Christmas in Chiang Mai

I flew into Chiang Mai on Boxing Day after leaving New Zealand late on Christmas Day. I’d had a quick stop over in Singapore where I’d gotten out of the airport and into the city for some sightseeing for a few hours. I was in need of a rest. I was in Chiang Mai to join a tour through Myanmar and I decided to add a few days and see some of the sights and acclimatise. I was staying at a guesthouse with an onsite vegetarian restaurant and a pool, ideal (although the weather was never good enough for the pool).

It wasn’t wet season in Chiang Mai but it sure rained a lot on my first day sight seeing. Before I could start my sightseeing however, I did have to get a massage. There is a place in Chiang Mai that trains female prisoners in Thai massage so they have a career when they leave prison. I opted for the hour long massage for ~NZ$8. I went into a little room to change into the comfy clothes, had my feet washed and was led to a room with a bunch of people getting their massages. It was an experience but I loved the feeling afterwards. Clearly working in that kind of environment has got to be quite boring for the staff so they made fun in anything they could. When it got to the part when it where they drummed on your butt, they timed it so a bunch of people all got it at the same time, giggles all around.

For my sightseeing, I went to the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre (which was really excellent and reasonably priced and empty of people), and the Lanna Folklife Museum. Both museums are on the history and culture of Thailand and both very well curated with lots of English content throughout. Next to the museums there is a temple called Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang that is worth a look and my first temple of the trip. Temple count has begun.

After lunch I visited three more temples Wat Phan Thao (#2 teak temple), Wat Chedi Luang (3# temple with the pillar believed to protect the city) and Wat Phrah Singh (4# 14th Century temple). So much gold!

The following day I did a day trip to an elephant sanctuary and got to spend the day with about 20 elephants. We fed them pumpkin and bananas. After feeding them we got to give them a mud bath and swim with them in the river. It was an incredible experience. I touched a tongue and stared deep into their eyes, such wonderful souls! The sanctuary I chose looks after elephants that are owned by local families and they pay the families using some of the money donated so that the families have a form of income and don’t have to use the elephants for hard labour as they would otherwise be doing. The elephants had incredible relationships with their owners and didn’t have to be enclosed or anything, the enticement of the food was enough to keep them nearby, after the groups have left for home they are free to roam.

My third day and last day in Chiang Mai started again with a massage. I took a shared taxi up a hill near Chiang Mai to visit Wat Doi Suthep, a temple (#5) with great views, a lot of stairs and gold everywhere. There were a lot of markets near by so I ate a selection of fried carbs for lunch.

That evening I was to be meeting the group I would be travelling with through Myanmar. It was such a lovely and diverse group! We went for dinner where I think I ate my third thai green curry in as many days and we went to watch the lady boy show. A great night out and a great way to get to know the group before we were to spend a few weeks together!

The next morning was an early start and a long bus ride to cross the border into Myanmar!

Until next time,

Amanda xx

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