Our last day in Chiang Mai was a low key one. We weren’t leaving until 4pm, so had a leisurely morning at Baanbooloo until we needed to check out.
I’ve really enjoyed having soups and similar meals for breakfast! SO much better than the berry and muesli shakes I often have at home. I just feel better for longer with this type of meal – but at home there isn’t anyone cooking this for me! Might just stick to what I’m already doing…
I’ve mentioned before how much I love the way that Baanbooloo has reused and recycled building materials. Apparently many building materials are reused in Thailand, particularly timber – teak being especially prized. The woven decorations hanging in the below photo are pieces of a simple bamboo screen, but up and reconfigured. They look fantastic, and are an excellent example of creativity and lateral thinking.
It’s lovely to sit on the couches or around the long dining table chatting or reading.
The big covered urns are traditionally used for water storage. The covers are particularly important for keeping mosquito numbers down. There are already plenty of mosquitoes in Thailand!
Open air living is such a contrast to how we do things in Victoria (I am sure that in Queensland and other Australian states people are outside much more). We build our houses in ways that can be completely sealed from the elements, then divide them up into rooms. A very clear inside and outside delineation. But here, it seems that more often property boundaries are built or defined, then rooms as separate buildings within the property, often with open sides. Air flows around you all the time, lines of sight are often unobstructed, or there are screens to define boundaries.
I remember that even these ceramic tiles have ground glass from recycled drink bottles in them that give them their sheen and colours.
We decided to spend a few hours just walking around the streets of the old city. Stella wanted to have one more try at the fish spa. This was attempt number three.
Unsuccessful. But good on her for persisting! The girls had noticed loads of school kids with delicious looking ice-creams the day before – so we tracked down the source.
The streets are interesting places. So much going on all the time! We heard this vehicle approaching, as it had speakers playing music. I wondered what was going on – as it passed we realised that it was a hearse and was carrying a coffin. We presume that it was heading toward the south gate of the old city, as that is the gate that people leave by when they die.
We had noticed many shops advertising and selling latex. This was primarily in the form of latex pillows and mattresses. Rubber production has been increasing steadily in Northern Thailand over the past few years and many farmers are shifting from rice production to rubber.
We spotted three of these utes driving around Chiang Mai advertising “Prooooooooofessional! Thai Boxing! Tonight!” You could hear them a mile away. Imitating the recording is still causing great mirth in my family.
I really love these little floral offerings. You often see them hanging from the rear vision mirror in cars or tuk tuks. I have noticed that drivers often touch them just before they go around a blind corner. Not sure that taking one hand off the wheel in those situations is actually helpful…..
Chinese New Year was about to commence, so many restaurants and shops were being decorated accordingly. This particular restaurant was absolutely stunning. So many umbrellas! They looked spectacular en masse.
The old city in Chiang Mai was built over 700 years ago. It was a walled city, with a moat around it and gates in the centre of each side. Each side is approximately a mile long, which makes the old city extremely walkable. The main gate, Tha Phae, has been rebuilt along with a section of wall, to show what it was like when first constructed. In other parts of the old city there is still evidence of the original wall, especially at the corners. The moat is still there too. Good old Wikipedia tells me the following history of Chiang Mai: King Mengrai founded the city of Chiang Mai (“new city”) in 1296:209 on the site of an older city of the Lawa people called Wiang Nopburi. Gordon Young, in his 1962 book The Hill tribes of Northern Thailand, mentions how a Wa chieftain in Burma told him that the Wa, a people who are closely related to the Lawa, once lived in the Chiang Mai valley in “sizeable cities”.
Chiang Mai succeeded Chiang Rai as the capital of the Lan Na kingdom. Pha Yu enlarged and fortified the city, and built Wat Phra Singh in honor of his father Kham Fu.:226–227The ruler was known as the “chao”. The city was surrounded by a moat and a defensive wall since nearby Burma was a constant threat, as were the armies of the Mongol Empire, which only decades earlier had conquered most of Yunnan, China, and in 1292 overran the bordering Thai Lü kingdom of Chiang Hung.
