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.

My cosy stay for a couple of nights. The front porch is a nice place to have breakfast and laze away.
My cozy stay for a couple of nights. The front porch is a nice place to have breakfast and laze away.
The small soi outside Arte House. I like it with it's many amenities like laundry, restaurants and spas.
The small soi outside Arte House. I like it with it’s many amenities like laundry, restaurants and spas. Just beside is a larger boutique hotel where you can have a good meal and rent bicycles or motorbikes for getting around.
The lobby doubles as the art gallery.
The lobby doubles as the art gallery.
A really Bohemian kind of neighbourhood.
A really Bohemian kind of neighbourhood. The kampong spirit is strong here.

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.

Nothing beats starting the day than having a good coffee.
Nothing beats starting the day than having breakfast washed down with a good coffee.

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.

Ta Phae is the eastern gate to the city and the main gate in olden days.
Ta Phae is the eastern gate to the city and the main gate in olden days.
Reading the morning news on the steps of Ta Phae Gate.
Reading the morning news on the steps of Ta Phae Gate.

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.

The stupa of Wat Chedi Luang. It was damaged in an earthquake in 1545 and remains like that until now.
The stupa of Wat Chedi Luang. It was damaged in an earthquake in 1545 and remains like that until now. Some parts of it were reconstructed in 1990.
A novice monk.
A novice monk.
A shrine at Wat Chedi Luang.
A shrine at Wat Chedi Luang.
The eye of the Naga shines bright.
The eye of the Naga shines bright.
An open air classroom. It was a lively discussion between students and monk.
An open air classroom. It was a lively discussion between students and monk.
Senior monks waiting to bless devotees.
Senior monks waiting to bless devotees.

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.

Art on wheels.
Art on wheels.
A game of chess while waiting for passengers.
A game of chess while waiting for passengers.
Novice monks were having their morning prayer service.
Novice monks were having their morning prayer service at Wat Phan Tao which is next to Wat Chedi Luang. This temple is worth a visit too.

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.

The narrow and congested street of the local market.
The narrow and congested street of the local market.
A glimpse of everyday life in Chiangmai.
A glimpse of everyday life in Chiangmai.

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.

Part of the ancient city walls still stand at the 4 corners of the city.
Part of the ancient city walls still stand at the 4 corners of the city.
I bumped into this monk along the street and he obliged for a photo. Note the matching umbrella and his robes.
I bumped into this monk along the street and he obliged for a photo. Note the matching umbrella and his robes.

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.

The ancient city moat is now a canal that runs round the old city.
The ancient city moat is now a canal that runs round the old city.

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.

Fish from the tub direct to the barbeque pit. Looks delicious but I think will pass this time.
Fish from the tub direct to the barbeque pit. Smells delicious but I think will pass this time. This is at another local market near Arte House. I took a short cut into the soi’s instead of following the main road which runs along the moat.
Wat Chiang Man with it's unique elephant stupa.
Wat Chiang Man with it’s unique elephant stupa.
A close up of the elephant statues.
A close up of the elephant statues with their fine detailing. They look almost lifelike.
Gold detailing on the windows of Wat Chiang Man.
Gold detailing on the windows of Wat Chiang Man.
How innovative. Money changer and ATM on wheels.
How innovative. Money changer, transfer and ATM on wheels just outside Wat Chiang Man.

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.

Getting Around

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.

3 thoughts on “Chiangmai Streets 2015

  1. What an incredible joy it must have been to shoot these scenes, and most important enjoy them and the surroundings. Thre is nothing quite like the feeling of excitement and electricity in the air, and you do great justice in putting them down in words and photographs. Cheers ~

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