Last updated on 19th August 2019
The Rose of the North
Chiang Mai is the biggest and most important city in the North of Thailand. Its nickname “Rose of the North” was earned due to the beauty of the surrounding nature. Consequently nature was on top of my list of things I wanted to do and see in CHiang Mai. Unfortunately the rainy season added a lot of honour to its name. One day it was raining so heavily all day that even a quick walk through the city was challenging, not to think about hiking or kayaking.
Chiang Mai Town
I had a lot of time to explore the town because a little rain would not hinder me. Chiang Mai has about 200 temples, most in or around the old town. The old town once was fortified and the city walls are still visible today, partly reconstructed. The walls form a huge rectangle around the city and are flanked by a moat along the outside; very similar to a medieval European town. The old town can be investigated by foot, which I did on Sunday, Walking Street day. The city was full of people, food and all sorts of other products, mostly handicraft and artwork. Despite the rain it was fascinating. Other days I used a bicycle for the convenience and fastness. North of the old town there is a quite impressive huge campus of the university. The old town also has a little park squeezed in which is as beautiful as the parks in Bangkok. And of course Chiang Mai has a night bazar and several big food courts, and street food anywhere anyway.
Getting Around – Doi Suthep and Doi Inthanon
On a less rainy day, I rented the best bike I could find in town, a 26” mountain bike and cycled into the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. Passing the wide campus of the university I cycled uphill, passed the waterfalls and made it to a small Buddhist temple hidden in the forest and with a nice view at Chiang Mai from its elevation. Unfortunately, at this point I had to turn back, time was up and I had to return the bike. I did not make it, as originally planned, to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep on 1650 m. That would have made me very proud, now it’s all shame. But still, I felt great after all those uphill cycling. And please ask for the way back – that was fun – kilometers of downhill! I was as fast as the taxies because they were on their brakes due to the turns.
Another day I joined an organized tour into the Doi Inthanon National Park to see the pagodas built for king and queen, to climb the highest point of Thailand at 2,565m, Doi Inthanon, to see the waterfalls and the rain forest and a hill tribe settlement. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t very good, we had rain and fog. The forests around Chiang Mai are cloud forests, and in the wet season, it really is foggy and wet. We did all we wanted but got wet and muddy beyond any description. We actually drove up to the highest point instead of walking. We did not see the pagodas (chedi) hidden in the mist until we stood directly in front of them. There was no view, just clouds. We walked through the forest and saw mighty waterfalls, all the water made them strong. We were lucky that we could cross the river. We walked along the rice fields and were happy to get a nice warm coffee, made from the beans that are harvested by the people in that area. All in all, it was a great experience and the rain actually had made the forest green and added some authenticity.
From here I take the bus to Chiang Rai.