Introducing Chiang Mai
Nestled into the foothills of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai is a sanctuary. The pace is laid-back, the accoutrements are international and the landscape is picturesque. It is a fine urban specimen with a much-celebrated traditional culture ideal for sightseers, nature buffs and city connoisseurs.
The Lanna kings who ruled the north from ancient Chiang Mai built a moated quarter filled with a multitude of temples. These houses of worship are adorned with mirrored mosaics, tinkling bells and gabled rooftops soaring skyward as if in communication with the heavens. Wandering around these sacred spaces you'll find art, architecture and enlightenment, as many offer monk chats and meditation courses to tourists who are willing to do more than just look.
Beyond the historic centre is a dynamic and modern place with lots of down-to-earth charm. Bangkok refugees, artists, international NGO-workers and hip university students mix together, carving out creative spaces amid Thailand's ubiquitous concrete shophouses, many of which are being abandoned for the spacious suburbs. Head down to Th Nimmanhaemin and you'll glimpse the city's future movers and shakers, intent now on moving and shaking it in the nightclubs and bars.
Maintaining an ever watchful pose over the metropolis, the mountains of Doi Suthep and Doi Pui are constant and scenic reminders of the city's mythical beginnings. A journey from the steamy plains into the mountains' cloud belt is a winding and meditative escape.
The city can easily consume a week with sightseeing, holiday courses, outdoor activities and, of course, eating. Cuisine specialities of the city include sushi bars around the university, Burmese curries, Thai street food and vegetarian health food.
Where to sample Chiang Mai's best kôw soy (famous noodle soup)
Take squiggly wheat-and-egg noodles, a rich, fragrant curry-based broth, sides of crunchy pickled greens, sliced shallots and lime, and you have kôw soy (also known as khao soi), a dish that has become virtually synon...
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