Thailand Day 8: Exploring Chiang Mai’s Old City

On our eighth day in Thailand, we took a morning-of-New Year’s Eve flight from Phuket to Chiang Mai, where we would spend the afternoon exploring the old city, followed by a delightful evening enjoying the lantern festival and other local festivities.

Transit to Chiang Mai

We had a late morning flight to Chiang Mai to Phuket – departing 10:30am, and arriving around noon. Chiang Mai’s airport was about an hour taxi ride from our Karon Beach hotel, so we used the Grab app (local Uber equivalent) to get there after packing up.

We left some extra time, but in retrospect, it was unnecessary. There wasn’t any lines at the Air Asia checkin counters, although some other airlines (e.g. Thai) had quite long lines. Perhaps we just beat the morning rush? But then, the security lines were fairly short as well. At the airport, the boys were enchanted by the familiar Subway and Burger King logos, so we got them that, while Jeremy and I got some delicious Pad Thai.

Aside: on a few days like New Year’s Eve when Chiang Mai has a lantern festival scheduled, make sure not to arrive too late in the day. The airport is quite close to the city and shuts down around 7:00pm…which made more sense when we saw the many hundreds of flaming lanterns in the air that evening. Can you imagine what would happen if one got into an airplane engine?

Right before boarding, James saw a sign that advertised fish skin chips, and wanted to try them, but I was a bit concerned about what the other passengers on the plane might think if he opened them up on board. Um, maybe not. But the sign still fit him perfectly, so we took a picture.

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Getting to Our Hotel

By 12:30pm, we had arrived at the Chiang Mai airport and navigated the lines to get a taxi to our hotel. The airport is only a few km from the city, and it was a quick 10-15 minute ride to our accommodations.

Our hotel was a 10 minute walk from the south side of the city center. When we booked two months earlier, rooms in general were already somewhat booked up for New Year’s, especially for family-sized rooms. We ended up with two fairly nice rooms that were connected by sliding doors, which was quite nice since we alway like having a little more room and a door between us and the kids so that we don’t have to hang out in the dark until they fall asleep.

The Hot Mid-Afternoon Wander

Wat Phra Sing

An early afternoon arrival is not ideal in Thailand’s heat, but we wanted to see the old city before all the temples closed for the day, so we decided to go ahead and head out. After walking down to the lobby, we called a taxi using the Grab app and made our way to Wat Phra Singh, where we explored the temple.

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This temple was built in 1345, was renovated in the 1800’s, and is considered to be the second most important temple in Chiang Mai, mostly due to the 15th century Buddha statue that it houses. The murals inside one of the buildings were pretty interesting, and all of us thought that the gold pillars were pretty cool. I particularly liked the elephants.

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Wat Chedi Luang

Next, we walked to Wat Chedi Luang, which has Chiang Mai’s tallest chedi (mount).

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As we wandered the grounds, we particularly enjoyed some of the New Year’s Eve decorations.

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There are also two famous Buddha statues, one standing, and one reclining. The entrances to several of the buildings had serpent-like creatures guarding it.

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We enjoyed wandering the grounds and looking at the different architecture.

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Three Kings Monument

Our wander took us by the Three Kings Monument, which was dedicated to the founders of Chiang Mai.

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Lanna Folklife Museum, Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Center, and the Chiang Mai Historical Center

As we continued our walk towards the Wat Chiang Man Temple, we decided that a stop at an air-conditioned museum would be quite pleasant – we were quite hot by this point. As we purchased our tickets, we had a choice between buying tickets for only the first museum or as a package that included the Lanna Folklife Museum, the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Center, and the Chiang Mai Historical Center. Since the tickets were quite cheap, three times the air-conditioning sounded good to us!

The Lanna Folklife Museum was small, but fairly well done and interesting. I enjoyed getting a picture of what Chiang Mai life may have been like back in the day. The other two were fine, had some interesting history, but would have been easy to skip. If you are into seeing archeological remains of ancient walls, stop by the Chiang Mai Historical Center, and if you want to learn more about the history of how Chiang Mai began, go to the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Center.

Wat Chiang Man

Feeling slightly better from the heat, we continued our walk to Chiang Mai’s oldest temple, the Wat Chiang Man, built in 1306 and renovated several times since then.

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The grounds were nice, but we were running out of steam. I barely remember anything that happened while we were there. When you visit Thailand, it is best to plan to sightsee in the morning and the evening, but some days just don’t work out that way and you need to make the best of it.

Siesta

At this point, we knew that we needed to get out of the heat, so we caught a tuk-tuk back to the hotel. Some of the streets were being shut down in preparation for the evening festivities, so it ended up taking longer than expected, but was still better than walking.

After sunset, we decided to venture out again to explore the city and enjoy the lantern festival. Stay tuned for my next post to see what happened!

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