|Chiang Mai Travel Information and Travel Guide|
|Introduction | Arts & Crafts | People of The hills | Every convenience | Golden Triangle | A natural discovery|
|Festivals | A New Cable Car for Doi Southep | Planning your trip | Place of interest ||
|The Open Roads of North Thailand | Map of Chiangmai | Domestic flight schedules | More Information|
Within the city's original perimeter, still marked by moat and fortified gates, are numerous ancient Buddhist temples and other monuments attesting to a distinguished past. Close by are more magnificent attractions, including Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, and Phuping Palace, the summer residence of the Royal Family.
Arts & Crafts
Here is a true shopper's paradise and there is plenty of scope for browsing for unusual gifts and souvenirs. But buying is not all, and just as thrilling are visits to workshops, even whole villages devoted to handicrafts, like Bo Sang, to see the crafts in the making.
People of the hills
Chiang Mai is the ideal base for excursions to these varied sights and attractions, as well as a destination in its own right. The city has expanded considerably in recent years, though new building has not obliterated views of centuries old temples and there is little of the frenetic air that typifies life in Bangkok. The 'Rose of the North' remains a relaxing place, with its hospitable and easy going people who still hold to traditional ways and values.
They originated from Tibet migrated through Burma and crossed over into Northern Thailand during World War II . Animalistic rather than Buddhist they make sacrifices of cockerels as part of their religious practise.
Witch doctors heel their sick and believe that the body has 12 souls. When a part of the body is injured that sole has left the body. To encourage it to return they sacrifice a cockerel cut off the head, throwing it into the air to open the spirit world allowing for the soul to return. The witch doctor will construct a spirit compass from bamboo paper and string and split linked with split bamboo which forms the spirit bridge.
Access to the sacrifice altars which are on the highest point adjacent to the village are only accessible to male members of the community.
Fortune telling is not done by reading palms or cards rather with the sacrifice of a cockerel, which is then cocked and eaten except for the legs. Wooden picks are put into the flesh of the legs as they pray to their god asking the questions for which they want answers. For example, if they want to know whether a couple should marry or not when the leg bones are brought together and they are parallel the sign is they will be together for a long time. However if they are pointing in opposite directions the indications are that they would soon part and should not marry.
The method for a funeral will depend on the nature of the death. If it is what they call a good death by natural causes then the body should be buried. The Lisu do not have cemeteries rather they return their dead -to the land burying them in a good site in the family field, Originally this was decided by throwing an egg into the air if it cracked on landing it was not where the body. should be buried. However, if it remained unbroken it's body should rest.
A bad death was one by accident or decease and housed a bad spirit. In such circumstances the body cannot be returned to the land as the spirit would be passed onto future generations and should be cremated.
A Lisu house has a slopping roof that nearly reaches the floor. It is divided into two rooms one for sleeping and one for cooking. Their belief doesn't require every house and plot of land to have a spirit house as elsewhere in the rest of Buddhist Thailand.
Restaurants, specializing in various national cuisines as well as the typical spicy northern delicacies, are plentiful. The best way to sample the local fare is to try a Khantok dinner, a Chiang Mai tradition, which features a variety of local dishes served with sticky rice, the favorite staple in northern cuisine. Typically the meal is accompanied by performances of traditional northern music and folk dances.
Chiang Mai further offers various places of evening entertainment and while these are not as numerous as in Bangkok, they are sufficient to ensure variety. For shopping there is the famed Night Bazaar as well as a host of other shops affording the bargain-hunter enormous scope.
A natural discovery
Jungle tours are an established option in the North and the local TAT office provides a list of specialist travel companies. Trips can last from one day to one week, and each group is accompanied by an experienced guide.
For those with little time a splendid way of experiencing the jungle scenery is to take the regular long-tail boat which plies the Kok River between Tha Thon (due north of Chiang Mai) to Chiang Rai. The journey of just a few hours is a memorable experience. The same trip can he covered more leisurely by raft, stopping at hilltribe villages along the way.
Chiang Mai Winter
Lanna Winter Fair
Phrae Sweet Tamarind
& Red Cross Fair
Petchabun Bo Sang
Umbrella Fair & San Kampheng Handicraft Festival
Ban Thawai Wood Carving
Chiang Mai Flower
Teen Jok Fair
Phra That Cho Hae
Phra Buddha Chinart
Thai Lue Tribal Legendary
Lanna Arts & Culture
Chiang Mai Songkran
Mai Kham Bho Procession
Sao Intakin Ceremony
Phra That Hariphunchai
May, 16-17, Amphur Mae
Jai, Payao, a local lychee fair will be held to celebrate the return
of the lychee crops. Local handicraft and goods will also be for sal
Respecting Pra Jao
13 May, Chiang Mai agricultural day and the blessing of crops. There will be an exhibition, demonstration as well as sales of local agricultural products. Plants and fish will be given free to local farmers as well asinterested parties. Call : ( 66-53-219 291 ).
11-17 May, Inthakin City
Pillar Ceremony at the city four corners, five gates and Three Kings
Monument. Merit making, blessing of the Buddha statues and remembrance
of history will be held all day for a week.
