We landed in Chiang Mai after 2 months in Europe and we were hit squarely in the face by the significant difference in culture.
Having spent two months in Thailand 3 years earlier, we were no strangers to the speed and chaos but after the order and conformity of Europe, we had some adjusting to do. There is no mistaking that you are in Asia. The sights, sounds, smells and mix of old and new often make little sense to me yet it transport you into a world like no other.
Tuk Tuks, Traffic & Markets
Day two was about catching up on sleep and then figuring out where in the world we were. There is no better way to do it that by jumping on a tuk-tuk and getting him to drive to all the main landmarks near you. (Not the most cost effective method however).
This was a fun ride for all of us and gave us our bearings. Once we worked out how far we were from malls, markets and the Old City, we could conserve our efforts and rest knowing we knew where dinner was coming from.
Nimmanhaemin Road, which is the more modern side of Chiang Mai was our favorite area where we spent a fair amount of time in air conditioned coffee shops, taking advantage or the excellent wifi.
My favourite market was the Muang Mai Market in the Centre. They supply most of the restaurants in the area so be prepared to buy in bulk. It has everything Thai you can imagine. We did not have a full kitchen in the Air BnB where we stayed so I did not take full advantage of huge fresh fish and squid varieties. Instead, we went mad when it came to fruit, especially the most delicious fruit to grace our planet, the pomelo.
The Pomelo, also know as pomello, pummelo, pommelo, pamplemousse, jabong, batabi or jambura, zambura or shaddock… to name a few… is a citrus fruit that looks a lot like a grape fruit. Nothing beats a tray of this mouth watering fruit in the Asian heat.
Failing that, a mango smoothie was our go-to fix.
A Temple A Day
Visiting the many temples in Chiang Mai was magical. Both the old historic structures and the newer colorful buildings hold a mystical charm. The history behind each temple is unique and has a story that is part of the rich Buddhist faith.
By far, one of my favourite temples, although rather un-kept and unknown was Wat Ched Yot. I woke up early one morning and did a Google Map search of my surroundings and happened across this temple which is a centre of pilgrimage for those born in the year of the Snake. Being born in the year of the snake, I undertook my 25 minute pilgrimage to the temple.
We arrived before the Monks have even woken up, so my son and I explored the beautiful grounds shared only by a few local chickens. an hour later, we time traveling to the ultra modern Maya Mall for breakfast. It boggles my mind how two completely different world coexist so fluidly in Chiang Mai.
Wat Suan Dok is a Buddhist Royal Temple about 1km west of West gate, Suan Dok. The structures are tombs belonging to royalty all painted white in contrast to the color of the main temple where worshipers still gather.
On select days of the week, you can make a donation and spend time with a monk “Monk Chat” and ask him any questions you would like answered. This is definitely something I will have to do on my next visit.
Wat Chedi Luang is a Buddhist temple in the historic centre of Chiang Mai. The grounds are massive and the main temple building is incredibly large and impressive. It takes about an hour to tour the temple which originally included 3 structures.
After exploring more than 20 temples in my month in Chiang Mai, it in no way left me “templed out”, but actually quite the opposite. Next on my list will be Cambodia to visit the grand and world famous Temples of Angkor Archaeological Park in Siem Reap. For some great tips on what to see when visiting Siem Reap, check out this awesome post on Always A Gringa’s Blog.
Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park
The Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park is an eco-friendly park that walks visitors through the unique steps involved in making thier much talked about elephant poop paper products. It is a wonderful example of sustainable tourism and that you get to participate in the process makes it lots of fun.
It is located in a lush garden and is ideal for families. Kids and adults alike will be thoroughly entertained and can even spend time making thier own Poo Poo paper crafts for gifts to take back home. If is about a 45 minute scooter ride out of Central Chiang Mai but is well worth a visit.
If was a welcome relief to getting away from the hustle and bustle of Chiang Mai city. 20 minutes out of the city, the environment changes into one of small little villages and lush jungle, this is the Thailand I love where you feel more like an explorer and less like a tourist. Along the way, their were many road side stalls and quaint restaurants that add to the experience and gave us a chance to stretch out legs.
Riding a scooter in Chiang Mai can be rather daunting and you will see your fare share of crashes. We took as manys back roads as possible. One advantage of the development in Chiang Mai is that the roads are well mapped and Google Maps will ensure you don’t get lost. Once our nerves settled and we got a feel for the flow (or lack of), we had a lot of fun and enjoyed the freedom of touring the city. When the heat of the day starts to overwhelm and you want to be outdoors, you cant top the breeze on a scooter.
Keeping Busy In The City
There are no shortage of quality places to eat in Chiang Mai and if it entertainment you are looking for, the 3D Museum is a fantastic spot to spend 2 hours. The space is massive. If feels like a converted mall where all the walls have been converted into creative art installations which you can step into.
Chiang Mai is also filled with opportunities to be silly. Almost every ice cream parlour or food chain has a sculpted mascot to pose with. Here we are at iBerry, an ice cream café like no other, located on one of the side streets of Nimmanhaemin Road. Our ice-cream cost way more than ice cream should but the garden and statues are worth visiting.
We had an incredibly immersive trip, but after a month of Chiang Mai (AKA Baby Bangkok), I was happy to be moving on. Admittedly, I am not a city girl at heart and the madness of the city had me itching for less noise, more space and an ocean.