Thailand's hip northern city: Chiang mai
After exploring the ruins in Ayutthaya, Lopburi and Sukhothai, we arrived to Chiang Mai, a city located in Northern Thailand. Chiang Mai has become increasingly popular recently for travelers and bloggers alike. It's laid-back and inexpensive lifestyle, along with abundance of activities, make it a popular place to spend a week, a month or even a year.
We stayed in Chiang Mai for a total of five days and once again were lucky with the weather. Northern Thailand is extremely green, thanks to heavy rainfall. Our only rainy day was our hike/temple day. For the rest of our time in Chiang Mai it was humid and extremely hot!
Phra That Doi Suthep Temple Visit
How we got there:
Songthaew (a red, covered pick up truck with two benches in the back)
You have to wait for the truck to fill up with 10 passengers before it will go up the mountain to the temple. We had a bit of trouble because we only wanted a one-way trip since we had planned on hiking after visiting the temple. After a long, confusing conversation with the driver, we were on our way.
This temple is located in the mountains that surround Chiang Mai. The road up is full of switchbacks and we were hit with torrential rain on the way up. Good thing I had convinced David not to rent a motorbike in this city!
To get to the temple, you need to climb a massive staircase bordered by dragon scales. Once there, there is a ticket office (if you aren't Thai, you must pay to enter the temple.) The temple was very beautiful, and the sound of the rain and the chimes gave it a rather mystical feel. One of the most interesting details for me was this board covered in coins (see below). I'm not sure of the function of the coins, but I didn't see anything else like it in any other temple.
Hiking near the temple
We hiked up along the main road after turning right as we left the bottom of the staircase. Although the road was not an idea hiking path, the greenery around us was beautiful and filled with the sounds of murmuring insects and calling birds. Most the of hike up was spent with a soft, yet constant rain and our raincoats. We walked for about an hour and had some sweeping views of Chiang Mai along the way. Once we reached the top, we turned around and hiked back before catching a truck back to town.
Muay Thai Fighting
While in Chiang Mai we visited the Muay Thai stadium to watch the fights there one night. The fights started with young boxers who got progressively older, and more skilled. Both girls and boys fought, along with a "Three Stooges" like fight between several boys who were blindfolded. They spent their time in the ring clobbering each other and dramatically falling on the floor. Most of the boxers were Thai and the headliner for the night was a Spaniard.
The most interesting part of the fighting in my opinion were the rituals performed before the fight. Each boxer was adorned with flowers and performed a dance like ritual before clobbering their opponent. I was surprise by how gentle the boxers' dance movements were in contrast to their piercing kicks and punches.
Temples in Chiang Mai
Since we spent so much time in Chaing Mai, we were able to visit quite a few temples. The city was preparing for the Queen's birthday (we were in Koh Samui for this day, when the Thai bombings happened) so many temples and streets were decorated in light blue flags. The King's flags are yellow. Below you will see a selection of photographs from some of the temples we visited.
Elephant Sanctuary Visit
One of the mornings we visited an elephant sanctuary about an hour outside of Chaing Mai. The jungle scenery was stunning and meeting the elephants was an amazing experience. I wrote an article on our visit, and you can read it HERE.
Other Chiang Mai Tidbits
Another one of our afternoons was spent searching for the perfect Thai massage. For just 200 baht ($5.75 USD) we got an hour long Thai massage by some elderly women who were incredibly strong! I had several Thai massages during my time in Thailand and I really liked them. Some people don't like them because they are painful and not very relaxing, but I really liked the deep tissue work, stretching and ritual aspects of the massages.
Thai massages always start with the feet. The feet are seen as the lowest part of the body, whereas the head is the highest and best. The feet are usually cleansed and then massaged. For Thai massages, most places give you a set of clothes to wear, that are big and loose. Some places will simply massage you with whatever clothes you have on.
After working out your feet, the massage continues up your legs, back, arms, neck and head. The traditional Thai massage has several steps in a specific order (which can be seen in the photo above). You can also get massages focused just on your back, just on your legs, just on your shoulders, etc.
If you get the chance to go to Chiang Mai, it's a beautiful city with a lot of activities. I hope you enjoyed this post and please leave a comment below. I love to hear from you!
Happy travels! ~ Jamie and David
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