16th March 2008, Sunday
Flight AK896 reached Chiang Mai International Airport 25 minutes ahead of scheduled time. Yuin and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes and sniggered. I told him, after flying so many times with Air Asia, they always proudly (to a point of annoyance) announce that they are early to reach a destination, even if it’s only 5 minutes earlier. If there is a traffic police in the air, I am sure he would issue a speeding ticket.
Even though groggy from lack of sleep after being rudely awaken by an announcement from a giggly air stewardess of a marriage proposal on the air and non-stop applause (come on lah); we were very gung ho to take on the city.
We were greeted promptly by Dave, the owner of Chiang Mai Marvel Travel. I came across this contact when I was surfing the internet. I guess I love it because it’s hassle-free. No payment required till we meet upon arrival!
First stop is Doi Suthep, the landmark of Chiang Mai. People who came to Chiang Mai and didn’t go to Doi Suthep, would be considered haven’t been to Chiang Mai at all. The road towards Doi Suthep is a winding one; situated about some 30 minutes away from the airport, proudly perched on the hill, some 3,500 km above sea level.
After looking and marveling with awe at pictures of Doi Suthep in magazines, the web or friends’ pictures; I was rather disappointed that it’s not as grandiose as I thought it would be. Nevertheless it was quite worth a visit. We learned that, Doi Suthep was built where a white elephant sent by the King in search of a good land to house relics given by Lord Buddha; died on the site. White elephants are considered sacred by the Thai people.
When we visit any temples, we should go round the temple, following clock wise. Going anti clock wise is meant for the dead.
After the scrumptious late lunch, we made our way to Royal Lanna Hotel to check in. Dave gave us some directions to the Chinatown and Sunday Walking Street. He mentioned that all visitors must visit the Sunday Walking Street as it’s a place to absorb the entire Chiang Mai experience.
As we loitered about town, we came across this temple near Chinatown. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what was it called. There was a talking mynah greeted us as we went in to check it out. There are about 300+ temples in Chiang Mai, so I guess it’s quite justifiable if I forget this one!
Colours at the Sunday Walking Street
Dave was right about the Sunday Walking Street behind the old city walls. There were street performers, sale of goods you would need or merely enjoy looking at, exotic and bizarre foods, delightful bargains and much, much more. We were delighted to immerse ourselves in the colors, sounds, smells and especially, the camaraderie of the very hospitable people of Chiang Mai.