Chiang Mai: The Northern Capital of Thailand
Русская версия Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand deserves visiting for several reasons: it is easy to reach it both from Bangkok and with the international flights from, for instance, China, as we did. Moreover, Chiang Mai is a convenient point to start from for travelling at Mae Hong Son Loop – the circle route in the North of Thailand through the countryside, sanctuaries, and towards the Burmese border (which you may even cross illegally!).
As often mentioned at the traveller forums, there is a bus connecting Chiang Mai city centre and the airport, yet, we failed to find it through the airport employees. Everyone suggested going by taxi, and we had to comply, since its price was also quite low: only 160 baht (about 4 euros), fixed price. By the way, if you need to change money, the rates in currency exchange points do not differ from these in the city.
We checked in the hostel at around 10 PM and asked where to eat at the reception. We were said that there is a local market in Chiang Mai called Warorot in addition to several tourist markets (Saturday Walking Street, Sunday Walking Street, The Night Bazaar, etc). The receptionist advised to try Warorot and since that evening Warorot became our favourite place in Chiang Mai. It seems to have everything, especially to eat, but, unfortunately, there are only few places where you may actually sit. For instance, if you order the traditional Chiang Mai soup Kao Soi, you will have to eat at the counter.
Some other specialities of the market include Japanese pancakes, sausages, and, of course, fried insects of all kinds.
We liked the small deep fried balls from sweet potatoes – unhealthy, but delicious!
During the day, the food in Warorot is sold inside the market building.
The food is cheap and tasty, especially if you prefer authenticity. On the next days we were having breakfast and dinner in Warorot. For breakfast they serve something in between porridge and soup with a texture resembling the wallpaper glue, served with the deep fried pastry. We really liked it!
Just to compare, the tourist market offers the same dishes, but thrice more expensive, in addition to the crowds of tourists.
Chiang Mai sights.
The major attractions of Chiang Mai are the Buddhist temples which you will see in huge quantities in any other part of Thailand.
In addition to the local market, we would recommend Thai massage, but choose carefully where to have it. There are several places in Chiang Mai in which Thai massage is made by the female prisoners and ex-prisoners. It is not only that this massage was really great. Paying 200 bahts for this massage (this is the price of the whole body massage), you will support the women who got into the hard life situation and now try to survive through learning the new skill. You need to book time at Chiang Mai Women’s Prison Massage Centre in advance, since the Centre is quite popular. If there are no time slots for you available, they will recommend one of their branches providing the massage by ex-convicts. Since the Prison Massage is mentioned in Lonely Planet, many other massage centers started to put the Prison Massage sign on their fronts. Yet, they often have no connection to the Prison Massage Centre, so make sure that you follow the recommendations. The female guards of the centre were kind enough to complement Victor’s collection of the photos with policemen from different countries.
Before leaving Chiang Mai for making the Mae Hong Son loop in ten days, we hired a bike (read how to choose the bike in Chiang Mai here) and went for a several hour trip to Doi Suthep – the Buddhist monastery outside the city, on top of the hill. There was a traffic jam on the road, so getting out took quite a bit. Victor did not have the skill of manoeuvring between the cars yet, as the locals do. Then we were ascending the hill for the sake of training before the upcoming trip. In the middle of the road, there are several observation points allowing for seeing the city. Unfortunately, the haze did not let fully enjoy it.
You need to drive up even longer, and you will not miss Doi Suthep monastery – there are too many people around. You may get into the monastery by steps or cable road.
Inside the monastery there is another observation point, elephant and other animal statues, a stupa. The entrance fee for farangs (white people as called in Tai language) is 30 bahts – a bit less than a dollar. By the way, nobody checked our tickets.
Here you may also make a wish rubbing this gong.
After the monastery, you may drive further up the road to visit the king residence and tribes, but it was getting dark, and we did not want to descend the road in the darkness. Descending was much more complicated, at least for us, since many cyclists left us behind. This is one of the major entertainments, especially for Chiang Mai expats to cycle up and down Doi Suthep hill. On the way, we saw the motorcycle with a girl who fell from it, fortunately, safe, but not too sound. Entering Chiang Mai was even more difficult that getting out of it, even though Victor was getting more experienced in driving. We anyway returned home when it was completely dark. The initiation, however, happened and on the next day we left for a ten-day ride on Mae Hong Son loop. After returning, we went from Chiang Mai to Bangkok. Judging by our experience, we recommend buying the tickets to Bangkok in advance. In our case, due to the high season the train tickets were not available, while only the very low quality bus companies were selling bus tickets. We did not have a large choice, and had to buy a ticket from them.
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