I was so stupidly excited for Chiang Mai. Every person we spoke to told us it was their favourite place on earth. After hearing similar things before arriving in Hoi An in Vietnam and falling deeply in love with the place , my expectation were sky high.
My first impression of Chiang Mai was that it wasn’t what I was expecting. I imagined small streets with lanterns hung on every corner, peaceful streets and quiet surroundings. This isn’t what we found, but it wasn’t nessesarily a bad thing.
The best way I can explain Chiang Mai to someone that hasn’t been there is , it’s town built to hold markets. Every single corner we walked around had a new set of canopied stalls selling all the clothing and trinkets a backpacker could ever need.
My disappointment that this little town was a lot more active and modern than first expected quickly dissipated when we were walking through the Saturday market. Locals playing instruments on our right , woman selling beautiful ornate jewellery on our left, and the delicious smells of Thai food all around us made me happy to have come to this little town.
I think the most surprising part of Chiang Mai was how modern it all felt . 7-11’s everywhere, modern trendy burger bars and fantastic health food shops are very common here. I suppose the fact that most travelers end up living here for a while has brought with it all the amenities from home. But I was expecting a little more. I was longing for the ‘old town’ as it’s named to have hidden secrets around every corner but everything looked very shiny and new.
That isn’t to say it’s not beautiful because it is. So much detail can be found on every building and even on the guard posts along the street. The temples, as always in Thailand, are a little bit bigger here, a little bit brighter and a whole lot more spectacular. We were extremely lucky to wander into the ‘City Pillar’ festival being held at Wat Chedi Luang Temple. Wat Chedi Luang is an incredible temple on any day of the week but during this festival people from all over North Thailand come and leave flowers and donations at the temple . The town believe that all the souls of the past residents is housed in a central pillar contained inside the temple. People come and pray for rain and to thank the past residents for watching over them. Every inch of the temple was covered in about 4 foot of flowers and people sang and danced through the night. The streets surrounding the temple also held a special week long market to celebrate the event (yes, another market). We were very lucky to experience the event. We’ll definitely remember it for a long time.
The main problem I had with the markets was that we arrived on a Saturday so went straight to the Saturday market , which in our opinion is by FAR the best market.Unfortunately with no point of reference we didn’t realise this until the market was gone. I stupidly expected the Sunday market to be the same so I put off buying a lot of things and could I find the things again? Hell no. I will now sadly have to live life without a deathly hallows tank top…it’s a sad day.
The Sunday market was more food and craft based. I got to try my first mango sticky rice . It was amazing! I’d would cover everything in that coconut sauce they put on the dessert…I want to bathe in it !
Apart from the Saturday market and the temples the only other thing you MUST do if you are in Chiang Mai is visit the lady boy show. It was cheap, you got a free drink and it was filled with a good two hours of fantastic entertainment. Those woman on stage were stunning and they were pulling dance moves that I dream of achieving. I even got a bit misty eyed when one of the ladies un-did her beauty routine to the song ‘My Way’.
Chiang Mai is also the place we got to visit the ‘Happy Elephant Home’, which was so fantastic that I need to dedicate a whole post to it. I wish I could dedicate every post to it because I loved it so much but Lee feels that may be slightly excessive
Chiang Mai was definitely our days of activities. I think we did more excursions and trips than any other place. We also managed to squeeze in a cooking lesson on a rainy day and Lee learnt how to cook his favourite food..PAD THAI! I am excited to get him cooking all of these meals he’s learnt along the road, but he has already been checking what Australian Mc Donalds sells so that may not be for some time.
Overall we did like Chiang Mai. Would I say it was my favourite place in the world? Probably not but I did love the experiences I had there and I’d recommend a visit to anyone but just make sure you hit the weekend on your visit since the market was my favourite thing in the city. In fact after re-reading what i’ve written I’ve realised there was so much I loved about this place so the town probably just suffered from our expectations being unattainable. So maybe I should tell you all it’s awful so that when you arrive you all fall in love. Chiang Mai is a place you some how love more after you leave.