In the morning, we got going early again to Chiang Mai. The bus left on time and was comfortable. We grabbed a Tuk-Tuk to get to our hotel through the narrow twisty streets of the old city. We were staying at the Libra Guest House. This was another wonderful budget Thai hotel – probably the best of all the great places we stayed. Incredible value, incredibly clean, fantastic service, great food, etc. They were in the process of expanding, but the noise, as promised, was only during the day. We had a room with powerful quiet fan and private bathroom with hot water for only $4 US a day. The lady at reception (part of this family-run business) was incredibly cute and had amazing English. She gave us all the info we needed (and a map) to get started on our sightseeing. If you are looking for a local hotel the Expedia website offers many travel deals.
We headed straight for Wat Doi Suthep. This wasn’t too easy to get to, as it’s on a big hill overlooking the town. We walked to where the songthaews leave from, but they only leave when full, unless we were willing to pay extra. Fortunately there was one other Danish couple waiting, and after a lot of hard bargaining we finally were on the way for $2.50 each. (The driver wanted us to pay for a return trip, advising us that there would be no other songthaew’s up there.. uh huh.. of course it wasn’t true )
The road has lots of twists and turns and dips – so motion sickness sufferers beware! It’s about a 45 minute drive. To get the rest of the way up the hill, either take an enclosed funicular or walk. Laziness won out for us, but there really aren’t that many stairs, and it’s well shaded. We borrowed clothes to cover up properly (oops) before entering the temple complex. It’s another typically beautiful wat, in active use.
We saw a monk blessing some Thais, and awkwardly watched. When he was done, he beckoned us to come over. We sat down in front of him, he said a prayer while waving a stick (dipped in holy? water) over us, and we were blessed! Then he tied a string on my wrist (and his assistant tied a string on Wendy, as monks can not directly touch women). Unfortunately, the blessing only seemed to be valid in Thailand, as our luck and good fortune ran out as soon as we hit Malaysia…
Getting a songhthaew back to town was very easy and quick. From there we headed to the Sunday market on Tha Pae road. The road and market area was packed with vendors of everything from crafts to food to clothes. It was a very pleasant stroll – unfortunately cut short so we could hightail it back to the hotel for our ride to the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center for a traditional dinner/dance.
The evening at the center was a disappointment. The dining hall is a huge room packed with tourists, each paying $8 to get in for this evening. (relatively, this is very expensive! Although it did include transport from the hotel). The food left a lot to be desired (barely warm fried chicken???), although food refills were free. Drinks were extra. The traditional dancing and music was performed by ‘authentic’ hill tribe village people. They looked bored and uninspired throughout the evening. After dinner, everyone shuffles over to
an outdoor covered theater, where the performances continue. The whole affair fortunately only lasted 2 hours or so. We would have much rather been checking out the night market. But, well, hindsight being what it is…..