…nope, I disagree with the famous quote “Everyone Loves Chiang Mai”. But something change my mind!!!
Third destination, Thailand, I landed in Bangkok and spent less than 24 hours there before moving to Chiang Mai. I have been to Bangkok a couple of times and my perception is always the same: The city is too busy. Trying to find new city to browse, I decided Chiang Mai as my destination. Famously known as the “Rose of the North”, this city located in northern Thailand is a small city that holds history of more than 700 years old. Well-known as the tourists hub, farang or expats usually find themselves busy exploring old temples, enjoying variety food in the food market, or just chilling.
Afternoon. I landed myself in Chiang Mai and hopped on to the famous tuk tuk going to Old City looking for a place to stay. Everything seemed so smooth, I arrived in Old City, got a place to stay, and then what? I walked around the city and everything was awfully quiet. I started to question myself about the hype this city gets. Starting a little conversation with strangers (both farangs and locals), I started to jot down the places they recommend whilst looking for the next destination I should go. I have a feeling I won’t be staying in this boring city for too long.
As the evening falls, some views knocked my perception of this city. People started to pull out their food stalls, set up the benches, cutting veggies, etc. I rushed back to the place I stayed only to be greeted by the receptionist making sure that I do not miss the Night Market. Yes!!! The Night Market!!!
Dinner time, I walked out and started to hunt for food. Oh, I can’t stop, literally. Pork leg over rice, fruit shakes, buns, fruits, mango sticky rice, and so on. They are all so cheap. Since I have no specific plan made, I walked again only to find another food paradise. After enjoying Pad Thai and Thai Tea, I wrapped up my day hence wanting to extend another day in Chiang Mai.
As usual, I woke up early and this time I got myself a bowl of Bami Haeng Pet (egg noodles served dry with braised duck) for my breakfast before heading to Doi Suthep. Apparently everyone I talked to yesterday recommended me this place. Doi Suthep is one of the mountain in Chiang Mai province. Here, the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep (a Theravada temple) is located. From this peak, the city of Chiang Mai can be observed. Located around 15km away from the city center, I was recommended to go to a specific walkable location where they will collect enough people to fit a tuk tuk heading to Doi Suthep. One rule though, the tuk tuk will only go if they have 9 people. Well, of course, I am the lucky 9th person. Just like any other place, the road to the mountain is not very friendly but it sorts of add the excitement, isn’t it?
Arrived, I was greeted by two dragon heads, a gate, and seems like never ending staircase. The hike to the top honestly is not that bad. There was a cave that you really need a torchlight to browse inside and that is the temple. Can’t take much pictures because it is too dark but definitely it is really peaceful here. I spent some times here before heading down to enjoy a bowl of Khao Soi (egg noodles serve with curry). I believe Chiang Mai is the home of Khao Soi.
Hopped on to another tuk tuk to head back to the place I stayed and the receptionist greeted me making sure that I do not miss the Sunday Night Bazaar (Anusarn Market). How lucky I am to be in this city during weekend where all the fun is happening. Headed out and another food hunting process began. From Pad See Ew, crepes, Basil Fried Rice, etc and really I can not stop. I found my food paradise and decided to extend another day in Chiang Mai.
I realized that I have really fallen in love with Chiang Mai and again I extended another few days here. The goal for today is Wat Chedi Luang and Nuong Buak Hard Public Park. Wat Chedi Luang (literally translate as Temple of the Big Stupa) is another interesting Buddhist temple carrying a lot of history and the architecture is beyond amazing. Surprisingly quiet here and it does not draw a lot of tourist attraction. If you are here at the right time, you can see some monks performing their chanting ritual and if you are lucky, they also opened up the temple for visitors and locals to have conversation time with the monks.
I had one of the best experience in Nuong Buak Hard Public Park. The park is a little sweet spot to escape from the city feels. I arrived slightly before sunset and I met a group of circus performers practicing their routine. From walking on the rope, fire breathing, fire throwing, balancing, juggling, and so much more. As crazy as I sound, I always wanted to try walking on the rope and they let me do that!!! YEAH!!! It ended up horribly though, I barely walked three steps on the rope. The sun is setting down and I had a blast with the company of circus people while watching the sunset.
The neighbor city Chiang Rai is about three hours bus away from Chiang Mai where Wat Rong Khun (White Temple) is located. Also, The Golden Triangle is in my list today. So white, so bright, so magnificent, and so crowded are the term I want to use to describe the White Temple. Impressive architecture and the first and only private temple I visited throughout my backpacking trip.
The Golden Triangle is definitely a place you do not want to miss. Here you can ride a boat along the Mekong River but I saved it for later as I will travel to Laos with the slowboat along the Mekong River. The Golden Triangle is an area covering three mountains of three countries: Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. Also known as the opium-producing place but the place is worth a visit.
Back in Chiang Mai and I am having a hard time leaving this place. I spent it just chilling and taking everything really slow while finding the possibility of taking a slowboat to Laos. Walking here is easy and you never know what you will find. There are a lot of smaller and infamous temples worth checking out. Wrapped up my day in the Old City area while getting my stomach full of Thai food and the crepes. I know I am gonna miss this place.
A tuk tuk picked me up to a bus station heading to Chiang Khong where the pier is located for the slowboat to Laos. Now I understand why the quote “Everyone Loves Chiang Mai” is popular, because it is true. See you again, Chiang Mai!!!