Highlights of Thailand – Part 3 (Chiang Mai)

One of the primary destinations in Thailand for most tourists is Chiang Mai, and this was no exception for us. This old, culturally rich city is located in the northern part of the country, about 689 km (428 miles) from Bangkok. We definitely noticed that the weather was slightly better than Bangkok—a little cooler and less humidity.

One option for getting to Chiang Mai is an overnight train from Bangkok. We decided to go this route.

Chiang Mai Train (3)

Our train to Chiang Mai. (Bangkok Station)

Having done an overnight train in Egypt from Cairo to Luxor, we knew what to expect and the journey was similar, although this trip might have been a slightly smoother ride. It took about 12 hours (7 pm to 7 am). Upon our arrival at the Chiang Mai train station, we got a taxi to our hotel, left our bags there and then took off exploring on foot.

Chiang Mai Hotel

Our hotel in Chiang Mai. Great location, inside the old city.

There is an abundance of things to do in Chiang Mai, from visiting temples in the old city, to getting into the surrounding mountains for all kinds of adventures. We spent two days here, one day in the town and one day in the surrounding countryside.

The old city (founded in the 1200’s) is laid out in a square with a moat surrounding it. It was the capital of a tributary kingdom to Siam, and hence its many monuments and temples. We arrived on New Year’s Day, but it seemed to be pretty much a normal day around town.

Chiang Mai Wat Chiang Mun (9)

At one of the temples we visited in Chiang Mai, they had a breakfast social going on and offered us a treat (noodles in banana leaves).

Temples were open, restaurants were open, and tour companies were open for business too.

Chiang Mai Wat Phan Tao (2)

Wat Phan Tao temple. This was a very unique temple, made out of wood. We almost felt like we were in Norway with the wood structure.

Chiang Mai Wat Tung Yu (5)

Wat Tung Yu temple.

Chiang Mai Wat Prah Singh (8)

A procession at Wat Phra Singh temple.

Chiang Mai Wat Prah Singh (10)

Donation station in Wat Prah Singh. Buddhist monks are revered in Thailand and receive many donations.

Chiang Mai Ancient Pagoda (3)

Wat Chedi Luang, from the 14th century. Earthquakes from as far back as the 1500’s have taken their toll on this old structure, also known as the Ancient Pagoda.

Chiang Mai Reclining Buddha (2)

A reclining Buddha from the 15th century. It faces the Ancient Pagoda above.

About 30 minutes outside the city is the golden temple of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s most famous temple. Traffic up to the temple was busy and slow, but we managed to make it just before dusk.

Chiang Mai Doi Suthep (2)

You climb 309 steps up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.

Chiang Mai Doi Suthep (18)

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple. This beautiful temple is gilded in gold. The whole complex sits on a hill overlooking Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai Doi Suthep (20)

Buddha images at Doi Suthep temple.

Chiang Mai Doi Suthep (25)

The lovely ornate terrace overlooking the city of Chiang Mai at Doi Suthep temple.

On our 2nd day, we knew we wanted to get up into the mountains, and there were lots of tour companies who offered various treks. We arranged day trip that did the following: A visit to a butterfly garden, and a visit to a Karen Long Neck tribal village, a hike up to a falls, lunch, an elephant ride (which was personally quite a story), and a raft trip down a river. A lot in one day, but it was a perfect blend of activities.

Chiang Mai Long Neck Karen Tribe (7)

The women who wear these brass rings are from a sub-group of the Karen people, called Padaung. The ancestral home of these people is believed to be Burma, but others believe it to be China. The long neck is considered to be of great beauty and attractive to a potential husband. Many Padaung have migrated to Thailand from Burma to escape the physical and political oppression of that country’s past regimes.

Chiang Mai Adventure Day (12)

My son on the trail to the falls.

Chiang Mai Adventure Day (10)

Another view on our hike. Some backpacker shelters.

Chiang Mai Adventure Day (15)

At the falls – there was a great little pool at the base to cool down and enjoy after the hike.

Chiang Mai Adventure Day 50

I was asked to ride “bareback” on the elephant’s neck. My first experience at doing this – I was just hoping I wouldn’t fall into the river!

From Chiang Mai we flew to Krabi for a beach adventure, I’ll cover this in my next post!