Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Chiang Mai – a place that I’ve heard a lot yet haven’t been. Probably because it used to be a 13-hour flight journey than a slightly less than 3-hour journey. It is one of the largest cities in Northern Thailand. Though I’ve been to Bangkok, it was a stopover. This time around, I was excited to be able to immerse myself in this culturally significant city, which is different from Bangkok.

We took off from Hong Kong International Airport in the morning and arrived at the airport in Chiang Mai in the afternoon. It wasn’t very busy that day. From the airport to the city is about 15-20 minutes and costs around 150THB by taxi. Le Méridien Chiang Mai has become our choice. Not only because it’s a Starwood hotel, it’s also ideally located at the famous night bazaar and within walking distance to the old city. Most importantly, the building is lovely with great atmosphere and very family friendly.

We were warmly received by the hotel staff as soon we stepped out from the taxi. We were led to the lobby for check-in and served with very refreshing sparkling beverages of citrus and blackcurrant. It was a pleasant surprise to be upgraded to the Executive Suite. Our little one had a gift too! Very thoughtful of them. Not many hotels do this. We felt very much being taken care of and it didn’t take long for us to feel at home already!

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The room is really spacious, it has an unique contemporary Asian experience that is revealed through clean, cool whites, rich fabrics with subtle accents. It also comes with a majestic view of Doi Suthep peak that I couldn’t have asked for more! With 4 nights to spend in Chiang Mai, we were assured our stay would be a comfortable and memorable one.

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Our immediate impression of Chiang Mai – it’s laid back, kid/baby-friendly and convenient to get around city. There are lots to do, but you could also choose not to do too much but just relax by the pool/in the pool and enjoy the tranquility. So, a hotel with a rooftop pool comes to rescue for that.

Temples, temples and more temples. If you love temples, you are in the right city. We didn’t go to all the temples, but just a few that we think suit to our schedule. It was really easy to get Tuk Tuk, they were just right outside of the hotel. Fare is pretty standard but some bargaining wouldn’t hurt too. Wat Chedi Luang was built sometime between 1385 and 1402, during the reign of King Saen Muang Ma. It has an impressive structure, almost similar to some of the pagodas in Siem Reap, Cambodia. On important Buddhist holidays, such as Visakha Buja, Wat Chedi Luang is where worshippers convene for the evening candle procession. Location: Phra Pokklao Road

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By the time we got to Wat Phra Sing, it was already 4-ish. It was kind of cloudy. As soon as we walked into the area, it started to rain a bit and got heavier. We quickly seek shelter. The tropical rain lasted for about 15 minutes. The sky cleared up a little bit but not far, big dark cloud could easily be seen and was heading our way. Luckily, we managed to spend quite some time walking around. This temple is one of the most attractive. It’s also known as “The Monastery of the Lion Buddha” or “The temple of the Lion Buddha” is an active temple, with hundreds of monks and novices living there. Location: Rachadamnoen road

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Wat Prathat Doi Sunthep is about 15km from the city, located on Doi Sunthep mountain. The high elevation keeps the temperature pleasantly cool. The temple is very beautiful and a great example of northern Thai architecture. Despite all of this stunning natural beauty, the main reason many visitors come to visit as it’s one of the most holy Buddhist sites in Thailand.  It was rainy when we visited. It was pretty chilly but totally worth a visit though some pictures didn’t turn out as good as with clear and sunny sky. There are 2 ways to go up to the temple, either walk up 300 over steps from the parking area or take a ride in one newly rebuilt cable care (admission: THB 50). Location: Th Huay Kaew, Doi Suthep

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A private day tour is definitely a good idea when you travel with kid/baby and want to see/do several things in one day without having to worry about transportation and distance. We booked a day tour through Thailand Hilltribe Holidays. We were picked up from the hotel and headed to Baan Tong Luang (entrance fee THB500), an eco-agricultural hill tribes village. It was set up as an Eco Agricultural project to preserve the old traditional ways of hill tribe agriculture and to provide an income for the hill tribe people. There are 8 hill tribes who live at the village – Yao, Hmong, Padong, Kayaw, Karen, Kahu, Palong and Akha. The village has been laid out quite well, with separate area for each of the different hill tribe. It was a great way to see how the hill tribe way of life!

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The Karen tribe group have historically lived in the hills on the Myanmar (formerly Burma) side of the Thai border. They are best recognised for their elongated necks, the Karen women wear heavy brass rings around their necks, forearms, and shins.

Girls first start to wear rings when they are around 5 years old. Over the years, the coil is replaced by a longer one and more turns are added. The weight of the brass pushes the collar bone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle.

Karen women, when asked, acknowledge these ideas, and often say that their purpose for wearing the rings is cultural identity. (Wikipedia)

Karen women have a rich history of crafting from wood carving to weaving.

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On the way before lunch, we stopped by an organic vegetable wholesaler. To be more specific, they supply most of the organic peppers to Bangkok. I couldn’t resist and bought some. They smell extremely fragrant, just like how peppers should smell like. Another pit stop was a little producer of banana chips. Probably the freshest you could get!

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We stopped by a town for lunch, at a family owned restaurant. I ordered Khao Soi, which is a Burmese influenced dish commonly served in norther Thailand. It reminds me of curry noodles in Malaysia. However, the taste of the broth is slightly different. But, I was still very happy with it!

Market. There is quite a number markets to visit in Chiang Mai. We went to Warorot Market, which is a well-known landmark and marks the centre of the city’s little Chinatown. It is a multi-story shopping centre with dozens of traditional shops, selling mostly food (ground floor) and clothes (upper floors). Location: Chiang Moi Road

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I prefer Sunday Night Walking Street Market. Though it could be quite busy and packed. Just like when were there. It starts by Tha Pae Gate and extend all the way down Ratchadamnoen Road for about 2 kilometers to Wat Phra Singh. A lot of things are on offer, from food to tourist merchandise.

A visit to an Elephant Nature Park shouldn’t be missed. It is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation centre. We joined a half-day trip – that includes feeding the elephants from the viewing platform, guided by the staff to watch elephants bathe and play. One important thing is there is no riding on this intelligent animal. It’s great to see these beautiful creatures that have been rescued now have a better place to live.

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