After our adventures in Bangkok, we headed north to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand, and was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom — which means it is a perfect place to see fine examples of Lanna architecture (older than what we’d seen in Bangkok).
We charged up for our days of sightseeing with excellent breakfasts — I had woken up on the first morning craving fried rice. And what showed up at breakfast?
It was perfect fried rice — studded with veggies and raisins, and different from what I’d had in Bangkok as it was flavoured with curry powder!
And off we went to explore Chiang Mai!
The most famous temple in Chiang Mai is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, located on the top of the mountain (Doi Suthep). Legend has it that the king of the Lanna Kingdom had a relic (Buddha’s shoulder bone) and he wanted to find a perfect home for it. The king placed the relic on the back of a white elephant, who climbed up Doi Suthep and died. The king then built the temple on this site.
On the way up to the temple, we stopped to visit the village of the Meo Hill Tribe. The people live there in extreme poverty — many of the men are addicted to opium, and so the women work to support their families by selling their wares at the local markets.
The villagers also grow arabica coffee beans and raise animals to support themselves:
Amongst the very rural homes it was quite a juxtaposition to see satellite dishes and scooters:
From the village, we continued up the mountain to the temple. The grounds of Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep are just stunning. At the right time of year you can get a beautiful view of Chiang Mai, but when we were there (March) it was prime season for the farmers to be burning off their fields to prepare for the next year’s crops. The air was filled with dust and haze, and so we had to make do with the beautiful view atop the mountain.
The temple grounds housed many beautiful Buddha statues —
Including a copy of the Emerald Buddha, again made of jade (we had seen the original at the Grand Palace in Bangkok):
Outside of Thai temples are a series of bells that both look and sound beautiful:
We then headed off to lunch (I’ll fill you in on that adventure soon) and then back to the hotel for a swim and some R&R. For dinner we stayed at the hotel and asked for a vegetarian noodle dish — and what a treat it was! One of my favourite Thai dishes is Pad Kee Mao (aka. “Drunken Noodles”) — rice noodles in soy sauce with tofu and lots of veggies, and that’s what we got. Because we don’t eat fish sauce & shrimp paste, the chef cooked the noodles in oil and garlic with chili & basil, and served the soy sauce and lime juice on the side.
I love these broad rice noodles, and can’t wait to cook with them more here at home now that I’ve seen how it’s done in Thailand! They were so beautiful, but I think I spent just as much time looking at the colourful banners hanging in the trees as I did looking at my noodles.
After dinner we headed off to Chiang Mai’s Night Bazaar — they have everything you can imagine for sale (clothes, knock-off brand name items, leather goods, handicrafts, shoes, and more!), and expect bargaining!
And then it was time to rest up for our next day in Chiang Mai — more beautiful temples, a market adventure, and lots more excellent food!