I’ll be totally honest here and say our family didn’t get as much out of Chiang Mai, Thailand as we thought we would. It feels rather blasphemous to admit this since we’d heard a lot of rave reviews from other travelers and had read many cool things about it, like the square moat surrounding its center, the abundance of ornate temples and its massive Night Market. However, for people toting around three young children and cramming everything they own into 4 suitcases, the shopping, continuous sightseeing and dodging traffic in narrow streets quickly loses its appeal. We also happened to visit during the city’s air pollution season, when the slash and burn farming hits its peak and takes its toll on both the skyline and the residents’ lungs.
We did go into the moated city center regularly, visiting a few temples and admiring the incredible detail put into the buildings and statues. The girls and I participated in the “Monk Chat” program at Wat Chedi Luang and talked with a novice monk for a while about his life before and after his Buddhist studies. Hearing his perspective and understanding more about Buddhism was a highlight of our time in the city.
As a bustling town for technological expats, Chiang Mai gave Brian a lot of options for work space. He spent many of his days at PunSpace, a co-working center located in the heart of the city. His favorite part of our time in Chiang Mai was the scooter he rented to get him around town. Each of the girls got a quick ride on it before he turned it back in to the rental shop, which was clearly evidence of the ways this trip has modified my maternal instincts. When in Rome (or Southeast Asia), I suppose.
We also visited the weekly Sunday Market, where the main street of the city center is closed off to traffic and thousands of vendors and food stands set up for business. It’s a pretty impressive sight and probably a totally enjoyable experience when you aren’t constantly searching for three little blonde heads bobbing amid the packed crowds.
Brian and I did head out on our own one night to experience Chiang Mai’s Night Market without the girls. As they sat watching a movie on the 10th floor of our secured condominium high rise (No judgement, people! They were perfectly safe!), the two of us got foot massages, strolled through walkways packed with stalls, ate great Thai food at food stands and watched free entertainment in the market’s main pavilion.
Parades were another fun aspect of our time in Chiang Mai. We happened to be there during the annual Flower Festival. One day as I wandered around looking for a market I stumbled upon a huge parade for the Flower Festival Queen. Each municipality in the province was represented with floats, banners and a cadre of elaborately dressed representatives. We ran into other small parades in Chiang Mai, but this one was by far the most impressive.
You know, as I sit here and type this post, I’m realizing we really did get to see a lot in Chiang Mai. Admittedly, it wasn’t our favorite part of Thailand, with its chaotic streets and rather intense air pollution. However, when you step out in Chiang Mai it’s definitely easy to find something new and different.