Chiang Mai

The beauty of Chiang Mai is something is difficult to explain with words. It’s definitely something that has to be experienced in person. It is an incredible place where many soul-searchers, humanitarians, students, and teachers all come together for a higher purpose.

Some of the organizations we visited to hear about what they are doing for the Burmese community included MAP foundation, Burmese Women’s Union, Shan Women’s Action Network, Lahu Women’s Organization and Kachin Women’s Association.

IMG_3173Burmese Women’s Union

IMG_1338Lahu Women’s Organization

IMG_1450Shan Women’s Action Network

It was a great city for our first exposure to Southeast Asia. The locals there were so kind and very helpful. Northern Thailand’s cuisine is also known for being the most flavorful of Thai dishes. Curry and khao soi are common meals that can be found on just about every corner in Chiang Mai. The cost of food, along with everything else, is very inexpensive, so we lived very luxuriously when it came to our meals. The night market in Chiang Mai is definitely something to see. Although it is quite overwhelming, you can find some really unique items and of course delicious food! I really grew fond of mango and sticky rice. I have been trying to make it since I’ve been home, but making sticky rice is not the easiest process. As soon as I get back to Thailand, I am going straight away to get it!

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 Chiang Mai is in Northern Thailand, and although there aren’t very many beaches around, there is endless beautiful scenery and nature walks. The mountains are what really took my breath away. Being from Texas, seeing a mountain is something that is awe-striking and Chiang Mai is surrounded by many mountains. There is even a famous temple on a mountain, located right outside of Chiang Mai.

While we were there, Buddhist holiday took place called Visakha Bucha Day. “Buddha Purnima is the most sacred day in the Buddhist calendar. It is the most important festival of the Buddhists, and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. Although Buddhists regard every full moon as sacred, the moon of the month of Vaisakh has special significance because on this day the Buddha was born, attained enlightenment (nirvana), and attained parinirvana (nirvana-after-death of the body) when he died. (office holidays.com/religious/buddhist/buddhas_birthday.php)

Devout buddhists and monks, gathered together at temples all over the city and just before sunrise, took a night hike up to the temple on the mountain, where they then meditated until the sun came up. It is a very tiring, and challenging hike I’ve heard, but perhaps next year I’ll attempt to do it. I did however experience the festival at night, prior to the hike, and even released some birds from their cages which is a traditional practice that is supposed to bring health and good fortune (even though one pooped on me, that means extra luck right?!).

On one of our afternoons off, Nayra and I took a little excursion to the “Grand Canyon” of Chiang Mai. We went right before sunset, so there was an enchanting  atmosphere when we arrived. Although it is located about 30 minutes outside of the city, and our taxi driver got lost on the way, we still made it with plenty of time to enjoy some swimming. It was so breathtakingly beautiful. They had a nice, cozy cafe at the top of the cliff, where we all relaxed and watched the sun set.

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We stayed in a hostel during our time in Chiang Mai. It mostly consisted of backpackers and other travelers (of all ages). It was incredible to be around people with such adventurous, and outgoing spirits. Many of them had been traveling for months, and some would go on to travel for up to a year. All of the stories they had to tell of their travels, and where they came from, and why they were traveling, were so intriguing to listen to. It really gave Nayra and I a little bite of the travel bug that that we thankfully will take care of when we go on our study abroad trips in the fall. We really connected to many of them during our stay and created our own little pack, which has now turned into some really great friendships.

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This is obviously very blurry, but one of the only photos I have of our group. Many British young men, a German girl, a few Dutch guys, and an Aussie. Some really fun times with this lovely group of people!

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Shoes were expected to be removed in many places (especially our hostel). Poor Angelica even lost a nice pair of sandals in the chaotic mess of shoes.

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A glimpse of the beauty that the Chiang Mai night market provides.

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The temples were full of life, even at night with dedicated buddhists and monks.

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Dragon Fruit. It tastes just as exotic as it looks.

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Mango and Lychee.

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Some of the amazing scenery that Chiang Mai has to offer.

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Taking toke tokes (a daily occurrence) was both a scary, and exciting experience, but a great way to see the city and the most convenient way to get around town.

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The view from our hostel. I miss waking up to this tropical paradise.

-Antonia

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