Chiang Mai

It’s a long train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand, over 14 hours – in part because the tracks were damaged during the monsoon season this year. The first-class sleeper ticket was a good investment. Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second-largest city, after Bangkok, which is fifty times larger by population. The center is a square of nearly 4 km^2, enclosed by a moat and some remains of the old city wall. Main streets are busy and unattractive, but the numerous curving side streets instantly teleport the visitor to tranquil and green village life. Of course, buddhist temples with their golden shrines abound, including the enormous ruined stupa in the photo. A picture of the revered King of Thailand is always near. People are much more open and friendly than in busy Bangkok. The big thing here is trekking to hill tribe villages, river rafting, elephant riding, paragliding, and other adventure sports, but I had done much of that during two previous visits so I took it easy this time.