Today was pretty chill and we got to recharge our batteries quite a lot, which was much needed after several successive busy days in Myanmar. While we did walk around some decent amount, the old town of Chiang Mai is quite small and very pedestrian friendly. The two of us also enjoyed a long and relaxing massage during the hottest hours of the afternoon.
We started the day around 9am today with our complimentary breakfast at the 3 Sis Bed & Breakfast. No buffet here but an a la carte menu with just a handful of options. We really liked the open lobby of our hotel with separate areas to relax and browse the Internet.
By 10am, we were ready to start exploring Chiang Mai. The first item on our agenda was to book a one day trip at Elephant Nature Park, a rescue and rehabilitation center for elephants in Thailand. Mimi had done quite a lot of research to pick a place where the animals are well treated. After reading many TripAdvisor reviews, it seemed it was the best match for what we were looking for: a way to interact with elephants in an environment as natural as possible for them and without shows or elephant riding.
While walking to their office also located in the old town, we got to discover the small streets and to feel the peaceful atmosphere that Chiang Mai offers. We saw a few really cute pet dogs on our way including this little Shih Tzu that reminded us of Sugar, a senior female dog we fostered last year.
We also passed by countless restaurants, cafes and spas which motivated us to look into getting a massage during our stay here. We walked in front of Watphakhao, a small Buddhist temple with a beautiful garden in front of it where people can sit on long chairs to get a foot massage.
We arrived at the Elephant Nature Park office and I got immediately distracted by an adorable Pomeranian who was napping on the office desk. Good thing that Mimi was handling the paperwork with the staff because I was completely focused on this cute furball for the next ten minutes.
There were many other dogs in the office. All of them rescues. One of the dogs had only three legs. We learned that the folks behind the Elephant Nature Park organization rescue many other animals besides elephants: buffalos, cats, horses, pigs and of course doggies – many of which were pet dogs rescued from natural disaster zones. They have over 400 dogs living at their nature park 60 kilometers away from the city. Of course, the little Pomeranian remained my favorite, and probably the staff’s favorite too if you consider that he was the only one with the privilege of sitting on the desk.
We booked our trip for tomorrow and left the office to continue walking around in the old town. The Tha Phae Gate (Eastern gate) was not far so that’s where we decided to stop next. Of the four gates that allow people to get in and out of the old town, the Tha Phae Gate is the only one exclusively reserved for pedestrians.
Next, we passed by a small Buddhist temple that did not have anyone in it, so we decided to check it out. Chiang Mai has over 300 Wats but only about two dozens of them get most of the tourist traffic. The nice thing with small temples is that it does not take long to visit them so it can be done as an impromptu activity on the way to something else or while walking around town with no specific goal in mind which we were doing today.
After that we passed by a small food market specializing in fruits.
Next we visited Wat Lamchang, or the Temple of the Tethered Elephants. It got named like that due to its location next to a large wooded area where elephants used to transport the king were kept.
We stopped by Huen Phen, a restaurant serving Northern Thailand food. The food there was good and definitely on the cheap side. The restaurant was very crowded and we could not get a table in the A/C room. While eating, we looked up reviews for massage places and decided to try Green Bamboo Massage. We got there around 2pm.
Tiny place with only a handful of massage rooms. Except for the most luxurious ones that tend to be outside of the old town, the vast majority of spas in Chiang Mai are very small. We sat down and got our feet washed. We looked at the menu and opted for a two hours massage with one hour traditional Thai massage followed by one hour full body oil massage. We changed to the provided cotton shirts and pants and went to the massage room. It had two massage tables side by side so we were not separated. Our masseuses were two middle aged ladies. It was an amazing experience. The traditional Thai massage in particular was a first for both of us and made me realize just how much more flexible Mimi is compared to me! I guess kudos to her for doing yoga at home while I nerd out on the computer! I could hear her softly giggle at me while I was groaning in (very mild) pain. The oil massage was complete relaxation to the point that both of us actually fell asleep midway through it. After the session ended, we got offered cups of tea, paid and left the place around 4pm, rejuvenated.
We wanted to visit Wat Chedi Luang next, the most famous temple in the old town, and conveniently located steps away from our hotel. On our way there, we saw these school kids directing traffic in a street adjacent to their school. They were taking their job very seriously despite their young age. I suspect it was an after school activity for them.
When we arrived at Wat Chedi Luang, we were impressed by how large a complex it was compared to all other wats in the city. It is made of several structures including the main temple building, the ruins of the old stupa as well as a number of smaller temples. We started by visiting the inside of the larger temple and admired the many Buddha statues including three large ones covered in gold. There were mostly tourists inside and very few worshippers.
As we walked out, we heard and saw a monk ringing a large bell adjacent to the main building, following an apparently well established rhythm. This is a view from the side, with the old stupa ruins in the background.
The ruins of the old stupa were impressive too. The four set of stairs were all restricted so we were not able to get to the top and admire the view. Instead we went around and took pictures of all four sides.
At the top of each staircase, there is a relatively large Buddha statue. This reminded me of all the temples we had visited in Bagan which had a different but usually large statues of the Buddha on each of the four cardinal points.
We saw the other buildings from the outside only as the sun was slowly setting over Chiang Mai.
We got back to our hotel lobby to eat ice cream and freshen up quickly before going back out for dinner. We picked Aum, a vegetarian place and ordered a lot of dishes as well as fresh fruit juices. I learned from Mimi that Chiang Mai is a very vegetarian / vegan friendly city with tons of options for herbivores and their friends.
We were done with dinner by 8pm and decided to walk back to 3 Sis and call it a night, after writing one post for yolomimo that is…