After Bangkok, it was a refreshing change to be in Chiang Mai! Although it is still the second biggest city after Bangkok, it feels less hectic and with a friendlier atmosphere. We started our relaxing few days there walking around and getting our bearings. Its not the easiest place to navigate (despite all the travel books telling you otherwise!) But luckily you never seem to be far from a beautiful temple in Thailand so we weren’t lost for long! We spent our first morning exploring the temples in the old part of the city and were particularly taken by the main temple, wat phra Singh which holds Chiang mai’s most revered Buddha image.
The evening led us to an exciting new activity-a Thai cooking course! We began by being shown around the local food market where our teacher told us about all the traditional Thai ingredients. When we got back to the house the first dish on the menu was Pad Thai (our favourite!) We weren’t expecting our meals to be the same quality that we’d experienced so far but they were delicious! Next up was a Thai sweet and sour soup which we weren’t quite so keen on! But that was quickly followed by another favourite-spring rolls! We were suprised by how simple these were to make! Apparently its not just at home that you can buy ready rolled pastry! Finally, we made a curry. Siobhan chose to cook Chiang Mai noodles which are traditional to the area while Hannah cooked a Thai green curry which was definitely a Thai version of ‘mild’!
The next day we booked on to a tour to visit What Phra That Doi Suthep. We were told that this temple is Chiang Mai’s largest tourist attraction and its easy to see why. The temple is perched on top of a huge mountain which took us about an hour to drive to. The temple itself is then reached by a steep set of stairs (which looked a lot easier to walk up than they actually were!) At the top we were able to explore the majestic temple and learn about how it came to be there whilst being treated to views of the whole of Chiang mai. We were told that the king in 1383 took a relic on the back of a white elephant and when the elephant died he enshrined the relic in a temple to mark the spot. The temple was the most beautiful we have seen yet. It was covered in golden statues with ornate mosaics and sparkling gems everywhere you looked. We also got the chance to visit a nearby market village where we learnt about their traditional way of life and took in the amazing views!
Our final day was Sunday which is the day that holds the popular ‘Sunday walking street’ market. We picked up some souvenirs and spent the evening exploring all the different stalls. It was a shoppers paradise but we had to restrain ourselves as our bags would not be holding three months worth of handmade gifts! Unfortunately we don’t have any pictures of the market as it has a reputation for pick pockets so we didn’t take our cameras!
When we were all shopped out it was time for another early night, ready for a week at the elephant nature park!