I had five days in Chiang Mai. I wrote about my trip to Buatong Waterfall already, but here are my thoughts on the rest of my time there.
If I had to describe Chiang Mai in one word, I would choose “green”. Even the overgrown abandoned lots have a lush green-ness, verdant and beautiful, with tall grasses, creeping vines, and bright flowers. The whole city is full of greenery – every verge has a crop of green grass growing tall and hale. There are palms, ferns, papaya and banana trees, and a variety of taller trees (2, 3, even 4 stories tall) I couldn’t identify. There are flowers everywhere in a wide range of colours – bougainvillea, frangipani, hibiscus, lillies of various kinds, and many flowering trees. I loved the places where I saw hibiscus plants used as hedges – dark green foliage with bright yellow blossoms, or a row of plants with flowers in a mix of white and pink shades growing together in a solid mass.
I stayed at The Juniper Tree, which was equally lush and beautiful. Most of the rooms are in dark wooden structures resembling traditional Thai dwellings. There are shrubs and flowers and vines and trees everywhere, and walking around I often caught a whiff of one fragrance or another – honeysuckle or frangipani, mostly. In the back of the compound is a large grassy area bordered by a tall hedge of bamboo. It was a wonderful resting place.
One thing that struck me about Chiang Mai (other than the green-ness) was the mountains that border the city. There’s something about mountains around a city that makes me feel at home. Canberra is ringed by mountains, as is Beijing (when they aren’t invisible behind a shroud of smog).
While in Chiang Mai I traveled by private car, tuk-tuk (the three-wheeled motor-cab kind), songkraw (both red and yellow), and taxi. I visited a church where some of the kids I met in Cha-am attend, wandered two large malls, and briefly saw Chiang Mai Gate (part of the old city wall) which whetted my appetite to explore the old city a little more on a future visit. I met up with 5 of the Cha-am girls at a mall for lunch and a wander, and got a manicure with a fancy pattern the girls picked out for me – and as planned (by them) I think of them whenever I noticed my polka-dotted and lace-painted nails.
I tried khao mun kai and khao soy, both of which are delicious – although khao mun kai is very similar to Singaporean chicken rice and dishes in China, so I’m thinking it’s not really a specialty of any one country, but one common to all and claimed by each one! Khao soi is a northern Thai dish that Chiang Mai is apparently known for. I had never heard of it, but absolutely loved it! There’s a light coconut-based chicken soup with mild spice, to which two kinds of yellow noodles are added, the second being crispy. Then there’s fresh coriander leaves (cilantro) and then you add other bits and pieces as you like – such as bean sprouts, pickled cabbage, fresh lime, and chili. It is absolutely fantastic!
All in all it was a lovely visit. I really like Chiang Mai and I look forward to visiting it again sometime in the future…