Today was an experience to say the least. This morning we had chicken rice soup AGAIN for breakfast and then we rode into Chiang Mai on a motor scooter. That was one of the most insane 40 minutes of my life. cruising down the left hand side of the road, trucks and cars screaming past dodging in and out of traffic trying not to die. Drivers just simply turn out in front of you from a side road. Fucking crazy!!!
We arrived in Chiang Mai old town to be received by the local constabulary. they pulled us over for a random licence check. I produced my Aussie licence and the officer said “Where you from?” I smiled gently and said “Australia mate!” “Very good” he said, handed me my licence and off we went to find the Chiang Mai climbing shop to check out the local vibe.
As all good coffee drinkers do , Karine and I located a nice little cafe with a good machine and ordered our standard Americano each. We studied the map and located several temples and we were ready to explore. We headed off down the main street and turned left and headed to the closest temple or so we thought!
Arriving at the gates of the first temple we could find was a little overwhelming. It was huge…….actually the biggest temple in old town I think. It was painted a fresh glowing white and adorned with ornate gold and brown trimmings. Very vibrant and beautiful indeed.
Walking through the grounds revealed the giant and very ancient Chedi that was the original centre piece of the gardens. All terracotta bricks and crumbling with time. It would have been and amazing sight in its former glory days. There are many shrines in the temple grounds and too many to list but some amazing sights none the less.
There were sitting Buddha’s, lying Buddha’s, big and small Buddha’s and there we even old decrepit Buddha’s as far as the eye could see. Buddhism in Thailand is very interesting as its a cash crop so to speak. In one temple we visited they capture the pigeons and put them in cane cages and then charge you to release them and this is “good karma”. From my minimal understanding a good buddhist would not capture the bird in the first place right?
In all seriousness though walking through the streets is a great way to see old Chiang Mai and experience the Thai culture and all its kitsch garnishing at times. Karine had been to Chiang Mai before and wanted to take me to this great little restaurant she knew of. Its also in The Lonely Planets recommendations. It was called Lert Ros and it was this dodgy looking place with salted BBQ fish cooking out the front on rusted grills over old style hearth’s.
I have to tell you! The food was stunning and the price was right. Super tasty and flavoursome, spicy, aromatic and cheap as hell. The photo’s will explain a lot but what can you say about Lert Ros other than you simply have to go there and not be timid about where you sit, what it looks like and what terrifies you 🙂
Walking through the market place was also an eye-opener for me with some of the cuisine on offer not looking too bad but having been sitting in the sun for the best part of the day. I thought the live fish in the tub were interesting. The catfish writhing around in a small plastic tub and then ending up on skewers whole and grilled as a snack was pretty horrid too, but thats just because I don’t like the taste of catfish.
We continued on our wanderings and discovered another beautiful temple. It was now starting to get a little late in the afternoon and I didn’t want to be riding back to Mae On in the dark on the side of the main road with Karine on a motor scooter, knowing that the trucks travel later in the afternoon. So we decided to head back to our scooter. I had never been in a tuk-tuk and requested a ride in one in the way a small boy would ask a parent for a chocolate bar or ice cream. It was super cool from a cultural experience and thats just what I wanted to do it for.
All in all a great day in an amazing old town………if you ever get there eat at Lert Ros and take a ride in a Tuk-tuk. It makes it feel like you have explored the town the right way.