We flew in from Udon, the long way, via Bangkok. We were met by the hotel staff at the airport, who warmly welcomed us back. We couldn’t believe that it was three years since our last trip to Chiang Mai. (See our earlier blog entitled ‘More Beautiful Days in Chiang Mai Province). It’s one of our favorite places. Since we were last here, Chiang Mai has grown enormously and it’s now a very popular destination for the Chinese. After a month in Asia, we craved Western food and had an excellent fillet steak in a Chicago style restaurant, washed down with some red wine.
We walked most of the day in the old city, revisiting the famous temples, had a light lunch & took a tuk-tuk back to the hotel. About 6.00PM we went to the Saturday Walking Street, a huge market – it’s regarded by many guide books as one of Chiang Mai’s top attractions. We walked for about a half an hour, it was so crowded that you couldn’t even see the thousands of stalls and we were just marched on as if in a herd. By that time, we decided enough was enough, so turned round and headed into the large groups of Chinese who were swarming towards us in the opposite direction of course. Alf lead, with both elbows out and Marilyn following hanging on to his shirt so as not to get separated. We both found it most unpleasant and were pleased to arrive into some kind of normality and to find a tuk-tuk who took us back to our side of town, Riverside. We actually managed to get a table at the Riverside Restaurant – we have fond memories of previous visits. With so many Chinese in town, Riverside had changed. The first floor was sixty percent taken over with large Chinese groups, and on the ground floor with the live music were Chinese singles, all looking very cool in their best designer clothes; we were once again the oldest swingers in town! We had a nice meal and got into a tuk-tuk and returned to the hotel.
We headed back to the old city in a tuk-tuk and spent most of the day visiting three excellent museums, which we’d thoroughly recommend: Chiang Mai City Arts & Cultural Centre; Chiang Mai Historical Centre; and the Lanna Folklife Museum. In the evening, we had a quiet Thai meal at our hotel.
Hiring a car and driver for the day, we left Chiang Mai and headed up in to the mountains and spent most of the day in Chae Son National Park. It was a delightful day, we hiked around the three-tier waterfall and visited the hot springs. Lunch was a very simple picnic at the hot springs after our twenty minutes in a natural hot tub followed by a freezing cold shower. The scenery was absolutely staggeringly beautiful and on our return to the city, we passed through many very quaint and charming ethnic villages. That evening we met up with our friends, Janet and Tony, introduced them to Chiang Mai’s night market and had a lovely Thai meal together, after which Marilyn and Janet wandered around the bargain stalls and left the men cuddling their beers. Bargains bagged, we all walked back to our respective hotels.
With Janet & Tony, we hired a taxi for the day and visited the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden, outside Chiang Mai’s city. We left the taxi at the gate and walked around the gardens, including a number of steep hills. Apart from seeing some amazing attractive gardens, we were able to walk about 10 Km, so had some exercise too. We all returned to Chiang Mai had a beer and a few spring rolls, sitting by the river and returned to our hotel to meet up with Paula and Leo, more friends from Cyprus. We had a another beer and caught up with each others travels and then all six of us headed for the night market, where there is a large selection of good quality restaurants; we had a very pleasant meal together using the same formula of after dinner shopping with more bargains to take home!
Next we’re renting a car with Paula and Leo and heading off to the famous Mae Hong Son loop, near the border with Myanmar. We intend spending the next week driving, walking, boating and fishing and whatever else may take our fancy.