Chiang Mai: Rose of the north

I hadn’t planned much to do in Chiang Mai, figuring we’d do that when we got here. It turned out to be a good thing as I came down with some kind of flu/cold. We’ve been seeing the city in fits and spurts, and the kids have been hanging out with Dad in the pool.

Chiang Mai is the major centre of northern Thailand and is affectionately called the “Rose of the North.” It is the country’s fifth largest city but has a very laid-back appeal. It’s also second in the world for traffic accidents, according to the Internet (how factual: to be determined).

In our travels we’ve taken tuk tuks (motorcycle-pulled carts) and rickshaws (carts pushed by cyclists) as well as good old taxis and the odd bus. In Chiang Mai the favourite mode of transportation is the songthaew, a little red pick-up truck with two covered benches in the back and an open tail gate. I feel like I’m going to fall out the back every time we take one, but maybe that’s just the cold medication talking!

Buddha inside Wat Chedi Luang

Buddha inside Wat Chedi Luang

Chiang Mai was founded over seven centuries ago and served as the capital of the ancient Lanna kingdom. Up until the 1920s it could only be reached by elephant or a long river journey, which kept it relatively isolated.

The old city is surrounded by a moat, but unfortunately only a few pieces of the wall remain that protected the city from invaders to the east. There are more than 30 temples inside the old city that have examples of Burmese, Sri Lankan and Lanna Thai architecture, which make them all very interesting. My cover photo is taken at Wat Phantao, which has intricate teak carvings and grounds that are simply beautiful when lit up at night.

Buddhas on Doi Suthep

Buddhas on Doi Suthep

Probably the most famous temple in the Chiang Mai area is Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. We thought we were going to die in the car ride up the 3,000 foot mountain because of the winding road. We later learned that the the temple is said to have been built on the very spot where a white elephant carrying the shoulder bone of Guatama Buddha keeled over and died after climbing to the top. I wonder if he had motion sickness, too?

We are nearing the end of our stay in Chiang Mai and going to Bangkok in two days. The northern Thais are preparing for winter, with daily highs soon to fall to 20 C. The beanies, scarves and gloves have appeared in local stores, so we’re headed to warmer climes in India… 🙂

7 Comments on “Chiang Mai: Rose of the north

  1. Thinking of you guys while trying to register Ben in Camp Chief Hector this morning!

    • So glad we didn’t have to do that this year! We won’t be back until the middle of August, so the girls won’t go next summer. I think I dialed for over an hour last year. Thank goodness for iPhones!

      – Heather

  2. So very interesting Heather and I love the picture at the top of this page! Keep well!

  3. Hey Heather! I’ve been enjoying your blog. I was in Chiang Mai when I was 13 – longer ago than I’ll admit. I remember the lurchy ride up to the temple very well

    • Ha ha – it’s a beautiful place! Every time we take a flight I grab one of the airsick bags and carry it around for times like these… Thank goodness no one actually got sick, but we were definitely very green at the top!

      – Heather

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