We arrived in Chiang Mai on the Greenbus X121 service from Chiang Rai. At 169 THB each it was an easy trip. Then, it was a hot, sweaty 3km hike to our hotel, the Thapae Garden Guest House, but there was air conditioning waiting for us and what felt like a luxurious room.
We seem to have left the easiest until last. Most folks will start in Thailand, Chiang Mai will be early on their list of places to go. For us it’s our last stop before flying out of Thailand and Asia.
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It’s time to leave the country when things that normally you’d find interesting now irritate the heck out of you. The tuk tuk’s have been especially noisy recently, proving me right on this piece of wisdom. The practice of parking motorbikes smack bang in the middle of the “pavement” when there’s clearly a space at the side has become ridiculous rather than amusing.
So. Chiang Mai. Nigel was here 25 years ago. It’s grown a lot since. A huge amount. And it’s incredibly westernized. And easy. We definitely should have come here earlier in our trip, if for not other reason than we might appreciate it a lot more.
The highlights for us in Chiang Mai were the night markets. Well. Ok, the food at some of the smaller night stalls.
Sour Pork Sausages
The sour pork sausages at Chiang Mai’s south gate are wonderful and highly recommended, especially when washed down with a cold bottle of Chang. There are plastic tables and chairs in the south gate food area, so grab one. Then head to the 711 and buy cold beer. Sit, eat, drink, enjoy.
Khao Soi Noodles
Khao soi is the noodle dish specialty of Chiang Mai. Coconut milk curry with meat (or not), crunchy vegetables on the side and topped with crispy shallots. Nom Nom.
There’s Thai dessert too, for us at the night markets. It comes in the form of Khanom Krok. Rice flour milk topped with coconut milk and cooked to mouth-watering perfection.
There are food night markets throughout Chiang Mai. We headed to the area at the Chiang Mai South Gate most nights, as we thought it had the best options. It was also relatively close to the Saturday Walking Market.
The Saturday Walking Market
One of the key tourist attractions in Chiang Mai is the Saturday walking market. We didn’t arrive there until 8pm. When it’s a zoo. A hot, sweaty, very crowded zoo. It’s where you walk. Along past stalls of t-shirts, some food (but not much), souvenirs and the like. We didn’t last very long at the market. Unless you’re on the outside of the crowd then all you can see is the crowd.
Wat’d Out in Chiang Mai
We couldn’t visit Chiang Mai without taking in some of the temples. You should read about the top 15 jaw dropping temples in Chiang Mai here. Or Wats, as they are in Thailand. Bear in mind we’re pretty templed out (despite the glory of Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai), this wasn’t going to be easy. We managed to visit one Wats before we quit. Actually we managed two, if you count that we stood outside Wat Phra Singh, saw that it cost to enter and decided not to.
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Wat Chedi Luang
The first wat that we visit is Chedi Luang, which was begun in the 14th century. It’s famous for housing the Emerald Buddha until an earthquake in 1545, after which the Buddha found a new home in Luang Prabang.
And so, after some final watermelon fruit shakes, another hit of sour pork sausages and khai soi, we’re off.
It’s back to Bangkok for the last time, we’re on a 2nd class fan-cooled train (you need to book your train tickets a little ahead here on this major tourist route).
We have two days in Bangkok before we fly to Auckland, New Zealand, where I’m ready for a cooler climate, some mountains, no mosquitos and the same bed for more than two nights at a time..
- Chiang Mai South Gate Market
- Saturday walking market
- The Green Bus (Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai)
- Trains from Chiang Mai to Bangkok
- The Night Bazaar
- Wat Phra Singh
- Wat Chedi Luang
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