Monday, January 5, 2015

Chiang Mai, Thailand

{Wat Phra That Doi Suthep}

Chiang Mai will always live in my memory as the land of temples. We spent a week in this northern Thailand city while we waited for our India visas (more on that long, tedious process later) and I think we visited upwards of 30 Buddhist temples. You see, the thing about temples in Southeast Asia is that they're usually free, they're beautiful and unique, and you can often wind up in a meaningful, memorable conversation with a Buddhist monk. Sometimes these conversations are about Buddhism, but often the monks (who are typically in their young 20s) just want to talk about life and things in general. It's a great way to pass the time and learn about the region from a kind local. 

We rented bikes for our daily transportation around the city, which is a great way to get around, especially if you're exploring temples as you can usually ride your bike right on to the temple grounds and park them very close to the temples. We paid about $1 per day for each bike. 

Chiang Mai is also a really great place for night markets. There's a night bazaar every night on Chang Khlan Road about five or six blocks outside of the old city and every Sunday the main road in the old city shuts down around 4pm for the Sunday Market (also called the Walking Street Market). Both of these are huge with such a variety of goods and foods (four words: mango and sticky rice).

If you're in need of some relaxation, be sure to get a Thai massage while you're in Chiang Mai. The prices are so cheap and the experience is relaxing and memorable. Thai massages are different than what we're used to in America as they typically lay you on a pad on the ground and use their own body weight to stretch you in different positions and massage you in different ways. My first Thai massage experience was in Hat Yai (in the South) and it ended with the longest sound of my back cracking that I had ever heard...success! 

We traveled to Chiang Mai from Bangkok and took the Thai railway. Bangkok to Chiang Mai is a perfect distance for an overnight train and I recommend buying a ticket for Second Class-fan/sleeper. Riding the train is a great experience and a great way to see the beautiful Thai countryside.  

It's really popular in Chiang Mai to book a day trip out to an elephant sanctuary or tiger farm. While these are great ways to get some interesting photos, Bradford and I opted to forgo these experiences as it's nearly impossible to find a truly humane and ethical place that treats these animals well. (Perhaps we still felt bad about supporting the Sriracha Tiger Zoo.) 

Below are some pictures from our time in Chiang Mai. 






{Wat Chiang Mun}




{At the entrance to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep}






I was always so enamored by the exteriors of the temples in Thailand, and especially the rooftops. I eventually realized that what enhanced the beauty of these exteriors so much was that they were usually set against the backdrop of an incredible bright, blue sky. 




{Wat Srisuphan}

Wat Srisuphan is a little bit out of the way, but it is worth the effort as the entire temple is coated in silver, giving it the nickname "silver temple". It really is unique and beautiful. After spending a few days touring temples, I started to suffer from temple fatigue but this one definitely stood out as one of my favorites (despite the fact that women are not allowed inside). 


{Wat Phrathat Doi Kham--the largest seated Buddha in Chiang Mai}

On one day, we rented a scooter instead of two bikes so that we could see some sights that were farther away, including Wat Phrathat Doi Kham -- a really impressive and large seated Buddha. We also used that day on the scooter to ride to the top of Doi Suthep, which was surprisingly mountainous and cold. If you're looking for a way to beat the heat of Thailand, I definitely recommend taking a ride to the top!


{In front of the Sunday Walking Street Market--Warning: if you travel in Southeast Asia for an extended period of time, you WILL get a t-shirt tan.}


{One of the most heavenly foods there is: mango and sticky rice}


{Just inside the entrance to the old city of Chiang Mai}