THAILAND: Chiang Mai Temples & Food

Chiang Mai was easily my favorite location we visited in Thailand because of all the culture (and elephants of course). Disclaimer: I am not a huge history buff, so some of this information will be relayed as best I understood it/the internet can refresh my memory. Chiang Mai was part of the Lana kingdom (among others) before it combined with Sukhothai and other kingdoms to form what is present day Thailand. Thailand has been occupied by the Burmese (present day Myanmar) and still holds a great deal of enmity towards them, but they were somehow able to avoid colonization by any western powers. Thailand (also formerly known as Siam) was instead left as a neutral territory between the French and British with the freedom to govern themselves. The current ruling dynasty of Thailand was established in 1782 when the capital was moved to Bangkok and has continued to evolve into their current system of government (a constitutional monarchy of sorts which I believe may currently be under military rule). The king is well loved by the Thai people and there are even laws against disrespecting the king or his image. For example, their currency is to be handled with care and never stepped on because it bears the kings image. While in Chiang Mai we got to see several temples (Wats) that have been around for several centuries. It is amazing how well cared for some of these facilities are, but as one of our tour guide told us “hardly anything is original anymore because they keep repairing and replacing everything that breaks to keep it looking nice.”

The day after we arrived we had scheduled a private temple guided tour and David decided he would tough it out while I was pretty much recovered at this point. The first stop: Wat Phra That Doi Suthep located partway up a mountain around the outskirts of Chiang Mai. Usually the view of the city from up there is pretty cool, but we were there right before it was time to replant crops for the year, so some farmers were burning their fields which made the scene of the city below mostly hazy.

All proper Wats have water serpents of sorts (known to us as hyrda) guarding them. This is due to a tale in which the hydra wanted to become followers of Buddha, but he would only allow human followers. In the end the hydra were allowed the role of protector even though they could not be followers.
This is a replica of the white elephant that carried the Buddha remains up the mountain to determine the location of a new temple. It is said that when the elephant finally laid down exhausted, in the very place, that signaled that the temple was to be build here.
The outside of the temple is almost as stunning as the inside. So much orange and detailed ornamentation, it was quite impressive.
More wood carvings with the different zodiac animals. They seem quite in line with the Chinese zodiac animals.
So much gold foil…everywhere.
The centerpiece of the temple!

We found our “birthday” Buddhas! Based on the day of the week you were born there is a specific Buddha for you. Mine is the standing pensive Buddha and David’s is the reclining Buddha, or as our guide referred to it jokingly: “lazy Buddha.” I got a good laugh out of that one.

We did not make it to Bangkok on this trip, so we had to be content with the replica Jade Buddhas.
Tourist Tip: buy a pair of those cheap elephant pants you see everywhere and keep them with you just in case you want to go inside a temple. (I actually got these pants in Vietnam and brought them, but there are plenty to choose from in Thailand also). Not all temples adhere strictly to this, but most will and usually provide a warning sign outside: women are required to have knees and shoulders covered with no other inappropriate clothing. Shoes must also be removed.
One of the MANY Buddhas and offering boxes located around the temple.
One of the only “original” temples we saw. It is currently slated for repair work to the facade to make it look nicer. I believe it was built in the 1700’s.
Wat Suan Dok had some of the largest Buddhas we got to see. The two colorful Buddhas on the right and left have Burmese influence to them (hence all the colors), and our guide also noted that northern Thailand Buddhas all have red lips (again Burmese influence).
Mausoleum of sorts located outside with the remains of the old Chiang Mai royal families.
Another small nearby temple. I liked the stark color contrast on this one.
Our tour guide actively participating in her retirement plan (aka the lottery). She says if she wins she plans to do lots of traveling.
After surviving a long half day of temples and history tour compliments of our fantastic tour guide we tried eating a late lunch (mostly successfully) and relaxed in our hotel room the rest of the day. David was still a little sick and I had a really sore neck/back at this point that probably was not improved by slipping down the steps of one of the temples…oh the hazards of socks on slippery tile combined with gravity. Later on I got restless and decided to take a stroll a half mile down the street where I had seen some shops and food stands earlier to check out the evenings entertainment while David slept some more.

