Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chiang Mai, the northern city of Thailand: A nice city to visit

Chiang Mai is located at the mountainous northern province of Thailand near the Myanmar and Laos borders. Chiang Mai is not a big city compare to Bangkok. The word Chiang Mai means a new city.

The moat from the south east.
Well, old Chiang Mai city (square in shape) was surrounded by a moat until today. As time goes on, the city spreads outside the moat. It is interesting to visit this city  as it is close to the mountains and forest where you can enjoy nature, farms, animal sanctuary (elephants), zoo and night zoo, etc.

I took the opportunity to visit this city in March  2012 and enjoy the cheap flight ticket which I booked 4 months back. I booked a city hotel from, Royal Lanna knowing that I do not have to worry about transport much as I intend to  explore the city by walking. Once I reach the airport, I took a taxi which cost me 120 baht. It is about 25 minute drive to the city centre. Most roads in Chiang Mai are one way. This is  to avoid congestion, I suppose.

Those who like temples and nature, certainty they will find this city and its surrounding something to offer. There are many temples in the old city boundary and famous temple, Doi Suthep is on the outskirt, west of the city; other attractions include hill tribes (especially Hmongs) and  their plantation; elephant sanctuary, Bo Sang Craft Village (umbrella) and of course its wildlife park.

For the Muslim visitors, you do not have to worry, there are many mosques that you can visit or perform your prayer. The Hidayatul Mosque (Ban Haw) is centrally located in the city at Changklan Road (Charoen Prathet 1) near the Kalare Night Bazaar. This mosque is a walking distance to hotels like Royal Lanna, Le Meridien, Dusit, Downtown Inn, etc.
Hidayatul Mosque at Charoen Prathet 1 and Changklan Road.
Changklan Road, near the Night Bazaar.

The halal restaurants and stalls too are available in the city centre next to this mosque (e.g. Sophia Restaurant) and the nearby Anusarn Market. Even along the streets near the Night Bazaar, you can find Muslim ladies selling "rotee" or roti chanai and others.

Anusarn Night Bazaar.
Shopping in this city, certainly you need to bargain. However you have to be careful on how you bargain. Do not bargain for the sake of bargaining. If they agreed on your proposal (the price you ask for), you have to take it.
Examples of Crafts sold at Anusarn Night Market

Chiang Mai too has many massage shops and spas, almost on every road. They occupy shop houses and mostly located in quiet alleys.  Services include reflexology and many types of body massages. Be extra careful when you opt for full body massage especially massage by men for men. Tell them what you want from the massage and perhaps your taboo. If not, they will give the "ones" that you may not like.

If you like to visit other parts of the province such as Chang Rai, you can book your trip at your hotel, the numerous travel agents or at the Tourist Information Centre. Booking has to be made  a day earlier. A lot of travel packages originated from Chiang Mai are offered to the tourists at a  fee. Example, a half day trip to Soi Suthep and Doi Pui Village in the western part of the city will cost you 500 baht. Going to Chiang Rai will cost you more.It is better to book here, as you will see better option based on your liking. You do not have to pay to the place you do not like to visit. For the city visit, you need 3 days and 2 nights. This is to cover city tour, shopping and rural and mountain sight seeing.

For those who like to buy souvenirs especially the crafts, Chiang Mai has lots to offer. However, when I went to the market, I like to buy dried longan. It is cheap. I bought for friends too. A lot of happenings occur around Changklan Road near Night Bazaar and this attract tourists to the area.

Happy travelling.

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