Today we really relaxed into life in Chiang Mai and started to appreciate all it had to offer, as Thailand’s “Birmingham” ( second city – but with obviously less charm and humour). We started the day wandering around a big market area. This was a ‘real life’ Thai market. There were a few tourist souvenirs here but most were for locals; stalls and stalls of nuts, dried fruits, spices, dried fish, meat and all conceivable goods for the home. There was also a great flower market which was a colourful sight in itself. Great fun just to wander around.
Next up was breakfast – great omelets in an unpresupposing cafe. All coffee (to date) has been good in Chiang Mai, and this did not disappoint – so no worries there. That set us up for a cultural session visiting Wat Chedi Luang . All the temple complexes are in the midst of the bustling city but we walk into a space that is incredibly peaceful. This one contained the remains of what was an enormous Chedi (like a conical tower) dating from the 15thC. In its heyday it housed a revered emerald buddha but had crumbled away to almost nothing until restoration work started in the 1990s.
Astonishingly, it was never finished because those in charge could not decide how to finish it off at the top – so the top was never completed! Can you imagine that happening to a Cathedral in Europe. However it happened here and yet the result is strangely eerie and evocative. Almost next door was Wat Pan Toa, a beautiful 14thC teak building (also recently renovated).
By now we had walked miles and it was getting hot so we retreated to the hotel for the afternoon, finalising our plans for the next few days and getting last bits of shopping,
In the evening we had our first disappointing meal in Thailand. We had Thai style burritos, which we thought would be quick (and a last chance of some ‘western’ style food for a while). We enjoyed people watching for 20, 25, 30 minutes – then mine arrived but no sign of David’s. Another 20, 25, 30 minutes and after he stomped around somewhat (so unusual in Thailand) it eventually arrived. We ate up and left – after David applied a suitable discount for the delay (to which they did not argue at all)!
However, the evening finished on a real high. We strolled to the North Gate Jazz Coop and arrived just in time for an hour and a half set in a cozy upstairs venue by a brilliant ‘swing’ group made up of a group of muscians who have found themselves in Chaing Mei. The band contained 2 Russians (a female singer and a man (we assume her partner) who led the band from the double base), a Thai saxophonist, a Californian jazz pianist called Alan and an Italian drummer called Giovanni with a PhD in musicology. They meshed together brilliantly and worked their way through some swing classics. Who would have thought we would find such great live music.
We foot tapped our way home. Pleased with our Chiang Mai sojourn but ready to get back on the road again tomorrow.