Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chiang Mai Night Markets

Chiang Mai's night bazaar is pretty good compared with other night markets around Thailand. Sure they sell all the same items from t-shirts to handbags, to pirated DVDs, and a wide range of souvenirs but there are more hill tribe handicrafts here, as well as jewelry.

As with night markets anywhere else in Southeast Asia, bargaining for the best price is a must.
All the seasoned vendors know exactly what the lowest price is that you can possibly get for an item so it's your job to try to get as close to that figure as possible. If you find something you like, decide what it's worth to you and bargain in good faith. If you're allowed to walk away after a bargaining session your price was probably too low.

Just in case you missed the Fish Stomach Soup sign, it's listed twice.
As with any shopping area, there are always places to get something to eat. The night market in
Chiang Mai is no different and the choices are abundant. Yes, you can get Pad Thai and just about any other Thai dish you have in mind, and there's Pizza, Pasta, Hamburgers, Korean, Japanese, and whatever else you may have a craving for.
And of course there are soap carvings perfectly packaged in decorative containers to be transported back home. I've never seen anyone actually purchasing them but since they're being sold just about anywhere tourist converge in Thailand, I'm sure they do sell.

One thing to stay away from are the "knock-off" watches. Sure, you may have always wanted that Rolex around your arm but they're almost guaranteed to stop working by the time you board your plane home.

Chiang Mai also has a very popular Sunday market which takes place from dusk to around midnight every Sunday from the Tapae Gate, down the main street inside the walls of the Old City, to Wat Pra Singh (the most significant temple in the Old City).
You'll find some items here that you wouldn't find at the Night Bazaar since it's geared more towards the locals, and the prices reflect it. It's also a great place to get street food snacks and bargain massages if you get tired of fighting your way through the crowds inching their way down the streets.

Street vendors converge at different spots throughout the city each night of the week during the dry season. Besides the Sunday walking street, there's a Saturday walking street beginning just outside the Chauk Puak gate on the western side of the old city.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Street Food ?

Street food in Thailand IS safe to eat, and most of it is delicious.
It's a great opportunity to try things you'll never have a chance to try back home.

Assorted grubs and bugs.

Holy Mackerel. Just to prove that not everything tastes like chicken. Go ahead. Click on the picture for a closer look.

Yes, there's always The Sizzler if you have a weak constitution.

Just help yourself to the items you actually want to eat.

Thailand time:

More Chaing Mai Temples and Dogs

Temple dogs.

The streets of Chiang Mai appear to be overrun with dogs. Spaying or neutering isn't a custom here and "street dogs" can usually get enough to eat. There are some fortunate ones that end up taking refuge on the grounds of the temples. Here they're fed and live generally unbothered.
Oh, what a peaceful life.

Wat Lok Molee

Wat Suan Dok environs. These chedis contain the remains of the royal family of Chaing Mai from the Lanna Dynasty period.

Wat Phra Singh has the most complete version of Lanna style architecture and houses Phra Singh Buddha relics. It is considered to be Chiang Mai's most important and sacred Buddha image.

Wat Suan Dok's super Chedi. Said to contain a relic of the Buddha himself.

Wat Suan Dok is also a temple where you can learn more about Buddhism, through their "monk chat" program. At certain times, and on certain days of the week, you can talk with a Buddhist monk. This program is in part a chance for monks to practice their English skills, so don't expect a fluent conversation. They are all good humored though and actually enjoy is as much as you do.
More temples of Chaing Mai and their guardian dogs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Images of Chaing Mai

Chiang Mai is a city that is finely tuned for tourists. Many of the city's sights are within walking distance from any accommodation close the the center of town. If you get tired, there's always a tuk-tuk waiting to take you anywhere you please. Always negotiate your fare before hopping on. Metered taxis are rare in town but red mini-trucks outfitted with bench seats (songthaews) are everywhere. Just flag one down and let the driver know where you want to go. If he already has passengers, and your destination is in his general direction, he'll let you know how much it is to take you to your destination.
Chiang Mai is considered the gateway city to the rest of northern Thailand and attracts a wide range of tourists. Backpackers are everywhere, and guesthouses are plentiful inside the walls of the Old City. Mid to upper end accommodations are scattered around the city with most around the night bazaar.
There is a wide range of activities for eager tourists. Everything from elephant camps, butterfly sanctuaries, hiking trips in the nearby parks, orchid farms, snake farms, a monkey center, a tiger park, a night safari, cooking schools, day trips to the hill tribes, as well as activities some people cannot do without on holiday such as white-water rafting, bungy jumping, and time at the shooting range.
But come first to Chiang Mai to see the temples and markets, and enjoy the food and hospitality of the Thai people.
High season is November through March, with things peaking during the year end holidays when the days are mild and relatively dry. The warmest months are March through May.

Thais love fried just about anything. Take your pick.

Dogs are plentiful on the streets of Chaing Mai. Unfortunately, many are in pretty sad shape in comparison to dogs back home. There are several groups raising money to help the dogs, and cats in the city, to provide them with basic vaccinations.

Sunday Market at Tapae Plaza.
Buddha image on the Chedi of Wat Pan On, one of the most beautifully restored temples inside the Old City walls.

Alan at Wat PraSingh.
Flower offerings at the flower market.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Getting comfortable in Chaing Mai

Our first hotel in Chaing Mai, the Tapae Place Hotel. Not a bad place for around $25 a night including breakfast. Not a fancy buffet breakfast but eggs, toast, a razor-thin slice of ham, the tiniest hot dog you ever saw, mystery juice, and coffee or tea.

The room is decent although the furniture is a bit worn.

We decided to change to a small guest house after a few days for about the same price, although no breakfast included. The family-run Sri-Pat Guest House is a bit more quiet, with slightly smaller rooms but spotless and well run.

We'll spend Christmas and New Years here before heading to Chaing Rai.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Back in Bangkok

Five days after our scheduled arrival date, flights resumed into Bangkok and we finally began our trip. We arrived on a flight, about two-thirds full, from Tokyo to a pretty quiet airport in Bangkok.

The anti-government protesters who barricaded themselves in the main terminal for almost a week were all gone. They even claim to have cleaned-up after themselves before they left. Indeed there were no visible signs left from the protests. All went well, according to the protesters. Only the body of one protester was found stuffed in a closet at the airport.

Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport is quite an efficient looking airport, although I think it does lack some passenger conveniences.
I do think it's one of the coldest airports I've been to. It's all full of metal and glass which adds to the coldness but why does the air conditioner have to be turned up so high? All the seats in the waiting areas are hard, metalic, and cold as well.

We missed arriving for the king's birthday but the city is still decked-out with enormous birthday displays for the beloved king.
The streets of Bangkok are all quiet at the moment. For the first time in over three years, the daily anti-government, and sometimes pro-government demonstrations are all gone. Threats of more unrest are made daily if groups are not happy with what will happen next.
In the meantime, everything else seems to be back to normal. Or as normal as it could be in this "global economic downturn".

Bangkok, Thailand time: