Escape to Chiang Mai

Lamphun a small sleepy city 25km south from Chiang Mai is surrounded by lakes and mountains and is one of the oldest settled city’s in Thailand, founded in 661. The Haripunchai kingdom ruled originally by Queen Chama Devi was very powerful until in 1201 it was overthrown and came under Lanna control who then made Chiang Mai it’s capital. It’s nestled by a tributary of the Ping river, the Kuang, which borders the city on the east side and a moat and defensive walls from the 19thc surrounds the rest.

The road from CM is lined with thousands of tall rubber wood trees (dipterocarp) wrapped in orange cloth which signifies the route to an important Temple, it’s impressive. The temple has remains (a hair) of the Buddha and is called Wat Phra That Haripunchai.

We hadn’t been for many years so decided to go and stopped at a very busy small cafe filled with Thais for a lunch stop just out of Lamphun. We had a long conversation with the owner who had worked in New York and Manchester USA amongst other places, he was friendly and chatty and we had very good food. A woman sat outside eating and asked where we were from so another long conversation. Her English was excellent and we found out she had been teaching English at the local technical college for 30 years. It’s great to visit these places but it really is the people and their friendly curiosity which is very endearing.

We looked at everything and then had a blessing from a monk who was really young and trembling nervously when he saw the ‘farang’ approach. He asked Chris for his phone so he could use google translate, it was very surreal but very lovely

There was a bunch of young school children, hands in prayer circumambulating the Chedi 3 times following a monk, they seemed easily distracted by strange people smiling at them, us.

We needed a coffee and there was a man on site who made the best coffee ever and showed off his barista skills all for less than a pound, delicious.

An older Thai man sat having a coffee shared his biscuits with us and had a long chat. Then a Thai woman who lived in France who was a Manchester United fan joined in, these are the best moments for us just connecting with people, it made our day. Just before we left a local school band was playing ‘happy’ outside the temple, and we were.

The weather here has been unusual; unusually hot for the first 2 weeks of our stay and unusually cold for the last week with everyone scurrying around finding big jumpers and woolly hats, even the dogs have coats on!

It is changing again next week and due to peak at 33c so we have decided to head off for Pai, 90 miles north of CM near the Myanmar border. It is always a few degrees cooler.

Pai used to be a small quiet town inhabited by Shan people (ethnic Thais) whose culture was Burmese. It is now a hippy enclave with circus schools, yoga centres, kombucha and wheatgrass shots, turmeric chai lattes and many a dreadlocked extinction rebellion New Age traveller cross legged playing his didgeridoo, just my sort of crazy place.

Lying just beneath the mountains there are waterfalls, hot springs, a canyon and higher up many tribal villages, mostly Hmong, Karen, Lisu and Lahu. They are all very different, clothes and culture.

The local Wednesday market attracts large numbers of locals and tribal villagers selling their wares. It’s very popular and sells everything. We haven’t been to Pai for 6 years so it will be interesting to see any changes.

We are going on the bike and it’s a daunting ride. It’s a steep and winding road that will make you feel every single one of its 762 turns for three, maybe four hours straight. I fancy the ride more than the mini van we took last time, the driver was like mad max on speed they are a bit mental… I’d rather take my chances on the bike.


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