosaic serpents. There is also a market right before the start where people can buy various souvenirs and clothes. Toilet entrance 5 baht!
On the lower level, there are more than a few temples and the legendary white elephant statue. Continuing I saw a row of bells and after I came across a terrace where I enjoyed a spectacular view of Chiang Mai. Another fascinating part is on the upper level where I appreciated the impressive golden dome-shaped shrine, which was bordered by smaller sculptures of Buddha, super unique view!
Saturday and Sunday markets: I really enjoyed the walk around these two markets, especially since I was fortunate to be accompanied on this occasion by my new lovely friend Greg. The Saturday market runs outside the old walled city area from Wualai road, whereas the Sunday market runs inside the old walled city, from Tha Phae Gate.
We encountered an abundance of food offering, we enjoyed delicious “Nam”, pork sausages for a start. Also, various items of clothing, artisan and lots of other fascinating products and handicrafts made of various material, including wood, metals, ceramics. I really thought about my sister Adriana’s house, as there were plenty of lovely stuff that she would have loved.The market also offers massages services and along the way, there are traditional musicians. It seems that coming to these markets is way much better for unique and authentic items than those at the Night Bazaar.
Sunday market is more popular but both markets are full of tourist and Thai locals, gathered together to have fun while doing some proper bargaining! At some point, Greg purchased something and I again thought about mum and how lower she could have got the price with her superpower bargaining skills.
“Losing yourselves in new surroundings is the best way to find yourself”
Thanks for reading. Next Inthanon National Park