Up in the dark after a pretty rotten nights’ sleep (our room at the Tune was right opposite the lift – and it seems our fellow travellers didn’t realise the volume of their voices – calling wayward kids, or the noise their doors made when they slammed closed) to be over at the airport at 4.30am for our flight to Chiang Mai. Air Asia had managed to sit us miles apart so we ended up paying to select seats together .. a whole 16 ringgits!
Uneventful flight and we landed in CM on time at 8.30am. Immigration, baggage claim & customs formalities were really quick. Out to the taxi desk, got the voucher for the set-price taxi into town and the humidity hit us in the face like a hot towel. Nice that the taxi was air-conditioned. We grabbed the drivers card and will use him on Wednesday to take us up to Doi Suthep and the Tiger Kingdom (ethical dilemma I know, but we have decided to visit – since it’s unlikely we will ever get the chance to see them in the wild)
Check-in was quick and we were soon off to explore. Our hotel is in a little soi (side street) just near the Tha Phae Gate. Chiang Mai is an old walled city with a moat round it, though the walls are mostly now gone, the gates are still there.
We found Gecko books and got a copy of the amazing Nancy Chandler map (complete with a little booklet giving details of almost everything a tourist would want to find in Chiang Mai) and then headed down Ratchadamneon Rd insearch of second breakfast. We had a bun thing and a very ordinary cup of coffee at KL airport at 5am and our belies were starting to rumble a bit. I can highly recommend mango & sticky rice and an iced late for anyone wanting to quell the tummy rumbles – sooo good!
Headed off in search of a phone card and managed to cover the full length of the old city before any success. Hot and a bit bothered we made our way back via the moat road to our hotel where we both caught up on a couple of hours of much needed sleep.
Successfully refreshed our next target was the Sunday Walking Market. They close Ratchadamneon Rd road from the Tha Phae gate and every imaginable kind of stall sets up from about 4pm. Food stalls cover the complete range from fruit shakes to fried crickets, pad thai noodles to cake and everything in between. We grabbed a plate of pad thai at a stall in the grounds of Wat Chedi Luang (30baht = $1) and an iced coffee and wandered out into the growing throng.
These markets sell everything – clothes, jewellery, obligatory tourist tee shirts, bags, shoes, hats, tissue box covers, dog clothes, balloons on sticks, toys – all set out so neatly on little stalls – a bit like the Batu Farringhi night markets in Penang, but with very little tat and certainly no fake handbags or watches. Lots of buskers too, including a singing policeman rising funds for underprivileged kids.
Lots of craft pieces and plenty of ethnic clothes – unfortunately just nothng that said I had to buy it! I found a little stall selling Hmong Indigo dyed batik – stunning! And got the name of his village – might seriously consider a trip out there to have a really good look at the whole process.
Wall to wall people and sore feet indicated it was time for a foot massage. 80 baht (about $2.30) for half an hour – part torture, part bliss. Tony caused a bit of a stir when he sat down – after all the walking earlier today his knee was a bit sore so he wore the knee brace – the look on the face of my massage lady when she saw him take it off was priceless! A bit of sigh language later and they understood the need to be gentle.
We ventured left at every corner, up one side of the street and down the other till we made our way back to the Tha Phae gate, found a 7/11 for milk, coffee and beer and wove our way through the ever-growing crowd back to the hotel. Tony went down for a swim but since I hate really cold water, I’ll wait for the heat of daylight before I venture in.
I’m sitting out on our 3rd floor balcony typing this – it’s about 25 degrees still and there is a nice breeze finding its way through the complex.. what more could I ask for? Tomorrow Tony is off to find a tailor to get some pants made and I’m heading for Hmong Lane to check out the textiles.