Sunday Market of Chiang Mai

The Sunday Market, also known as the Walking Street Market in the Old City of Chiang Mai is famous in northern Thailand. The market is quite famous because they showcase local wares from the people of Chiang Mai and their cooking too. I had been advised to check this out since I arrived on Tuesday, so when Sunday finally arrived, I was eager to see what was up.

Sunday was a lazy day that started around 2pm. My friend and I noticed the Sunday market was just getting set up so we decided to pass the time getting 2 hour massages. We got complimentary foot massages while we waited, then were taken up to the VIP room where we could get our pampering done in the same room. The place was clean and calming with relaxing music playing while we got pampered. There was an hour on our limbs and torsos, then an hour on our faces. The facial was like I’d never had before: complete with yogurt masks and a seaweed soak. Total cost for the 2 hours if I remember correctly was around $36, or 1,200 baht. There is no way you could get that pampered in the west for that little. Life was good in Thailand!

Our VIP massage room. Photo courtesy of Jessica Lane.

Our VIP massage room.
Photo courtesy of Jessica Lane.

By the time we left the massage shop, the street was crawling with people and vendors had popped up to cover most of the sidewalks. The main road became our walking path since cars were denied entry for the night. The trinkets got repetitive after a while but the food was what made the market truly memorable for me. Aside from the beautiful hand-carved soaps, wooden jewerly boxes and many scarves and wraps, there were all kinds of meat in all kinds of shapes. There was meat on strings in balls, meat in squares on sticks, meat in bowls with soup and meat on grills with fruit.

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There were things I’d never seen before and I tried as many foods as I could until I was full. I’m not much of a meat eater but my friend tried a variety of items and was not let down by any.


Quail eggs with noodles, which I did not try.


Chicken eggs with fried basil, which I did try. They were awesome.


Bugs for a snack, which I also did not try.


Slices of cake for less than a dollar, which we absolutely did try!

The market spread out across the open space by the Tha Pae Gate and sprawled all the way down Ratchadamnoen Road until Wat Phra Singh, one of the biggest and most beautiful buddhist temples in the Old City.


3 choices of curry to choose from, for about a dollar.


Sides you can add to your dish if you like. My fish curry with noodles is in the bowl on the left.

It should also be noted that there is a night bazaar every night in the Old City but it is not to be confused with the Walking Street Market. The Walking Street Market has an amazing spread of food, live entertainment and local, often hand-made souveniers, whereas the regular night bazaar has mostly just Thailand goods, trinkets and clothes that you tend to see over and over again. However if you miss a chance to catch the Walking Street Market and still want to do some shopping, many of the same items can be found for around the same price at the nightly bazaar. Just with less awesome food.


Animals made from wire and rope knots.


Lanterns you put together yourself.


More snacks of fruit and nuts.

The Sunday Walking Street Market gave us a young girl performing traditional Thai dancing, a police officer (in uniform) playing guitar and singing outside the station and even a little dog riding a bike. He was more like balanced on the bike while his owner steered from behind with a remote control, but still – the show put on was hilarious. Overall it was a stimulating night for the all the senses. I’m glad I got to be there, even if for only one Sunday.

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Chiang Rai’s White Temple

As part of our Golden Triangle tour, we made a stop at the famous White Temple in Chiang Rai. The Thai name is called Wat Rong Khun (or Khan) but most international patrons know this masterpiece as just the White Temple.


The temple was built by the Thai painter and architect, Chalermchai Kositpipat. He began to construct the Buddhist temple in 1997 but it’s still being worked on today and according to him, it may take his whole lifetime complete.

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Kositpipat wanted to honour modern Thai art while paying tribute to Buddha. His masterpiece depicts the house of Buddha and the path one must take, leaving evil temptations for the realm of eternal peace.

The pits of hell.

The pits of hell.

The path through hell, leading towards nirvana.

The path through hell, leading towards nirvana.

He chose white for his temple to symbolize purity. He felt that other Buddhist temples that used gold were sending the wrong message as gold symbolizes a lust for evil things like greed.

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The little mirrors used throughout the temple are a symbol of the wisdom (Dhama) of Buddha that reflects and shines out into the world.


According to staff at the temple, Kositpipat currently has around 90 students who study art under his tutelage. When I went inside the main temple (where pictures were not allowed) there was an artist sitting in the corner on a chair, painting a fiery flower of yellow and orange. Although Kositpipat currently lives in Bangkok working on a project for the royal family, he instructs his students on what to do according to the visions he sees. His loyal followers paint as he says to, constantly changing the images inside the main temple room. It’s also interesting to note that he refuses to take commission for his work so that his clients have no influence on the finished product.

