Chiang Mai

The ancient city of Chiang Mai is enclosed by a moat and remnants of the city walls and gates, forming a perfect square. This creates a naturally well-defined and focused area inside, approximately a square mile in size, filled with small lanes and pleasingly quiet roads – traffic is efficiently served by ring roads that follow the city walls.

Wat Chiang Man

Wat Chiang Man

We stayed close to the north gate at Mountain View Guesthouse which has creaky, but pleasant, wooden buildings surrounded by a smart canopy of plants – an oasis in the city. It was only a short walk to a multitude of temples, restaurants, bars and markets or a whizz across town in minutes on a scooter.

After a day or so finding our bearings, we were invited to watch a football match with our friend Piers – in Chiang Mai doing Muay Thai Boxing training – and a few of his mates. The atmosphere inside Chiang Mai FC’s stadium was electric – drum-bashing, singing, and chanting; fuelled by lots of beer – the locals come prepared with an ice-box.

The crowd – a nice mixture of families, young & old – were very jovial and especially excitable every time the ball went vaguely near the goal. After the footie, and a good many beers, we headed back into town to find some food and have a wander around the night market.

A short collage of some memories from Chiang Mai

Having enjoyed so much universally-good Thai food, which is usually cooked in minutes, we decided to do a cookery course and learn how they do it. We enrolled for a half day at the Thai Kitchen Cookery Centre.

There we had great fun making spring rolls, papaya salad, masaman curry, green curry, pad thai and for desert some fried bananas in coconut cream. It was a really fun experience and the staff looked after us well, managing to give individual advice, even though at times we were cooking in groups of 15 or more. You eat each dish you prepare!

Another fantastic trip we did in Chiang Mai was by scooter through the Mai Sa valley maintaining a circular route around the mountain, through a national park and small villages. This was 4 hours of riding on good quality, winding, fun mountain roads with beautiful scenery. We stopped off at Mai Sa waterfall which had 10 separate stages to the fall, each with a gradually steeper and more arduous climb.

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The next day we hired a scooter and headed up Doi Suthep mountain to visit the temple at the top over-looking the city. The highlight of the temple complex was without doubt the big golden stupa – simply stunning, catching the sunlight.

Further up the mountain we stopped off at a hilltribe village, which had a rabbit-warren of a market, selling lots of very pretty bags, clothes & jewellery. Next to a small museum there was also a wonderfully colourful garden and a great viewpoint. Quite touristy but worthwhile to visit.

One night we thought we’d embark on another Thai tradition and went to a Muay Thai Boxing match. We headed to the seedier part of town and didn’t really fancy going into to one of the girly bars, until we realised that the entrance to the boxing ring was in a courtyard behind the bars.

There were around 8 fights in total, including young boys, a silly blind-folded flight and one or two proper fights that were decided by skill and technique. We both felt that we left with a new-found respect of the sport. Before each bout the contestants would ritualistically pray to each corner of the ring and were very respectful of their opponent after a victory was achieved. Great fun.

We stayed in Chiang Mai for a week and loved it; we’ve already resolved to return one day.

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