Peace and quiet? History? Nature? Entertainment? Chiang Mai has it all!

Thailand's flag
Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Mai
July 3rd 2013
Published: August 25th 2013
Edit Blog Post

I was really curious how our train journey to Chiang Mai would look like and if the train would be anything like the hardsleeper I travelled with in China. Well… I have to give credit to the Chinese I’m afraid as my first impression about the Thai railway wasn’t the best. First of all the train looked pretty old and on top of that our carriage didn’t look like a sleeper at all! After a first quick glimpse around I thought that maybe we were in the wrong carriage! But then looking closer at the big compartment above, well… That was one bed then! We still needed another one though… After having a closer look at our two seats, well… I guess another bed could’ve been made out of them as well. One thing that was absolutely impossible to bear was the heat though! The fans weren’t giving too much air at all and despite having all the windows open in the carriage there was no air coming in through them either. Ah well… Maybe when we started moving… It was pretty hard to get any air when we were moving with the speed of 20km per hour though… Eventually we gained a bit of speed and it became a bit cooler inside. Also despite numerous stops on the way, the journey was actually quite pleasant. Listening to some music while watching the landscapes we were passing by, the time seemed to be flying by. Once it got dark one guy started walking around and asking people if they wanted to have their beds done. Well… How about that? Full service it would seem… It wasn’t that easy to fall asleep though as we were lucky enough to have a bunch of loud and by the end of the evening pretty drunk teenagers in our carriage. Also a couple of girls seemed to have forgotten there were people around them as not only they were pretty loud until late hours but they just couldn’t keep their hands off each other at all and were making out as if there was no one around! Ah well… Thank God for an iphone I guess! And the curtains! In the end I managed to catch a couple of hours of sleep and was woken up just as we were pulling up in Chiang Mai – 3 hours late apparently! Actually some time later (couple of days) we read on the internet that another train on the Bangkok – Chiang Mai route derailed and a few carriages flipped over. Soooo lucky we weren’t on that train! Then we googled it a bit more and it turned out that derailed trains on that route are not that uncommon at all! And after talking to some backpackers we found out that we were pretty lucky indeed as some of them did experience derailed trains and were either put on a bus or had to take a taxi for the rest of the journey instead! Even more lucky I guess that our train made the whole journey then!

We decided to spoil ourselves a bit at the beginning and checked into a hotel which even had a small swimming pool. 😊 After freshening up a bit we headed to explore the neighbourhood. Breakfast first though! We found a nice café, I ordered fried rice and a fruit salad and was asked if I wanted it spicy, thought the guy was referring to rice so asked for medium and was more than surprised to get my rice not spicy at all but my fruit salad with a fair bit of chilli in it. Have to say that fruit and chillies are not exactly my kind of match. Ah well… Noted in my head that next time probably it would be best to ask what exactly they had in mind. 😉 Straight after bizarre breakfast we went to check out some temples as after all they were the main sights to see in Chiang Mai. With 300 temples in town and around it, it was best to choose some best ones as we knew that otherwise we would just get templed out in no time at all… First we headed to the closest and apparently one of the most interesting temples in town – Chedi Luang, which was built at the beginning of the 15th century and unfortunately badly destroyed a century later in an earthquake. Despite the temple being quite damaged it still is an impressive piece of architecture. Actually it looks like some parts of it were restored, which gives a better idea of how it looked like in the old days. Not only the main building is impressive but the surrounding ones as well. I can’t really grasp the idea of having the wax figures of dead monks in these temples though. They look so real that it’s just a bit creepy to me. No disrespect to anyone meant in here, just don’t really see the point – a painting or a picture would do just as fine I would say. I did like the little messages/ Buddhist proverbs hanging on the trees around the temple – some really made you stop for a moment and get lost in thoughts. It was nice to see some real (meaning alive) monks around as well. Still don’t get it – they can walk half naked and I have to be all covered up! Just joking, of course! I certainly don’t intend to offend anyone and if It means wearing some longer pants or shirt, fine with me! Hot, but fine! 😊 Many people don’t seem to care at all though, which is a pretty embarrassing and sad sight actually… Ah well… What can you do? Later on we checked out a couple of smaller temples on the way and decided to call our temple tour a day in Phra Singh. At this point we were getting a bit templed out already, still this temple was surely worth a visit – especially the small temple at the site where you could admire some beautiful images depicting scenes from the times of Lanna kingdom (Northern Thai kingdom between 13th and 18th century). Really nice work! Later on we chilled by the pool for a while. It was a really hot day, so cooling off in a pool felt like heaven! We finished our day with a lovely dinner at a nearby restaurant (we decided to check out one of LP’s recommendations – not bad at all! Especially that it was almost next door to our hotel). We had a chance to try some typical northern Thai cuisine – totally different flavours! I have to say I still prefer my coconut curries but it was nice to try something different for a change. One of the meats resembled a bit of a Polish sausage in taste which also brought a bit of nostalgia along with it… Lovely dinner with some great company, perfect finish to a nice day! I loved Chiang Mai already! 😊

