Search for  Chiang Mai  found 9 posts
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Feb 13, 2019, Wednesday
Chiang Mai    Chiang Mai Thailand  
Feb 13, 2019, Wednesday
Feb 14, 2019, Thursday
Templed out    Chiang Mai Thailand  
Feb 14, 2019, Thursday
Feb 15, 2019, Friday
Night market    Thailand Chiang Mai  
Feb 15, 2019, Friday
Feb 16, 2019, Saturday
Silver temple    Chiang Mai Thailand  
Feb 16, 2019, Saturday
Feb 17, 2019, Sunday
We're not in Canada    Thailand Chiang Mai  
Feb 17, 2019, Sunday
Feb 18, 2019, Monday
Wat Doi Suthep    Thailand Chiang Mai  
Feb 18, 2019, Monday
Feb 19, 2019, Tuesday
Goodbye Chiang Mai    Thailand Chiang Mai  
Feb 19, 2019, Tuesday
Feb 20, 2019, Wednesday
The train to Bangkok    Bangkok Chiang Mai Thailand  
Feb 20, 2019, Wednesday
Feb 23, 2019, Saturday
Hits and misses    Chiang Mai Bangkok Thailand  
Feb 23, 2019, Saturday

Chiang Mai

February 13, 2019   Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our first day in a new town so we spent it exploring the neighborhood.

A row of Buddhas      
Gold stupa      
A golden stupa, just one of the structures at the Buddhist temple, Wat Phra Singh.
Moat around the walled city      
Chiang Mai was established as a capital city in 1296 by King Mengrai, the founder of the Kingdom of Lanna. The old town, where we are staying, is surrounded by a wall and a moat. Of course now the moat is bordered by roads and the wall is open in many places.
If you want groceries in the old town your choices are limited to farmers markets (great for cooking, not so great for tourist staples beer and chips) and the ubiquitous 7/11 stores.
Colourful dude      
Street food      
Her crepes smelled amazing but we'd just eaten.
Emergency kiosk      
A curiosity to me, an emergency kiosk. According to the instructions you stand on the step, push the button, wait for a reply, look at the camera, then report your emergency. Or you could walk a block to the police station.
Street food      
Chiang Mai is one of those towns best seen once it's dark. That's also when the temperature drops to almost comfortable.

Templed out

February 14, 2019   Chiang Mai, Thailand

Once in the past a farang [non-Thai] novice actually thanked a woman for a handful of rice. She was so offended she came to the monastery and told the senior monk she and her family would never give alms to the wat again. Devotees give to the robe, not to the wearer. They believe it is a ritual for the making of merit, for a better rebirth. If a monk thanks the giver, then by treating it as a personal favour, merit is not gained. Tim Ward, What the Buddha Never Taught

This morning we dressed conservatively (we wore long pants, not shorts) so we could go inside Wat Phra Singh, Wat Phan Tao, and Wat Chedi Luang. There are lots of wats in Chiang Mai.

So what is a wat? A wat is a Buddhist temple. It contains several buildings, at minimum a chedi, a viharn and a bot, and is enclosed by a wall. The bot is the main prayer room and the viharn is an assembly hall. The chedi contains relics. They might be relics of the Buddha or remains of a king or a very important monk. Depending on their financial means and the number of monks, a temple may also contain other structures like a sala, a scripture hall, living quarters for the monks, and a school. Wat Phra Singh, just down the block from our hotel, fills a city block and includes a school.

Wat Phra Singh      
These monks sit expressionless and motionless in the temple as tourists mill about, talk, and take photos, like I did here, which is weird but hey it's their show.
Wat Phra Singh      
It's wrong      
Wat Phan Tao      
Bells at Wat Phra Singh      
Wat Chedi Luang      
Wat Chedi Luang      
Some Thais think a son ordained as a monk, even if only for a week, brings spiritual credit to the parents in their next incarnation.
Wat Chedi Luong      
Reclining Buddha

Night market

February 15, 2019   Thailand, Chiang Mai
Night market      
Chiang Mai has several night markets. This one, on Changklan road, is open every night of the week and features a lot of tempting aromatic food. Well, except for the fried scorpions.
Fried scorpions      
Scorpion seller      
Making roti dessert      
Cooking meat      
Making a dessert      
Enjoying kabobs at night market  

