Chiang Mai in northern Thailand is a popular location for expats, retirees, and digital nomads, who are tempted by the ease of living and the blend of familiar and exotic. It has everything you need from cinemas and shopping malls to international cuisine, but it’s not a bland Westernised city. It has a fascinating culture with hundreds of Buddhist temples, their golden spires shimmering on almost every street in the Old City; captivating Buddhist festivals; and a superlative food scene with abundant inexpensive food stalls and dozens of vegetarian restaurants.
Many visitors come to Thailand hoping to fulfil a bucket list dream—to ride an elephant. Unfortunately they don’t realise the cruelty of the act, the horrific abuse young elephants suffer during their training known as the crush, which quite literally crushes their spirit to make them submissive to humans by keeping them caged, sleep deprived, hungry, and beaten.
Buddha statues on a ledge of a crumbling old chedi at Wat Lok Moli. Just north of the city walls this isn’t one of the most visited wats in Chiang Mai but we liked the shades of orange in the towering chedi and the cute animal statues around the grounds.
There are over 300 wats (temples) in Chiang Mai. As you wander around the city you find one around every corner. Some are large and showy and full of visitors. Others are hidden down quiet backstreets with not a soul in sight. Some are working temples of shimmering gold with hundreds of novice monks in glaring orange robes streaming past and Thais lighting incense in front of giant gold Buddhas. Others are long neglected, chedis crumbling and being taken over by tropical vegetation.
We have left Chiang Mai now but when we look back at our five months there the Yee Peng and Loy Krathong festivals last October/November stand out as the highlights. The city was decorated with lights and lanterns and this photo was taken at one of the colourfully decorated plazas.