My journey to Chiang Mai Loi Krathong Festival (including elephant park, cooking class, street food)

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Sharon L. Lv. 8 Jan 30, 2019 667/1

Forewords


This is the sixth year since I settled down in Hong Kong. I lived in a lot of places in these years and I flew from and returned to Hong Kong International Airport again and again. Every time when I return to Hong Kong from a far destination, I feel I belong here, everything in the city is order, it gives me a sense of security. I believed the departure from Hong Kong this time shouldn’t have been any different from countless previous departures. After one week in Chiang Mai, when I stepped out of Terminal 1 of the airport in Hong Kong, I instantly felt uncomfortable about the towering overpasses and exposed concrete columns. The modern urban appearance dragged me out of this pastoral dream. I spent the entire day doing my work and trying to force myself back to the urban life. Now I sit down reminiscing the dramatic stories I experienced in Chiang Mai where I was alone, yet I crossed paths with so many friendly people there. Is the Chiang Mai that I’m missing now or its people, or maybe both? I am not sure.

I finally visited Chiang Mai during the Loi Krathong Festival after so many trips to Thailand. When I first got here, things felt a bit dull, maybe it was because I was alone. Later I met a few likeminded travellers and we became friends. Chiang Mai Old City is not big and we lived close to each other. So we hung out and went to restaurants together pretty much every day. Suddenly I felt emotions towards this small town, and everything around me turned vivid. The city is still the same one, it has always been there and nothing has changed, but the stories of different people make this place rich and lovely.


Silhouettes of Chiang Mai


Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai, Thailand

elephant park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Explore the local markets in Chiang Mai


I am really into local markets, and I must visit some local markets whenever I’m in a new city. Perhaps, I’ve lived an idealistic life but markets are where ordinary things in life happen. There are many local markets in Chiang Mai. We have visited four of them, each serves a different purpose. The Fruit Market offers wholesale fruits; Muang Mai Market is the most frequently visited market by locals who come here to purchase everyday food; Warorot Market is more of a large size convenience store; and Chiang Mai Market is a general-purpose market. Actually, the day I arrived in Chiang Mai was on Sunday, and I checked out their Sunday market.


Fruit Market


Fruit Market is where local retailers buy fruits in bulk. All the fruits we buy in Chiang Mai Old City and find in restaurants are mostly purchased here. Fruits can be sold individually here too, but at a higher price. You will know what fruits Chiang Mai is abundant with when you come here: passion fruits and tangerines are of the largest number around this time of year, and there are many high quality durians, as well as some other fruits that are uncommon to foreigners.

fruit market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Coconuts are priced from 20 to 50 THB in the Old City

fruit market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Be noted when you pick durians: The yellower a durian is, the riper it is. Don’t pick durians that are broken.

durians, Fruit Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Fruit Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Muang Mai Market


You will arrive at Muang Mai Market after you go through the Fruit Market. The strong fishy odor tells me that it is a real authentic food market we are talking about.

Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


I like Muang Mai the best out of all markets and fairs in Chiang Mai. There are a lot of food and seasonings here, most locals come here to get the ingredients for cooking their meal of the day, and that explains why this place is very crowded. Locals drive their scooters and just put what they buy in the rear basket. The market is in good order despite so many scooters and people. There is no honking and rushing, people look around as they go along, they don’t want to miss any good deal. I never heard one single honk in Chiang Mai in the next few days either. This is a place where vehicles and pedestrians treat each other politely, and Chiang Mai residents seem to never rush anything in life.

Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Local seasonings and foods are abundant in Muang Mai Market. I passed by a stand which sold spices only found in Thailand, and I saw the three most important spices in Thai cuisine: citrus hystrix (also known as kaffir lime), citrus hystrix leaves and lemongrass.

Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


There are all sorts of curry sauces, such as green and red curries, some of which are used to make soup and some are used to stir fry.

curry, Muang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The consulate of the United States in Chiang Mai is located at the end of Muang Mai Market. The outer walls are covered with artistic graffiti, drawn by students of different schools and colleges in Chiang Mai, representing the friendship between the United States and Thailand.

wall of American Consulate, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Waroros Market


Waroros Market is like a convenience store for locals where household supplies can be bought here. May, one of my travel buddies, found a Thai style mug here and planned to decorate her coffee shop with it.

Waroros Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


All sorts of snack stands favored by locals

Waroros Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Chiang Mai Market


Chiang Mai Market is a more of a general market but with an emphasis on flowers, there are also vendors selling food, spices, and fruits. It was during the Loi Krathong Festival in Thailand and every home was buying Thai orchids to decorate their own krathongs (buoyant, decorated baskets, which are then floated on a river).

Chiang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Fried pork skin is one of the local specialties in Chiang Mai. I passed by a food stand which sold fried pork skin, it smelled amazing.

fried pork skin, Chiang Mai Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Sunday Market


Sunday Market is a large regular event that features small goods, handicrafts, and street food. The Sunday market starts every Sunday after dark in the Old City, and it is mainly located on the central axis from Tha Pae Gate all the way to the Wat Phra Singh. There are so many vendors, most of which sell clothes and handicrafts. Lots of tourists come here in addition to locals, and the market can be quite crowded. The small things you find here are usually very cheap but the quality varies. Go check this out if you happen to be in town on a Sunday.

As a cat person, I like this wood carved kitten the best.

carved wooden kittens, Sunday Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Lamps made of coconut shells.

lamps made of coconut shells, Sunday Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Fridge magnets that are shaped like Thai dishes

Fridge magnets that are shaped like Thai dishes, Sunday Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Charity show, open air, donations are voluntary

Sunday Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Her smile was just too cute.

Sunday Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Cooking class in Chiang Mai


I have heard about Thai cooking classes in Chiang Mai, and finally there is a chance for me to give it a try. Back home, I’ve always loved cooking and whenever I feel like eating homemade dishes, I will go to the market to buy all the needed ingredients and cook at home. Cooking, for me, is a process of aesthetic enjoyment. I feel like I’m living my life to the fullest when I see how these raw ingredients turn into meals on the table, and I get a strong sense of accomplishment from it. I tried to cook tom yum kung once, by following a recipe; I simply threw all the pre-made flavor packs I had bought into the pot. Here at the cooking class, it was the first time for me to cook tom yum kung from scratch, starting from knowing the raw ingredients first. The teacher gave us instruction and explanation in front of the class, but we had to do everything on our own, decide what seasonings and how much of them to use and make our own Thai dishes.

cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand

cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand


We had to make four dishes in order to complete the course, and each of them needed to be prepared from scratch, and we even had to grind our own curry sauce. Thanks to the teacher’s guidance, the process turned out to be very smooth, even for a newbie. The process was so clearly defined, even what spoon to use for which dish was explained, and the tableware was carefully selected. The table was also beautifully decorated. We had to say that we were amazed by the spirit of craftsmanship from the course planner. The cooking class master said that it was a sense of ceremony he wanted to convey to us.

Thirteen curry spices: made from thirteen ingredients

cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand


I used a stone grinder to make this curry paste, the original ingredients were no longer recognizable, and I felt a sense of accomplishment.

cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Preparing papaya salad

Thai cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The wood grinder is very common in Thai culinary art. You have to be strong enough to grind out the taste out of the ingredients, then mix the ground ingredients together.

Thai cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Prepared papaya salad.

prepared papaya salad, Thai cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The clear soup of tom yum kung without spicy sauce

Thai cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The soup was ready after I put the sauce and coconut milk in it.

Thai cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand


I couldn’t even believe my eyes after all four dishes were cooked, and I just never imagined that I could be able to prepare such traditional Thai food in just one afternoon which were not only good looking, but delicious as well. We gathered together around the table and enjoyed the dishes we made by ourselves, we each shared one travel story with the group, we had such a good time. This was just the beginning of a wonderful trip.

