Chiang Mai, Thailand
The second leg of our journey was to Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is in the northern part of Thailand and presents a different atmosphere than Bangkok and southern Thailand. Up here, the landscape is more mountainous and the weather is a bit cooler. Chiang Mai is also the cultural capital of Thailand and is ever present in the many markets and tourist attractions.
We established ourselves in the Old City. The Old City is in the center of town and is surrounded by a large stone wall and moat. The Old City has more charm to it and is a nice oasis from the bustling city outside the wall.
Our first night in town we spent walking around, exploring the city and the night bizarre. Later in our stay a local Thai woman told us to skip the night bizarre as it is geared toward tourists, and if we were in town, we should visit the weekend markets. These markets had better crafts at better prices. As luck would have it, we were going to be around for the weekend, so we made sure to visit these two markets.
Chiang Mai seemed to have more tourist attractions and treks for visitors. There were a lot of travel agencies and brochures at the hotels. We really wanted to see the tigers and spend a day with the elephants, but after reading about the sometimes less than favorable conditions for the animals, we decided against supporting these potentially cruel conditions. So instead we spent the first full day visiting Wats and other attractions around the city. The Wat just down the street from our hotel was Wat Chedi Luang. This temple used to house the Emerald Buddha that we saw in Bangkok before the temple was destroyed in an earthquake. The temple was pretty much abandoned and a new temple was built in front of the old location.
That evening, we also signed up for a Thai Cooking class at one of the local culinary schools. I couldn’t wait to learn to make our own curry paste and other yummy dishes. We started out picking our dishes for the evening before heading to the herb garden and local market to find our ingredients. After prepping all our food it was time to cook. The Thai style of cooking uses high heat to quickly cook food, so you have to keep an eye on your food and move it around frequently. Between the two of us, we made Pad See uw (Stir Fried noodles in Chinese Style), Pad Kra Proaw (Stir Fried Hot basil and Chicken), Tom Yum Koong (Hot and Sour Prawn Soup), Tom Kha Kai (Chicken in Coconut Milk Soup), Green Curry, and Massaman Curry. Needless to say, these dishes were all amazing and I can’t wait to make them again at home. Dennis won the award for making the spiciest dishes in class. Even the instructor was sweating after eating some of his dishes.
The following day, we spent the time visiting the Royal Winter Palace (Bhubing Palace) at the top of the mountain just outside Chiang Mai. We also visited the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep just below the Palace. It was pretty cool that day and the clouds were pretty low, as you can see from the photos. The clouds created some dramatic, soft lighting. I almost felt like I was in the Stephen King movie, “The Mist”.
After visiting the Palace and Wat, we also went to a nearby water fall. There was a vendor there selling deep friend bugs, giving Dennis the opportunity to try them. This was one of the goals he had set before we even booked our plane tickets. He scooped up some crickets, grasshoppers, meal worms, silk worms, cicadas, a frog, beetles, and a giant water bug. Later in our hotel room he chowed down on these crunchy treats. I didn’t have the stomach to try them, especially after eating some mango and sticky rice. I felt the bugs would take away from the yummy mango that was still lingering on my tastebuds. Here is a link to the video if you are interested in watching: Dennis Eats Bugs!
For the following day we booked a day at the spa. After all, what would a trip to Thailand be without a day at the spa? We booked a traditional Thai Massage, Aromatherapy Oil Massage, and a facial. I didn’t know before getting a Thai massage that they are a bit more rough than your typical massage. They bend you, step on you, and dig their elbows into your back. Afterwards, my calves was sore for about two days, but it felt really good to relax. That evening we spent at the weekend night market, eating our way through some of the street vendors and food stands.
Chiang Mai was a great city. I only wish that we made it outside the old city walls a bit more to explore the other parts of the city. I compare Bangkok to New York City and Chiang Mai to Allentown or Scranton. The city wasn’t as busy as Bangkok but there was still plenty to see and do while you are there.
Enjoy some of the photos from our time in Chiang Mai!
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