We didn't get to Chiang Mai until the late afternoon, so we decided to eat at a restaurant next to the hotel. The food was great, however, I did enjoy it more because I was very hungry. The meal prepared us for the evening ahead, so we decided to walk to the night bazaar. It was a 15 minute walk from the hotel, which was bearable in the cooler temperatures of Chiang Mai. The night bazaar is one of Chiang Mai's main attractions in the evening, there are also a couple of night and weekend markets, but you're best checking what is on when you are there. The night bazaar is made up of craft stalls, bars, artists and other various types of shops. There is also a large food court with a broad range of cuisines from across Asia. After a few snacks, a few drinks and a few games of pool, we all decided to head home.
A coffee stop was needed, luckily we stumbled across one of Chiang Mai's best coffee shops. I had a couple of lattes and Aom went for an iced drink, I think it was a green tea. I also had an espresso, which might I add was excellent! Prepared correctly, freshly ground and pulled on a high quality machine. The Baristas were top class. We also had some great conversation about coffee and I couldn't help but boast about Staffordshire's world-class coffee roasters. If you're in Chiang Mai and you drink coffee, you can't afford to miss Akha Ama! Chiang Mai's best coffee shops give London's well-known establishments a run for their money. Real artisans preparing speciality coffee. Another place that we visited was called Khao Soi FA Ham, you can't go Chiang Mai and not have a bowl of khao soi. It's a mild soup/curry, served with soft noodles in the soup and crispy noodles on the top. I had the beef version and it was phenomenal, the meat was super tender and the broth was rich, slightly oily and really beefy. The food was fragrant, mildly spiced and waves of deliciously smooth, spicy coconut filled the palate. I was in khao soi heaven, that's for sure, I can comfortably say it was the best I've ever had.
Anyway, back to the temples. We managed to squeeze in a few more visits, but the one that stood out was Wat Phra Singh. I'll be honest though, there are that many temples and ancient sites, that it's hard to squeeze them all in. I've got too many photos, that I don't know where to start with them. I just thought I should let you know, I was really cheesed off by 4pm. I was bitten to death in Chiang Mai, and over the first 2 days I got bit 49 times on my legs alone, including when I used repellent. After a long day, we decided to head back to the hotel. In the evening, it was another trip to the night bazaar and a couple of bars. We also had some excellent food at a restaurant called Lemongrass. I needed an early night, we had an excursion booked for the next day and I still wasn't sleeping right after having an episode in Bangkok. The highlight of the evening was fried ice cream and relaxing in the reggae reggae bar.
The outing began with a short drive to visit to a village, I never went in, they wanted 500 baht per person and I certainly wasn't paying it. Sorry long-neck Karen, you're not worth the money. The second stop was a brilliant temple, it sits on top of a mountain and it's called Wat Doi Suthep. This was the first high in Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep towers over the landscape, the mountain is almost 1,700 meters above sea level and the setting is very peaceful. The weather was fantastic and the panoramic views were amazing. It was really accessible, there was a lift to the top and it wasn't too busy. I was still feeling a little sour from the village, so I don't think I enjoyed the temple as much as I should have. After a couple of hours at the temple, we went for lunch. Feeling full after some some tasty Thai food, we went to a small village next to a waterfall. There was plenty of beautiful flowers and wildlife. Unfortunately, the heavens opened and we had to cut the visit short. The palace was also closed, so the trip was a little anticlimactic. On the bright side, I did get a cool hat and a traditional outfit from the village.
We were in for a treat! As soon as the jeep pulled up at the first stop, I could hear the distant torrent of water. It was rainy season, so it was the perfect time to visit a waterfall. Last time I visited a waterfall, it was more like a muddy trickle and we were not allowed to go near it. This waterfall was at the start of the Doi Inthanon National Park, it's called Wachirathan and it's the second major waterfall on the way up to the summit of the mountain. We stopped there for 45 minutes, it was fascinating and refreshing. It was also much cooler in the Doi Inthanon region, at the waterfall it was 22c. We continued to climb the long, winding roads through the national park. The drive was pretty spectacular and the scenery was simply breathtaking. The local climate transforms with altitude, this mountain is famous in Thailand for having a unique weather patterns and if you're from a warm country, you might want to take a coat. Being a Brit, it was just like a good old summer to me, even at the top.
The last leg was just as exciting. We went to the summit of the mountain and had a chance to walk around a designated area of cloud forest. The air was noticeably thinner and it was a very mild 16c, my Thai friends were freezing. It was also incredibly humid, you were literally walking around in the clouds. This was the second time I got high in Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon peaks at 2,565 meters. During our walk through the forest, I was lucky enough to find a giant blue flower beetle, the American tourists who were walking next to us were just as impressed. I whipped my phone out like John Wayne drawing a pistol, and managed to catch the beetle talking flight in slow motion. We walked around the forest for over 30 minutes, it is restricted for conservation purposes and the views are limited. You can also see an observatory, but it's off limits. Just an added word of warning, the coffee at the summit is absolutely terrible!
After a memorable meal, we took a taxi to the night market. Wua Lai market is huge, it sells the same as every other market and more. There's a myriad of food stalls, craft stalls, performers, clothes stalls and much, much more. I wish I got there earlier, but I don't regret eating the Vietnamese food, even if I didn't have much room for street food at the market. We spent a few hours at the market and watched some brilliant performances in the temples. The Saturday market at Wua Lai is certainly worth a visit.
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The Hand That Bites