A Travellerspoint blog

Chiang Mai - Thailand's famous, authentic second city

Each temple, like Wat Phra Singh, has multiple buildings and monuments with the significance of each being very complicated; even at temples where we had a guide the stories behind the different elements remained confusing

Each temple, like Wat Phra Singh, has multiple buildings and monuments with the significance of each being very complicated; even at temples where we had a guide the stories behind the different elements remained confusing

The most impressive feature of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the chedi towering 79 feet; this gold plated spire is typical of Northern Thailand with its heightened octagonal base, ringed spire, smooth spire, and tiered chatra (umbrella) at the top

The most impressive feature of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the chedi towering 79 feet; this gold plated spire is typical of Northern Thailand with its heightened octagonal base, ringed spire, smooth spire, and tiered chatra (umbrella) at the top

Wat Phan Tao is the most atmospheric temple in Chiang Mai's old city; the highlight is an enormous prayer hall supported by 28  gargantuan teak pillars

Wat Phan Tao is the most atmospheric temple in Chiang Mai's old city; the highlight is an enormous prayer hall supported by 28 gargantuan teak pillars

Construction on Wat Phra Singh began in 1345 when King Phayu,:226–227 the fifth king of the Mangrai dynasty, had a chedi built to house the ashes of his father King Kham Fu

Construction on Wat Phra Singh began in 1345 when King Phayu,:226–227 the fifth king of the Mangrai dynasty, had a chedi built to house the ashes of his father King Kham Fu

Wat Chiang Man; the rest of the group was taking a cooking class which I skipped to visit the most famous temples in Chiang Mai

Wat Chiang Man; the rest of the group was taking a cooking class which I skipped to visit the most famous temples in Chiang Mai

We had a 13 hour journey on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai; it was an efficient and authentic experience and I actually slept pretty well (though Jonathan didn't)

We had a 13 hour journey on the overnight train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai; it was an efficient and authentic experience and I actually slept pretty well (though Jonathan didn't)

The Phra Buddha Sihing statue inside Wihan Lai Kham at Wat Phra Singh; Chiang Mai was the former capital of the kingdom of Lan Na (1296–1768)

The Phra Buddha Sihing statue inside Wihan Lai Kham at Wat Phra Singh; Chiang Mai was the former capital of the kingdom of Lan Na (1296–1768)

The city pillar shrine at Wat Chedi Luang is supposed to protect the town; a festival in honor of the city pillar is held every year in May and lasts 6–8 days

The city pillar shrine at Wat Chedi Luang is supposed to protect the town; a festival in honor of the city pillar is held every year in May and lasts 6–8 days

The construction of the temple at Wat Chedi Luang began in the 14th century but wasn't completed until the mid-15th century; it was then 82 m high and had a base diameter of 54 m, at that time the largest building of all Lanna

The construction of the temple at Wat Chedi Luang began in the 14th century but wasn't completed until the mid-15th century; it was then 82 m high and had a base diameter of 54 m, at that time the largest building of all Lanna

The original gold plated chedi at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the most holy area of the temple grounds; within the site are pagodas, statues, bells, a museum, and shrines

The original gold plated chedi at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is the most holy area of the temple grounds; within the site are pagodas, statues, bells, a museum, and shrines

The view from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep shows the serious air pollution problem Chiang Mai incurs every year during the dry season

The view from Wat Phra That Doi Suthep shows the serious air pollution problem Chiang Mai incurs every year during the dry season

There are scheduled times at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep where visitors can observe monks at prayer; everyone taking photos of people praying struck me as disrespectful but obviously the temple uses this to draw paying tourists

There are scheduled times at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep where visitors can observe monks at prayer; everyone taking photos of people praying struck me as disrespectful but obviously the temple uses this to draw paying tourists

Chiang Mai has several night markets where sidewalk vendors line many city blocks selling all manner of goods; some of the items were quality, locally made items while others were cheap Chinese items

Chiang Mai has several night markets where sidewalk vendors line many city blocks selling all manner of goods; some of the items were quality, locally made items while others were cheap Chinese items

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was an impressive temple complex but I felt it was too Disneyfied and lacked authenticity; there are elephant sanctuaries nearby but we didn't have time to visit

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep was an impressive temple complex but I felt it was too Disneyfied and lacked authenticity; there are elephant sanctuaries nearby but we didn't have time to visit

Wat Chedi Luang was my favorite temple complex in Chiang Mai's old city; the temple hosts monk chats every day - tourists are invited to speak with monks (usually novices) and ask them anything about Buddhism or Thailand

Wat Chedi Luang was my favorite temple complex in Chiang Mai's old city; the temple hosts monk chats every day - tourists are invited to speak with monks (usually novices) and ask them anything about Buddhism or Thailand

Each temple, like Wat Phra Singh, had lots of places where you could make donations; the temples in Chiang Mai were much more visited by tourists than by people going to pray

Each temple, like Wat Phra Singh, had lots of places where you could make donations; the temples in Chiang Mai were much more visited by tourists than by people going to pray

Monks are often very well educated because they can attend university for free; monks were ubiquitous walking around the city

Monks are often very well educated because they can attend university for free; monks were ubiquitous walking around the city

Wat Phra Singh is dominated by this enormous, mosaic-inland sanctuary; the prosperity is plain to see from the lavish monastic buildings and immaculately maintained grounds

