To the untrained eye it may seem like northern Thailand is all about trekking, elephant riding, hill tribe visiting and bamboo rafting. And yes, it is true that the nature is spectacular. It also appears that everyone and their cousin owns a travel agency that can provide all of the above for a very reasonable price. But in our humble opinion the towns deserve as much attention as the jungle.
During our stay in northern Thailand we spent some time in Chiang Mai and in Chiang Rai. We witnessed the colourful festivals Loy Krathong and Yi Peng. We haggled at the local markets. We sampled more local specialties – this time of the insect kind (ok I admit it – that was all Espen, but I ate an unseemly amount of Pad Thai). We wandered the small streets, until we got lost. We visited many temples. Then we visited even more temples. And finally, we crossed the mighty Mekong in the small border town of Chiang Khong.
Chiang Mai is the largest and most modern city in northern Thailand. It is located about 700 km north of Bangkok.
The Sunday Walking Street market is the mother of all markets. It is held every…well, Sunday from 4pm until late evening in the heart of the old town. Starting at Tha Pae Gate, the whole length of Ratchadamnoen Road (over 1km) plus several side streets, are closed to traffic and filled with stalls after stalls, street musicians, locals and tourists hunting bargains, and a glorious abundance of delicious street food.
The market gets very busy after dark…
Chiang Rai is probably most famous for the White Temple (Wat Rong Khun) – a contemporary Buddhist temple located a short trip south of town. This bizarre-looking and still unfinished temple is the brainchild of Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat.
Like many before us, spent only one night in Chiang Khong, before crossing the border with Laos in the morning.