In my previous blog post, I mentioned that Chiangmai would be worth another visit. Finally, I got my chance in November of 2015 when I joined a photography tour to capture the sky lantern festival during Loy Krathong. It was my first time joining a specialty tour just for photography, and it was a good experience to join with fellow photographers and enthusiasts, sharing a common interest.
The tour’s main focus was on the sky lantern festival, so I decided to fly to Chiangmai a couple of days earlier to explore the city on my own, something that I didn’t get to do in my previous trips. It pays to book early especially if you want to be there during a major festival like Loy Krathong. I booked my hotel and air ticket 6 months ahead to enjoy lower rates.
This time round I chose to stay at a B&B type of accommodation inside Chiangmai’s old city as I was a solo traveler. After looking through TripAdvisor on recommendations, I settled on Arte House. This a small B&B run by an artist and his family who have converted the top floor of their art studio into rooms for rent. The rooms are pretty small but clean and comfortable with airconditioning and attached bathroom. The place is set back from the road so it remains quiet and cozy. With only 6 rooms, you won’t feel crowded in by too many guests.
Located in the north eastern corner of the old city, the area around Arte House is criss-crossed with small soi’s (Thai for small alleys or streets). Many other B&B’s and inns dot the streets along with laundry services, small family run restaurants, spas and even travel bureaus. This gives the whole area a kampong vibe which is missing from staying in big city hotels.
I arrived in Chiangmai in the late afternoon and by the time I checked in it was time for dinner. Eating at a nearby restaurant, I turned in early for the next day’s exploration. The next day I had breakfast at the front porch of Arte House. Breakfast is not included in the room rate, but it’s not expensive (around 140 baht for a set breakfast). The coffee here is one of the best in Chiangmai, I’m told.
It was time to start my city exploration and the cool morning temperature was just inviting me for a walk. From Arte House it is a 15 minutes walk to Ta Phae Gate. This is the eastern gate of the old city and dates back to 1296 AD.
From Ta Phae Gate it is another 15 minute’s walk to Wat Chedi Luang, the main temple. Located dead centre of the city and dating back to the 14th century, this a must visit place when you are in Chiangmai. From Ta Phae Gate, I walked westward towards the centre of the city, following Google Maps on my smartphone.
One thing good about visiting Wat Chedi Luang in the morning is that it is more cooling and less crowded with tourists. I also got to see the novice monks having their morning prayers at Wat Phan Tao next door.
From Wat Chedi Luang, I decided to take the road south. It passes some other smaller temples and also a small market. Markets are a good place for street photography as it gives a look into the daily lives of the locals.
Rounding the south-eastern corner of the old city and heading back to Ta Phae Gate, the day was getting hotter. Although it was late November, the weather was still hot and sunny in the day time. I was sweating profusely from the 35°C heat.
I must say that Chiangmai offers lot’s of opportunities for street photography with the friendly people who are most obliging to be photographed and the interesting backdrops with it’s ancient temples and culture.
I felt that it was time to head back to my room and escape the heat although it was only 11am. I decided to make one last stop at Wat Chiang Man which is just nearby to Arte House. This is the oldest temple in Chiangmai, built in 1306 AD, and has a unique stupa with elephant statues surrounding it.
After visiting Wat Chiang Man, I quickly went back to my room for a shower and a rest. The heat was really energy sapping and my clothes were soaked in sweat. Good thing about the laundries next door. At 35 baht/kg of clothes, it’s really cheap and they offer same day collection for that price. I got my clothes washed and dried by 7pm and I could see them drying from across the road.
After a good rest, a late lunch and followed by a 2hr Thai massage at the spa across the road, I went out to purchase tickets for a Muaythai (Thai boxing) fight. So stay tuned for the next series of blog posts as I got to watch my first Muaythai fight, embark on a photographic tour of Northern Thailand and ending with the sky lantern festival.
The old city can be covered by walking and if you are lazy, there is always the tut-tut which are everywhere. Otherwise, there are numerous rentals for bicycles and motorbikes.