This band was actually quite good and there was a decent sized crowd by the time I took off to check out the market that had slowly been forming right outside a massive commercial mall. I have no idea what they were singing about, I assume it was in Thai, but I enjoyed the music and a smoothie anyway!
Lots of fun browsing to be had here right outside the mall!
After a few hours of wandering about by myself I headed back to the hotel because the next morning we had to get ready to get up for our cooking class. Fortunately when we booked our cooking class a week in advance they were full the day we wanted so we had to sign up for the following day. That gave us just a bit more time for our bodies to recover from our food poisoning incident and actually look forward to eating food again!

We actually look like we’re having fun here!
mmmmm, deep fried spring roll.
Tom Yum soup, the spices in this soup are my favorite!
Century egg. Actually tried it. Not too bad. Just a little salty…I’ve seen these in the grocery store at home, so I had to give it a go at least once.
Thai version of fast food. Looks delicious.
Our charismatic instructor who took us to the market to break up our 5 course meal. Here she is talking about soup packs you can buy at the market, divided and ready for you to chop up to spice up your soup!
Lots of different types of ginger with the largest being Thai ginger. I tried eating it in one of my soups in Koh Phi Phi, turns out it’s not meant to be eaten. (A fact I understood immediately upon biting into it) It is essential for the flavor though.
Three different kinds of basil, all smelled different than what we were used to cooking with.
5 kinds of eggplants! What?!
Anyone want some fish?
The most creative fly shooing device I have seen to date…plastic pompoms on the end of a rotating fan blade.

While at the market we got some free time to browse and I took the opportunity to continue with a shopping mission for a family member and found some fun elephant related souvenirs. I asked the shop owner the price and it was so much lower than what I had seen in the islands that I didn’t even think to haggle and just accepted the price. The older woman who owned the shop was so thrilled with this that she lowered the price slightly (voluntarily to avoid finding change) and even offered me two of her bananas in thanks. This was one thing I appreciated about Thailand (and Chiang Mai in particular), I never felt harassed or badgered when browsing. The shop owners did not follow me all around their shops or chase me down as I tried to leave. They allowed me to take everything in at my own pace. Some things I got better deals on than others, but it wasn’t like China where the prices start off ridiculous or Vietnam where I was slightly afraid of the shop owners assertiveness. I also decided if I was willing to pay a certain amount, I would not worry about continuing to ask for a lower price. I remain surprised that with David’s competitive streak he is really uncomfortable haggling still, I just get tired of it sometimes. That’s when it’s time for a snack. Back to the cooking class! 

Different curry pastes and powders. Delicious!
The yellow curry was phenomenal but surprisingly I really liked the green curry as well. Good thing they sent us home with a cook book!
David’s pad thai and curry, mine is the cover photo for this post.
Dave and his new British friend cooking up some mangos and sticky rice for dessert. David was mistaken for him by the other mans wife at one point which was pretty funny. Men with beards and similar colored clothes, it happens.
Can you dig it? Dave can.
Pumpkin and banana cake!
After the class we took an hour or two to relax and then I was able to convince David to join me for a smoothie at the restaurant area I had found the previous evening. While enjoying our smoothie I was reading something on facebook and bless you whoever said something about going to see Deadpool that evening because as it happens I had heard that movie will likely not be coming to China due to its content…but it was currently playing right across the street at that massive mall I saw the day before and if we ran we could make the next showing. So we ran and even managed to get the last sofa seat right before the movie started. For $6.50 each it was TOTALLY worth the sofa seat. There was a lot of extra room and even a reclining option. The movie was hilarious, I totally understand why China would block that movie from coming to their theaters, and as all other sensible internet propaganda for this movie has stated, it is not a super hero movie for children. There is a reason it is rated R. If an entire country will not allow it to play in their theaters because of adult content, you should not be bringing your children to see it *end rant*. Fun fact: before the movie started we got to stand for the king’s anthem and a montage of his new years greetings from the past several years. Thailand celebrates their new year in April, but they also celebrate the traditional western new year as well as Chinese New Year. They just like an excuse for a party.

