On the first full day in Chiang Mai I was quite tired from the two flights I had to take the day before (we had a one day layover in Singapore) so I slept in. After having breakfast from the nearby bakery, I dragged myself to explore the city.
Since it was a little bit hot and we were still really tired, we opted to take Grab to one of the temples that was written as my must-see, Wat Chedi Luang. We went passed Tha Phae Gate, one of the gates in the wall that surrounds the old city, and made a note that I must return there when it wasn’t so crowded with tourists (wishful thinking as I later found out). The wall was built during the reign of King Mengrai for the purpose of protecting his kingdom. There are several gates, each one of them with a certain astrological significance.
Wat Chedi Luang was just as I expected, grand and spectacular. When I entered though, the first thing I noticed were this huge tree stretching to the sky, the Dipterocarp tree and the shrine beside it. Inside the shrine is the city pillar (Lak Meuang) which acts as a protector to the city. In Chiang Mai, the city pillar is called Inthakin meaning Indra’s pillar. Based on the legend, the pillar was given to the Lawa people who once resided before Chiang Mai was even founded by the god Indra to protect them. You can find city pillars in most cities in Thailand.
The compound of this place is massive and we didn’t want to rush. We entered the main sanctuary where people were praying and the ceiling was beautifully decorated with ribbons. I was surprised how serene it was despite the many tourists inside.
As I walked further to the back of the complex, I was taken aback by the beauty of Wat Chedi Luang. It was like I stepped into a time machine. This temple was definitely a contrast to its more modern surrounding. I saw the nagas guarding the temple with their fiery eyes and sharp teeth. The construction of this Lanna-styled temple started in the 14th century and when it was finished in 1441, it was the tallest and most grand the city had ever seen. This marvellous temple once housed the Emerald Buddha which is now in Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok.
I sat down in one of the seats in front of the temple. I had to take my time to admire properly. Monks were passing by me, how lucky were they to be able to observe this piece of history on a daily basis.
As I looked at the time, I seemed to have miscalculated the time I would spend here. The place was so much bigger that I had expected. We wanted to go to the other temples within the old city, but we decided to cool down and opted for museums instead.
There are many museums in Chiang Mai but I had my eyes on Lanna Folklife Museum. We decided to walk from Wat Chedi Luang since it wasn’t far. I really enjoyed the short walk since the sidewalk was clean, there were some people selling food (crepes mostly) and also several songthaew but they didn’t bother us at all. I almost felt like walking in Ubud since there were many arts and crafts stores selling unique handmade things. Of course I had to stop by and see each one!
Once I saw the Three Kings Monument, I knew I was at the right spot. There are several museums in this area. I first went to Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre. The building itself is stunning with lots of greeneries. I made my way to the entrance and was greeted by the friendly staff, they directed us to buy the combination ticket for three museums in the area. Since we wanted to got to Lanna Folklife Museum too, we bought the combo ticket for 180 THB (one museum is around 90 THB, if I’m not mistaken).
Painted in mostly white with a courtyard in the middle, this Thai colonial building certainly stole my heart. Browsing around Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Centre was pretty enjoyable even though I thought the displays were a bit sparsed. My favourite thing was the recreation of a typical Lanna village with its signature wooden buildings. I noted that the similarities with Indonesia in the past.
When we were finished looking around, my hungry tummy started to grumble. I searched for a cafe nearby and found there was one next to the centre. I had already made an assumption that this was a touristy cafe where everything was overpriced with less than average food. I was mistaken, indeed many tourists were there but when I ordered waffles and mango sticky rice, both were extremely delicious and it wasn’t even expensive! Satisfied, we started to look for Lanna Folklife Museum, which was located just across the road.
I really love the fact that the pedestrian in this area was big and since it was not tourist season, it was almost empty. However when I entered the museum, we were accompanied by a large group of school children! We also saw a group at the Arts and Cultural Centre, schools must be taking advantage of the low tourist season by bringing children to museums.
Lanna Folklife Museum focuses on the history of the Lanna Kingdom. Chiang Mai, meaning “new city”, was the capital of the Lanna Kingdom which was then ruled by King Mengrai. It covered most of northern Thailand and also Myanmar, China and Laos. It was once invaded by the Burmese and eventually joined the Siam Kingdom. At this museum, I was able to see many artefacts related to Lanna Kingdom and I would recommend this museum for first timer in Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai was everything I could hope for. It was relaxing, gorgeous and accommodating (food and transportation wise). After Lanna Folklife museum, I wanted more time to walk around and explore the artisan shops and small aisles but my body was screaming for a lay down. As someone travelling after being sick, I was extra careful. I had to listen to my body carefully and if it’s telling me to lay down then that’s what I should do. It was already late afternoon when I went back to the apartment, I welcomed the breeze coming from the window in my room to take a rest before feasting more delicious Thai food in the night.
Read my previous post on Chiang Mai: My First Impressions of Chiang Mai