I can’t believe I’ve only been in Chiang Mai for less than a week! It feels like I have been able to see so much already thanks to the USAC program. We have explored multiple temples, night markets, museums, etc. It has been a great way to get to know the other students in the program and learn more about the city together.
Friday: We visited Bhubing Palace and Wat Phra That (Doi Suthep Temple) in the morning. When you visit temples in Thailand, you must have your shoulders covered and you cannot wear any skirts/dresses/shorts shorter than knee length. Many of the guards at the temples will check your outfit before you are permitted to enter the temple area. This strict dress code is required out of respect to the monks and the Buddhist faith. Bhubing Palace has gorgeous gardens and several homes on the property. It is the winter residence for the Thai royal family.
Wat Phra That has been a Buddhist monastery since 1383 and is still a working monastery today. You walk up the 300+ step Naga Serpent Staircase to get to the temple on the top of the mountain. The views are incredible and you can see the entire city of Chiang Mai below. The golden spire (chedi) is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!
On Friday night, we had an official welcome reception and dinner at the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center. We had a Khantoke dinner, which is a pedestal tray used as a small dining table (you sit on the floor) used by the Lanna people of Northern Thailand. The food and atmosphere was incredible! We enjoyed watching traditional Thai dances during our dinner, as well, and we were even able to join in some dancing at the end of the night.
On Saturday, I opted to join in on the USAC Craft and Cultural tour, which was a trip to Chiang Mai Celadon. Celadon is a pottery/stoneware that has been glazed with wood ashes combined with the surface soil collected from rice patties. Once baked, the product becomes a beautiful green color that is distinctive of the Celadon style of ceramics found in Chiang Mai. We were able to get a tour of the facility and see Thai people making the pottery from scratch. We were able to also make some delicious banana sticky rice patties, wear traditional Thai skirts, and enjoy an authentic Thai lunch. After lunch, we were able to carve our own mugs, take a turn making a bowl (mine might be more like a vase…), and painted little elephants. I also bought some blue elephant plates as a souvenir to bring home! I may not be a talented artist, but this was a really fun experience. :)
The night markets are huge here! Imagine the Boise Saturday market, but 20 times the size and held at night. It’s incredible and the prices can’t be beat! I’m having to try to be very selective with what I buy since I want to make sure I can fit everything in my suitcase on my way back home next month. :)
On Sunday, we had another trip to the Old City and were able to explore the Lanna Architecture Center, Wat Phan Tao, Wat Phra Sing, and Wat Chedi Luang. I can’t get over how beautiful these temples are! :)
After a weekend of exploring, we the visited the notorious Sunday night market, which is even larger than the Saturday night market! We enjoyed dinner at a great restaurant and were able to listen to some Thai jazz music from a live band while we ate! We had a wonderful weekend getting to know our new city and now it’s time to get ready for classes to begin! :)