Fast forward two days (don’t worry, those will be covered in the next post) and we were wandering around the Sunday walking street (night market), trying all sorts of food, and exploring some new Wats. They block off two major streets from traffic every Sunday evening and the assortment of different souvenirs and original art you can find at this market is amazing. We found items we had not seen in any of our previous “touristy shopping” endeavors and got a pretty good deal on most things because, let’s face it, the north is much more affordable than the south (even when your bargaining skills are as poor as ours at times). I was very glad I did not do all my shopping in the islands when we found this gem. There is also a Saturday walking street, but we were told the Sunday one was larger. We were also still in a van on our way back from Chiang Rai Saturday evening, so Sunday was our best option.

Pad See Ew pictured here. My favorite was the coconut ice cream with fresh mangoes, it does not get any better than that.
Next stop: Wat Chedi Luang Worawihan. Unfortunately we were unable to enter either of the temples, one because it was closed, and one because I am pretty sure it is not open to the public at all. Unfortunately you will also have to deal with the iPhone6 quality photos below because, in the interest of traveling light, I left my big girl camera in the hotel room. I had to save room for shopping at the market ya know…

So gold and glittery.


Elephants on the side.
Another Wat I did not catch the name of. You cannot hardly wander around lost in Chiang Mai without running into a temple, or two, or three.
Another fun activity at the Sunday walking street night market: Thai dancer of all ages putting on performances in the street. The dance style was very intricate as well as all the costumes and makeup. It was quite fun to see!
Stay tuned for the last installment: Chiang Rai & Elephants!

7 thoughts on “THAILAND: Chiang Mai Temples & Food

  1. I so enjoyed your pictures and story…. They must have known orange was your favorite color.
    All the gold buildings are amazing… and so many artistic things. I am glad you have such a good time and that you both got over your tummy troubles However, with all the food….wow…
    wonder how you can try it all with the spices, etc. Glad you got a cook book…We will look
    forward to you showing us the best of the best. Some of those frying utensils that the men were using to cook didn’t look so wonderfully clean…. But the cooking classes look like they would be very interesting. Hope you animals were happy to see you home again. Bet they
    wonder what is going on…. ha ha.

    It’s 77 here in Florida lately….suppose to rain tomorrow. Spring break is on now and there are
    lots of people. Hampton Inn’s in Sarasota are booked up for one year!!! amazing what the
    boat races do for the shopping area. Your pictures with your new camera are absolutely amazing… but the i phone ones were good too. So you will have wonderful photo books of your trips for ever. Love, G’ma Lou


  2. Loved this post! I spent three weeks in Thailand over winter break but was in the south; Bangkok, Cha-am and Hua Hin. I’ll definitely visit Chang Mai when I go back! And I loved the pictures of food – I’m craving see ew now 🙂


  3. Love reading your blog post . . . keep them coming please!! 🙂

    From: Expedition Expat To: Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 2016 6:23 PM Subject: [New post] THAILAND: Chiang Mai Temples & Food #yiv2339277995 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv2339277995 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv2339277995 a.yiv2339277995primaryactionlink:link, #yiv2339277995 a.yiv2339277995primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv2339277995 a.yiv2339277995primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv2339277995 a.yiv2339277995primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv2339277995 | kalmba13 posted: “Chiang Mai was easily my favorite location we visited in Thailand because of all the culture (and elephants of course). Disclaimer: I am not a huge history buff, so some of this information will be relayed as best I understood it/the internet can refresh ” | |


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