Canvassing Chiang Mai
How can a person top spending a day with the elephants? A person cannot, so I decided to spend today exploring Chiang Mai a bit.
Something about Chiang Mai – it is a jumping-off point for many different activities – from elephant days to jungle treks, cooking and massage schools, and many others. Chiang Mai itself is not as interesting as Bangkok, and is very, very touristy – guest houses, hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners abound. In other words, not a great deal of ambience. But it has a number of wats, and I decided to take a walk and see some of them (this may not have been the best idea, after what happened on the elephant yesterday).
Chiang Mai is basically laid out with the old city in the middle, surrounded by moats, the night bazaar to the east of the old city, and not a whole lot to the west – the university, mainly. My guest house is near the night bazaar, and I decided to go on foot rather than rent a bicycle (and I am not allowed to rent a moped). The first wat I saw was Wat Chedi Luang, which was built in 1411 and used to house the Emerald Buddha, which is now found in the compound of the Royal Palace. There is now a replica of the Emerald Buddha in the chedi, as well as multiple other buddhas (including one that is reclining) in the temple and surrounding buildings.
Something interesting I have found is that I have not been to a wat that only has one Buddha – it is always many. I don’t know quite what to think about that, but it is interesting to see all of the different poses (all of which have meanings) and the different styles.
Next door to Wat Checi Luang is a wat that is not mentioned in the guidebooks, but has an interesting feature – a wooden chedi, and a Buddha statue among a bunch of tulips. I did not go inside Wat Pan Tok, but took photos outside because it is a very pleasant place.
The next wat I visited is Wat Pra Singh, and man oh man, was it busy. I don’t know exactly why, because although it is pretty and interesting, it does not have any “special significance” of some of the other wats.
I also managed to find a place where I could get a dragonfruit smoothie. It was good, but dragonfruit is not as sweet as other fruits (especially lychee). Although I keep passing places that smell good, having had a bacterial infection (and still having after effects from it) has made me a bit gun-shy about eating things…especially when all of the writing is in Thai! So I am keeping my diet simple.
On the map, the next wat, Wat Suan Dok, did not look so far, but as it turns out, I walked a while to get there. Well, at least I got exercise, but my ankle was starting to hurt. My trip was made when I got near the wat and a bunch of monks got out of a songtaew that had driven up. I moved to the side to let them pass, but one of them started talking to me. We ended up talking for about 45 minutes! He is from Burma and is studying (in English) at the Buddhist University.
How to describe Wat Suan Dok? I will take a passage from a guide book I found: “In the grounds is a group of whitewashed Lanna stupas, framed by Doi Suthep. The large central stupa contains a Buddha relic that supposedly self-multiplied.” Between the sun shining off the white stupas and Doi Suthep in the background, it was quite beautiful and I wish I had a wider lens for my camera (I wish that a lot, actually!).
My walking motivation was flagging, and I caught a songthaew to the last (and oldest) wat in Chiang Mai – Wat Chiang Mun. To be honest, it may be the oldest wat, but the main building looked like the others – it is really the chedis and any other buildings on the grounds that differentiate the wats. Because so many people go to see it, there are also tuk tuk drivers/touts who try to get you to let them take you to different destinations, and they are persistent. I was glad to get out of there and…
As I was walking down the street I passed one of many foot massage set ups, right there, outside. So I sat down and got an hour-long foot massage (and a bit of leg, back, and shoulder too). All of this for 120 baht – now I understand why someone who has been to Chiang Mai recommended that I get one of these at least once a day.
After my foot massage was over, I was steps away from the Sunday market, which was recommended to me by many people. So more shopping! I was there earlier than it officially opened and was glad for that (and there were vendors anyway), because after it opened it was waaaaaaaay too crowded. And clever that they are, they chose a location that, between the shops on the street, the stalls of the market, and the people, it is really easy to get turned around. After I realized I wanted to be going the opposite direction of where I was headed, I turned around and got to a parallel street as quickly as possible – I just don’t love crowds that much, especially slow-moving ones.
I was feeling pretty good by this time, until I was nearly hit by a bicyclist, who then stopped and blamed ME for the fact that he almost hit me. I told him he should have gone around me and he asked if I was pregnant! Say what?? I don’t usually gain weight around that area, and certainly don’t think I LOOK pregnant! Then he started to lecture me and I told him I am here on vacation, not to listen to BS like he was spouting. British jerk. Why didn’t he just go around me and be on his way? Why did he have to stop and ruin my good mood?
Well I was determined not to let that effect last, and by the time I stopped at the 24 hour convenience store, I was feeling better. I had found PEANUT BUTTER at this little convenience store, of all places. It was a hefty 87 baht (nearly $3) for a tiny jar, but I have a feeling it will be worth it!