Thai cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thai cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thai cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thai cooking class, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Kerchor Eco Elephant Park


I am a person of a strong heart but I have a soft spot for animals. I boycott all kinds of shows using animals, I would shed tears for a gorilla that just lost its homeland, and never have I visited any ocean park. I don’t have the kind of power to change this world, but I hope to influence people around me with my petty power, including you, who are reading this journal.



Why shouldn't we watch elephant shows?

Because all elephants are simply reacting physically in a non-voluntary way, their cute and adorable acts are based on the physical reactions since their young age, when they were taken away from their mothers and tortured day after day. These meaningless animal shows simply formed some habits in their subconsciousness: noncompliance means continuous pain and danger.



Half day mahout experience

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park is 50 kilometers away from Chiang Mai Old City, which is located in a banana garden inside a forest. There is no elephant show or elephant riding in Kerchor. You may make close contact with elephants, feed them and bathe them. Human civilization and urbanization have separated us from other creatures on the planet and we have already lost the fun living on earth with other companions. What’s worse, we have even lost the knowledge on how to get along with them. Opportunities like this, make close contact with these giant babies without causing any harm to them, are something I really look forward to. There’s a half-day option and a full-day option in Kerchor. And I chose half-day, for which I regretted very much because the time went by so fast. I should’ve spent a whole day with these naughty guys.

Over the 50 kilometer ride from Chiang Mai Old City to Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, we had to change to songthaew when we were close to the park. The path leading to the mountain was extremely bumpy, sometimes the slope was so steep that we felt like sliding, or sometimes the ground was full of gravels and the car just bounced up. There were four women who traveled together with me, one of whom was an old 70-year old French lady. She was not at all afraid of the difficult trip, I wish that I could be as courageous as she was when I am 70. There were two Asian girls, one came from China and the other was a South Korean. We hung out in the night market nearby Chiang Mai University and had seafood noodles together late at night, and until then did I know that the Korean girl was a writer whose novel was just published in South Korea last month.


The songthaew that took us into the mountain

songthaew, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The deeper we got into the mountain, the more luxuriant the vegetation looked, and the better the air was. I was happy that elephants lived in such a good environment..

country house, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The elephants living in Kerchor Eco Park are raised by the Karens (an ethnic group), who have been living with them for generations and hundreds of years. They treat the elephants as their families, so they certainly won’t harm them. Apparently, the word “kerchor” means “elephant” in the Karen language.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


We finally arrived at the village after a dozen minutes of songthaew ride. There were no cell phone signals since the village didn’t have electricity and there were only a couple of traditional stilt houses of northern Thai style in the village, all of which made us feel as if we entered a primitive tribe.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The English-speaking mahout taught us a couple of expressions in their language for us to directly talk to the elephants. This language has already formed conditioned reflexes in the elephants since they have been trained since a young age. The training not only allow humans to express themselves to the elephants, but also prevents the elephants from unknowingly hurting people. For instance, you can say “Ler Li” when you have fed them all you have, which means “nothing left”, and they would stop stretching their trunk asking for food. The elephants are not scared of humans, but they are scared of “scaring us”. Whenever elephants get close, don’t run and say “how”, which means stop and they would do what they are told; otherwise, they’d be upset because they think that they are disliked.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


We put on traditional Karen clothes in order to make the elephants feel familiar to us visually, and then we carried some sugar canes and bananas and walked towards the forest.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Not long after, four elephants came to greet us and a naughty young one already “looted” our bags with its trunk before we even took out the bananas.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


This baby elephant wanted to steal my sugar canes, he was just slightly over one year old. I wish he stay happy as he grows up.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


These four are one family, in which there are grandma, mom, cousin and this young sister. Grandma is the oldest, over 50 years of age, and they are all healthy. Two male elephants would fight out of their instincts so the little elephant’s dad is living in another area.

