Notes from Chiang Mai.

The moat that encircles the old city against the backdrop of the mountain Doi Suthep.

A rather wonderful side effect of studying Thai massage in Chiang Mai over the years is that I’ve fallen in love with the place. When I first came as a backpacker with a schedule in 1995, I didn’t hang around long enough to absorb its charms. Later as a massage student with young children at home, I also couldn’t stay long beyond my courses. So on my most recent trip I stayed on a month to see if I could learn something more about Thailand by staying put for a while, getting to know people a bit and avoiding the temptation to go rushing around. In many ways Chiang Mai is an ordinary working Thai city, a little polluted at times due to sitting in a basin, but there is magic and poetry there. Doi Suthep (the mountain) sits behind, the home to forest, hidden temples , rural villages and farming tribal people. The City effortlessly combines metropolitan chic and mild hipsterism (Thai style, they do it well with humour) along with the associated food, shopping and entertainment. Alongside this, traditional community life, atmospheric temples, sleepy sois (lanes), markets and endless street food make up the rhythm of life in seemingly timeless fashion. It has a reputation of being slower and more relaxed than Bangkok and the south. It’s not surprising that it attracts Thai artists , digital nomads, backpackers and ex pat retirees amongst others. A brief snap shot below.

Temples come glamorous and touristy, old and crumbly and small and sleepy.

In the grounds of Wat Phra Singh, number one temple in all Thailand ! According to my unofficial tourist information guide outside my local 7 Eleven store. Certainly true for Northern Thailand.
Wat Chedi Luang , the remains of a 15th Century temple believed to protect the City ( which has a history of bloodshed and war with Myanmar ).
Tucked away in the old city.
Rural life creeps into the city in spaces tucked away down quiet lanes.

My local 7 Eleven , despite being a modern convenience store is also a community hub of sorts. I couldn’t help thinking I would learn as much about Thailand hanging around outside there than trekking around the country.

The local motorbike delivery rider.
Grandma Hom’s evening pork ball stall. With her grandson.

Chiang Mai has gone hipster coffee mad, when I first came you could barely find a cup of Nescafe . Tea of every kind is also possible except ‘proper’ Yorkshire Tea ( if you’re British you know) . Also, not long ago you would be thrown in jail for smoking weed, not now in a rather dramatic turnaround.

Pink Milk? Or a Lychee Green Tea Soda?
Wellness centre ? Illegal stoned or legal stoned , quelle difference ?

Tourism has made something of a post Covid comeback , welcome for many local people.

Pigeon Scarer is an actual job it seems , to create photo opportunities for other Asian tourists.

Wororot market area is fairly traditional area where you can be transported back in time .

Rickshaws, mostly for carting stuff around the market area rather than people (except a few Chinese tourists in the old city)
The flower market.
Temple offering shop. Including ‘monk buckets’, which contain basic needs and supplies to be given away at temples or to monks to support their basic needs.

It’s difficult to go hungry in Thailand , there is healthy affordable food everywhere. My guesthouse owner who had been to England said ‘it’s so complicated to eat there! You have to plan everything and make sandwiches , and so expensive.’ Sadly I can only agree.

The best fruit salad in all Thailand, in my opinion, she would be too modest to say. Somphet Market.
Tesco home delivery , eat your heart out.
Lunchtime feeding station.
Sticky Rice , a sweet snack in a Banana Leaf.

The old city sois (lanes) have a certain charm (and crazy wires).

Moon Muang road soi 7, the overhead wires are legendary in Thailand .

Good night and goodbye to Chiang Mai for this time, I will be back.

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