With only just shy of 3 weeks to see Thailand, we had to make a difficult decision early on. Either try and cram all of our time we had into a whirlwind 1-2 day per stop journey from the north of Thailand to the south with no time to breath, or to take our time and enjoy Northern Thailand. We elected to choose the latter and I think this was the best course of action considering our options. Northern Thailand was the exact type of vibe Mandy and I thrive on. Slow paced, good people, and rich culture. Chiang Mai ended up being our favorite town in Thailand that we visited. We saw it at the peak of the Songkran water festival which although fun, soaked up (pun intended) all our time. Our second time in Chiang Mai we visited several of the unique temples in the area, shopped in the night market, and got tattoos at a vegan tattoo shop.
The temples of Chiang Mai are major tourist attractions and as a result there was a ton of tourists we had to fight through to find some of the magic of the sites.
Our first temple we visited is just outside of town, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. We hopped up on the red truck and took the winding 30-minute ride up to the top of the hill overlooking Chiang Mai. The scorching hot weather and windy road left us nauseous and dehydrated, but after our long climb up the stairs, fighting through the tourist mob, we enjoyed the views and architecture of Doi Suthep. The artwork and architecture was beautiful and at times, despite the crowd, spiritual as Buddhists walked around the center temple ceremoniously with a flower or incense.
Chiang Rai is a short way away from Chiang Mai and we elected to do a day tour up to Chiang Rai. An action-packed day, we saw the White temple, Blue temple, and Black temple, we were gone from 7am until 10pm. With so many events to pack into one day we didn’t have more than 45 minutes at each location. Unfortunately this made the time spent at each location feel rushed and if we had to change anything it would be to break up these sites into multiple day trips, or simply cut one or two of the attractions out.
The White temple has unique style from pop culture statues showcasing Alien and Predator to a beautiful mosaic of a Buddhist story. The architect Chalermchai Kositpipat is a local artist who incorporated both ancient Buddhist and Hindu themes throughout the visually stunning complex. Similar to Doi Suthep, the crowds were thick, but despite this we were still able to get some great shots of the White temple.
After the White temple we went to the Blue temple which had amazing blue lights illuminating the Buddha within the temple and some assorted statues on the outside that reminded me of my beloved Seattle Seahawks. What can I say, it runs in my blood 😊
The Black temple or the Bandaam Museum holds an amazing collection of Thai art. The entire museum used to be a compound where the national Thai artist Thawan Duchanee and his family lived and created some amazing pieces of art. From a 50 foot skin of a snake to a longhouse style room with some young Thai boys playing traditional Thai music.
Arriving back in Chiang Mai at 10pm we walked the 5 minutes back to our Airbnb and collapsed.
After our first trip to Chiang Mai we had talked a lot about getting a tattoo and started talking to a local vegan tattoo shop, Panumart Tattoo. Ever since I was a teenager I wanted to get a tattoo, but I have always gone back and forth on what design I wanted to get.
In our time since we have been gone, I have had a lot of time to think about what is important in life. My mind hasn’t been filled with the noise of work and normal rhythm of my life back home. As we traveled through Southeast Asia, the plastic and garbage problem screams out loud and demands attention. This coupled with my reading on climate science has really made it clear what I need to do not only professionally on return, but also in my daily life. A documentary by BBC “Climate Change: The Facts” narrated by the great David Attenborough illuminates the problem that is facing humanity.
This also brought into the focus what I wanted to get for a tattoo. Showing that humanity really has two paths in front of us we can choose. Preserving our planet or continuing to destroy the planet; putting our heads in the sand as we have been doing since scientists began warning governments 30 years ago.
My tattoo is a reminder to me every day that every decision I make impacts the future of the world. Sometimes that means making hard decisions; passing up on meat, avoiding plane flights, and in general thinking about ways we can reduce our carbon footprint.