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We left Sukhothai after a day and a half of exploring via the new city bus terminal. After a very long bus ride in a fabulously purple bus we reached Chiang Mai. We had decided to stay four nights in Chiang Mai because there was a lot to see and do in the city and it’s surroundings. We stayed at the Rachamankha Hotel within the old part of the city. When we arrived at the hotel we were stunned by how tranquil and inviting the hotel, staff and room were. The hotel is a little bit further from the centre of the city, but that made it a bit more quiet. As a consequently we did quite a bit of walking from the hotel and back, which in retrospect was probably a good thing considering how much food we sampled. Despite the distance I would still highly recommend a stay there, especially because there are some very nice photographs to be taken of the hotel itself, oh and the library which is open to all guests.
We came to Chiang Mai to take advantage of not only the wonderful Wats in the area, but also to do a bit of shopping and relaxing. With that in mind we had a wander down to the Ping River and the Worarot Market, also known locally as Kad Luang, to look at the flower, wet and dry markets which we passed on the way into the city. The flower markets had such a large variety of flowers of various colours, with orchids being especially well represented. The flower markets were full of local shoppers as well as tourists, but when we walked through the wet and dry markets it was almost all local people purchasing supplies for their meals. The wet market had all sorts of meats and vegetables, while the dry market had lots of spices, rice, tobacco and other goods. Worarot Market is well worth visiting to not only see an authentic market that caters to locals, but also as a place to get good bargains.
As part of our walks through Chiang Mai we walked by Wat Phra Singh where Tuk-tuk drivers were always waiting for a fare. We finally gave in and took a tuk-tuk to save time and our legs, and it turned out to be heaps of fun. The drivers in Chiang Mai were a lot more pleasant and friendly than in Bangkok which made the experience that much better.
Wat Phra Singh is one of the biggest temple complexes in Chiang Mai and is home to the Ho Trai temple library, which is one of the finest in Thailand. This complex is very large and in very good shape owing to it’s 2002 renovations. There was a funeral procession leaving the temple as we were walking through, which included a band sitting in the back of a truck which pulled an ornate trailer holding the coffin. The photograph below is of the ornate roof of the Wihan Luang building.
In the evening we wanted to take in the night markets along Chang Khlan Road where we saw some really pretty gifts. We also worked on our negotiating skills by haggling with the vendors. My favorite stall was the lantern shop shown in the photograph below. I really liked the different designs that led to the great coloured lights. We ended up buying one of the lanterns with a cherry blossom design that I had to put together.
All that shopping made us hungry so we had a very nice meal of Northern Thai fried pork rind and vegetables with a spicy sauce. During dinner there was a Thai band playing and signing American classic rock and roll songs which was quite entertaining. After dinner we went to watch the performance and I saw the silhouette of this spider which caught my eye. The interesting thing was that the spider web was quite large and in a fairly heavily trafficed area and yet nobody had walked into it.
Another day we walked back from the tailor where we purchased some business clothes, and we stopped to see the wooden temple, Wat Pan Tao. It was fascinating because it is made almost entirely of wood. Apparently it is one of the few wooden temples left in good condition. It was not very busy and I took a photograph of these banners hanging down from the ceiling. I’m not sure what their purpose is, but if anyone has an idea please let me know.
One of the days we hired a scooter and rode up to Wat Oo-Mong. This temple is located at the base of the hills surrounding Chiang Mai in a forested neighborhood. This Wat is famous for the tunnels which contain several Buddhas below the main Chedi. The other well known feature of the temple is a large sculpture of the ascetic Buddha during his fast. It is a very graphic representation with the statue’s ribs and veins protruding prominently. The photograph shows the entry into the tunnels as they are allowed to be coated by the moss.
We rode the scooter further into the hills to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which houses a relic believed to be a part of Buddha’s shoulder bone. There is a very interesting legend as to how the temple site was established which you can find on Wikipedia. The temple was very busy with Thais burning joss sticks and offering prayers. This Wat is very interesting and the gold plated Chedi is amazing to see in person. The photograph shows one of the places where people could light their incense.
The road to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was a beautifully winding road up the mountain that offered great views of Chiang Mai and beyond. Along the way there are also several waterfalls that are quite nice and very peaceful. As a visitor the entry fee to see the waterfalls was a bit high but we found the tranquility to be worth it. The photograph below shows another view of the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, although I’m not sure what the purpose of the golden umbrella looking things is but I’m curious to find out.
That evening we stepped out to have another delicious meal and stopped for some noodles from the street vendor in the photograph. I think the Northern Thai food appealed to me. I really enjoyed it, and having the opportunity to try different things from various vendors was really good.
The next installment from Chiang Mai will focus more on the people that we met during our brief stay.