New Cable Car for Doi Southep
Many that wish to pray at the temple are too old and infirm to climb the steps. Therefore at a cost of Baht 7.9 million, a totally safe system have been installed In effect it is an OTIS lift cabin that is pulled up and lowered down diagonally rather than vertically as in a tall building. It has a maximum capacity of 20 people and travels at 3.6km/h slightly slower than walking speed. Fully electronically controlled with a backup safety system in the event of the main one failing. The service is available daily from 8am-4pm and roundtrip costs Baht 40 half of that is used to repay the capital investment.
Planning your trip
To experience the North more fully excursions are recommended to Mae Hong Son and Chiang Rai. Both are destinations in their own right, and it is best to allow a couple of days for each. Mae Hong Son can be reached from Chiang Mai by air or by road, the latter journey takes a full day in each direction. There are also air and road connections to Chiang Rai, though a more adventurous approach is by road to Tha Thon and then by boat down the Kok river (a full-day trip).
Travel by road either to or from Bangkok is perhaps the best way to include Sukhothai on a Northern itinerary. While it is possible to make the trip in one long day, an overnight stop at Sukhothai or Tak is recommended.
If coming from Bangkok, you could continue on by road from Sukhothai to Nan for another overnight stop, and finally on to Chiang Mai via Phrae and Lampang.
What surprised me about driving in Northern Thailand were the traffic-free roads. I have a strong memory of being at the bottom of a steep mountainous road, selecting the low ratio gear and my Mondeo climbing the track with the athleticism of a thorough bred. Mile after mile up hill and down hill, passing fascinating terraced agriculture with the freedom to stop and visit as I wished.
The roads are well made and there are sufficient road signs in English. On the rare occasion that I was uncertain of what direction to take, locals offered friendly assistance with a warm smile using little more than sign language and the name of where I was going. Having a car was the key to the pleasure of travelling around in northern Thailand.
On leaving the baggage hall at Chiang Mai International Airport, there was a representative of Budget waiting for me. He took me the short distance to their office to collect my car. The documents I needed were a valid driving licence and a passport to prove that I was over 21. Budget World Class Drive offers a selection of well documented routes to explore with maps and key points of interest. In addition to local maps, the office provided me with the book "Exploring Chiang Mai, City, Valley & Mountains" by Oliver Hargreaves, containing a wealth of knowledge about discovering the region.
Budget were able to offer a selection of six car types ranging from a 1.3 litre Honda City up to a 4.0 litre Jeep Cherokee 4WD. I opted for the Ford Mondeo sedan as it offered a comfortable ride for the journeys I had planned. Even in downtown Chiang Mai there is low density traffic.
As I wanted to get out and explore the surrounding area I chose a hotel in Mae Rim Valley and was lucky to be staying at The Regent Resort Chiang Mai, Mae Rim-Samoeng Road, Tel (66 53) 2989181, Fax (66 53) 298189. It has sixteen clusters of two-storey buildings, each with four pavilion suites focussed around a central paddy field. The suites in Lanna style are lavishly furnished, offering luxurious living space. An ideal base for a driving adventure, enjoying the cool mountain air on the terrace at breakfast and after a day exploring to be able to return to a relaxing massage in the spa.
On the first afternoon I explored the Mae Sa- Samoeng loop. Turning left out of the hotel on Route 1096, it as just a short ride to the upland Mae Sa Valley 700 metres above sea level. I passed several orchid farms, the Mae Sa Falls, the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden (Thailand’s first botanical garden, built and developed with advice from Kew Gardens in London) and the Elephant Camp. The road continues along Samoeng valley with spectacular views to the west. The complete loop is just under 100 kms and takes about three hours allowing for stops along the way.
The next day I was up early and out on the road before eight o’clock. I headed for Route 107 in the direction of Fang and onto Thaton to check out raft trekking on the Mae Kok River to Chiang Rai. I passed through several police road blocks checking for drugs and guns. Being a foreign tourist in most cases they waved me on. Under Thai law, drivers are required to carry their passports and driving licence and produce them when required.
After lunch, with Mae Sai as my target destination, I continued the climb passing through Yuannese Chinese villages and onto Mae Salong, the former HQ of opium warlord Khun Sa. Continuing on Route 1130 joining the Chiang Rai-Mae Sai highway north of Mae Chan. From there it was a clear run up to the Myanmar border at Takhilek.
Vehicles hired are not permitted outside the Kingdom of Thailand. To take the car into Myanmar, it would void the insurance cover. It is possible to obtain a day pass to visit Myanmar as a foot passenger for US$ 5 on production of a valid passport.
It is recommended to fill the car with petrol at one of the large drive-in petrol stations before Mae Chang. From there until Thaton, there are the local hand pumps and filling could take some time. All of Budget’s vehicles use 95 unleaded fuel at 11.29 baht a litre (17p), far less expensive than in the UK.
For rental of more than 3 days, Budget operate a "Rent Here-Leave There" service and it would have been possible to leave the car at Chiang Rai Airport rather than returning to Chiang Mai.
The round trip journey from Chiang Mai to Mae Sai is some 600 kms and it is recommended to spread it over at least 3 days.
Thailand Travel e-zine would like to stress as strongly as possible the importance of having valid insurance when driving in the Kingdom as provided by International Car Rental Companies. The consequences of being involved in a serious or fatal accident without cover could be serious.
Chiang Mai Soft Adventure
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