Saturday, 26 March 2011

Sawatdee Chiang Mai

The good thing about living in Osaka is that you are relatively close to plenty of countries in the Asian region. Being the spring vacation, we decided to venture abroad to Thailand and in particular the northern region of Chiang Mai, which we had heard so much about from friends. Upon arrival we were immediately struck with how different it was than Japan. Not only was the weather warmer (mid 30’s), but gone was the feel of the big city. Even though it was bustling with motorbikes, tuk-tuks (popular three wheeled taxis) and cars, it was more like a large country town with it’s population of around 300,000 people. As we travelled the streets it was clear that eating and drinking is a major pastime with many small bars dotted along major streets throughout the town centre, while sidewalk food stalls tempt you with delicious Thai flavours. Once we started to mingle with the locals we soon begin to feel the warmth and friendliness of the people themselves. Both Jules and I commented on the apparent simplicity of life here and how happy everyone appeared to be. Everywhere we went we were always welcomed with a smile and graciously thanked with a bow of the head with the hands placed in the traditional pray-like pose. During our time in Chiang Mai we stayed a little bit out of town in a lovely spot situated on the banks of the Ping River. Each morning we woke to the distinctive sounds of native birds and insects and as we looked out from our balcony and across the river, we could clearly see the misty mountains beyond. Toward the top of Doi Suthep Mountain there stands one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in the region. So on a warm, clear day we hired a taxi and headed up there to marvel at the ornate decorations of this sacred place. Following a steep and windy 16km trip, we finally arrived and after dogging the many souvenir stalls we joined thousands of other tourists in climbing the final 309 steps to the famous gold pagodas and a sensational view of Chiang Mai. Despite the obvious commercialism of such places, you couldn’t help but admire its mystical and timeless qualities. Clearly it remains a feature that continues to attract many overseas visitors to Chiang Mai and provides just one of many facets of what life in this part of the world continues to offer.

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