Thinking of Chiang Mai: A Guide
I love Chiang Mai but I haven’t been able to spend anywhere near as much time as I would like exploring the narrow roads of the old town and the various, beautiful little temples. I hope to go back soon to spend some quality time getting to know the city and rekindle some old memories of those quiet city nights, but for now here’s my guide to some of the best thigns to do in and around Chiang Mai.
Of the 300 or so Buddhist temples in Chiang Mai, Wat Phra Doi Suthep remains my favourite (though I’ve visited only a handful). I visited this temple just once and made my ascent up to the mountain top stupas via the temple’s 306 steps which is tiring but worth it. After a few hours of exploration, in awe at the vistas of the stunning Thai countryside and the beautiful chedi, I finally sat in on a Sai Sin ceremony, and with my bracelet loosely tied around my wrist I made my way back down into town.
Orange robed monks seem to be on every street in Chiang Mai – and of course in and around every temple. If you’re intrigued by their way of life and would like to have a chat – then do so. There’s an interesting Monk Chat programme within the city which gives people an opportunity to interact with local Monks – primarily students. It’s a good way for them to continue their English language learning and can be a fun way to unravel some of the mystery.
Everyone should visit at least one jungle in their life and the Thai jungle is a relatively easy introduction to those who are unsure. I spent around 4 days in the jungle between Chiang Mai and Burma and loved every second. I especially adored the nighttime in the jungle, whether in a tent or spending the night in a local village. The sounds of the fauna are mesmerising, the scents intoxicating and the people and animals one meets along the way all truly incredible and unforgettable.
Northern Thai Food
Thai cuisine is delicous. Whether dining in a fine island restaurant or by the roadside in Bangkok, the Thai people are culinary experts. Northern Thai cuisine though has it’s own flare. You’ll never find cocnut milk in proper northern Thai food and the rice is always served sticky. Burmese curries are popular, as are marinated meats, but the most notable dish is Kôw soy which combines wheat-and-egg noodles and a rich, fragrant curry broth. My favourite northern Thai dish is probably Nám prík nùm which is a mix of long green chillies, shallots and garlic that are grilled and then mashed into a spicy paste that’s served on top of sticky rice, with vegetables and deep-fried pork crackling. I found the fish soup to the side at a local morning market inChiang Mai and ate it for breakfast.
Honourable mentions go to the Chiang Mai night bazaar, the breathtaking collection of temples in the old city and Chiang Mai’s flourishing cafe culture.