Next day we rented bikes and decided to check out ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam which was a bit further out of town. As we soon found out our map wasn’t exactly to scale and it was a bit further than we originally thought. It wouldn’t really be a big deal if it wasn’t over 35 degrees, full sun on and us cycling in between motorbikes and cars on a motorway… Well, it certainly didn’t look like a motorway on the map, oops! Once we got off the motorway it was actually a nice bike ride further on, especially when we were getting closer to the Wiang Kum Kam temples. Cars seemed to have disappeared, no traffic at all, peace and quiet all around… Just lovely! We got to the temples through a back entrance it would seem as the place didn’t seem to look anything like the pictures we have seen. We walked around for a while and found some tourist information and a map in the end. It looked like the temples were spread around a bit. Straight away we were offered a horse carriage to show us around. Well, no thanks we had our own ‘horses’, so we cycled around the temples instead. While some of them were in pretty good state, the others were almost totally destroyed, mostly due to flooding. We saved the white temple for last and have to say it definitely stood out from all the others. Especially against the blue sky and a couple of palms around! I have to say that the heat and the sun were really getting to me and once we got back to the hotel I didn’t feel exactly the best. Think I might have had a bit of a sun stroke actually or maybe I was just very dehydrated? Either way, I reminded myself to drink more water next time and protect my head from the sun a bit more. Still a very enjoyable trip!

Next day we didn’t really have anything on agenda, so once one tuk-tuk driver told us he could take us to an umbrella making factory, we thought: why not? Not exactly the most exciting trip, still it was nice to see the whole process of making the umbrellas and then have a look at some of the final products as well. Beautiful artwork some of them! Later on we went to some woodcarving factory as well, which turned out to be a shop only so we didn’t spend much time there at all. Still it was funny when we were leaving as our driver didn’t even look whether he had all the passengers on board and we almost left without Grant. One person that laughed at that the most was a girl working there at the shop – looked like we really made her day. 😉 We didn’t really feel like doing much that day so after the factory visit we headed to the Irish bar to watch some rugby. That’s right! While we were in that neighbourhood we decided it was time to book some cheaper accommodation as well. There were plenty of guesthouses to choose from around and on top of that we would be able to check out a different part of town! Yep, we were definitely moving! For the evening we booked tickets to Muay Thai Boxing. We were thinking of checking it out ever since we came to Bangkok for the first time but somehow there was never time or it was just way too expensive – well, we did have plenty of time in here and it looked like the tickets were the cheapest so far, so not bad at all! We booked the tickets at a random agency and at some point I thought that maybe we just paid for nothing as our pick-up was nowhere to be seen. As usual it looked like I worried for nothing though as first of all our tuk-tuk turned up in the end and on top of that we weren’t that far away from the boxing place at all so we definitely wouldn’t be late. We got some pretty good seats close to the ring, got a programme of the fights that would be going on that day and anxiously were waiting for the matches to begin. In the meantime they were showing a programme with some Thai boxing techniques on the screen. Not that I would be able to spot any of them during the match probably, still it was very interesting to see. And then the matches began. First there were two very young boys to fight each other. Young or not they were going at each other with full strength on! Not sparing one another at all! Next one was two girls against each other – well, looking at the girls you could straight away guess which one was going to win. Let me just say one of them had heavier bones than the other. 😉 I thought that maybe girls would take it easy on each other a bit, but couldn’t be more wrong! Then there were two more matches with slightly older boys – one a bit shorter than the other, as we had a chance to witness a knock out! Before the main fight there was a special fight – wasn’t sure what that could mean when I looked at the programme, but once a couple of men came on the ring and were blind-folded, I surely did get the ‘special’ part of it. There certainly were quite a few laughs during this ‘match’ coming from the audience, especially when one of the blind-folded guys started going at the judge, with full strength of course! Then there was the main fight. Think the result was quite surprising as the guy that looked like the champion (he definitely was behaving like one) got knocked out in the first round! And it didn’t look like he had any idea what had happened! Oops! The last fight was an international one – Thai guy against a Scottish one. Obviously most of the audience was on the Scottish guy’s side and I have to say that despite a lot of hugging in this match, there were a couple of good moves from his side, still Thai guy was much better and fairly deserved to win this game. What can I say? It was a really interesting and exciting evening!