Even though the oldest grandma elephant is already 50-something, she is in her 5th month of pregnancy. It takes two years of pregnancy for an elephant before she gives birth. As an old pregnant mother, she must be tired.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


We fed the elephants with bananas at the village entrance, and then we followed the steps of the elephant family and went into the forest where they lived. We passed creeks and bushes and arrived at a big tree where they had fun. Chiang Mai was still hot even though it was their cool season, so the elephants were spraying water from their trunks from time to time, how cute they were.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Shortly, the little elephant screamed and the mahout told us that it was because he wanted milk. It turned out that baby elephants would play cute when they were hungry.

The baby elephant was staying with her mother after he had some milk.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The grandma elephant was smiling happily

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Random shot of an elephant trunk

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


We were off to bathe the elephants after an afternoon tea

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The bath place was surrounded by creeks. The young female elephant plunged into the pond, waiting for us to bathe her. We had a ladle and a brush in our hands. The mahout told us that the skin of elephants was very thick so brushing them would only make them feel comfortable. I had to admit that bathing these giants were really tiring. But it enlightened me when I saw how they enjoyed the bath.

We massaged them with heated bagged herbs after the bath. What a wonderful life they had, and even I got a little bit jealous.

It’s sunny every day in Chiang Mai during the cool season. The sunlight fell down like silk as it went through the dense forest. There were only the forest, creeks and elephants in front of our eyes, and I really wanted to freeze the moment. I accepted the “gift” from the cousin elephant on behalf of his family at the end of the day; it is a Karen tradition that good fortune follows after you are “baptised” by an elephant, the mahout told us. My blessing quickly realized, I was with a rainbow when this photo was taken.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


It was time to say goodbye, or we should say “Ta Blu” (which means thanks and goodbye). I will come back and visit you again when I return to Chiang Mai next time.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The place where the mahout lives

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The owner prepared some simple food and fruits after we said goodbye to the elephants. It was indeed the most special meal in the home of elephants.

Kerchor Eco Elephant Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand


We passed by a camp where there were elephant shows on our way back. Two weak elephants were chained to the bars, waiting for their next show.

Animals don’t have much choice in this world dominated by humans. But for you and I, we have a choose.


Loi Krathong Festival in Chiang Mai


The Loi Krathong Festival is a traditional Thai festival. People would float water lanterns in rivers to worship the God of Rivers on the 15th day of the 12th month of Thai calendar, wishing good weather in the next year. Yi Peng Festival, which is better known for its sky lanterns, is a part of the Loi Krathong Festival, and the event is particularly grand in Chiang Mai. At the full moon night on the 15th day of the 12th month, people gather together and light up sky lanterns to pray for themselves and their families.

The Loi Krathong Festival this year officially began on November 20th and the opening ceremony was held at Tha Phae Gate on 21st. Meanwhile, the candle-lighting and worshiping ceremony was held every night at Three Kings Monument. People started flying sky lanterns and krathongs on the night of 22nd and 23rd.


Three Kings Monument

lanterns, Chiang Mai, Thailand

candles, Chiang Mai, Thailand

lanterns, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The candle-lighting ceremony at Tha Phae Gate

candle-lighting ceremony at Tha Phae Gate, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Wat Chedi Luang Temple at night

Wat Chedi Luang Temple at night, Chiang Mai, Thailand


A traditional krathong is made of plantain leaves, plantain stems, Thai orchids and yellow chrysanthemum. There is a candle and a stick of incense in each krathong since the festival is about worship and prayer. Locals usually make their own krathongs and the materials can be bought at shops along the river.

krathongs (water lanterns), Chiang Mai, Thailand

krathongs (water lanterns), Chiang Mai, Thailand


A krathong is priced from 25 to 100 THB. Of course, the prettier a krathong is, the more expensive it will be. Technically, the ceremonies of floating krathongs in the river and flying lanterns into the sky are held on the same night, so you can’t really attend both events at the same time. Therefore, we decided to float krathongs in Ping River the night before we flew sky lanterns.

