Chiang Mai was a very new kind of experience for us. Coming from India, where real life is always happening around you and everything will keep ticking over with or without you, we had anticipated that things would feel different in a place where the tourist trail is neatly pruned and waiting for you. Bangkok had been everything we had expected. Loud, mostly good fun and pretty exhausting. With Chiang Mai, we didn’t know what to expect. We headed there because everyone said it was nice and the food was great (ok, ok, what we actually heard was that there were vegan cinnamon rolls there). But to be honest, at this point in our trip we still weren’t entirely sure what our idea of a “nice” place to visit was.
Chiang Mai is a walking city and there are loads of things to see, in particular, a lot of beautiful temples. The streets are lined with artwork and the choice of food is overwhelming!
We stayed in an absolute dream of a place called Kittawan Home & Gallery, which we found on air b’n’b. Our host Non was one of the most accommodating we’d met in Thailand. He and his girlfriend, an architect who designed the whole place were just wonderful people. They went out of their way to prepare us a special breakfast, which we enjoyed in their beautiful garden. Our room was luxuriously minimal and clean, with a shower we would have killed for at various times during our travels around India.
We also spent a lot of time chilling with Bobby, who incidentally, someone tried to kill when he was a pup. A local took him in and nursed him back to health but lucky for us, he spends most of his time at the guesthouse. Winning this little guy’s trust was a challenge but so worth the effort. Such a gorgeous and gentle creature.
The first thing we did when we arrived was head to the old city, which is surrounded by walls and a moat. It’s also the epicentre of all of the gorgeous temples, which we wandered around
OK I LIED
First we went and got cinnamon rolls at Blue Diamond.
Then, we got stuck into the cultural stuff and thoroughly enjoyed mooching about in a far less crowded atmosphere than we had found in Bangkok’s temples. There are actually more than 200 hundred temples, or wats in and around Chiang Mai, so we wandered about and decided to just see what we saw.
We made a special journey to visit Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, aka Doi Suthep (which is actually the name of the mountain on top of which the temple resides).
By mad coincidence, we had a couple from St Albans (down the road from us…old us…), Luke and Fahida staying in the same guest house as us. After bonding over various mutual friends we planned to make the trip to Doi Suthep together. This place is one of Chiang Mai’s most famous wats and it is certainly apparent from the hoards of tourists that can be seen schlepping up the 309 steps to reach the top. The place itself is a beautiful sight. Infinite intricacies and an array of shrines and symbolism. Unfortunately, while many seemed to treat their visit as somewhat of a pilgrimage, it was hard to get lost in the moment as we were continually shooed out of the way of photos.
Later that same day we headed to Bua Thong, also known as the “sticky waterfalls”. You can go all superhero at these falls, because the texture of the rocks is, well, sticky! Meaning you can climb up and down them with ease.
Other than a few crabs, there was pretty much no one else around, which was glorious.
On Saturday nights, there’s a special night market in Chiang Mai. We love a market.
As mentioned earlier. there’s tonnes of pretty stuff all over the walls. Here are some highlights.
The best way, in our opinion, to get around not only Chiang Mai, but most of Thailand is by moped. As long as you’re careful, you can nip about very easily and avoid a lot of the traffic, not to mention the fact that it’s a great way to get off the beaten track. Up until Chiang Mai however, we’d never driven one before. Non was kind enough to let us (Tom) have a little go and within minutes, we were away and to be honest, our whole travel experience completely changed!
It has to be said that a major highlight of our time in Chiang Mai was eating! The place is absolute heaven for vegans. Thai food, western food, DESSERTS…We did so much eating in fact that we’ll save the food porn for our next post. In the meantime, here are some other lovely things we saw.