The mysterious city located within the mountainous region of Northern Thailand has a lot to offer. It’s a spiritual and photogenic place which has a much calmer atmosphere than Bangkok and is often cited as being a favourite city of many visitors. One of the joys of this city is to wander around exploring on foot, by bike or by Tuk Tuk, but when you tire of just exploring, you can try your hand at cooking Thai style, trek through Thai forests or even have a massage at the local female prison:
Cooking – Thai Style
“Move your body!” This, according to the Siam Rice Cookery School’s larger-than-life teacher, Nancy, is one of the secrets of making delicious Thai food. Chiang Mai is awash with cooking schools and after spending a manic morning in a nearby Thai food market, learning about the different ingredients you’ll be cooking with, you’ll be driven back to the school to cook. Three dishes to be cooked. Three dishes to be eaten. Make sure you do this one on an empty stomach! At the end of the day, you’ll be given a certificate to say that you’ve passed the one day course and more interestingly, a printed recipe book telling you quite concisely, how to recreate what you made during the day. Absolutely worth it.
Trekking and Raft Rides
If you’re in Thailand on an adventure, which most of you probably are, you might want to check out some of your trekking options. It’s almost impossible to miss the hundreds of tourism shops offering trekking packages at a fairly reasonable (and occasionally negotiable) price. The standard package usually includes a trek through the Thai wilderness with an able guide, a night’s stay in a remote village hut with food prepared by the locals (this is really very good fun), a trip to an elephant sanctuary where can you can learn how to look after elephants and if you so desire and a trip down a lazy river on a wooden raft. Prices can vary, so shop around for the best deal.
Explore the Temples by Bike
The city is known for its beautiful ancient temples and there have been over 300 temples constructed in Chiang Mai and its surrounding areas. Seeing the temples of Chiang Mai is an amazing experience – though I don’t recommend attempting such a feat on foot in the heat of the day. Renting a bike is cheap, dirt cheap, so make the best use of your time and squeeze in as many of those temples as you can. Maps of temples can usually be found in hotels and hostels by asking at the desk. Chiang Mai’s temples are perhaps the most interesting of its many attractions and are a beautiful mixture of architectural styles that reflect the varied heritage of Northern Thailand.
Thai Prison Inmate Massage
There are many places in Chiang Mai to get a massage – the city is brimming with Thai Massage schools. Although perhaps one of the most intriguing places is the local female prison where you can receive a massage from a female inmate. These young ladies are far from dangerous criminals, they’re trying to change their futures by offering a service that pays them a small allowance. Full body and foot massages are available at a reduced rate and speaking from experience, they are really very good. Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution is located at 100 Rachvithi Road, Chiang Mai.
Sunday Walking Street
The Sunday walking street (or Night Market) in Chiang Mai is great fun – it’s a large market located right in the centre of the old walled city area of Chiang Mai. It starts at the Tha Phae Gate and extends for 1km down the length of Ratchadamnoen Road. You can visit every Sunday from 4pm till midnight. As with any good market, you can shop till you drop for clothes, books, decorative matchboxes, incense, miniature wooden elephants and of course, there is a huge food market serving everything from traditional Pad Thai, to Hamburgers. One thing to note is that if everyone stops and goes quiet all of a sudden, then it’s likely that they’re playing the national anthem, as they do every day, at 5pm – make sure to show your respect and do like the locals do.
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