Chiang Mai, Thailand
19.12.2011 - 23.02.2012
Chiang Mai in the North West of Thailand is the country’s second city, but it’s no Birmingham!
We arrived at 5pm on a Sunday evening, after a 6 hour journey from Sukhothai. We were lucky enough to experience the ‘walking street’ which takes place on weekends only. It’s basically a giant night market that stretches through the old town, especially pedestrianized for the event.
The market was amazing, it wasn’t the usual night market full of fake Rolexes and adidas trainers with Reebok soles; it was a giant shopping paradise! Every stall had wonderful hand-made clothes, bags, jewellery, crafts, shoes, lanterns, trinkets, candles, scents, food, souvenirs… Sophia wanted to buy EVERYTHING! We walked the whole evening exploring the stalls and buying the things we just couldn’t resist. Each stall owner would call out as we approached them – a high pitched SAWADEEKAAAAAA. There were lots of other tourists around doing their Christmas shopping and it felt quite festive with the special lights and giant Christmas tree in the main square. Luckily for Sully and his hurting feet (a common problem when Soph starts shopping), there were cheap foot massage stalls set up at the street corners.
Apart from shopping, we visited plenty of Buddhist temples whilst in Chiang Mai. (A common theme of our travels to date and we’re sure this won’t be the last of them – but we’re not bored yet!) The temples of Chiang Mai were particularly interesting with impressive architecture and they were very actively used. Some of the temples here are from the 12th and 13th centuries. It was fascinating to sit and watch the devotees. It felt like there was another temple on each new street we walked along. The streets within Chiang Mai’s old city walls (built 700 years ago to defend against Burmese invaders) felt deserted during the daytime, after the chaos of Bangkok it was hard to believe that this is the second city of Thailand, it felt so peaceful and (too) quiet. There are 175,000 people living in Chiang Mai compared to 7.7m in Bangkok!
Whilst in Chiang Mai we also had great fun going to watch an evening of Muay Thai boxing. We treated ourselves to ringside seats so that we were close to the action. It was fascinating to see the traditional pre-match ‘dance’ that the fighters perform. Each bout is made up of 5 3-minute rounds. There was a great atmosphere in the small stadium and we saw some energetic bouts and witnessed two knock-outs! We picked a team each to support and at the end of the night, Sully’s blue corner had won more fights, but it was close…
We spent the rest of our time in Chiang Mai hanging out in coffee shops, reading, drinking fruit smoothies and watching the sunny world go by.