As Chiang Mai is essentially considered a gateway to the stunning nature of northern Thailand, I wasn’t expecting much there. However, past the first impressions, I was pleasantly surprised.

Featuring a density of so called “boutique hotels” that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world, most of the center is dedicated to tourism, often in relatively flashy ways.

Bar in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Even the temples in the city center appear more colorful, as if trying to keep up…

Temple sculpture in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Surprisingly – or not – shops called as exotically as “Duck Tattoo” seem popular with western tourists.

Asian tourists are very present as well, and massage has been developed to an industrial scale, even taking over some streets.

However, if the overall city itself is modern and not particularly attractive…

Chiang Mai, Thailand

… some of its surrounding temples, set on beautiful grounds, like the Wat Chet Yod …

Wat Chet Yod temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand

… are oases of peace.

I was also impressed by the temples of the Wat Phra Singh.

Wat Phra Singh temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Wat Phra Singh temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand

The serenity of the atmosphere in one of the smaller temples of the complex moved me; I felt deeply touched.

Wat Phra Singh temple, Chiang Mai, Thailand

I was also surprised to find there a type of illustration I would not have expected in a religious environment.

The main temple is impressive as well, but for different reasons.

Its real life sized wax sculptures of the most revered monks are so realistic that being under their fixed gaze felt a bit uncomfortable.

The bells are an invitation to discovery.

The golden stupas of the temple complex are almost unbearably bright and shiny…

… and they seem particularly venerated.

At the opposite end of the scale, the intimate spirit house (San Phra Phum) at the entrance of my guest house also moved me.

spirit house (San Phra Phum) in Thailand

Although I only spent a few hours in Chiang Mai, I’m really happy I took the time to visit it!

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