[Wanderlust Tips June 2018] I did not remember the reason why i chose Chiang Mai as a stopover for my days away from Saigon, away from the busy pace of life and noisy city. The only thing that remained most clearly in my mind was the balance of the experiences in this land.
AN IDEAL GETAWAY IN THAILAND
I travelled to a beautiful little town called Chiang Mai in the early days of summer when golden rain tree flowers blossomed on the streets. I like to call it a town rather than a city because even at the centre, you do not feel the oppressiveness or discomfort of a modern city.
Chiang Mai, which means “new city”, is about 700kilometres North of Bangkok. It is not difficult to find golden rain tree flowers in Chiang Mai because this is the national flower of the Land of a Million Elephants. The flower named Ratchaphuruek leaves a strong impression with its loving and gentle yellow color. June is the time when the flowers bloom. In the early morning sunshine, the flowers are even more gorgeous, bringing dreaming and charming beauty to the streets on the outskirts of the city.
Chiang Mai nestles on the hillside and sloping mountains so this is nestled on destination for nature lovers, couples or families looking for a quiet getaway. With a mild climate, visitors can visit Chiang Mai in all seasons of the year. The summer here is cooler than in other regions in Thailand, so many citizens and tourists choose this city for their holidays. November to early February is the time when many beautiful flowers blossom and the climate gets colder.
VISIT PAGODAS IN CHIANG MAI
I stayed in Chiang Mai for only five days. It would be regrettable if you did not visit ancient pagodas. After nearly two hours of travelling from a hotel in the city centre, I arrived at Doi Suthep hill which is famous for the ancient pagoda of the same name. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was built in 1383. It is located at an altitude of 1,073metres, about 15kilometres away from the residential area. Visitors will have to climb 290steps to reach the gate or they can use the cable car service.
The statues painted in shiny golden that brings nostalgic features which will be the first thing to impress you. According to local folklore, the current location of the pagoda used to be the resting place of a matriarch elephant. Therefore, a white elephant statue is built right in front of the pagoda.The high tower, the place that worships Buddha’s holy relics, gradually appears when you go deep inside. Visiting the pagoda on a rainy day, I missed the opportunity to admire the panoramic view of Chiang Mai and neighboring countryside from above. But in return, this was probably the most memorable experience in my journey. Standing in front of the statues covered in the rain, I found true joy in my heart. Also, you can visit Wat Suan Dok or Wat Phra Sing, which are two more famous ancient pagodas in Chiang Mai. It is also home to many bustling activities during festive seasons.
DISCOVERING MANY EXOTIC ACTIVITIES IN CHIANG MAI
Leaving Doi Suthep, my companions and I went to an adventure complex on a mountain in Pong Yang. It is undeniable that adventure games are one of the most popular experiences in Chiang Mai. There are so many types of adventure games that are designed to be safe for travellers. There are exciting activities to take part in, such as zip-lining, roller coaster rides, zip lining through the air on bicycles, free falling and swings to name a few. Do you dare to surpass yourself to jump down from an altitude of about 20metres?
If you are an adventurer, this is probably the experience that is worthwhile for you. You can spend half or the whole day trying. A usual tour takes about 4-5hours depending on the number of games, while prices range from 1,600to 2,400baht (about 1to 1.6million Vietnam Dong).
A trip to Chiang Mai will not be perfect if you miss a Muay Thai match or a dinner watching traditional dances. The melodious sound of the instruments accompanied by the skillful movements of the head and hands of beautiful Thai girls in the Lakhon dance will mesmerize you.
Young people who love innovation and creation can go to Baan Kang Wat, a “village” that is home to traditional handicraft shops and dozens of small cafés. Baan Kang Wat is about 10kilometres to the West of Chiang Mai centre. Every corner of this village shows its artistic and creative features. People who love taking pictures will be amazed by the beautiful check-in corner. You can also buy items such as paintings, music boxes, pottery or tea as souvenirs.
Also, my nostalgia for Chiang Mai is about the mornings when I woke up without being surrounded by dozens of skyscrapers or the noise of traffic on the streets, which made me feel so strange. The pace of life in Chiang Mai is not too rushed. I miss the gentle and kind people, the look of a driver and shopkeeper at the night market Think Park, or the big smiles of a little girl on the street.
