Just a few thoughts:
These photos are from my weekends’ visits to Wat Phra That Doi Su Thep which is a sacred place for Thai people to come and pray, and Tha Phae Gate which was the gate surrounding the old capital city of “Lanna Thai”. I was fascinated with the architectures as well as the cultural piece while visiting these places.
I really enjoyed going out with new friends from EarthRights International Mekong School. A lot of them spoke fluent Thai because their hometowns are at the border between two countries, therefore sightseeing or going shopping with them was easy and pleasant. Especially while shopping, Thai people like to negotiate the price a bit because it makes the transaction satisfying for both parties. I found this difficult for Westerners because it is not a culture they are used to having. Even for me, after studying in the U.S for two years, I felt slightly uncomfortable to do so. However, with my friends’ help, I was able to gather more courage and try this strategy. It was a lot of fun! If you do not know any Thai, do not fret because people in the city center knew English and could assist you with anything.
Another aspect of Chiang Mai that I drew my attention from the trips was the traffic. As a Hanoian (how people from Hanoi, Vietnam call themselves), I have all kinds of experiences with bad traffic. We have cars, motorbikes, and buses running 24/7 on the streets of Hanoi and it could be dangerous if you do not know the underlying rules to getting around in Hanoi. Coming to Chiang Mai, I thought that I would escape that craziness and stuffiness for a while. Only if I knew I could be so wrong. Chiang Mai’s traffic works in an absolute contradiction to the traffic I know in Hanoi. People drive on the left side instead of the right. There are more cars than motorbikes and there are hardly any buses around. For public transportations, they have red trucks called “Songthaew”, which are shared taxis and can hold up to 10 people. One of my students wittily described these trucks as “the owners of the road because they can pull up anywhere on the road to pick up customers”. As a result, you need to be extremely careful walking around the streets because there are almost no sidewalks. While crossing the streets, wait for all vehicles to stop before you cross. Do not look for signal lights because you will never really see them. Nevertheless, I do not think my escape from the city life was that successful.