I was really looking forward to the cooking course we booked for the next day. I’m not really much of a cook to be honest, not that I can’t cook I just don’t really cook much at all. Cooking for someone, sure! For myself only, hmmm… naaaah, not too often! Still since we were in Thailand and I absolutely loved Thai food, how could I not attend a course like that? Besides there was already a certain candidate I could potentially cook for in the future, so maybe it was time to improve my cooking skills? Or maybe I could just check out how well he was doing in the kitchen? In the end we were attending the course together, so I guess it just would be a bit of a test for us both… 😉 Sounded like a lot of
thanks for the warning...thanks for the warning...thanks for the warning...

...really sad that the monks have to put a sign like this at the temple area actually...
fun anyway! We signed for a full day course and we would be making 6 dishes and our own curry paste – quite a lot of cooking! Cool stuff! Couldn’t wait! We got picked up from our hotel in the morning and headed to the market first where we learnt about some typical Thai ingredients. Seriously Thai ginger and normal ginger – what a difference! I’m still kind of learning to appreciate ginger so tasting Thai ginger was quite a bomb for my tasting buds! Saying it has a lot of flavour would be a massive understatement! We walked around the market, touched, smelled and tasted some other ingredients and it was time to head to our cooking school. It turned out that apart from us, only two more girls signed up for the full day. Nice and cosy then! 😊 Almost like a private lesson! Some people joined us after the first two dishes, still we enjoyed peace and quiet at least for a while. 😉 Later on I understood what the people were saying about not eating breakfast before the class. So much food! But then sooooo lovely, so full or not, it was impossible not to eat it! And the best part was that I actually made it myself! First a soup, then starter, noodles, curry, stir-fry and finally dessert… I especially enjoyed (and so did everybody else) making drunken noodles as the kitchen turned into a bit of an inferno then with all the woks on fire, haha! So much fun! The food was absolutely delicious, company great, our chef funny and very friendly, great atmosphere – altogether fantastic class! Totally recommend it! At the end we got a booklet with all the recipes and a certificate that we completed the course – only for those who finished with all ten fingers! Thankfully all of us did. 😉

Our last day was going to be full of different activities as we booked a tour that seemed to have a pretty busy itinerary. We were picked up in the morning and headed to a butterfly/orchid farm first. If it comes to butterflies it was quite impossible to see any as there were just too many people around. I do have to say that the orchid collection was quite impressive though – so many different species and just loved how they were displayed, with the roots hanging out. Next we drove to a village where apparently a few ethnic tribes were living in. I have to say I was really looking forward to seeing these ethnic minorities, especially Long Neck Karen one. Once we got to the village I wondered if all these women from different tribes – as apparently there were five tribes there, actually do live there or whether it was just a set up to accommodate tourists visiting this place… As there were sure a lot of tourists around! All the women were sitting in front of their houses weaving… as if on a display – sorry to say that but that’s how it felt a bit, but then looking at the huts, there wasn’t exactly a lot of light inside, so maybe it was a natural thing to be spending their whole days in front of their houses? Our guide walked with us for a moment talking about the tribes. He was barely talking in the car but now didn’t seem to be able to close his mouth, such a talkative guy suddenly! Haha! And later on he found a guitar somewhere and started singing and playing with the local kids as well… What a metamorphosis! 😉 We walked around the village for a while and looked at some of the items the women were making. There were some very young girls around that already had the necklaces on and were helping their mothers with weaving as well. Instead of playing around, they were already learning how to make a living… Still I couldn’t help but feel sad seeing all these women sitting with their kids, weaving and smiling for pictures most of the day. There were quite a few tourists around that day, but I can only imagine every day of the week would be the same. There was no privacy for these women at all. Everybody came there to see the golden necklaces and the way these people lived. Was that a good way to keep the tribe and its traditions alive? I have read later on that these women were actually refugees from Burma and weren’t allowed to leave the village. Apparently some countries offered to take them in as well, but Thailand just wouldn’t let them go. Too much money was coming from tourism I guess? Hopefully there was a better future for them…