Loi Krathong, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Honestly, I didn’t feel anything special about floating krathongs on rivers at first, but my attitude changed after I bought my own lantern, lit it up, made a wish, and saw it floating away. I really felt like that I was a part of this local and traditional festival, the ritual gave me inner peace. I suggest all of you to put a lantern in the river during the festival, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on oneself, understand what you really want in life.

Loi Krathong, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Loi Krathong, Chiang Mai, Thailand


We walked down along the riverbank after we put our lanterns in the river, and we were surprised to see a father and his son collecting lanterns at the end of the river. We were confused and annoyed. I told this to the girl in the guest house the next day and she said that some people do that because there could be money inside the lanterns. She said we did what we came to do, say our prayers and float lanterns, we should feel content, we can’t control what others do. She was right, I was even ashamed a bit of my negative thoughts, after all, celebrating this traditional festival should be about tolerance and compassion.

Loi Krathong, Chiang Mai, Thailand


November 22nd was the 15th day of the 12th month in Thai calendar. My new friend May and I met up to have lunch then we set off to the site. It was my fifth day in Chiang Mai and surprisingly, I found a sense of belonging to this small town. Why? Because now I have some “old” friends here and we have places that “we used to go”.


The Thai staff in the guest house were making krathongs.

making krathong, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Yi Peng (Sky Lantern) Lanna Festival


Yi Peng (sky lanterns) Festival is a part of the Loi Krathong Festival. Before 2012, large-scale flying sky lanterns was organized by YLI, known as Yeepeng Lanna International, for free, which aimed to advocate meditation and Lanna culture (Northern Thai culture). However, for safety reasons, the institute started to to limit the number of entries by charging a fee because there were simply too many participants. The 10,000 people sky lantern festival organized by YLI was held in Maejo University. That’s the reason why lots of people say that the university is where the genuine sky lantern festival is held. Also, they have had nearly 20 years of experiences hosting the event, so they are capable of offering a remarkable festive experience. This was the 7th year that the 10,000 people sky lantern festival was held in Maejo University.

Locals went to Mae Ping River to fly their own sky lanterns after the free-admission YLI event discontinued. Along the river is the public site for the sky lantern festival as we know today. This year Nawarat Bridge and Iron Bridge were the site for the general public to go. The difference is that the paid site is well-organized and all participants are instructed to fly their lanterns at the same place at the same time, creating the spectacular scene of 10,000 people flying lanterns. At the public site, locals simply fly their lanterns at their own convenient time. There are two more paid sites in addition to Maejo University, which are Doi Saket and Cowboy House. The price for one admission ticket to Maejo University went up as high as 7,000 THB for the 2018 festival, while the prices of the other two sites were only one third as much and you might still get the same experience.

I attended the event held at Cowboy House this year. The reason was simple: I didn’t get tickets for Maejo University. They started selling tickets two months before the start of the event and usually the tickets are sold out on the first day. For more information, you can check out YLI’s website. (http://www.yeepenglanna.net/)



The ticket to Cowboy House looked like the following. We exchanged it for a badge, which allowed us to enter three areas on that day.

sky lantern festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Cowboy House is a dozen kilometers away from Chiang Mai Old City, and the official pickup point is next to Maya Mall on Nimmanhaemin Road, there would be signs. But you’ll have to wait in line since there would be so many people. You could go there on your own if you don’t want to wait in line. There would be a shuttle bus that drives people back to Nimmanhaemin Road once the event is over. I didn’t get to experience lining up for the bus because I went to Cowboy House on my own.

lanterns, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Activities at Cowboy House started around 5pm. The site contained three areas. First we entered the DIY area at the entrance where we registered. There were food stands selling snacks and beverages in there, and you could buy handicrafts of northern Thai style, too.

handicraft, Chiang Mai, Thailand

snacks, Chiang Mai, Thailand


There was a big tree in the DIY area with all kinds of color lanterns hanging on it, and there were tables of candles surrounding it. Everyone could purchase a candle from the designated kiosk. The big tree and jumpy candle light made the scene more sacred under the deep blue night sky.

sky lantern festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand

sky lantern festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand


People could enter the second area to get more food starting from 6:30pm. But every single food stand was packed with people, and you had to stand in a long line before you could have a taste of the popular local dishes, like rice noodles or meat kebabs.

sky lantern festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The third area was the main venue. There was a pagoda at the center and a circle formed around it. Around 7:40pm, it was announced that we could start entering the third area.

