Chiang Mai: Where Old Meets NewChiang Mai is smaller city in Northern Thailand. The 700 year old city is a perfect square, enclosed by a partially collapsed medieval wall and a moat, initially designed to keep Burmese invaders out. This is now the city centre of modern day Chaing Mai, as the city continues to expand outside the ancient walls. Chiang Mai is well known for its exhibition of Lanna culture. The Lanna influence can be seen throughout the city, especially in the architecture and temples.
We spent 4 nights total in Chiang Mai but in two stays, travelling to Pai in between. While it is a town full of History and culture, we found it overflowing with tourists heading to the main attractions. We made a quick decision to travel to Pai, knowing we had to return to Chiang Mai to continue our travels.
We travelled via day train from Bangkok (at Jimmy’s request after he had a harrowing experience on the night train). This will make future travel interesting; Jimmy much preferred the day train whereas I would choose the night train without hesitation. The cooler temperature overnight was a relief, especially after the overwhelming humidity in Bangkok.
ACCOMMODATIONWe stayed in Micasa Guesthouse for the first portion of our stay. Just outside the city walls, it was really close to the main precinct. We had a great room here, shared bathroom facilities and good WiFi. No complaints! On our return, we stayed at Thapae Gate Lodge. For 350B ($14 AUD) per night this place was great. Just inside the city walls and our own ensuite, we had a great stay. The only thing that was a bit strange was the sink was outside, with the toilet and shower separate and inside the room.
FOODWe have found the food here pretty ordinary and over-priced. What is worth mentioning is the omelettes at breakfast. Throughout our trip, breakfast has been something a bit difficult to come by. In Koh Tao we had a couple of outstanding omelettes. Nice, basic ham and cheese. After gaining a bit of confidence up with the omelette order, and was extremely disappointed one morning when my omelette came out with a square of (cold) plastic cheese sitting on top. I have played roulette with omelette orders a few times since and have now learnt when and where to order them. Jimmy had an unfortunate experience in Chiang Mai when his cheese omelette came with the cheese still wrapped in plastic! Omelette orders have since been strictly without cheese.
ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONSChiang Mai is the city of temples! We spent the vast majority of a day wandering around the temples in the old city.
Prior to the temples, we went to the Lanna Folklife Museum. The Lanna culture continues to exist in Northern Thailand, where a unique set of traditions are still observed and followed today. The Museum opened in 2005 and is set inside the old Provincial Court House. It was really good to learn about the Lanna culture before going to the temples as it gave us more of an insight and understanding of all the statues and offerings that are made to the gods. With a bit of extra knowledge, we wandered around the cities temples. Most memorable temples for us were Wat Chedi Luang and Wat Phra Singh.
We hired a scooter for a day with the hopes of travelling to Doi Inthanon National Park. Unfortunately there had been some confusion and the park was a lot further away than we initially thought. We instead headed to the top of Doi Suthep, another National Park much closer to the city. We wound up the side of the mountain, through some amazing jungle to the top lookout.
It was an amazing view, I was amazed to see how far the city has sprawled. We went to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, an amazing temple on the side of a hill. Well worth the hike up the stairs.
The Night Bazaar was something we had heard people rave about. For us, we found it to be an over-hyped market place with stall after stall offering the same thing. Also, as it is very touristy, we found the street venders hiked their prices up to four times what they should be. As soon as you walk away the price drops significantly. With this in mind, if you can handle extreme bartering it would be a great place to pick up some souvenirs. I am ever conscious that whatever I buy I have to carry!