Day 111: Exploring Northern Thailand in search of some Zen

With Bangkok memories still buzzing in our ears we set to discover the north of Thailand, searching for some quietness and a bit more of that Thai flavour. We wanted to get to know a bit of Thailand’s countryside too, so we took a bus instead of flying straight to Chiang Mai, the de facto capital of Northern Thailand.

This also gave us a chance to visit Sukhothai, a nice little town halfway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. It was pouring when we got there, and the intense smell of wet soil invaded our nostrils leaving us with an immediate feeling of wellbeing. Sukhothai was indeed the kind of place we were looking for, with an amazing set of temples gathered in the city historical center, some of them displaying the Kmer inspiration that we will find later in Angkor Wat. The dampness of the day didn’t help much our photos, but allowed us to wander there mostly by ourselves… a trade off that we happily agreed to. Seeing the sun going down there, with rays of purple and orange embracing the Buddha statues, was truly special.

After the quick stopover at Sukhothai, it was time to resume our journey to Chiang Mai, where we would reunite with our remaining travel companions (Alexandra had stayed one more day in Bangkok and João had set on a quick detour through Malaysia and Singapore).

Chiang Mai is a city of temples and vibrant nature, and we were keen to explore it all. But first things first, and with the five of us coming from a foodies’ country, we were eager to deep dive into Thai food. And what better than a crash course in Thai cuisine? Let me just say that we are now certified experts in Pad Thai, clear coconut soup and of course, mango sticky rice! You’re all invited to our home to confirm it 🙂

Next on the list were the amazing natural landscapes that can be found near Chiang Mai. Verne is not the biggest fan of kitchens, so while we were learning the secrets of Thai food, he went on a scouting solo adventure to define our hiking trail for the day after. And kudos to him, going up and down the hills near the Huay Tung Tao lake was great! It was a never-ending story of luxuriant greens and beautiful landscapes, with a breathtaking waterfall halfway into the trek. The only problem was, as expected, the mosquitoes, a plague that affects every country in this area.

Lastly, the temples. To be honest, after Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, we were starting to feel our quota of temples getting pretty full, so we ended up visiting only a few. Armed with our powerful bikes (you can also call them scooters, it’s ok…) we decided to go up the hill and visit Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep and Wat Umong. On our way there we stopped briefly on the Tiger Farm, a place that still makes me sad to think of: there you’ll see tigers interacting with tourists for a (considerable) fee. Knowing how wild and savage these animals can be, seeing them so docile being petted by numerous tourists makes one wonder what kind of stuff they give these animals. Doesn’t seem natural at all and made us feel quite uneasy. Big cats are to be free in the wild. If you want to pet a feline, get a house cat!

This trip to Chiang Mai would not be complete without a visit to the night market (tourist trap meets consumers paradise) and a Thai massage. With our wallets lighter and checking if all our bones were in the right place, we said goodbye to Chiang Mai, and embarked to Siem Reap, to a breathtaking visit to Angkor Vat. Verne will tell you all about it, but to spike your curiosity, I’ll just say that we were in the place were Angelina Jolie (aka Lara Croft) ran around with her Uzis.

See you in Cambodia!

Jules *

3 thoughts on “Day 111: Exploring Northern Thailand in search of some Zen

  1. Ambas as visitas, a Sukhothai e a Chiang Mai, me pareceram bonitas e repousantes.

    Apreciei as fotos seleccionadas pela Jules, que nos mostram templos de arquitectura fabulosa e enormes estátuas douradas (tantos templos e estátuas budistas que o Oriente guarda!), e outras mais pessoais, em sítios que convidam ao recolhimento e nos parecem transmitir a paz desses locais.

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  2. Hmm, desde já me faço convidada para o Pad Thai, o arroz de manga e a sopa de coco! Conhecendo as artes culinárias da Jules, não duvido de que estivessem uma delícia…

    Fiquei curiosa em relação a essa fruta do dragão, que em Portugal se chama pitaia e é uma fruta de cacto (fui investigar). As vermelhas são lindíssimas!

    No passeio pela selva, sem cobras e com mosquitos (espero que se tenham protegido), também gostei de ver os pormenores de uma linda borboleta e de uma autoestrada, com seis faixas, de formigas! 🙂

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  3. Que bela sensação de liberdade nos transmitem na foto em que se preparam para explorar os locais de scooter!

    E mais templos ainda… Por que receiam eles as mulheres nos templos? Já na tradição cristã a mulher está associada à tentação… talvez porque as mulheres sejam irresistíveis e distraiam os monges… Mas toleram o cãozito dentro do templo, gostei do pormenor…

    Guardiões dos templos, animais míticos, como o dragão, estátuas de elefantes… só destoa mesmo a parte em que usam os tigres como atracção turística… Concordo com o que dizes, Jules!

    Muito obrigada por mais uma reportagem de um belo, distante e colorido local.

    Beijos. Até à próxima! 🙂

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