A blessing ceremony was held and eight eminent monks were invited to chant sutras before the lantern-lighting ceremony began. Event staff were distributing sky lanterns during the period, and each person got two.

pagoda, Loi Krathong, Chiang Mai, Thailand


Everyone was attracted to the slowly rising “fireflies” behind us half way through the ceremony. It was at this time that another site started flying their lanterns. So many lanterns were flying with the wind as if they were beautiful fireflies.

Loi Krathong, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The ceremony lasted for about one and a half hours, and around 10pm the host told us that it was time to light up our lanterns. So everyone stood up and started lighting up their lantern with the previously prepared kerosene lamp. It took two people to hold the lantern to light it. I glanced over and found out that all the participants were either close friends or couples; luckily, I got help from someone and was not alone. Meeting likeminded people is already a beautiful thing, surround yourself with warm lantern light just makes everything even more special. It was at this moment that music started play in the background, and thousands of people let go of their lanterns. Fireworks started too. I was so excited that I even trembled, choked up and eyes suffused with tear. Everyone there couldn’t help but scream out of joy.

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand


Sky lanterns were slowly rising up to the full moon.

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand


All of a sudden, the night sky was illuminated by thousands of sky lanterns which flew to the full moon waveringly with the wind. Fireworks bloomed as music played along, and this moment made all the waiting worthwhile.

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand


Minutes later, the sky lanterns made a milky way up in the sky.

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand


I couldn’t help but reminisce what just happened on my way back, and I immediately transferred the pictures I took from my camera to my phone. A friend I met in Chiang Mai, who sat next to me, said that he was content enough to have just a few moving moments like this in a year. Our curiosity has been worn away in the real world, and we can hardly be impressed by anything in our routine life. Thankfully, it is still a big world out there and there is always a land with mysteries waiting for us. My heart just leaped up for Chiang Mai on this night illuminated by the light of lanterns.


We rushed to the public sites as soon as we came back. The pedestrian bridge close to Chiang Mai Market is the best location to have a look at the lanterns in addition to Nawarat Bridge and Iron Bridge. It was already 11pm when we got there and there were still many sky lanterns floating in the night sky as if they were stars. Scattered water lanterns floated on the river, with the reflection of their light on water. So we just sat there and enjoyed the peaceful scenery, until the bell rang when the clock hit midnight.

Lanna Festival (Yi Peng sky lanterns festival), Chiang Mai, Thailand



Where to eat in Chiang Mai


Food in Chiang Mai is mostly of northern Thai style, which is known for strong and sweet flavors. They are not delicate but definitely unforgettable. The beverages, sweets and even some of the dishes here can be very sweet, might be too sweet for a lot of people, so you’d better tell your waiter that you don’t want sugar when you order in a restaurant. Besides, there are cafes all over the place. People here don’t have a fixed schedule to eat, and they simply eat whenever they feel hungry, sleep whenever they feel sleepy, and rest when they make enough money, the life philosophy in Chiang Mai makes me realize the possibilities of different lifestyles. The locals like to have glutinous rice with kebabs for breakfast and lunch, or pig blood rice noodles, which are so much different from what I had in southern Thailand.



