a short trip to artsy Chiang Mai, Thailand

I know it probably feels very funny if not odd that I am writing a travel blog now, in the midst of a year-long pandemic that we have yet to see the true end of it. Well, it obviously was a trip I made when it was still safe to do so and long before the international borders were closed. I did not forget about this trip I made with friend Vivian up north from Peninsula Malaysia after I tendered my resignation from my last job and before I moved back home. I put it off at the time thinking I would blog about it when I packed everything in but I just did not expect it to be such a long delay before I looked at the pictures again.

We made the short trip in early November 2019. When we were told that it would not be an ideal time to travel to Da Nang, Vietnam in November during the raining season, we changed course and headed to Chiang Mai, Thailand instead for a short 5 day-4 night trip.

I am afraid now 19 months on, the limited information I gathered either before our trip or from the guide we hired for a half-day tour has long been purged from my memory bank. This blog therefore, is going to be a photo blog which I hope nevertheless will allow you a tiny snippet of Chiang Mai through our eyes (very limited snapshots I must add, not your typical travel blogger!).

We decided that a relaxing trip was in order, no strenuous adventures or long car journeys that would demand much of our physical strength and tire us out as we were already tired from our demanding and stressful job of running hotels. We were desperate for a break and also a celebration after I made the huge decision to quit my job. Vivian and I both agreed on a couple of things before our trip; the first being we would do the touristy thing and visit a temple or two, for architectural appreciation and cultural exposure if nothing else because of my Christian faith. The second was we needed to travel responsibly, meaning there was absolutely no way I was going to visit any commercial elephant farms.

We would stay at Novotel Chiangmai Nimman Journeyhub Hotel, within walking distance to Nimman Road, the modern and trendy part of Chiang Mai. We liked the location as it was easy to get to restaurants and cafes though it was touristy, with mainly Chinese tourists. We also preferred this area as it did not appear to be as sleazy as the old city which we noticed after our visit to the latter a couple of days later.

As typical tourists, we took a half-day tour the first morning which we pre-arranged with a local tour agent before departing Malaysia. We would visit 2 temples of our choice, a tour of the local market on our request and enjoy a local lunch. We chose 2 temples that we expected to be less busy and we would not be challenged by hundreds of steps going uphill.

Wat Suan Dok – dating back to the 14th century, it was originally the site of the pleasure gardens of the Thai monarchy. Today it features several white chedis that contain the ashes of Chiang Mai’s former royal family.

chaing mai, wat suan dok

Wat Umong – set in a forest, built in a tunnel

local day market – sights and sounds of the daily lives of the locals

lunch time – we actually chose this restaurant that was referred by Vivian’s friends who work in Chiang Mai and the guide obliged to take us there

As mentioned, there was no way we were going to any elephant farms but I gave in when Vivian wanted to see how elephant poo was being recycled into paper.

Elephant Poopoopaper Park

So we were going to get close and personal with some elephant poo…

After the poopoo paper tour, we did one more very touristy thing… we visited an umbrella-making workshop. We were embarrassingly touristy so it was a very quick tour and in no time we were out of there.

sights of Chiang Mai

We made our way to the old part of the city one day and saw part of the old defensive walls. We pretty much walked unhurriedly and a little aimlessly though it was rather hot in the midday sun.

food & beverage

I realised I did not take a lot of pictures of the food and drinks we had except for the more memorable ones.

Chiang Mai Festival of Light

When we were walking around, we noticed paper lanterns everywhere and found out later that it was their Lantern Festival around the time we were there.

While Loy Krathong (a religious practice of releasing decorated baskets with candles/incense into river or canal) is celebrated all over Thailand, the Yee Peng Lantern Festival (release paper lanterns into the sky) is unique to Northern Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai. During this time, public places and homes of the locals are decked out with colourful lanterns and flag decorations.

chiang mai lantern festival, chiang mai festival of lights, yee peng festival chiang mai

one more touristy activity – night market

Every country has a place like this for the tourists and we made it to the one in Chiang Mai one night. Surprisingly, we did not shop much. We walked around, looked at the knick-knacks and souvenirs, watch foreign travellers haggle then we had our tasty mango sticky rice dessert and very satisfying chilled blended mango drink before we headed back to our hotel.

artsy exposure

I personally am always impressed by the renowned creativity of the Thai. During this trip I was delighted by many of the artistic decorations dotted around the city, be it in the shopfront or on the roadside, as well as the craft items sold in the shops. Here are just a few snaps of the arts and crafts we came across.

Apparently the air pollution could be quite bad in Chiang Mai but we were fortunate to have clear blue sky and hot days during our stay apart from one night with heavy rain. I remember we went out for dinner in the heavy downpour that night and could not get a table in the restaurant that was packed with Chinese tourists and flooded inside. What an experience! Transport was easy throughout our stay with e-hailing service and we did not usually have to wait for very long including on the said rainy evening when we had to switch dinner venue.

It was a nice short trip for us to break away from it all. It does feel slightly strange now but good at the same time that I get to look and sift through the pictures and write about the trip, whatever I can still recall. In the midst of another lockdown in my country after more than a year since the beginning of the pandemic, this provides me with a small window to look at what life was like when we were able to travel freely, and to reminisce the sense of excitement a traveller welcomes and embraces when getting on a plane and within hours, standing among people of different nationality who speak a different tongue, immersing in the vibrant atmosphere of a new place that tickles the senses, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds of a foreign country with the promise of an exciting adventure ahead.

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