Bangkok is the capital of Thailand. Population 8.5 million people. About 450 miles north is the unofficial “northern capital” of the country called Chiang Mai. Population of the city proper: 200k. Population of the “greater Chiang Mai” area is just north of a 1 million. Well, now you can add 2 to that figure. Our apartment is just outside the gates of the Old City. If you refer to the map below, you’ll see a squarish moat area – that’s the Old City. For reference, each side of the square is just about a mile long.
By old, I mean old. It was the capital of another kingdom in the 1200s and didn’t become part of Thailand until the 20th century. (Thanks Wikipedia). There are tons and tons of ancient, active temples in the city. You see monks walking, taking taxis, shopping, etc. all over the city- I want to get some pics but I think it’s pretty disrespectful so you’ll have to watch the Hangover 2 to see what they look like. By tons of temples, I’d give you a rough estimate that there are at least 50 within the walls/moat of the city. (By the way, most of the walls are torn down).
Chiang Mai is has the feel of both a really old and a (fairly) new city. These temples are literally right next door to restaurants, shops, travel agencies, motorbike dealerships. Its an interesting mix of ancient and modern culture that we really don’t have in the US. The traditional society here was and remains agrarian, so a large portion of the surrounding 800k people are farmers. They come to the center of the city to buy, sell, trade their good at markets all across the city. Some of these markets are enormous. We spend over 2 hours in one on Sunday night and we couldn’t even get through it all (also we got lost trying to get out). You can buy cheap, delicious food; disgusting, raw, mystery meats; arts and crafts; handmade clothes, Buddhist statues; etc. There are several of these around the city on a daily basis. I’ll take some pictures and show you next time.
Also, here’s a fun fact. Roosters don’t just crow when the sun comes up. They tend to start around 2:30-3:00am and don’t stop till well into the afternoon. So that’s cool.
Also it’s incredibly hot here. Not as bad as Bangkok, but we’ve been hovering around 100 degrees since we got here. It’s very cool in the mornings but by about 10am it’s sweltering outside. I’m on a 3-4 shower per day plan which is becoming annoying. And they do have hot water – contrary to popular belief, but I’m not interested in using it.
That’s all for now. I’ll post some pictures of our apartment and our little neighborhood later.