Typical breakfast options in Chiang Mai: Kebabs, glutinous rice, and water spinach

street breakfast, Chiang Mai, Thailand

street breakfast, Chiang Mai, Thailand



1. Thome Yum Noodles SUPER ZAP

Address: 1/6 Suthep Rd, เทศบาลนครเชียงใหม่ Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Average spend per person: 45 ~ 90 THB

You should really try the seafood tom yum noodles in the night market of Chiang Mai University, and in my opinion it is the best food in the city. The regular tom yum noodles are spicy and I always drink every drip of the soup. It costs only 45 THB and you’ll find a big Thai shrimp, squid and fish in it. You get to have three big shrimps and one entire squid if you upgrade your order, which costs 120 THB. However, there will only be regular seafood tom yum noodles if you go there late. Just type in “Thome Yum Noodles SUPER ZAP” in Google Map and there you go. It is the only night market stand that has its name in Google Map. The food stand is packed with customers every night, and you just have to wait a couple of minutes before you can sit down, the noodles are definitely worth the wait. There are other kinds of street food at the night market of Chiang Mai University as well.

Thome Yum Noodles SUPER ZAP, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thome Yum Noodles SUPER ZAP, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thome Yum Noodles SUPER ZAP, Chiang Mai, Thailand



2. Chang Phueak Pork Leg Rice

Address: ประตูเมือง Chang Phueak, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Average spend per person: 30 ~ 70 THB

Khao Kha Moo Chang Phueak is located in the market outside the north gate of the Old City. I never expected too much about any famous restaurant, but I just couldn’t withhold my craving so I went there on my last night in Chiang Mai. I kid you not, it was just so delicious! The gravy was just about right and the pork leg meat was tender. Also, it was cheap since it costed only 30 THB, and 50 THB for pot-stewed pork intestines. The pork leg rice was not too big but I didn’t order another because sometimes it felt even better to leave your stomach unfilled. It was one of the best Chiang Mai dishes for me. Strongly recommended!

Chang Phueak Pork Leg Rice, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chang Phueak Pork Leg Rice, Chiang Mai, Thailand



3. Hanging Restaurant

Address: 53 Samlarn Rd, Tambon Phra Sing, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Average spend per person: 90 ~ 230 THB

This is a very unique restaurant in the Old City, and the dining area is on the second floor. Stilted house is a traditional house in northern Thailand and your legs simply hang in the air when you are in it. It was the first time for me to eat like that. The meals there are inexpensive and of small portion. Try to avoid ordering seafood, their water spinach tasted very good though. Give it a try if you are having a hard time choosing where to eat in the Old City.

Hanging Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hanging Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hanging Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand



4. Kiew Kai Ka | One Nimman

Address: One Nimman l 1 Nimmanhemin road l Room D116 & D120, Tambon Su Thep, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Average spend per person: 380 THB

This restaurant is located in the arcade of One Nimman, and the specialties they have are northern Thai cuisines. You’d be intrigued when you lay your eyes on the menu because many of them are strange to you. Black pepper pork is recommended, and those who enjoy spicy food may get yourselves some crab meat rice noodles, which are incredibly hot. We ordered lotus roots fried with meat, too. The only thing that was beyond our expectation was the tom kha gai (coconut milk with chicken soup), which was not the clear soup I imagined and it was so rich that I had to have a bowl of rice to eat it with. Overall, their dishes tasted good and the decoration there was pretty nice, too.

Kiew Kai Ka, One Nimman, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Kiew Kai Ka, One Nimman, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Kiew Kai Ka, One Nimman, Chiang Mai, Thailand



5. Old House Café

Address: จ่าบ้าน, พระสิงห์, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Open Monday to Sunday: 9am to 6pm
Average spend per person: 90 ~ 230 THB

Old House Cafe is located next to the most famous Wat Chedi Luang Temple in Chiang Mai Old City, and it is a coffeehouse that is so elaborately decorated that it is rarely seen in the city. It is built on an elevated old house that is more than a century old while the interior decoration is modern and clean. The first floor is the coffeehouse while the second floor is a gallery. The beverages and quick snacks served there are pretty good, but relatively more expensive in Chiang Mai. A beverage is priced between 120 to 250 THB.

