Our journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai went smoothly and we arrived easily at our homestay “Baan Song Jum”. Finding a place to stay in a city you have not been before is often difficult. After looking at reviews online for hours it is still easy to end up in the wrong neighborhood or part of town. We spent our first few days in Chiang Mai at Baan Song Jum which is a peaceful green paradise set back from a busy street and inconveniently located. We soon mastered the art of hailing TukTuks and for 100 Baht we could easily get to the old city. The family that runs Baan Song Jum is simply delightful, the mosquitos not so much! After traveling for two months the mosquitos finally found us!
We set out for a walk the first day to explore the city. After making a wrong turn we found ourselves in a wholesale food market area that supplies the city. I often wish that I could post what we smell in this blog. Sometimes the smells are beautiful fragrances, and sometimes odor so bad, well, you know! The open meat markets have a rather unique odor that could easily turn someone vegan!
The hot sauce this lady was making smelled amazing!!!
Everywhere we go now we come across white roses!!! We love you Felice!
The day after we travel is normally a rest day. This time we opted for a field trip to Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai. I had been coughing for weeks and suddenly my coughing had become so bad that I was struggling to breathe. My lungs had become so irritated from the air pollution in Asia that I had developed asthmatic bronchitis. The hospital visit was eye-opening. Bangkok Hospital Chiang Mai is the cleanest hospital I have ever seen. I was seen by a doctor within fifteen minutes and had prescriptions in hand and bill paid within the hour. To top it off the entire bill was only $102 without insurance!!!
The hospital had a free shuttle to the Thapae Gate. It was nice to relax in a big air-conditioned van and take in the sights. The Thapae Gate is the main entrance to Chiang Mai’s center (the old walled city). It was before used by the traders, diplomats and visiting monks who passed it to enter the city. In the old times, Chiang Mai’s main road was from the Mae Ping river down to Thapae Gate (through Thapae road). Nowadays, Chiang Mai is different and has grown a lot, but Thapae road is still the main thoroughfare of the city. Thapae Gate is also the main place of the city that holds public events and festivals. Our visit to Chiang Mai was just in time to celebrate the king’s birthday which coincides with the Thai Father’s Day holiday. To enter the Thapae gate we had to walk behind huge signs announcing the king’s birthday. It is amazing how dearly loved the king is!
After walking through the gate we turned down a narrow side street and soon found ourselves a different world. We sat down to eat at a restaurant called Cooking Love. Sitting on the patio drinking fresh watermelon juice, eating delicious food, we started falling in love with Chiang Mai.
The old walled city is filled with many very old, and some very famous, Buddhist temples.
This temple is Wat Phan On. The Wat Phan On is one of the smaller temples in the old walled city of Chiang Mai. It was built in 1501 during the reign of the Lanna King Mueang Kaeo.
The temple complex consists of a large viharn, a golden chedi and the kuti or monks living quarters. The Wat Phan On temple holds one of the most beautiful chedis in Chiang Mai.
The chedi was built in 2007 and named the Sareerikkatartsirirak Pagoda, named by the King of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX). The chedi contains red niches on all of its four sides in which Buddha images are enshrined. Next to the chedi is a very large gong.
This viharn contains a large sitting Buddha image in front of the wall facing the entrance. The image in the subduing Mara posture is a copy of the famous Phra Chinnarat Buddha of the Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat temple in Phitsanulok.
In the temple’s courtyard is a big tree under which a number of Buddha images are placed with umbrellas sheltering them. The large number of bells around the temple complex can be rung by Buddhists and tourists alike. Several large trees provide welcome shade. There are picnic tables around the grounds, and The trees are posted with green signs that are so inspiring!
I was searching for music to play in the background and came across this Sanskrit chant for the heart.
In the comments below the video on YouTube someone anonymously posted the following story. Let your heart be touched. The green signs and this story apply to those of all faiths!