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When you enter the main temple passageway, you cannot leave the way you came in, as Kositpipat believes it is a spiritual regression to go back the way you entered. He believes that if you don’t walk forward, symbolizing your ascent into heaven, you will be grabbed by the hands back at the gates of hell. As a result, all patrons of the temple are guided on a one-way path through the temple display.

Guardians at the gates of heaven.

Guardians at the gates of heaven.

These smaller buildings sit behind the main temple structure.

These smaller buildings sit behind the main temple structure.

Once outside the main temple structure itself however, you are free to walk in any direction you choose :) Entrance to the temple is free but donations are welcome. Donations go towards employment of staff at the temple and maintenance of the grounds.

Gentle Giants of the Maetaman Elephant Camp

There are several elephant camps in Chiang Mai, but after some discussion with a tour co-ordinator, my friend and I chose to sign up Journey tours, who took us to the Maetaman Elephant camp. Once we arrived at the camp, we were taken to the area where the elephants would be performing. Before the show began we were able to meet the elephants and take some pictures.

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Visitors were able to feed the elephants bananas and sugar cane, sold in little bundles from ladies around the camp for 30 baht (about $1). Elephant trainers were there for each elephant, guiding them into position for pictures and keeping them from knocking visitors over with their giant selves. Some people got lifted into the air via elephant trunk while others chose to just stand next to the grey giants in awe (like me).

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The elephants looked healthy, their eyes bright and their trainers calm. All the elephants seemed relaxed around visitors and playful with their trainers. Their later performance showed the same trainers paired up with the same elephants so it was clear that each team had a close working relationship.

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After the meet and greet, the elephants lined up to begin their performance where they flaunted their skills and intelligence. They lifted trunks, legs and trainers on cue, played soccer, the babies spun hoola hoops around their trunks and some even painted!

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Once the show was finished, we took a short elephant ride through the jungle. We rode the elephants through the river, up a hill, then back down the ridge and through the water once more. The rhythm of the mighty elephant was quite relaxing. Their enormous bulk swayed across the trail with us on their backs, their grace unbelievable for such a huge animal.


Photo courtesy of Jessica Lane.


That day was like a dream come true. I felt like I won an afternoon with an ancient being who would be my friend as long as I had bananas.


We dismounted from our dinosaur-sized friends and went back to camp via an ox cart ride. That ride was bumpy, dusty and awkward; a complete 360 from our enchanted walk in the jungle. Back at camp we sat down for a buffet lunch with the other tour groups and ended our day at the camp with a river raft ride.

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Overall the Maeteamn Elephant camp was big, clean and the elephants seemed well taken care of. As I mentioned, there are several elephant camps located in the area so if you’re planning a trip and are concerned about animal welfare, do your homework before you go. From what research I did, most camps employ rules for the elephants so they’re not over worked. For example, they only work 4 hours a day and only take riders a total of 2 hours a day. Sadly, not all camps follow this guidelines so choose well. Feel free to ask your tour co-ordinator directly before signing up for a trip.

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There is also the option of visiting the elephant nature park in Chiang Mai, which specializes in elephant rescue and rehabilitation of abused elephants. That day trip is more expensive and there is no riding of the elephants as many are old and have been mistreated in the past. At the nature park you can feed the elephants, take pictures, help bathe them in the river and take a tour of everyday life at the rescue camp. Usual one day trips to elephant camps like the one I went to cost around 1,000 baht (around $30) while the nature park costs around 2,500 baht (around $75). It depends what you’re looking for in your adventure but I can say that the Maetaman elephants seemed to be in good hands with attentive trainers. For information on the tour co-ordinator I used, send me a message here or on facebook and I’d be happy to give you his contact info. Until next time, be safe and don’t take any wooden nickels!

Chiang Mai Temples

Walking around any given area of Chiang Mai, you will come across many Buddhist temples. They’re listed in travel maps, noted in guide books and honoured around the world. I found some beautiful temples in my wanderings and tried my best to capture the dedication that was put into these houses of worship.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Wat Pan Ping (wat means temple).

Construction of this temple began in the 13th century but many temples take decades, if not more, to complete.




Inside Wat Pan Ping:


Wat Phan On located nearby and constructed a bit later, in 1501.

Inside Wat Phan On:



Outside Wat Phan On:

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The last one I will share is a big temple, actually referred to as a complex since it has several temples within the grounds.

Wat Phra Singh is one of the biggest and most beautiful in the Old City. It sprawls along the bottom of Ratchadamnoen Road and takes a good 45 minutes to walk through and enjoy.

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Another, smaller temple on the grounds, guarded by lions (singh means lion).

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Beautiful door frames and window shutters:

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Wat Phra Singh was built in 1345 and is famous for the Phra Buddha Singh statue it holds inside (I wasn’t sure which statue it was). The temple grounds fell to neglect during the Burmese rule of Thailand from the late 1500’s to the late 1700’s. You can see some of the decay in the pictures below.

