March 21st, 2011
Welcome to Chiangmai.
This was my first trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand's second largest city. I'd sought advice from friends on things to do there and had been recommended elephant washing, white water rafting and visits to hill tribes. All very interesting, but my preference was for a more relaxing break.
I'd chosen a hotel by looking on the web site “Trip Adviser”. The Rimping Village Hotel is currently considered the 4th best hotel in Chiang Mai with 276 reviews rating it as “excellent”. And excellent it was. Probably the most helpful and friendly staff you can find anywhere; it's in a quiet lane just over the river from the main city. The hotel offers bicycles to get about town and there are some excellent local restaurants within a few yards of its entrance.
Chiang Mai is the right sort of place for quiet contemplation. Founded in 1296, it was carefully sited with a river on one side, a forest on the other and a sacred mountain overlooking the city. The forest is a place for retreat and meditation and a trip to the forest wat of U Mong is useful for understanding this important feature of the city.
A visit to the sacred mountain is next. It's a long and bumpy ride to the top by road and visitors then need to climb further to reach Doi Suthep - one of northern Thailand's most sacred temples.
There are numerous temples in the city itself.
Several of these feature “monk chats” so you can learn about Bhuddism during your visit whilst the monks have the opportunity to improve their English.
Chiang Mai was once on a major caravan route linking the Indian port of Mawlamyiang in Burma with China. The legacy of this is the Saturday walking market, the enormous Sunday walking market and the night market.
Food opportunities abound.
And as the sun sets over the Mae Nam Ping it's time to leave. Chiang Mai does offer a lot of activities including aerial rides above the jungle, a night safari, horse riding and rock climbing. But for me, Chiang Mai was a great place for a gentle cycle ride to a beautiful temple, and relaxing by the pool. I'll be back for the elephants one day I hope.
And not just the elephants!
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