Old House Cafe, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Old House Cafe, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Old House Cafe, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Old House Cafe, Chiang Mai, Thailand



6. My Secret Café in Town

Address: 175 12 Rachadamnoen Rd, Phra Sing, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Open 8am to 10pm
Average spend per person: 140 ~ 230 THB

I had breakfast here with May and Yoki the morning before I took my flight. The restaurant was inside a small alley with not so many seats and people. It felt so wonderful when the sunlight got in during the cool morning. I ordered my favorite Toastie, which was great, but the coffee here was just alright, but you could try some other beverages.

My Secret Café in Town, Chiang Mai, Thailand



Where to stay in Chiang Mai


I stayed in the Old City for the five nights I had in Chiang Mai. The Old City is a square shape that is 1.5km long and wide. One of the advantages of living in the Old City is that almost every corner of the city is accessible on foot, and it is very convenient to go to each gate. Speaking of the disadvantages, well, it could be quiet and boring at night. I stayed at two places over five days, but they were less than 200 meters apart.



1. Good Morning Chiang Mai Tropical Inn

Address: 29/5 Rachamankha Rd. soi 6 T. Phra Singh A. Muang, Chiang Mai

This inn, as its name suggests, is of tropical forest style. The wooden door frame is really impressive and you would be embraced by luxuriant plants once you walk in. There is a small swimming pool. You have a wooden window, door and even traditional door lock in the room. Overall, it is clean and the only drawback is their old-fashioned AC which made noises at night, so it is not recommended for those who are light sleepers. The inn comes with a coffeehouse so the breakfast is served for a pretty long time, until 3pm as a matter of fact. It indeed fits the slow lifestyle of Chiang Mai.

Good Morning Chiang Mai Tropical Inn, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Good Morning Chiang Mai Tropical Inn, Chiang Mai, Thailand


My breakfast here: fruit salad was good, but the Thai milk tea was a bit too sweet to drink

breakfast at Good Morning Chiang Mai Tropical Inn, Chiang Mai, Thailand

breakfast at Good Morning Chiang Mai Tropical Inn, Chiang Mai, Thailand

breakfast at Good Morning Chiang Mai Tropical Inn, Chiang Mai, Thailand




2. Villa Klang Wiang

Address: 19/8 Soi6, Ratchamanka Rd, Tambon Phra Sing, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand

This villa, which comes with a swimming pool, is a fancy hotel, and you’d be astonished by the remarkable decorations inside. There are three villas in total and each one is 2-story tall.

Villa Klang Wiang, Chiang Mai, Thailand


My room was in the hallway on the second floor, which was of Southeast Asian style. There were tables, chairs and mirrors in the hallway, all of which made me feel home.

Villa Klang Wiang, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The double door design instantly brought me back to the old days. The room space is appropriately arranged. There is an foyer after getting in, which leads to the bathroom and bedroom, and the bedroom is attached to a balcony.

Villa Klang Wiang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Villa Klang Wiang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Villa Klang Wiang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Villa Klang Wiang, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The details are well thought out. For example, there are window screens on the balcony, and a magnet for the double door, so that it is easy to close. Every detail reflects the thoughtfulness of the hotel designer.

Villa Klang Wiang, Chiang Mai, Thailand


The breakfast here is another highlight. You get to select the type of breakfast you want the next day when you check in at the reception. I chose Chiang Mai rice noodles because I found them really tasty. They stop serving breakfast at 10 in the morning. One day I was late and the receptionist gave me a call asking if I still needed the breakfast after 10am. You really get to enjoy the one-to-one butler-type service here.

Villa Klang Wiang, Chiang Mai, Thailand



At the end


I spent one week writing this and here it is, my travel journal about Chiang Mai. For me, these words represent a memory of mine, and hopefully it can be somewhat helpful for you before you go to Chiang Mai. There is only one month left before the year of 2018 goes away. Travel is never the utopia for those who want to escape from the reality. Every trip means coming back in a better shape. Meet interesting souls and see different life possibilities along the way. Let’s keep exploring in 2019.

dog, Chiang Mai, Thailand

This article contains 123 photos, has helped 667 travellers to Thailand