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Ayutthaya & Chiang Mai – A Few Glimpses Of Thailand’s Grand History

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand offers one of the most remarkable cultural heritages in the world, remains of a grand history and a powerful civilization that shaped Southeast Asia. Two of the places where you can dive into this glorious past are Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai.

Both are highly popular places, and it is at times challenging to escape large crowds of organized tours. It is nonetheless possible to partly do so and have a pleasant experience at both places.

 

Ayutthaya – Siam’s Second Capital City

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya displays many ruins of what was Siam’s second capital city from the 14th to the 18th Century, the heart of Thailand’s empire.

Depending on the time you have at hand, and considering that the masses come on daytrip from Bangkok, I strongly advise to stay at least one night there, to enjoy the major temples & ruins without large crowds. Nonetheless, to visit them all you will need several days!

Moving around in Ayutthaya can be done by bike (for the most courageous – but beware of the heat) or on a scooter, that you can rent for 250 Baht / 7 € per day (I chose this easier option). Reaching Ayutthaya is easy: either by train, on the way to or from Chiang Mai, by minibus to or from Bangkok (2.5 hours, 130 Baht / 3,5 €), or by cab to or from Bangkok if you feel like being comfortable (1.400 Baht / 39 € one way).

Our highlights in Ayutthaya were:

  • Wat Mahat That – One of the most important monasteries of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, now famous for the stone Buddha head entwined in tree roots

    Wat Mahat That, Ayutthaya, Thailand

    Wat Mahat That, Ayutthaya, Thailand

  • Wat Chai Wattanaram – Beautiful temple with an 35 meter high “Prang” in a Khmer style

    Wat Chai Wattanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

    Wat Chai Wattanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

  • Wat Phra Si Sanphet – Famous for its distinctive „chedis“ and their bell shaped design

    Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Ayutthaya, Thailand

    Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Ayutthaya, Thailand

  • Wat Ratchaburana – The temple’s main “Prang” is one of the finest in Ayutthaya

    Wat Ratchaburana, Ayutthaya, Thailand

    Wat Ratchaburana, Ayutthaya, Thailand

    Wat Ratchaburana, Ayutthaya, Thailand

  • Wat Phanan Choeng – With the Giant Sitting Buddha

    Wat Phanan Choeng, Ayutthaya, Thailand

    Wat Phanan Choeng, Ayutthaya, Thailand

 

Chiang Mai – Culture, Food & Chilling Out

There is a lot to do in Chiang Mai, both if you only wish to visit the northern capital of Thailand or if you plan to use it as a base, discover the area more in depth and venture further afield. Do not be mistaken, Chiang Mai is a highly popular place, and you find throngs of tourists and travelers of all ages, coming from all over the world, with all possible budgets and expectations here!

We stayed 4 days in Chiang Mai and loved every minute we spent there. And we had almost no time to venture further afield and discover the surroundings. What makes Chiang Mai so special?

  • Sample Food at Markets & Night Markets – There are many markets where you can sample some local food, both day & night. We actually haven’t been to any “regular” restaurant in the 4 days we spent in Chiang Mai.

    Food Stall at the Talat Warorot Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    Kow Kah Moo prepared by the “Cowboy Hat Lady”, at the most popular Food Stall at the Talat Pratu Chang Pheuak Night Market, Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Go for a Thai Massage – You have literally hundreds of possibilities to enjoy a traditional Thai Massage (that’s the ones we preferred), from small local massage parlors that almost only cater for locals to fancy Spa experiences. You can also choose places where the masseurs are blind (Thai Massage Conservation Club), inmates (book ahead, we couldn’t get a slot) or former inmates (Lila Thai Massage, where we went twice).
  • Chat with monks – Several monasteries, like the Wat Chedi Luang (there are many other places) offer the possibility to chat with monks, enabling visitors to better understand the Buddhist culture and monks to practice their English.

    Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Hot spring of San Kamphaeng – No, this should not be on your bucket list, but this was a relaxed half-day, a very local experience, with very few foreign tourists. It’s an easy and nice ride on a scooter.

    Hot spring of San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    Hot spring of San Kamphaeng, Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Monastery Hopping – Of course you cannot leave Chiang Mai without visiting the most important temples of the city. Our favorites were:
    • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – Be there very, very early, because later than 08:30 this beautiful Wat is engulfed in a whirlwind of tour groups.

      Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    • Wat Chedi Luang, with its towering, ruined Lanna-style “chedi” – The famous Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha), now in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew, resided there until 1475.

      Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    • Wat Phan Tao – This teak Wat is probably the most atmospheric of Chiang Mai.

      Wat Phan Tao, Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Wat Phan Tao, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    • Wat Phra Sing – Chiang Mai’s most revered temple

      Wat Phra Sing, Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Wat Phra Sing, Chiang Mai, Thailand

    • Wat Suan Dok – With its numerous white “Chedis” and a towering Golden “Chedi”, this much-overlooked temple offers a different, more quiet experience than many other temples in Chiang Mai.

      Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai, Thailand

      Wat Suan Dok, Chiang Mai, Thailand

For more information on Chiang Mai and the area, check the great article by my friends Alesha & Jarryd on 10 Things To Do In Chiang Mai.

 

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