I took a short flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai early in the morning, so I arrived at my hotel at a reasonable hour. This was one of the nicer places I stayed at, so it had a pool. Pools are not all that common in my stays so my rule is to swim at least once a day when I have access to a pool which I did. I then ended up meeting up with a nice gal from Brooklyn that night and we had a killer dinner at a place called Niman in the part of town closest to the university. The food in Chiang Main is amazing, I’d recommend a 3-6 night stay in the place for the food alone.
The following morning, I rented a scooter to explore the city and head north a bit and up a mountain to check out Wat Phrathat Doi Suthem (only a 30 minute ride).
My awesome and very manly ride that day. Note the matching helmet:
A scenic pit stop along the way:
Wat Phrathat Doi Suthern:
My dinner companion from the night before highly recommended that I keep going up the mountain after the temple, until I hit a nice little village along the way. The recommendation was stellar, not so much because of the destination (which was nice enough), but because the additional 20 minute ride up on the scooter was sublime. I’ve rented a dozen scooters along the way and this was one of the nicer rides I’ve experienced in my travels. The road is nice and wide, mostly well-maintained, and not subject to heavy traffic. The plants and flowers along the way also make the road along way smell absolutely amazing. I would highly recommend making the trip up the mountain via scooter.
I took a short video of the ride up, not as grand as the actual experience of course, given that I was going slow to compensate for the one-handed scooter driving.
The destination, Hmong Village, caters massively to tourists on the main little street. It’s not a bad place to pick up nice artisanal pieces at a good price, but if you want to get a real sense of the place, walk around the surrounding streets:
On the way heading north up the mountain, you’ll pass Chiang Mai University which I would recommend for a stop on the way back. The campus is absolutely enormous and immaculately maintained. They also run shuttle buses for tourists, making it easy to explore the campus. You definitely need to take a scooter or the shuttle as the campus is absolutely massive. The size of the campus of the University of British Columbia will give you a sense of the enormity of the place:
As a general observation, more buildings should have dinosaurs on the front lawn:
When I got back to the old part of Chiang Mai, I set out to check out some of the many religious sites around. You can easily spend two days walking around the old town, hitting a gorgeous Buddhist temple every few blocks. I really only had time to explore the places that were most recommended:
Wat Suan Dok:
Wat Phra Singh:
Wat Chedi Luang:
Wat Pha Tao:
Some monks I ran across in a temple site, doing construction. Apparently even some monks want to maintain their silky white skin:
I had the scooter for 24 hours, so I decided to take advantage of the rental to explore some temples and a restaurant outside the downtown core at night. Riding a scooter in the city at night was an adventure, not so much because of crazy driving, but because of the really odd street design. You have to understand something about the layout around the old part of town in Chiang Mai. The old part of the city is held within a square, surrounded on all ends by canals, with a three lane road running on both sides of the canals, and frequent bridge connections. The odd part is that both sides of the canal are one way streets, which means that if you want to go one block behind you against traffic, you have to go forward at least one hundred meters, cross a bridge, loop around, cross another bridge and take your turn up the block. You’d think that you can navigate around the one-way street issue by simply banking left and working your way in a loop to the block you want to hit, but nope, most of the streets don’t connect to one another, so the only want to access them is by making the absurd loop across the water. The first restaurant I wanted to eat at ended up being closed and as luck would happen the other one I ended up hitting was literally one block behind me so I had to make the absurd manoeuvre.
However, before going to eat I made a night stop at a temple that I wanted to check out. After this I really got into visiting temples at night, with a proper camera, the lighting looks magical:
I finished the night off by going to a reggae bar a 10 minute walk from my hotel called Roots Rock Reggae. I actually ended up there for three nights in a row because the live bands playing were always excellent, there was no cover (but please tip the band), and the beer was cheap:
I recorded a bit of video and audio so that you would get a better sense of the place. The audio:
The next day I did a day trip to Don Inthanon, the highest point in Thailand, which is the subject of another post. When I returned late in the afternoon, I checked out two final temples, Wat Inthakhim Saduemuang and Wat Chiang Man:
I’ll leave you with some photos of the streets of Chiang Mai: