Northern Thailand: towns

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.

segway trip in a jungle, anyone?

Segway trip in a jungle, anyone?

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 moat surrounding the old town of Chiang Mai

the moat surrounding Chiang Mai’s old town

fragment of city wall and moat in Chiang Mai

fragment of city wall and moat in Chiang Mai

River Ping is one of the main tributaries of Chao Phraya River

River Ping is one of the main tributaries of Chao Phraya River

modern city with modern traffic

Chiang Mai is a modern city with modern traffic

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IMG_6725IMG_6768IMG_7308 (2)There seems to be a temple around every corner in Chiang Mai.

Wat Lok Molee - Chiang Mai

Wat Lok Molee

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templeThe 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.

Sunday walking streetIMG_7137Sunday market - musicianWe were told that no tourist visit to a Thai market is complete without trying fried insects.

silkworms taste like salty sticks and bamboo worms taste like worms (Espen)

silkworms taste like salty sticks and bamboo worms taste like…worms

The market gets very busy after dark…

The market gets very busy after darkThe moat area, on the other hand, is lovely and peaceful after dark…

Chiang Mai by night

CM by nightChiang Rai is smaller and less touristy than Chiang Mai. It’s a great town to wander around or just hang out…

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We spent one night at the Chok Dee guesthouse - sleepless night, courtesy of bed bugs

We spent one night at the Chok Dee guesthouse – sleepless night, courtesy of bed bugs

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this guy looks vaguely familiar...

this guy looks vaguely familiar…

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.

White Temple outside Chiang Rai

not creppy at all...

not creepy at all…

IMG_8524The small border town of Chiang Khong is long and thin and most life happens along the road.

IMG_8768IMG_8765Chiang Khong runs in an east-west direction along the southern bank of the Mekong River.

how about a work out with a view?

how about a work out with a view of Mekong and Laos?

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Like many before us, spent only one night in Chiang Khong, before crossing the border with Laos in the morning.

crossing the Mekong: Goodbye Thailand - hello Laos!

crossing the Mekong: Goodbye Thailand – hello Laos!

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