After a very LONG overnight train ride (19 hours), we arrived from Bangkok to Chiang Mai! We've learned as we've traveled, SE Asia travel times can vary from 1-6 hours. Basically, you get there when you get there and many times transport doesn't leave until it fills up with riders.
Chiang Mai is Thailand's cultural center. The old city of Chiang Mai is a neat square bounded by moats and the remnants of a wall built 700 years ago to fend off Burmese invaders. It's a gateway to the northern mountains with many trekking opportunities. Unfortunately since it was the dry season (upper 90's temp), we didn't do any trekking. Thais burn off crops in the dry season so not only was it hot, but also very polluted with smoke. As you can see from the pictures below, we found plenty to do! **Not pictured below, we also took a two day meditation class led by three monks. We learned about Buddhism, a day in a life of a monk and how to meditate. It was well worth the experience and as simple as clearing your mind seems in theory, it is much more difficult to do in practice. Here's a link to the pictures... we are in the very back row on the right. Don't know if you can see it, but I actually had my shirt on backwards and inside out (that's what happens when you get up a 5:00 am to chat and meditate!).
Muay Thai Kickboxing match- We watched several rounds from various age groups. The beginning matches were authentic, but by the end it turned into something similar to a WWF match. In the first picture, you can see the Ram Muay Thai boxing dance that precedes every match. It is a way for boxers to show respect to their teachers. It usually lasts about five minutes and is done through a series of gestures and movements performed in rhythm to ringside musical accompaniment. Amazing to watch!
Pictures at & around Wat Chedi Luang. A few of the pagodas had trance-like monks meditating in glass boxes.
Wat Chaing Man- The oldest in the city center erected in 1296
We took a trip to the market and had Thai cooking class where we learned how to make curry pastes, spring rolls, papaya salad and few other stir fry dishes.
People are setting up for the night walking market in this picture. Chiang Mai is filled with markets and night bazaars with everything you could possibly want to buy or eat. Notice the little crispy treats below...
Traditional teak house on stilts
We rented a motorbike and drove up to the top of Wat Suthep. It's normally a picturesque view, but with the smoke, not so much. I took people pictures instead.
I finally gave in to try the fish spa. It actually does work. I made Brett try too, but he lasted 2 minutes.