Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is the nicest Thai city we’ve visited. It’s less noisy and dirty than other places; the people seem friendlier and we may be getting ripped off less (though the taxi driver from the station still wanted to charge us three times the going rate). When we arrived off the night train from Bangkok the place was shrouded in a romantic mist but we have since discovered that this is actually smoke, caused by the burning of the neighbouring paddy fields and it covers the whole of northern Thailand as well as the neighbouring countries for months at this time if year. It doesn’t smell smoky, but it does impede a good view.
The old town is awash with amazing wats (temples) all of which are an intriguing mix of Buddhist and Hindu. And there’s the usual incongruous pairing of traditional and new.
Today we hired a motorbike and trekked up a mountain to see a temple, search for spiritual enlightenment and cool off in a waterfall on the way back.
I’m not a fan of sitting on the back of a bike and I only do it because I trust Sean’s driving skills (though not his navigation, which is more down to luck than judgement). But I am getting better and more relaxed
at it and started to enjoy gliding round the bends on our return.
The outward journey was hot and circuitous but brought us to a picturesque spot on the mountainside overlooked by giant statues of both Buddha and a Hindu god. We made our way through acres of tourist tat and climbed the 222 steps to the gateway of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep in our quest for eternal truth. And this is what we found.
Next stop Taiwan on Friday.