So we are close to Songkran 2021. Considering that we are in the worst situation regarding newly reported cases of Covid since the pandemic started here in Chiang Mai.
Still, we have the best air (summer storms yesterday), the feeling is mixed. There is a humble and quiet atmosphere around town. With the clear blue skies, blooming Golden Showers and empty streets, it is hard not to go for some photo shooting downtown and walk Chiang Mai and especially focus on the area close to Chang Puak and the moat.
We have been told only to do digital water fights this year, so I am looking forward to seeing some temples and experiencing the traditional aspects of Thai New Year without getting soaking wet.
Yesterday, I was sitting with my son in our favourite café, Into the Woods, the fairytalish coffee shop was utterly empty, so there were no issues with social distance.
I just realised what a lovely corner of the city this is. The moat and this northern corner along Sri Poom Road easily deserves a few hours of your time. And it has been quite some time since I walked through these parts.
Chang Puak – The White Elephant Gate
So, starting from the old city wall, originally built 700 years ago(but restored in modern times) and the Northern Gate of the White Elephant. The Chang Puak gate was where royals entered the old town, the inner city.
Enjoying flowering Ratchapreuk trees, I took some time to check out two temples that I previously mostly just walked past.
Wat Kuan Ka Ma – A man’s love of his horse
Stories told through the centuries by Lanna elders speaks of a piece of land owned by a horse merchant or a royal soldier under the service of General Jaomun Damtuang. Or maybe he was both! Anyway, he saw his favourite horse die. So he decided to commission a temple on his private land for this horse. It is claimed that the temple goes back to 1492. The row of horses is unique.
Opening hours from 07.00 to 17.00.
Just a bit further up the road, you have a more spectacular temple.
Wat Raja Montean(Ratcha Montien) also called the Red Temple, or the temple of the Big Buddha
The present area is not very old, built-in 1974 and renovated again. But it is claimed that there was a temple here during the reign of the first king of Lanna, Mengrai. He and his wife are supposed to have given large donations and support to this temple, and the abbot here was a sage and clever man with influence on Buddhism in Chiang Tung and Xipsong Panna.
This temple is very ornate and striking from the outside. Very inviting for a photo stop. But walk up the stairs to the viharn, and you will be rewarded with more beauty. When the temple usually is functioning, they also provide monk chats.
Eating around this area
If you get hungry in this area, you have one of the best places for Khao Soi here. The typical Northern style curry, noodle soup. One recommendation is Khao Soi Khun Yai. If you fancy something more gourmet, try Ban Landai, which is on the Michelin Guide list in Chiang Mai.
Lastly, walking Chiang Mai can be very rewarding.