But we quickly learned that Chiang Mai is not so much a place to do stuff, its a place to be. It is an amazingly relaxed city. We checked into our cheap hotel in the Old City. The Old City is the original footprint of Chiang Mai, its a square city with remnant of the former walls and a moat. Today it seems to be full of cheap hotels, backpackers, guest houses, hippy cafes, cheap food places, hawkers, markets and arty shops selling things to tourists. The Old City had a really relaxed laid back vibe, I think I saw more foreigners than Thai's and it seemed to have more tattoos and dreadlocks than Brunswick Street.
Hippy Cafe in Old City
We spent our first day simply wandering at random around Chiang Mai, occasionally stopping for a smoothie or fruit shake, which are sold everywhere, we also stopped for the cheap foot massage. We also stopped at a hawker cart selling roti for dinner. I'm a fan of plain roti. It would seem its more traditional to go with banana, or nutella, or condensed milk or jam. Roti seems to be sold as a sweet dish. We didn't go to any place that offered roti on the menu as a side dish for curries.
The next morning we left our motel with more of a plan. The Lonely Planet had recommended a 'temple walking tour' which was basically a suggested walk that visited lots of temples. We started with the thing that many many people come to Thailand for first however. Tailoring. Having picked a tailor with good reviews from Trip Advisor we started there. Bear has a body type that is hard to buy off the rack clothes for, his stocky build comes with a big neck. So if you buy a shirt that fits him, it doesn't do up around his neck, if you buy a shirt that does up around his neck, the shirt is like a tent on the rest of him. So you can see the appeal of buying custom made clothing.
The salesman in the shop was very persuasive, convincing him into a three piece suit, with a spare pair of pants and five shirts. Bear is now contemplating dressing up for work more. He also doesn't need to get new clothes for a long time. A long time was spent picking fabrics and colours and design. I flipped through the books and didn't see anything that interested me. These guys really did focus on the traditional style suits and work wear, and given I don't suit for work I didn't see the point. I'm also easier to shop for.
Then we started to visit temples. This was quite interesting. Many of the Cambodian temples had started as Hindu temples and been converted to Buddhist Temples. These temples were younger than the Cambodian temples and had a lot more money spent on them. However the fundamental basic design was the same. The square walls, the lions at the gate, the naga at the stairs, garuda on the roof and buddha inside. Varying levels of spires and stupas and out buildings. These temples were also crowded, but less with tourists and more with locals there to pray.
This is a stupa with elephants
This is a cat trying to climb a stone elephant
This is taken inside a temple - note the elaborate decoration, the Buddha and all the offerings.
This cat thought it was an offering to Buddha. There are street cats everywhere and given food offerings are left to the gods, temples seem a good place for stray animals.
This guy just did not move, I spent some time trying to figure out if he was a statue, then I caught him breathing.
Buddha and nagas
I really liked the vibe in Chiang Mai. Its a lovely city, mix of old and modern, people were friendly and it was very relaxed.