FAMILIAR YET STRANGE THAILAND CUISINE IN CHIANG MAI
“In Chiang Mai, there are more cafés than convenience stores” is a saying that many visitors tell each other after visiting this city. Under the mild sunshine of the early summer, I walked around the centre with my friends and visited many coffee shops without getting bored. You can enjoy a creamy latte in Baristro or a fragrant cake wit the smell of milk at Graph Cafe. Woo Cafe is a pretty little garden for girls to enjoy the flowers. It also has a rich menu, meticulous decoration of dishes and drinks. You can spend a morning leisurely exploring the coffee styles in the city.
During the days in Chiang Mai, I also enjoyed delicious dishes featuring traditional flavors of the land of A million elephants. Unlike Bangkok or southern provinces, the cuisine of this region is partially influenced by Myanmar and Laos. However, you will still find the spicy flavor of Thai cuisine in many dishes. Khao Soy, Sai Ua, Naem, Kanom Jeen Nam Ngeow are typical dishes that you definitely should try.
Visitors should also visit Saiyut and Doctor Sai Kitchen, where they offer a variety of traditional dishes. If you love vegetables, you can go to the Oh ka Jhu restaurant, which has an organic hundred-of-square-metre garden with a variety of vegetables. Raw materials for this restaurant are taken from this garden.
INTERESTING SHOPPING EXPERIENCES IN CHIANG MAI
Evening is an ideal time for shopaholics to walk around the mall. The shopping mall in Chiang Mai may not be as big as many megamalls in Bangkok, but it will definitely not disappoint you. Maya Lifestyle or Kad Suan Kaew is where you can find your favorite brand-name items.
In this “new city”, there are also many night markets for those who want to explore the nightlife of local people. Night Bazzar, located on the sidewalk on Chang Klan Road, is a night market open in the evenings of the week. This market is next to the Kalare Night Bazaar so you can discover both at the same time. The main products are clothing, jewelry, and souvenirs. In addition, Chiang Mai also has a weekend market on Wua Lai and Ratchadamnoen Road. The most prominent features of these markets are dining and foot massage services for 150baht (about VND120,000) per hour.
The future is unpredictable and we are never certain of who we might meet next, and there are certain places we may visit and people we meet that we will remember for a very long time. Packing my baggage and saying goodbye to the small town on a sunny day, I thought I would go back one day. On the flight from Chiang Mai to Hanoi of Bangkok Airways, I kept thinking about cool green forests, pretty little cafés, exotic vegetable soup with egg ants and the adventure games that I never tried before. There are no long lines of traffic like in Saigon or modern metro stations like in Seoul, there are not as many skyscrapers as in Tokyo or mysterious mosques as in Jakarta. Chiang Mai appears in my mind gently but is full of impression of a destination to find balance in life.
>> Previously, to travel to the “new city”, Vietnamese travellers often had to fly to Bangkok and then to Chiang Mai. In addition to the domestic airlines which are actively operating these routes, you can choose from a number of foreign airlines. Currently, Bangkok Airways is the only airline offering 2-hour direct flights from Hanoi, a round-trip flight ticket is just over VND4million.
>> The shops in Chiang Mai have different operating times; most of them are closed early and open late. Therefore, for the convenience of searching, you should have a Sim with an Internet connection to searching information. You can buy one at the airport, 4G sim, 3-day 3GB package costs 199baht (about 150,000VND), 8-day 5GB package costs 299baht (about VND250,000).
>> Chiang Mai offers a full range of accommodation including suburban deluxe resorts, hotels, homestays, or hotels at the centre. Most of them are located in the Nimman and Old Town. Prices vary according to your choice. At 4-star U Nimman Chiang Mai, room prices are only about 3,200baht per night (about VND2.2million). If you want to save money, you can choose to stay in a dorm room in the homestay or a cheap hotel room from 200baht (about VND150,000).
>> Make sure you have sun protection clothing, elastic pants, and sneakers when playing adventure games. Prepare long clothing (at least knee length) when visiting pagodas.
>> If visitors have enough time, they can book a two-day trip to Chiang Rai to visit monumental historic buildings.
Dã Phong |Wanderlust Tips