Eenings are often cooler in Chiang Mai, but the midday sun is fierce, and the weeks filled with dozens of temple visits sear into one another and it can become difficult to remember which chedi is which, which Buddha figure corresponds to which viharn, which urban hike led to which hilltop relic. The central city harbours some 117 temples, and the surrounding countryside several hundred more, far exceeding any other Thai province.
Luckily the city also has modern conveniences, and it is easy to duck into the cool of a shopping centre, or relax in a shaded public park such as Nong Buak Had and watch the sepak takraw matches, then visit a night market to try regional specialities such as khao soi, kaeng hang lay or sai oua, or later even venture to the current “in” club to dance the night away.
Noticeable in the cuisine as well as fashion and architecture are a greater share of influences from Myanmar and southern China. And boasting a wealth of nature and history that Bangkok cannot, the northern metropolis has become more than a tourist draw and is convincing many that it provides a superior quality of life. A hub for digital nomads or medical convalescents, retired Thais or young hipsters, the old Lanna capital offers a new diversity, adding colour, activity and atmosphere to its existing multitudes of historical and religious sites.
Whether for a weekend escape or a new phase of life, to escape the world or find oneself, photogenic Chiang Mai has much more to offer than a handful of images can illustrate.