Our two-week adventure began in Chiang Mai and admittedly, not knowing too much about Thailand, I was sceptical of what exactly there was to do. Luckily my friend insisted that we spend a week there and by the end it became one of my most favourite places I’ve visited.
After checking into the hostel, our first priority was to find food! Across the road were a few street stalls/restaurants and despite the questionable nature of the ingredients that were on display, as well as the issue of hygiene we settled on a place and gingerly sat down. Surprised at how cheap everything was, we ended up ordering three dishes to share (my proclamations of hunger were alas, dismissed) and although the food was good, the portions were TINY. Cue an ‘I told you so’ and a move onto the next food vendor! Learning from our experiences minutes ago, we were not to be fooled and ordered the large dish, which isn’t anything in western sizes, but enough to satisfy our hunger. We topped off on fruit, which was another thing we found to be amazingly cheap! Our diets in Thailand were probably at its healthiest, easily meeting the five-a-day quota.
Living in Hong Kong for nearly a year, you’d think our bodies would have acclimatised to the high temperatures. But touring the many temples of Chiang Mai the next day, we were soon forced to seek sweet air-conditioned refuge in the nearest 7/11. As we continued to explore the city, was continually surprised by how cheap everything was. Wandering around the night markets, it was tempting not to buy everything in sight and for the sake of my hand luggage, most of my money ended up on food and watermelon smoothies. One thing that I did allow myself to buy (out of necessity might I add) are the typical backpacker trousers. You know the ones. Anyways, this came in handy on numerous occasions visiting temples, wherein you could whip out these printed pants and become temple appropriate in a matter of seconds. Although we didn’t make all the temples, these ones should be on your main list fo’ sho’:
- Wat Chedi Luang – a refreshing difference from all the lavishly decorated and embellished Thai temples. Built in the 14th century and once hit by an earthquake, it was reconstructed and now stands magnificently in the centre of Chiang Mai. Its pink hue makes its one of my favourites from the city, heh.
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – located on top of a mountain, this temple is stunning, not least because of the sun reflecting off all the gold paint it’s covered in. One parting tip is to pay for a single journey to the top, rather than a return (using the red buses/taxis). This ensures you more time to spend up there, rather than the measly hour and a half we got given. There are plenty of red taxis about, so would be pretty easy to make your way back down.
- Wat Sri Suphan – we had attempted to visit this on our first temple tour of Chiang Mai, but did not have the appropriate clothing. This must have been fate, since we came back later in the day, drawn in by the night market around the area and marvelled at the temple in its true glory. Lit up by the lights amidst the darkness of evening, made the temple even more beautiful to look at. And the (slightly) cooler temperature was a bonus too.
Really wished we had perhaps planned things better or even stayed longer to explore the temples outside of the old town. We had wanted to visit Doi Inthanon National Park, but hadn’t allocated enough time to do so. Just another excuse to return!