Next on our schedule was a short trek to a waterfall. Seeing the amount of cars parked around we knew we weren’t going to be the only ones there. Still it was a nice walk through ‘the jungle’. Our guide was teaching the guys how to make sounds using leaves and in general was all jolly again. Wonder what he was smoking on the side? 😉 Funny guy! Once we got to the waterfall everybody was all sweaty and some very stinky as well (seriously people don’t you know what antiperspirants are???) and of course everybody decided to freshen up at the waterfall. Seeing the amount of people there and the size of the pool by the waterfall, naaah… not for me… I enjoyed much more just sitting on the side and observing all the people around. There was of course a little ‘shop’ at the site (little shack with a drawn board saying 7/11 on it, pretty funny actually! 😉) and the woman working there was holding a baby monkey. Our guide tried to sell me a story on how this woman wasn’t able to have children of her own, so begged the gods to have a child and finally gave a birth to this little monkey, haha! He was actually very serious telling the story… It got a few laughs around, but what got even more laughs when some time later he said he was only joking. Really??? Such a disappointment as I almost believed the story! 😉 Later on we walked back the same way we came in and before we got in the car again, we had a chance to restore some of the energy and fluids while having lunch. There would be some rafting next! The river didn’t seem too rough still there were a few decent rapids on the way. We passed quite a few people standing in the shallow water who just finished bathing elephants. That would be a nice experience, ah well… We’ll try to do it somewhere else maybe… We had some very nice people on our boat and I have to say that despite the very calm river, we actually had some fun – especially when we got stuck on the rock and were jumping from one side to the other trying to get on moving again. Later on we swapped our boat to a bamboo raft. This was even less exciting as the raft didn’t exactly move too fast and we were basically sitting all covered in water almost to our waste – at least I was as I was slightly sinking sitting at the back. Still a new experience at least! Then a short break to change clothes and have a drink and we were off to the last place on our list. We went to an elephant camp where we would have a chance to do some elephant trekking. I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to do it as I didn’t particularly enjoyed this experience while in Nepal when the four of us were squashed onto a little platform. Still after talking to some Aussie girls who were spending the full two days at the camp I decided to give it a try after all – it would be only two of us rather than four people this time. The girls also said that the elephants were pretty well taken care of here. Well that was a relief as after seeing one guy with some sharp looking object I started having doubts… Our elephant was just the cutest – aren’t they all though? Thankfully the ride wasn’t too long, just a short loop around the camp – quite enough to get a sore bum and a few bruises on the back from bumping into the back of the seat with each step. 😊 Still it was a unique experience, not exactly something that I would be doing too often in my life and on top of that it was shared with someone pretty special to me… And that was all for that day… On the way back some heavy clouds came over Chiang Mai and soon after it was raining. I couldn’t believe our Thai experience was coming to an end… I knew I was going to miss the food for sure – simply heavenly flavours! But then there were the beautiful islands and beaches, crazy Bangkok, friendly people – really amazing country!I was happy we were finishing our Thai adventure in Chiang Mai though as we really loved this town from the moment we put our feet here. So peaceful and relaxing with temples and massage places all around, but yet if you needed some kind of excitement you sure were able to find that as well – from rafting, kayaking, cycling to Thai boxing, night markets and some nightlife as well – whatever you wanted you sure would be able to find it in Chiang Mai. I’d definitely like to come back here someday… For now it was time to move on again and explore another country. We were off to Laos the next day… Next stop Luang Prabang – via slowboat on the Mekong of course!

Additional photos below
Photos: 117, Displayed: 38


Wat Phan TaoWat Phan Tao
Wat Phan Tao

beautiful temple made totally of teak wood
at the temple at Wiang Kum Kam at the temple at Wiang Kum Kam
at the temple at Wiang Kum Kam

It looked like some kind of ceremony was to take place here soon. White strings coming from Buddha's hands are used for blessings. During the ceremony people wrap them around their heads and later on the strings are cut into small pieces and wrapped around wrists for good luck.

30th August 2013
beautiful Wat Chedi Liem

Wat Chedi Liem
Lovely photo

Tot: 2.154s; Tpl: 0.156s; cc: 31; qc: 123; dbt: 0.0788s; 1; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 2; ; mem: 1.9mb