Chiang Mai is such an interesting place to visit and because it is more laid back than Bangkok you can roam the streets, observe, and ask a lot of questions without irritating too many folks. It has developed so much over the last 20 years and ancient fort ruins and temples exist near modern coffee shops (I actually have never been to a place with more coffee shops and I had the best mocha of my life in Chiang Mai!). Many expats from the UK, US, Japan, Australia, and other countries call Chiang Mai home. There are over 300 temples just in the city and surrounding area and the area is rich in religious tradition. The old city center of Chiang Mai is surrounded by a walled moat that reminds you of the history of this place as it exists alongside modern restaurants. The highest mountain in Thailand is located in Chiang Mai and over 70% of the province is covered by vegetation and mountains. Only a few kilometers outside the city center by motorbike and we saw farmers in their rice fields with towering mountains in the background.
The markets and night markets are alive with color, flavor, & chaos and I loved just walking through them...of course haggling for a good deal for a few gifts for friends and family at home. The above image is at a religious shrine next to a market and a local man was presenting gifts and praying on his way home form work. He was gracious enough to allow me to capture his prayers.
Gifts are presented at shrines throughout the city.
Prayers at sunset just outside a market in Chiang Mai.
An early morning school drop off.
A foggy early morning in Chiang Mai.
Have I mentioned the COLOR? It is an assault on the senses in the BEST of ways.
This mocha was amazing! We went again to this coffee shop just before heading out of Chiang Mai.
My husband and I would always make sure we went to the markets hungry so we could try the various street foods.
OK, I may have skipped this one.
Thais eat snacks throughout the day and street vendors are the culinary giants of Thailand! There are also so many beverages served roadside from Thai ice teas and juices to coffees and smoothies.
A street vendor that specialized in Tom Sum; a spicy green papaya salad that we enjoyed everyday.
The dish Khao Soi was one of the best things I have ever tasted!!! Once I discovered it I ate it everyday we were there. This is a special dish with Burmese influence that is common to Northern Thailand and it is an amazing mix of rich color, texture, and flavors. Oh Thailand, your street food is just so amazing!!!
The night markets in Chiang Mai are immense and diverse and there are many street performers. Kathoey is a term that can refer to a transgender woman or a gay man in Thailand. Guide books used to refer to these performers as "lady boys" and while some still identify that way many also use the term "Kathoey" or "Katoey. "
I saw gorgeous lightening in the sky as we were riding around the old walled fort and had to stop to try to capture it. It took a while to actually capture the storm that was lighting up the sky but I love this image of the modern traffic around the Old City with a lightening strike.
There are more motorbikes in Chiang Mai than cars and I love the movement of this image made from the back of our rented scooter.
Wandering around the Old City I stumbled upon this temple and could hear the prayers being led by monks inside. They welcomed me inside the temple walls and once I removed my shoes I was free to roam and observe the night prayers.
After the formal prayers ended I could hear banging and followed the sound to this small and hidden section of the temple property. This family lives and works in the temple and this man was pounding ornamental decorations out of tin to be used in an upcoming celebration.
This woman was working as a public street sweeper in a busy part of Chiang Mai and had the kindest face. She was gracious enough to allow me to make a portrait after we chatted (with many hand gestures). Women in Thailand make up much of the workforce and the unemployment rate overall is very low. Thailand's equal access to education also makes the literacy rate in Thailand over 90%.
Just outside the city you can begin to see the vegetation and mountains that cover so much of the province.
The rainy season in Thailand meant we got wet...a lot!! Exploring Chiang Mai was my favorite and I am already day dreaming about a trip back soon!