After four nights at the apartment near the bus station, I make an executive decision and book us a new hotel inside the Old City. It’s not that the apartment is particularly bad but I want to be closer to clean restaurants, massages and temples. So, despite Paul still feeling under the weather, we walk into the city along busy streets where songtows mingle with scooters, pedestrians and bicycles. I should mention that, here in Thailand, most of the pedestrians seem to be foreigners like us. And, at 10am, most of us foreigners are carrying backpacks as we head to and from hotels, buses and the airport. We look like a tribe on the move and I can’t help but wonder what aliens would think if they arrived here in Chiang Mai at this moment.
I like the area around the new hotel instantly. There’s a delightful café across the road that sells amazing noodle salad. The houses here all have small potted gardens out the front and it’s quiet, despite being just one soi (laneway) back from the main roads.
Our new hotel is not far from the big temple where we watched the monks chanting the other afternoon. But there are other stunning wats here too. We explore a gorgeous unrenovated complex. The stairs are worn and the dragons at the door are faded with large black patches on them. But inside there are amazing coloured statues. And the small mausoleum next to the main temple is amazing, with its grey render and gold guilding.
But possibly the most interesting thing about this temple is the huge disturbing mural above the main entry. We ponder the story it is meant to tell. Whatever it is, it’s gruesome. But the workmanship is exceptional.
Across the road there is another small complex. The blue glass pillars outside the temple call to me. This temple doesn’t look as spectacular due to the lacklustre colours in its slightly run down interior. But it still has intricate decorations that must have looked amazing once.
Later in the evening we go for another walk. It’s our first foray into Chiang Mai at night, having spent our first few nights out near the bus station. The interesting thing is that, while there is life everywhere, it’s all foreigners. The locals are working and the tourists are eating, drinking, walking and receiving massages. I have to say, I am happy to be on the tourist side of this divide. There are so many bars, restaurants and massage parlours that it’s difficult to chose which to frequent. What’s not difficult is admiring the preparations for the 2015 Chiang Mai Flower Festival. From the work being done out near the gate it’s going to be amazing. And we’re going to be here for it.
But I think I might leave you today with this image that best sums up our night walking around Chiang Mai.