Life in Chiang Mai
A Chiang Mai Top Ten
By Jai Pee
Chiang Mai – Rose of the North – straddling the wonderful river Mae
Ping and nestling on the flood plain of the river surrounded on three and a
half sides by hills and mountains – what is it that makes this city –
Thailand’s second largest – so attractive? Reflecting on this my thoughts
turned to an old teenage love of mine – the Hit Parade or Top Ten, an
essential element in my formative years in the UK! So here are my personal
choices for the Top Ten features that make this city so attractive.
When I moved here over 5 years ago one of the first things I noticed
was the relative calm and deep spirituality of most of the people. I had
come from Pattaya via Bangkok so the contrast was amazing – no, staggering.
Here people got on with their daily lives without thinking money, money,
money; people had strong religious and philosophical beliefs that were
apparent in all they did. And I found the Thai smile to be quite genuine! A
second great feature of life here is to be able to share in what is
left of the former Lanna kingdom with its unique culture and lifestyle.
There are reminders everywhere – the moat and remnants of the walls; the
‘galae’ – bird shaped cross lintels that ornament so many of the buildings;
the traditional dress and dancing; and the lanterns that adorn the many
trees in public places. These features lead to the third item on my
list stemming from this older culture which is the strong sense of community
that exists here. People know each other and gather together, not just on
important religious occasions but when folk are in trouble, ill or in need
of support. Add to this my fourth choice which is the rich and varied
mix of the people living in the area; among the native Thais are many
mountain people who come into the city to work – tribal names such as Lisu,
Hmong, Aka and Galiang and many others abound. And then the Thai Yai people
often displaced from Myanmar, add something quite unique to give this region
to make up a truly rich diverse pattern of lifestyles and cultures -
colorful, contrasting, harmonious and ever-changing.
My fifth choice is the magnificent array of temples throughout the
area – from the hilltop shrine of Doi Suthep through to the multitude of
beautiful temples of the inner city - Chiang Mai celebrates its religious
philosophy in a blaze of architectural color, climaxing in the many
festivals in which every community participates openly – with visitors made
to feel an integral part of each event. Number six on my list is the
music of Jarun Manopet, the singer-songwriter now sadly deceased, many of
whose marvelous songs are deeply rooted in the culture of the area in which
he lived for many years – ‘Lawng Mae Ping’, ‘Sau Chiang Mai’ and dozens of
others can be heard in so many of the restaurants and bars – and so my
seventh choice will come as no surprise when I choose Jarun’s former
business partner singer Soontaree Vechanon whose palatial restaurant is a
monument in itself and where, each night, this celebrated diva of the north
herself can be heard singing his songs with great devotion as diners enjoy
traditional northern food surrounded by giant lanterns and magical views of
My eighth listing is the abundance the craft villages that surround
the city, each specializing in different types of local industries and each
one offering the visitor an insight into the practicing of local skills. Bo
Sang, with its handmade and hand-painted parasols and Baan Tawae with its
vast array of beautifully carved furniture are just two of the many villages
scattered around the city. Number nine takes us further afield to the
wonderful attractions that can be found in the nearby hills – not just
temples and palaces, but magical waterfalls, working elephant villages,
botanical gardens and opportunities to see wildlife in its natural habitat.
My coda, number ten, is the brilliant blaze of yellow that bursts
from the laburnum trees in the summer every year. There is no sight more
captivating, entrancing or fulfilling than to see a long line of these trees
in full bloom in April – a mass of vibrant yellow that epitomizes this
wonderful place – colorful, welcoming, vibrant, genuine - this is Chiang Mai
– the experience of a lifetime.
|The Chiang Mai Mail is publishing a series of
articles on residents’ experiences of life in Chiang Mai. If you
would like to contribute please email [email protected]
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