The one hour flight from Luang Prabang, Laos, to Chiang Mai was easy. It eliminated a full day on a boat or a bus to get here otherwise. Chiang Mai is a little warmer than Luang Prbang because it’s not in the mountains. The air quality is just as bad as everywhere else in SE Asia during the dry season. Chiang Mai is an interesting city with an old town surrounded by a moat and the remnants of the original wall and gates at the entrances from the new city surrounding it. There seems to be about one wat (temple) per block all over the old city. It’s a wonder they can all be supported by residents. The temples require constant upkeep and support of the resident monks. There are restored and unrestored ancient stupas at some of the temple sites. The biggest one in the center of the old city even has remains of a tunnel that appears to have led outside the city walls. We’ve seen a lot of the temples. The Thais certainly go all out in their buildings honoring Buddha. There is a tremendous amount of gold leaf and gold paint applied all over the city.
At this point were about templed out. So we’ll be exploring the surrounding area over the next few days. Chiang Mai is a major tourist area. There are many Asian tourists as well as Europeans and a few Americans. We suspect that the major American tourist scene is at the beaches in southern Thailand. There’s a lot of cultural diversity in northern Thailand because of the history of the movement of various groups over time plus shifting dominance of the area from the Burmese to the west, the Chinese to the north, and the Tais (correct spelling) to the south. We’ll see what we find among the hill tribes that surround Chiang Mai.
Food here is good and plentiful. The fresh market with fruits and vegetables is just down the street from our hotel. There are many small restaurants with local food in the area plus a Mike’s burgers, a burrito place, and a pizza place nearby. There are larger restaurants with food of many international flavors. We think we have a large diversity of restaurants in Portland. Chiang Mai rivals that with many choices. The major difference is the price. Our kabob dinner last night with drinks was $8. A more upscale lunch was $12. There are some high end restaurants. But there’s little reason to eat there when there is so much local fresh food for low prices all over town.
Imported items can be a problem here. We need more lithium batteries for our camera. But they are not to be had anywhere in town. I was able to purchase some in Siem Reap in Cambodia. It’s a huge tourist area because of Angkor Wat. But the options here in Chiang Mai are limited. I even tried the two big electronics stores. But instead of one store such as Best Buy or Fry’s offering a large number of choices, it’s just a big building with a lot of small shops inside. Each shop has a limited inventory and there’s much duplication. We get used to the selection of goods we have in the US. But it’s much more limited in lesser developed countries. Few people have the large amount of capital needed to finance a large business. I guess we’ll have to use our phone camera for most shots and conserve the amount of battery we have left in the camera for the more difficult low light shots in the evening or in building interiors. We have less than a week remaining in our trip. But there’s still a lot to explore in this area.