With the decline of the Lan Na Kingdom, the city lost importance and was occupied by the Burmese in 1556. Chiang Mai formally became part of Siam in 1775 by an agreement with Chao Kavila, after the Thai King Taksin helped drive out the Burmese. Because of Burmese counterattacks, Chiang Mai was abandoned between 1776 and 1791. Lampangthen served as the capital of what remained of Lan Na. Chiang Mai then slowly grew in cultural, trading, and economic importance to its current status as the unofficial capital of Northern Thailand, second in importance only to Bangkok.
Also from Wikipedia: According to Thailand’s Tourist Authority, in 2013 Chiang Mai had 14.1 million visitors: 4.6 million foreigners and 9.5 million Thais. In 2016, tourist arrivals are expected to grow by approximately 10 percent to 9.1 million, with Chinese tourists increasing by seven percent to 750,000 and international arrivals by 10 percent to 2.6 million.Tourism in Chiang Mai has been growing annually by 15 percent per year since 2011, mostly due to Chinese tourists who account for 30 percent of international arrivals.
Chiang Mai is estimated to have 32,000-40,000 hotel rooms and Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX) is Thailand’s fourth largest airport, after Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK) in Bangkok, and Phuket (HKT).
The Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) aims to market Chiang Mai as a global MICE city as part of a five-year plan. The TCEB forecasts revenue from MICE to rise by 10 percent to 4.24 billion baht in 2013 and the number of MICE travellers to rise by five percent to 72,424.
The influx of tourists has put a strain on the city’s natural resources. Chiang Mai is faced with rampant unplanned development, air and water pollution, waste management problems, and traffic congestion. Local government is seemingly powerless to enforce zoning and construction.
Time for lunch! After wandering the city for a while we diverted away from the larger roads and went down some back lanes. We happened upon this restaurant, Angel’s Secrets, and made our way to the only available seats, right at the back. There was one woman sitting there – and serendipitously it was Amy, the American woman we’d met the night before at dinner!
Clearly there are some people that you are just meant to meet – and Amy was one of them! We’re sure that we’ll see her again one day (maybe here in Australia). This restaurant served a variety of food so there was something that suited every member of the family – especially the youngest one.
I think that one of the most striking things that differentiates streetscapes in Southeast Asia versus Melbourne is the cables. In Southeast Asia there seem to be multitudes of power, phone, communication and television cables lining the streets, complete with loops of spare cord attached to fix any breakages. In Melbourne there are main poles with cables attached at regular intervals – sometimes the cables are underground and you don’t see any overhead cables at all! I have pondered why there is such a difference for some time, so eventually googled it. I’m not the first person to have asked: you can read some answers here and here.
At this site in the old city a construction had been demolished, but it was easy to see that all the materials were being sorted into groups for recycling. Impressive, I thought!
These apartments were around the corner from Baanbooloo. I suspect that they are simple bed-sit units, with the higher levels reached by stairs. I enjoy trying to work out the different ways that people live in a city like this one. It seems to be incredibly diverse.
And that was it! Time to farewell Baanbooloo. We headed to Chiang Mai airport, then had our next minor adventure. When I presented our documents for check in, I was asked if we had a connecting flight. Yes, we did, three hours after this one arrived at Bangkok. On production of our onward travel documents, there was a great deal of activity and chatter between the Bangkok Airways staff. People were on the phone, into and out of offices, and up and down to other counters. One lady took our passports to a reservations desk, and we eventually figured out what was going on. Our flight had been delayed by two hours, so the incredibly helpful Bangkok Airways staff were booking us onto another flight with another airline, and making all the arrangements. And as it turned out, we ended up on a Thai Smile flight – in business class.
We told the girls to not get too used to it! I have to say that I was super impressed with the service from both Bangkok Airways and Thai Smile. And our meals were delicious!
We made it to Bangkok airport in plenty of time to check in to our international flight, get through security and immigration, and onto the plane to settle in for the night. Yes, attempting to sleep sitting up was pretty dismal, but it was truly worth it – money that could have been spent on a more luxurious airline than Jetstar had instead gone toward the content of our holiday – one of the best holidays that I think my family has been on. It was superb.