A few minutes out of the airport, staring out of a taxi window and making small talk with the driver in broken English, was all it took for me to get a feel of the city. It felt like an adventure already. My taxi seemed anything but safe. With a broken seatbelt, an elastic rope keeping the trunk shut and an array of noises no car should ever make, you would think I’d feel uncomfortable at best. But I felt great, because I was in a brand-new city and could only imagine what possibilities and experiences the next two weeks would offer me.
After checking into my hotel for the night, I headed out for a walk in the hopes of finding the famous Sunday night markets. It was already dark out but the streets were buzzing with people, both locals and tourists. The markets are located in the old part of the city. They sold many things: street food, clothes, crystals, jewellery and many other souvenirs (most of which were of course elephant themed).
Walking down the road I could see a certain level of poverty. The sidewalks were cracked, there were homeless people, and every other wall had graffiti on it and a pile of trash next to it. Other than a 7/11 there were no chain stores, just small independent shops selling souvenirs and clothes to tourists. But despite all of this, it is still a gorgeous city. The beautiful decorations stood out to me immediately. And how could they not? Detailed shrines and statues decorate every gate, bridge and corner. Shining temples rose above every building, food cart and market stall.
A relaxed vibe seemed to take over the area. Everyone was strolling around the markets enjoying the weather and taking in the sights, or taking a tuk-tuk or motorbike to one of the many pubs and bars in the area. Truly the perfect way to spend your first night in Chiang Mai.
Love, Sophie den Hartog
Have you ever been to Chiang Mai? Tell us about your experiences in the comments!