Wat Phra Singh is dominated by this enormous, mosaic-inland sanctuary; the prosperity is plain to see from the lavish monastic buildings and immaculately maintained grounds

Each side of the square base of the main chedi of Wat Phra Singh features the front half of an elephant emerging from it; after it was built in 1345, the chedi was enlarged several times

Each side of the square base of the main chedi of Wat Phra Singh features the front half of an elephant emerging from it; after it was built in 1345, the chedi was enlarged several times

Wat Chiang Man contains the oldest known Buddha image created by the Lanna kingdom, cast in 1465; Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand with 1.2 million people in the metro area

Wat Chiang Man contains the oldest known Buddha image created by the Lanna kingdom, cast in 1465; Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand with 1.2 million people in the metro area

Wat Phra Singh is Chiang Mai's most revered temple; pilgrims flock here to venerate the famous Lion Buddha

Wat Phra Singh is Chiang Mai's most revered temple; pilgrims flock here to venerate the famous Lion Buddha

The Thai sleeper train is quite different from others I've taken; the car had upper and lower berths with a curtain for privacy and quite dated communal bathrooms

The Thai sleeper train is quite different from others I've taken; the car had upper and lower berths with a curtain for privacy and quite dated communal bathrooms

Our tour guide enjoyed taking group photos so he could show how much fun we were having; the poses were not of our choosing

Our tour guide enjoyed taking group photos so he could show how much fun we were having; the poses were not of our choosing

Wat Chiang Man is Chiang Mai's oldest temple and was established by the city's founder sometime around 1296; Thais drive on the left (like the British) but the traffic flow often seems very confusing so I wouldn't want to drive here

Wat Chiang Man is Chiang Mai's oldest temple and was established by the city's founder sometime around 1296; Thais drive on the left (like the British) but the traffic flow often seems very confusing so I wouldn't want to drive here

Wat Chiang Man; at each temple you have to take your shoes off and often shoulders have to be covered (the rules are more strict for women)

Wat Chiang Man; at each temple you have to take your shoes off and often shoulders have to be covered (the rules are more strict for women)

Our tour group going through a Buddhist prayer with the monk at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep with the monk then giving the group his blessing; the temple is said to have been founded in 1383 when the first stupa was built

Our tour group going through a Buddhist prayer with the monk at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep with the monk then giving the group his blessing; the temple is said to have been founded in 1383 when the first stupa was built

Wat Chedi Luang; practically every other shop in the city offers some variety of Thai massage at very low prices (I didn't challenge them to work on my broken body)

Wat Chedi Luang; practically every other shop in the city offers some variety of Thai massage at very low prices (I didn't challenge them to work on my broken body)

There were 306 steps up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep; this sacred site to many Thai people is 15 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai

There were 306 steps up to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep; this sacred site to many Thai people is 15 kilometers outside of Chiang Mai

In 1800 King Chao Kawilaalso planted three dipterocarp trees at the city pillar shrine, this shrine has been the only one on the trip where females were not allowed

In 1800 King Chao Kawilaalso planted three dipterocarp trees at the city pillar shrine, this shrine has been the only one on the trip where females were not allowed

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep can get 120,000 visitors per month, with numbers being higher during holidays like Songkhan and Visakha Bucha Day when local people climb the mountain and sleep on the esplanade of the temple to commemorate the birth of the Buddha

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep can get 120,000 visitors per month, with numbers being higher during holidays like Songkhan and Visakha Bucha Day when local people climb the mountain and sleep on the esplanade of the temple to commemorate the birth of the Buddha

Murals at the city pillar shrine at Wat Chedi Luang; even in early March, the temperature today was 100 degrees and I was constantly drinking Coke Zero and Gatorade

Murals at the city pillar shrine at Wat Chedi Luang; even in early March, the temperature today was 100 degrees and I was constantly drinking Coke Zero and Gatorade

Parts of Chiang Mai at night are reminiscent of downtown Las Vegas; there are chain restaurants, street vendors and lots of tourists

Parts of Chiang Mai at night are reminiscent of downtown Las Vegas; there are chain restaurants, street vendors and lots of tourists

Every element of a Buddhist temple is a work of a art such as this door from Wat Phra Singh; most temples are free but some charge small admission fees (typically $1 or less)

Every element of a Buddhist temple is a work of a art such as this door from Wat Phra Singh; most temples are free but some charge small admission fees (typically $1 or less)

Construction of Wat Phan Tao began in the late 14th century; the monastery is a monument to the teak trade

Construction of Wat Phan Tao began in the late 14th century; the monastery is a monument to the teak trade

In Wat Phra Singh, Wihan Lai Kham was built in 1345 to house the Phra Buddha Singh statue and it is a prime example of classical Lanna architecture

In Wat Phra Singh, Wihan Lai Kham was built in 1345 to house the Phra Buddha Singh statue and it is a prime example of classical Lanna architecture

The reclining buddha at Wat Chedi Luang; tuk tuks were a very affordable way to get around with old city fares of about $3 per trip

The reclining buddha at Wat Chedi Luang; tuk tuks were a very affordable way to get around with old city fares of about $3 per trip

The murals of the wihan at Wat Phra Singh are exceptional; they tell Buddhist stories and impressed me with their detail and vibrant colors

The murals of the wihan at Wat Phra Singh are exceptional; they tell Buddhist stories and impressed me with their detail and vibrant colors

Posted by VagabondCowboy 17:15

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