Al­lure of the North

Thai­land’s north­ern­most cities of Chi­ang Mai and Chi­ang Rai have much to of­fer the itin­er­ant crowd.

Golf Digest (Malaysia) - - Travel -

ny vis­i­tor head­ing to the north­ern city of Chi­ang Mai in Thai­land will dis­cover a rich vein of cul­ture and his­tory dat­ing back to the an­cient Lanna kingdom.

For those not in the know, part of the ter­ri­tory did not be­long to Thai­land or Siam as it was known cen­turies ago. The Lanna kingdom was Lao­tian based and ruled the area in­de­pen­dently for five cen­turies. Only in 1910 did Chi­ang Mai be­come a prov­ince of Thai­land.

Tak­ing this into ac­count one can see that Chi­ang Mai folk tend to be fair-skinned ow­ing largely to their Si­noTi­betan roots.

Chi­ang Mai means “New City” which is rather odd and al­most a mis­nomer given that it is more than 700 years old. Here two faces of the city co-ex­ist in har­mony; the old façade of the an­cient walled city and the glass and steel build­ings in the new, de­vel­oped city sec­tors.

With less than 150,000 res­i­dents ac­cord­ing to a 2008

Acen­sus you’re less likely to bump into peo­ple as you would in 10 mil­lion-strong Bangkok, which is about an hour’s flight out.

To bet­ter en­joy and per­haps, un­der­stand your sur­round­ings it makes good sense to stay in the old city where vis­i­tors can stroll around to browse through cu­rio shops, mar­kets, wats or tem­ples, mu­se­ums and other at­trac­tions. The ev­er­p­re­sent tuk-tuk will honk you from time to time tak­ing you any­where you wish within city lim­its.

The old town is marked by four gates in­clud­ing the Thaa­pea Gate lo­cated strate­gi­cally with a moat en­cir­cling them. The brick walled struc­tures are crum­bling but pro­vide a glimpse into the past, when they were erected to keep in­vaders out.

Within those an­cient walls lies the his­toric epi­cen­tre of Chi­ang Mai and more than 30 tem­ples of var­i­ous styles, such as Lanna, Sri Lankan and Burmese. In­tri­cate wood­carv­ings, golden pago­das and gilded um­brel­las adorn these an­cient places of wor­ship.

Mod­ern Chi­ang Mai has ex­panded well beyond its sig­na­ture moat with lots of de­vel­op­ment to the east of the Ping River where most of the big ho­tels and shop­ping malls, restau­rants and the night bazaar can be found.

You can choose to see what you pre­fer and even if tem­ples and mu­se­ums are not in your list of pref­er­ences there are many mar­kets that of­fer a stun­ning as­sort­ment of trin­kets, wares and food to try.

There are many places to have a sooth­ing body mas­sage, foot mas­sage, fa­cials, body scrub and spa treat­ment here. For those who love aro­mather­apy Herb Ba­sics pro­vides a wide range of prod­ucts.

Night life is never dull in a Thai city and Chi­ang Mai is no ex­cep­tion. There are many bars and restau­rants although the stand­out will re­main the River­side Bar and Restau­rant, ac­tu­ally lo­cated on the river bank, of­fer­ing live mu­sic nightly.

The Sun­day Walk­ing Mar­ket, so-called be­cause it is held every Sun­day af­ter­noon and is a pop­u­lar haunt for tourists be­cause of the va­ri­ety of goods of­fered.

Sur­rounded by for­est re­serves Chi­ang Mai is of­ten re­garded as the step­ping stone for out­door pur­suits like trekking, ele­phant rides, white-wa­ter raft­ing, kayak­ing and the like.

But of course for many trav­ellers who jour­ney to Chi­ang Mai it is also an op­por­tune time to make a side trip to Chi­ang Rai, the coun­try’s north­ern­most city.

In­deed the prov­ince of Chi­ang Rai of­fers sev­eral at­trac­tions – the stun­ning and ma­jes­tic White Tem­ple and the fa­mous Golden Tri­an­gle, the once-no­to­ri­ous part of the Mekong River that tra­verses three coun­tries, namely, Thai­land, Myan­mar and Laos.

The tour which can eas­ily be ar­ranged at most ho­tels also in­cludes a visit to hot springs, Lao is­land and a Karen hill tribe vil­lage. It pro­vides a peek into the lives of or­di­nary folk liv­ing on the bor­ders.

Chi­ang Rai is home to ma­jes­tic moun­tains, wa­ter­falls, hot springs, caves, and much more. There are a num­ber of hot springs and wa­ter­falls such

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.