Northern Thailand is one of the most amazing places on the planet. It’s mountainous terrain and thriving provinces make it an ideal destination for travelers searching for an experience rich in tradition & culture but complete with modern comforts. Chiang Mai, Thailand’s second largest city, helps visitors achieve that harmonious balance.
Much like Bangkok to the south, Chiang Mai’s open air markets are a big attraction for visitors. From fashion and fruits to flowers and food, there’s something for everyone. And if you’re like me and enjoy shopping day and night, you’re going to love Chiang Mai’s famous “Night Bazaar”, where blocks and blocks of stalls line the street. If you find a booth selling duffle bags or suitcases, buy one! You’ll need it for the rest of the goodies you’ll be picking up and taking home. From designer knock-offs to high-end silk, you can shop till midnight. There are also a couple of nice hotels and cafes near the vendors for drinks and toilets. Just remember to only drink bottled water and well cooked food to keep from getting sick.
If you’re looking for something to hang on the wall back home, then check out the art, antiques and wood carvings in the village of Ban Thawai. Only a half-hour from Chiang Mai, Ban Thawai places you in direct contact with artisans. One thing to remember before you buy a statue is that religious carvings require an export certificate, so be sure to do your research before you buy. This is where I found the huge carved wood panels that hang on my walls at home.
As you might expect, Chiang Mai is home to a wonderful series of Buddhist Temples. The holiest of these temples is Doi Suthep where, as legend declares, villagers placed a statue of Lord Buddha on an elephant’s back and then let him roam free. When the elephant reached the spot where the Temple now stands, he trumpeted and circled before lying down. I must say, the elephant couldn’t have chosen a more glorious view!
n Chiang Mai you can also venture into a world seldom seen today. An extraordinary excursion takes you to where many of the northern hilltop villages thrive, seemingly untouched by modern life. This treacherous terrain isolated the province of Chiang Mai for centuries and allowed it’s people to create a distinct culture, different from their countrymen to the south.
Northern Thailand’s hill tribes are unique cultures that still thrive today, untouched by much of modern life. For the price of a guide and gas, you can venture to a world seldom seen today. Remember that these people are accustomed to a different lifestyle, so wear conservative clothing while visiting and ask permission before photographing them.
In Thailand, it’s easy to walk into a new world of color and sound, smell and taste. The culture, the landscape, the friendly people…definitely a worthwhile trip! Believe me when I say that a visit to Chiang Mai is an adventure that you’ll always remember!