Chiang Mai / by Dario Branco

Now is time to describe my experiences while I was in Thailand. 

I thought about doing one big post talking about everything but is better to do it one place at a time. 

First of, Chiang Mai.

Ok. So the first experience, in reality, was Bangkok for a few hours. Besides walking, resting and having my first Tahi meal, the only thing i have to say about it is that i wasn't prepared for the heat and how heavy the air is. But i will get to that when i talk about Bangkok.


To get to Chiang Mai i had a few options but i ended up taking the train from Bangkok. Despite being a twelve hours trip it is very comfortable. The "hard" part is getting the ticket. I got mine online on 12Go Asia and then, in Bangkok, before boarding, i had to go to an office to get the actual ticket. The sooner you buy the ticket, the better. Not only is cheaper, it is easier to get a "bed". I bought a ticket for the second class sleeper with AC.


Earlier in the morning, before arriving, i went to the cafe/restaurant and got the chance to take some photos of the landscape from the window and a few from the staff. 


Now in Chiang Mai, as well as in Bangkok, the heat and the air is something i was not prepared for. It took me a while to get accustomed. Once i got over the heat i started to enjoy walking on the streets of Chiang Mai. Compared to Bangkok is much more rural. Especially the old town.

It is hard to not find a temple in Chiang Mai. Almost in every street, there is one as well as some street vendor. This was how i spent most of the first day, going to temple to temple and trying Thai Food.


On the temples, i learned that are some rules that need to be respected and a few things about the image of Buddha. To start, every time i went inside a temple i had to take my shoes off. Then pointing my feet toBuddha's statue is being disrespectful. I have to use humble body language and finally, i should not be higher than the monks on the temple. Sometimes i tried to walk around to see if i could make a good photo but i would always feel strange and always ended up getting on my knees and show respect.


One of the reasons i decided to go to Chiang Mai was because it was time for Loi Krathong and Yi Peng festivals. The city is decorated with paper lanterns and here and there i could see some stages getting ready for the night festivities.

Yi Peng Festival is the one that people light up a lantern and then release it. There are two mass releases but those are private events. The photos and the videos you see online were probably done in these events. To attend them i needed to get a ticket. 

The main one is in a town called Mae Jo about 20km from Chiang Mai at the Tudongkhasathan Lanna. There are "only" 4000 tickets and not only they cost around 100€, if not more, they also sold out fast. The other one is in Mae Taeng district on the Wat Ban Den, about 50km away. Again a private event but this one limited to 1600. The price is around 75€ for this one.

Me and my friend after some talk and asking a few friends that had been in Chiang Mai before during this time decided to stay in the city.

Because this was not the main day of the festival there were only a few people releasing the lanterns. It seemed to me that Thai people were more interested in releasing the lanterns to the river, Loi Krathong, instead of to the sky on this day.


Next day was time for the first tour. My friend and i decided to go to Doi Inthanon, the highest mountain in Thailand. To be honest i wasn't sure if we were going to have time to do it and also explore the city since we were only staying for three days. We booked via CMStay, which was where i was staying. At first, i thought it was going to be hard to book tours or places to stay while there but i soon learned how wrong i was. Everywhere i went, there was a hostel or some kind of agency selling tours. I decided to book everything before because i didn't want to worry about it anymore while being there with the exception of this tour and one more to Maya Bay.

Our tour started by driving for about 90min to the Doi Inthanon National Park and from there we visited two waterfalls, Sirithan and Wachirathan. I would have enjoyed it more if i could get closer and had more time to photograph the waterfalls.


In between the waterfalls, we went to one of the Karen Hill Tribes. This specific tribe is known for women dressing all in white before getting married. Once they get married they use any color but white. From what our guide told us, the members of this tribe are basically refugees escaping from the communist regime in Burma and, although Bhudism being the main religion, if you can call it that, the members of the tribe are mostly Christians. This tribe was not so big and it seemed that the villagers were accustomed having tourists walking around. We could see them handmaking traditional clothes and we tried strong Thai coffee. Once again i would have liked to stay a little longer and learn more about their history. If had to do it again i would go only to one tribe, with a local guide which is part of their community and if possible stay one night with them. 


After lunch, it was time to get to the highest point in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. Here is the interesting thing about it. Unless you break the rules and want to be disrespectful, you will never be at the highest point because in that place there is a shrine with the ashes of King Inthawichayanon.


By the way, take a jacket because is very likely that it will be cold and humid. Remember that you will be at 2565 meters high in the middle of a jungle.


It is also very likely to see people coming to the shrine to pay their respects as well as tourists taking pictures on the sign saying they are at the highest point when really the highest point is a bit higher. And also a few monks.


From here we went to Naphamethinidon and Naphaphonphumisiri Pagodas. I have to be honest with you and tell that i only wanted to come to this place to make some photos from a specific point of view. Unfortunately, the light was flat, i was inside a cloud at this point and the point of view i wanted to go is no longer accessible. I did walk around and enjoyed being there. The only thing i know about this place is that it was built to honor the 60th anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. I would have liked to go there during sunrise to have the best light for this place. Next time.


Now that the tour had finished it was time to experience the real Yi Peng Festival. First had spicy Pad Thai and Banana Rotee for dinner in the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. 

I will be saying this quite often about Thailand. It was chaos. Yes, there was a crazy amount of people and it seemed that in Nawarat Bridge is where everyone gets together. It was scary sometimes to be there because there are trees close by and power cables across the bridge. Every few minutes we would see someone running or screaming because a lantern would be tangled on the cables and people below would be running away. While my friend was trying to release her's, another one got tangled above her and it almost fell on her. Luckily she didn't get burned.


Being here and seeing it happening is something I always dreamed of. I would have liked it to see the mass release but as said earlier, being here felt more authentic. Maybe next time i will have the chance to experience it.


On my last day in Chiang Mai, all I did was wondering the streets. Visited a couple of temples and ended up in Bumrung Market which was one of the places I most enjoyed. Dirty, smelly and authentic. I think I was the only foreigner there at that time. I must have spent close to one hour there walking around and looking for photos. If there is a market to visit in Chiang Mai, this is the one. And don't forget to try some food while you are there.


From all the places i have been in Thailand, Chiang Mai was my favorite. Yes, it has a lot of tourists. Sorry, let me rephrase that. It has a lot of Travelers. But in the end, i left Chiang Mai feeling that i had experienced something i never had before. I will come back for sure to Chiang Mai. Stay Longer and experience what i have missed this time.