Chiang Mai, what a freaking beautiful city, I mean you can’t fault it; the people there are so much kinder than those in Bangkok, the pace is laid back, the food and drink are cheaper; there are mountains, jungles, treks and rivers are all close by, oh, and there are temples, lots, and lots of temples.
Okay, Okay, the title is misleading, there aren’t exactly a thousand temples in Chiang Mai, but there are over two hundred of them, which is a lot when you realise that the city really isn’t huge, they seem to be placed upon every corner, between shops, houses and market stalls you’ll find them. I spent my first few days here in Chiang Mai exploring as many of the beautiful temples that I could find. I stood in awe at the gold plate, the gems and the buddhas, I quietly contemplated the architecture, what life in Thailand was like when they were first built, I just couldn’t get enough; I knelt before buddha’s, I befriended monks, I asked anyone I could to tell me more about Buddhism, about what the temples meant; heck, I even got up at 5am one morning to see the monks collecting their Alms.
My third day in Chiang Mai, started like the rest I got up early and headed off to what became my favourite breakfast place ‘A taste of home’ Vegetarian Restaurant, they do the most amazing Banana and Coconut shakes, seriously go visit the restaurant if not for anything else then for those. After my breakfast I walked back to my hostel, past my favourite temple, up the stairs to my floor where lo and behold to my absolute surprise, sat two friends who I met in Bangkok a few days previously, the brilliant brothers, Luc and Thom; by pure coincidence they had booked into the same hostel. After catching up we decided to head out and go explore the city together; one beautiful temple followed the next, we visited every temple we could find on our days trek around the city. Some of the temples were large and visually awe inspiring, others were smaller and held places of quiet reflection.
Out of all of the temples one stood out in my mind, that temple was Wat Phra Singh; one of the largest temple complexes in Chiang Mai. It’s a fully working temple, which is also open to the public, the temple itself is absolutely amazing, but it was its grounds which made it special. Surrounding the temple were notes about Buddhism, quotes hung in the garden of mediation, beyond that you could light incense, give flowers to buddha and sound the gong. It was a great place to hang out for a while, I can actually say that I left that temple knowing a little bit more than I went in. From the large temple our day carried on visiting places of worship, temple after temple, shoes off, shoes on, until we couldn’t do any more, we were (and I hate this phrase so excuse me) templed out. (gag).
There was only one cure, beer, shots and a night of debauchery; I’m sure Buddha once said, ‘without friends, laughter, beer and dancing one can become a temple zombie’. Luc, Thom and I went back to the hostel and sat drinking in the hostel bar waiting for two lovely, lovely other friends, Steinpora and Solveig, who we met in Bangkok to arrive, after which we all headed off into the cool Chiang Mai night, for the large large large night market, where a lady gave me her Chiwawa* in a stylish jumper, thank you? we then headed to Zoe in Yellow, the backpackers nightlife hub of Chiang Mai; this night was full of buckets, shots and beer, as with many nights in Thailand the night ended up as a hazy memory, I know that the next morning we were all feeling very tender, but it was worth it for a good night out with good friends; the next day we didn’t visit any temples, but my brief feeling of being ‘templed out’ had passed, I’m sure there will be many, many more beautiful Buddhist temples in my future.
*I ended up giving the Chiwawa back.
Have you been to Chiang Mai? Have you ever been ‘Templed out’ anywhere? Do you hate that phrase as much as I do? Let me know in the comments below. I’m also over on Twitter and Instagram posting all photos and sharing my travel news. Come, grab a beer and join in on the fun!