There was an old man who lived in a hut. Every morning he went to the street for alms. He never complained about his situations or his struggles. He took what was given without question. One day when the old man returning from his routine, he saw that the hut was taken by somebody else. Somebody else was eating his food and had taken money he had little saved. Old man with compassion went inside the hut. The young beggar, still in the old man’s hut, asked “who are you?” wrapping his hands around the food he found, old man replied I am you but in a different body. Old man took his robes and gave it to him as well. Stranger instead of looking upon this as compassion took him as a meagerly fool. The young stranger snatched the clothes out of his hands and stripped the old man from head to toe and took every bit of things he had left. Is that everything you have? he asked. Old man replied humbly “when you have everything you have nothing, and when you truly have nothing left you have everything. The boy was confused. The old man smiled and said, ignorant child you are trapped in an illusion that you can’t see, feel or touch and bounded by invisible chains. Unless we realize who we truly are it won’t matter what you own. He added even if you become richest of riches we will always be bounded by suffering. The young beggar froze and felt that he understood a little what old man was saying. Old man chanted “Gate Gate ParaGate ParaSamGate Bodhi Svaha.”. “No treasure can compare to it, no money can buy it, no wealth can occupy it, no pleasure can satisfy it, no eyes can find it, no ears can hear it, no tongue can taste it, no hands can feel it, no mind can imagine it. Oh dear child, what is this treasure? Old man asked. Find this, for we are born only to realize this. Young man’s illusory world shattered, face bright and awakened. Old man bowed to him, said ‘know thy self’ and vanished.
We really enjoyed walking through the old city and experienced some of the best street food of our time in Thailand. One of our favorite things to do was to get Phad Thai from the ladies in the video below. The Phad Thai only cost 30 Baht ($.83)!
We would take our food and sit on the steps of a temple, looking out into the dark, empty courtyard under the watchful gaze of Buddha and the King! I cannot begin to describe how special this was to me! It felt so peaceful, almost magical, sitting there with my best friend and eating the most amazing Phad Thai!
We grabbed a TukTuk and headed up to Doi Suthep. Sixteen kilometres northwest of Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep (1676m), a peak named after the hermit Sudeva, who lived on the mountain’s slopes for many years. On our way to visit the Hmong Doi Pui. The Hmong of Northern Thailand are Blue Hmong.
Hmong houses are built on the ground in clusters, with several clusters forming a village. The oldest male controls the extended family household that will include married sons and their families. The Hmong are divided into clans, which play an important part in rituals and relationships.
The Hmong believe in a number of household spirits as well as souls. Rituals are performed by household heads, but each village will also have a shaman to exorcise evil spirits and restore health to the sick.
The pleated skirts made of hemp died with blue and white batik patterns make the Blue Hmong women clearly identifiable. The women’s jackets are made of black cloth decorated with elaborate embroidery for which the Hmong women are renown. Men’s clothes are also made of loose-fitting black material, with embroidery on the jackets. The Hmong use silver both for adornment and as a show of wealth.
Upon leaving the Hmong village we traveled down the mountain a bit until arriving at Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep is a Theravada Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The temple is often referred to as simply ‘Doi Suthep‘ since it is also the name of the mountain it is located on. The temple is a sacred site to the Thai people and as a result you will see many Buddhists monks (young and old) in devotion and meditation. According to legend, in 1383 a Buddhist monk found what was then believed to be a holy relic – Gautama Buddha’s shoulder bone. The then king of Chiang Mai, King Nu Naone, asked for this relic but on its way to him, it broke into two. The smaller of the two pieces was enshrined at Wat Suan Dork, while the bigger piece was put on top of a white elephant. This elephant went up Doi Suthep mountain, found itself a special spot, trumpeted three times, circled it three times and then dropped dead. This location was then selected as the “chosen site”. A few years later, the Wat Doi Suthep was built.
This video is a walk around the main compound. Really worth a look!
We met up with our friends Adrian and June. June was raised in Chiang Mai and they will be building a house near where she was raised. Her parents are so happy!!!!
Adrian and June treated us to a night at a resort and then an evening of dinner and traditional dance at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center.
Our new friends Jack, Ning, and First. Jack used to own some Thai restaurants in Portland, Oregon. First really wanted to get up on stage to dance.
June’s family was kind enough to drive us back into town 🙂
On our last night in Chiang Mai we caught part of the celebration to honor the king’s birthday!