It has been almost 4 years when Viktorianz set foot in Thailand and we thought of taking up a different destination than typical Bangkok, Phuket types. So we decided to head to Northern hills and Chiang Mai became a natural choice. While our main focus is to explore the North Thailand – but we do spend about a day in passing in Chiang Mai. In my observation Chiang Mai has at the most a 2 day’s potential for a tourist. But i do see a lot of people spending weeks in this laid back town. We normally spend a day, pick up our bikes and then Ride out to North to explore a lot more.
Snuggled in the foothills of tapering lower Himalayas, is the cultural town of Chiang Mai. It is a city with a distinct character – of artisans and craftsmen, of university youth and intellects, of idealists, book writers and cultural hounds – in all it appears a heady mix of a unspoiled, laid back, creative, spiritual and reverential society. The fact that till 1930s there were no roads from Bangkok – has helped preserve the Northern Thai or ‘Lanna’ culture. Just beyond the city begins the plentiful and scenic countryside – boasting of a one of the finest natural forest cover. Our bike explorations cover all that.
If you have a day or two in Chiang Mai, there are some things that I would suggest. It is my purpose in this Blog to list them down and one could pick and choose based on time and inclination. Chiang Mai has a walled city surrounded by a moat. It is good to first get a free map from any of the shop and get briefed on where is what – with specific reference to your hotel.
While the whole place is full of Cultural dos – let me begin with the Cultural top 3 things to do. For temple visits – dress up modestly, respect customs and give way to the monks –
- Wat Phra Singh. (You could walk or bike it) It means the Lion Budha ( similar to Sikhs in India). Situated in the old walled city, this is the most visited temple and it houses the city’s most revered Buddha image. There are 3 complexes to be visited. The main one and two to the rear. Don’t miss the life’s wisdom on the plaques nailed to the trees.The most visited Monument in Chiang Mai …
- Wat Chedi Luang. (You could walk or bike it) This is the second must do for temples trail. Built in 1441, it is built around partially ruined Lanna- style chedi. It used to be the tallest structure in ancient Chiang Mai. In 1475, the famous Emerald Buddha was housed in its eastern niche – the statue is now in Bangkok (Wat Phra Kaew). In its place you will find a jade replica. While here, don’t miss the city pillar in a small building to the left of compound’s main entrance (City pillars are supposed to house the guardian deity of the city – all cities and towns have a city pillar). You could also chat with the monks.
- Wat Phra Doi Suthep. (You would need a bike and there is a climb of 300 odd steps)Doi Suthep is the guardian mountain of Chiang Mai. There is a mythical birth story – the location of this temple was founded by a white elephant who carried the miraculous relic on its back and wandered to find this place – the elephant died at a spot where temple now stands. Built in 1383, this is North Thailand’s most sacred temple – where Thai people flock in large numbers for merit making – to the Buddhist relic in picturesque Golden Chedi.
As the sun goes down there is a different Chiang Mai that comes to life. I would recommend the following few things –
- Wine by the River. As the sun goes down, I would recommend you go down to one of the riverside restaurants and have a drink or two listening to live music. The two of my favorite places are – The Riverside and the Good View restaurants – if you are late, there will be long waiting.
- The Lady-boy Cabaret Show. Thailand is quite popular for lady boy shows. This one is great if you have not seen one elsewhere! The show is “free” but you need to buy a drink. You should reach there by 9 pm, though the show starts at 9.30 pm. The choreography, dance and costumes are spectacular and the performers are stunning. It is an hour’s show full of fun and you keep smiling all the time. Location is Anusaran Night Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand.
- The Night Bazar. A legacy of ancient caravans stopping in the city and hill tribes descending from the hills and selling their goods. There is a lot of variety and creativity at display – the least you will take away from here is the ‘ideas’ and may be some souvenirs. You could spend about 2 hours walking this very large display. In one of the basements there is a charcoal or pencil art gallery – very impressive. For a break during walking – I particularly like the Boy Blues Bar, and sit for a while listening to old hippy music – with a glass of beer may be. The bazar closes by about mid night.
Around Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is also a hub for adventure and wild life safaris. If you have more than a day – I would recommend you do one or more of the following –
- Doi Inthanon Loop. Get yourself a bike and ride to the highest mountain in Thailand – the Doi Inthanon. On the way, a little short of the summit and to the left– do visit the two Royal Chedis and the beautiful valley view it affords. This would take half a day and it would be cold on the top.
- Mae Sa Loop. This is a closest get away into the neighbouring hills and the loop is lined with a large number of outdoors activities – Elephant shows, Animal farms, ATV Rides, Bungee, Biking, off road biking, trekking etc. The activities here can also be booked from your hotel and they would come and pick you up and drop you back.
- Zipline. For adventure enthusiasts, Ziplining is a popular activity though a little costly. This again takes most of the day and can be booked from your hotel or any operator in the neighbourhood. Flight of Gibbon by Tree Top Asia is one such operator who does this.
River Cruises. Mae Ping river is a serpentine waterway, that passes through the rural and rustic countryside. The cruises are available from long ones to a 2 hours one – and you sure will find peace on the river. The Scorpion Tailed River Cruise conduct these from Wat Srikhong Pier. There are others too.
For your Preparations for North Thailand bike trip refer my blog –
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