Silver temple

February 16, 2019   Chiang Mai, Thailand
Iron bridge over the Ping river      
If you walk east of the old city's walls you'll encounter the Ping river, once a major transport route to and from the city.
Tuk tuk      
A tuk tuk is one of many types of transport in Chiang Mai.
Phra Singh Village hotel      
The Phra Singh Village hotel where we are staying is a quiet oasis in the old town. Breakfast is excellent. There are usually two cooks making eggs and satay and roasted vegetables, and inside is a huge buffet, all delicious, and changing every day. In the afternoon they serve snacks and local desserts, and again the offerings change each day. Come to Thailand for the food.
Red truck taxi or songthaew      
The red truck or songthaew is a common sight in Chiang Mai. It is a converted pick up truck with two benches in the back.
Making pad thai      
Wat Srisuphan      
Wat Srisuphan is better known as the silver temple. The exterior is illuminated with lights that rotate through several colours.
Wat Srisuphan      
Wat Srisuphan      
Wat Srisuphan  

We're not in Canada

February 17, 2019   Thailand, Chiang Mai

Or Mexico or France or Bali or Greece, to name the last few places we've visited. Yes indeed, Thailand is different from the other countries on this list so, on this criteria alone, I can declare our trip a success.

But let me back up a bit. Paul and I choose a travel destination to satisfy a curiosity, like what's Greece like, or to do something we enjoy, like hike in the Alps. At the same time we know going in to manage, if not minimize, expectations, especially if it's the former, a new place, and that has served us well. So this is a long intro to saying that I've mixed feelings about Thailand. In this post I'll share some positives.

Our hotel, the Phra Singh Village, is one of the nicest I've stayed at. Beautiful buildings, gardens and pool, large comfortable rooms, conveniently located, and lots of amenities, like a gym and a couple of spas. Their delicious and ever-changing breakfast would rate as the best if only they could figure out desserts, but then I don't think this is a dessert country. France and Italy needn't worry when it comes to desserts.

Speaking of food, eating in Thailand is wonderful. Flavorful, fresh, vegetable-rich. Plus you can eat well for very little change (as long as you don't want wine). Nice.

The people are friendly. But I wouldn't place them at the top of my list of friendly people, up there with Mexico and Greece. There's something artificial in their friendliness, or maybe it's the way they express it, a smiling subservience that makes me feel uncomfortable.

The temples are curious and certainly photo-worthy. I'm also enjoying observing Buddhists in action, especially having just read Tim Ward's book What the Buddha Never Taught, on becoming a monk.

What else is positive? It feels safe here. There's not much cigarette smoke and not much dog poo. If you like a massage or strolling an open-air market there are more of these than you can shake a stick at.

Since we've more time in Thailand I hope I'll add some more to the positive column. In a future post, some annoyances.

Warorot market      
The Warorot market is three stories of markets, open every day. It's a locals' market, full of food, clothing, and accessories, not tourist souvenirs. Which begs the question, why are we here...
Eastern wall gate      
This stretch of wall isn't very long, maybe 100 meters each side of the gate. There is a huge poster nearby that states don't feed the pigeons in front of which people are feeding the pigeons.
Catching a red truck      
Getting a reading      
Getting your fortune read is just one of the services available at the Sunday walking market.
Dancing show      
The square in front of the museum was taken over for a dance presentation followed by live music, complete with laser lights and smoke. The crowd really enjoyed the show. I was pretty far away so the photo's not so great.
Sunday walking market      
Sunday walking market      
Sunday walking market      
Sunday walking market      
We saw some nice stuff for sale at the Sunday market, like art to put on the wall, but it's a bit awkward to get home. We did pick up a bamboo vase for 100 baht ($5).
Foot massage      
Want a massage? Come to Chiang Mai. Massage is everywhere. There's foot massage, Thai massage, even something where you put your feet in water filled with fish that nibble on you. Yuck.

Wat Doi Suthep

February 18, 2019   Thailand, Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is said to have three must-see temples. We've seen two. The third, Wat Doi Suthep, is up on a mountain, about 45 minutes away. So after breakfast we walked down the block to Wat Phra Singh to look for a red truck with the words Doi Suthep on the front. It didn't take long, and after getting a price, 50 baht each (a little over $CAD 2) we piled into the back of the pickup to wait for it to fill. Once there were ten passengers the driver cranked up the engine and we were off.

I sat furthest back as it's least claustrophobic. I had a birds eye view of the vehicles behind us as we raced up the mountain, leaning in the curves, and hanging on for dear life.

Once at the temple parking lot we piled out, paid the driver, then followed the crowd up the cool staircase to the temple.

Wat Doi Suthep is a very popular temple, I guess it's because of the view, though the air is currently so dirty you can't see anything. This wasn't a surprise, it's been like this since we arrived, it's the time of year in Thailand when air quality sucks.

Once at the temple I found many people worshipping the various Buddhas. Some were on the ground, some lighting candles, and some were walking in a procession around a gold stupa while holding yellow flowers. Whatever floats your boat, eh.

