Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our bus to Chiang Mai was anything but luxurious. There was little room for things like legs and the bus company had a policy of letting anyone on even if there weren’t any seats left. At one stage I counted 13 people standing in the isle. The bus departed on time and with luck and sharp elbows we got seats together. We were told this trip should take 5-6 hours…. Well it took six and a half hours. We gave up counting how many stops we did at about 20 and it took 2 hours to do 75km.

We escaped the bus and both rushed off to use the facilities before contemplating our next move.

Our accommodation was sufficient, situated above a Korean restaurant with familiar smell wafting through the air. The location was perfect. We had decided to stay in an area near the university with nice bars, restaurants and shops all within two minutes walk.

We had allocated a lot of time to Chiang Mai which gave us time to explore and relax, perfect.

The city was founded in 1296 and was the capital of the Kingdom of Lanna from 1296-1768.

We spent several days walking through the old walled city. A moat surrounds the 1.5 square kilometre old city and the remains are, in parts, still standing, making any venture within like stepping into history.

Within the walled city we found many amazing Wats and happily spend our time admiring the ornate buildings covered in mirrored coloured glass tiles and painted gold and red. We are always amazed at how many people are praying or just congregation at these buildings no matter the time of day or day of the week it is.

As you may know we are walkers. We walk because it’s cheap, we walk for fitness, but most of all you never know what you might stumble across whilst walking. The amount of times we have followed our ears or noses to find something totally unexpected is worth the effort.

On our first night we found an great drinking hole above the Main Street. The beer was cheaper and the view was better for people watching, a great way to while away the evening. We found ourselves unable to find any other bar that came close so we found ourselves back their on more than one occasion, to experience the food and service (and the waitress dolled up in her rather short Chang uniform. Enjoyable for one of us…)

As we had five days in Chiang Mai we allowed ourselves a bit of time to relax in coffee shops and parks and generally had a few very relaxed days, interspersed with as visit to a Wat here and there, and spending time waiting for washing at the laundry, not so much fun as essential. The only things that we really “missed out on” were the night markets, but as we don’t really like markets (especially Will who steers clear of them like the plague) nothing was lost.

On our last day we decided to do something totally touristy and head to the zoo. We grabbed a tuktuk which took us to the ticket office. At only 100 baht ($4 nzd ) per person for entry the zoo is cheap but if you wish to do any of the many attractions you pay. We quite happily walked through the large park seeing many animals along the way. The aivery was amazing with hundreds of birds flying around in the large cage. As we ascended to the top stairs we both froze… about one meter in front of us was a fury creature just bigger than a domestic cat staring straight at us, we stood there for a minute a little scared it might attack or that we weren’t supposed to be there. In the end there were four of these creatures. “Rock Hyenas” they are called and they were sleeping in the sun…except for one that had a staring contest with Sam.

We spent about five hours exploring the zoo. Our overall impression is that it was great the cages were large and they had a wide variety of animals. On the down side it looked like they had spread themselves too thin. There were so many attractions that many needed considerable maintenance. The animals all looked healthy and well kept.

Chiang Mai is a city of contrasts. Being the fifth largest city in Thailand it is easy to navigate and there seams to be a lot to look at. The further north we get in this trip the more we fall in love with the country.

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