The famous staircase to the temple      
The temple stair was crowded when we arrived.
Paul at the Wat      
Making offerings to the Buddha      
Procession around the golden stupa      
Gold stupa      
Smoggy view      
Temple bells      
The king and queen      
This picture of the king, the one on the left, is ubiquitous in Chiang Mai. I suppose the lady on the right is the queen. Rumor has it he (along with much of the country's money) lives in Europe, though I suppose I shouldn't say this as Thailand's Lèse-majesté law is the world's most draconian. This is the law that pertains to the crime of violating majesty, an offense against the dignity of a reigning sovereign or against a state. I'm not a big fan of royalty, much less military governments, so two strikes against the country in my book.
Waiting for more passengers      
My view from the red truck

Goodbye Chiang Mai

February 19, 2019   Thailand, Chiang Mai

Today was our last day in Chiang Mai. Tomorrow we catch the 8:50 train to Bangkok. I'll miss the delicious and cheap food, the comfortable hotel, and the old town chock-a-block with temples.

City wall      
This is the southwest corner of the Chiang Mai city wall. The old wall is far from continuous, there are short stretches of what look like the original wall, partially collapsed sections, and completely missing sections. It is, after all, many hundreds of years old.
Orchids, Buak Had Park      
Orchids, Buak Had Park

The train to Bangkok

February 20, 2019   Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Thailand

To get to Bangkok we took the 8:50 out of Chiang Mai, the #8 train. The small, air-conditioned three-car train takes about ten and a half hours to make the 700 km trip. The train only offers second-class seats, so there isn't anywhere to walk to, no restaurant car or observatory car. The ticket includes a meal though you might, no you should bring something to eat to tide you over till Bangkok.

#8 train

The trip is long and not particularly comfortable. Despite its promising appearance in the website photos the train has seen better days. The seat padding is worn out. Paul's seat kept spontaneously reclining. The tiny toilet is a hole in the floor. And the poor train slows and struggles at the least incline, which didn't inspire confidence we'd make our destination. But it did, of course, finally get us to Bangkok.

I've left the best, or rather the worst, for last. The meal. I could describe it as worthy of a Survivor challenge. It appeared to be an invitation to food poisoning. It made Air Canada's offerings haute cuisine. Ha ha, I can laugh now.

We were served rice and two mackerels, one sweet and one spicy, all pre packaged so, said Paul, it must be safe. First off, looking at the local rivers I don't think I want to eat any fish. I won't show you the actual mackerel or you'll think I needed my head examined for having eaten it, which I did. It was very spicy, the crunchy chunks of fish absolutely disgusting looking but I was hungry and I wanted it out of my way asap as I also feared the nasty brown fish sauce would spill on me --- the rickety tray tables looked ready to go --- and then I'd smell of fish all day. I'm writing this, oh 12 hours later so I guess my decision was ok, no signs of illness. Yet.

As to the scenery, which is one reason to take a train versus a plane, it was interesting for awhile. Leaving Chiang Mai one got occasional glimpses of the outlines of hills, the smog obscuring details. We saw lots of birds, rice paddys, fields of sugar cane, water buffalo, cows, fields of solar panels, temples everywhere, big hilltop buddhas, rice fields burned, and endless little villages.

We were awfully glad when we pulled into Bangkok, in the dark night, where we availed ourselves of the train station bathroom and then walked out into the car-packed streets where we made death-defying runs to cross, then to look for our curious little hotel. But that's a story for tomorrow.

The from-the-train photos kind of suck because they are taken through dirty reflect-y glass and the train is moving, albeit slowly, but I figure sometimes a crappy pic is better than none.

#8 train      
Special and Express are relative terms      
As you may have noticed by now all signage is in Thai and English. Based on my experience English really is the international language, which is good for me as it's all I know, save a little Spanish and French.
The #8 train      
It looks nice in the photos. Just don't sit down. And bring a jacket, the temp varies from frigid to warm.
#8 train      
Trees seen from train      
Distant hill      
View from train      
Mackeral, mackerel, and rice      
Seen here lunch looks, well, ok. Just don't open them.
View from train      
View from train
Buddha, Thailand National Museum      

Hits and misses

February 23, 2019   Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Thailand

Our last day in Thailand.

Hits: The food, the food, the food. Bangkok's river. Phra Singh Village hotel in Chiang Mai. Loy La Long hotel in Bangkok. Chiang Mai street markets. Mango shakes. EVA airlines.

Misses: Too much Chiang Mai, not enough Bangkok. Too many temples. Maybe I should have gone to see some elephants.

In summary I liked Bangkok more than expected and Chiang Mai less. Chiang Mai is not an attractive town and it's a challenging place to walk which is a shame as it's sized right for walking and the temperatures are marginally more comfortable. Bangkok just looks cleaner, is more attractive, and is easier walking. If only it weren't so hot and humid.

Next stop, Ubud.