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The temple wasn’t restored until the early 1900’s by the monks who resided there. It was later touched up again in 2002.

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Another small temple on the grounds:

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Other buildings on the grounds. Some, like the temple above, were not for tourists and were being renovated on the inside.

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This is just a fraction of the many beautiful temples you can see in Chiang Mai and all over Thailand. I’ve heard there are older and more breathtaking temples in the southern cities like Bangkok and Phuket. If this is the kind of thing that floats your boat when traveling, then Thailand’s many temples are waiting for you.

The Legend of Polly’s Kettle

O.K. guys, this is it.

Lorraine, Gem, Ben, Coman, Heather, Jodie, Trish, Mandy and Leslie: this post goes out to you. I told you a few months ago that I would make it my mission to find out if Polly’s Kettle was still up and running and that day has come.

I went out with a friend to Itaewon (a popular foreigner destination) during Lunar New Year to see what was open and grab some lunch. I mentioned my mission and she was down to help find the lost ark of midnight madness in the Seoul of days gone by. Like me, my friend had lived in Korea 8 years ago and was now back again. She appreciates the value of nostalgia and accepted the challenge, regardless of how many hills we would have to climb. We knew it was up a hill on the left side of the main Itaewon strip but the noted landmark of KFC was no longer there. With no guidance from Colonel Sanders we ended up wandering, climbing random hills on wisps of memory and hopes of signage. It didn’t help that the map I had made was at home and the voyage was, for the most part, spontaneous.

Eventually we came across a steep alley leading up that struck a chord with both of us. We followed our gut and took the trail but the top held nothing but a restaurant and a fancy convenience store.

Dejected and out of breath, we decided to stroll across the crest of the hill to see what else was up there. We had already cut our losses and were discussing lunch when the path curved downward and there it was: Still standing, still open for business and exactly the same.


The hill leading up to Polly’s. You can see why every side street tends to look the same.


The cracked, crooked tiles at the foot of the patio and checkered insides were all unchanged, complete with the partial chain-link fence that still ran along the back of the room. It was like a moment in time, frozen in that sober January afternoon.

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The bar adopted the name after its signature drink: the soju kettle. The “kettle” is actually a 2 litre pop bottle with the top sawed off to create a big jug. Into the jug goes an entire bottle of soju, Korea’s national alcohol (360ml), then topped off with a flavoured drink of choice. The flavours were always very kool-aidesque with options like lemon, lime, blueberry, cherry, orange and so on. One kettle was good to share (or not) and only cost 2,000 won (around $2). For those who have never tried soju, it is a flavourless, mild drink that seems light but sneaks up on you, as any alcohol tends to do.


With cheap drinks, good company and awesome music (Usher’s “yeah,” anyone?) it was our memories that made that place a legend. We had so many stories that linked back to Polly’s from back in the day. Whether our nights began or ended there, it was always a riot and Polly’s will always have a place in my heart. Since the bar wasn’t open yet at the time of my visit, I’m not sure if they still serve kettles and to be honest, I’m not sure if I want to tarnish my memories by going back to find out.

Polly’s Kettle is perfect the way I remember it with my old crew of expat chingus and I’m not quite ready to modify that just yet. Maybe one day, but I think I’m getting too old for kettles now ;) For those in Korea who would like to check it out, see the photo below.


Look for Helios pub, above G-Shock and next to Woodstock bar as shown. Turn your back to Helios and cross the intersecton. Follow the side sreet directy across from Helios and you will find Polly’s Kettle.


An Afternoon with Tigers

While wandering down the main street in the Old City area, my friend and I were approached by a private tour guide, Mr. Udon, who offered us a ride to see the tigers at Tiger Kingdom for 300 baht (about $9) each. After some deliberation on wether or not he was legit, he knocked his fee down to 100 baht (around $3) each and we decided to go and at least check it out. He gave us his business card and off we went. He talked the whole way there and we learned some interesting things about Thai culture.

Once we arrived we went into the Tiger Kingdom camp and could choose which size of tiger we wanted to see. There was big, medium, small and extra small, which were little tiger cubs. There was a unit price for one size of tiger (ex: to get a picture with only the big tigers was 420 baht) but if you chose to see two or more tiger sizes, you could get a discounted rate. Once you chose your tiger size, you paid for your ticket, signed an insurance form that said you would be careful but if needed, xxx insurance company will take care of any medical needs you may have. Comforting.

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Once that was sorted, we went to go look at the tigers and wait our turn to enter the cage. We chose “big cats” and watched as trainers led people into the caged area and took them around for pictures. There were four big tigers in the cage we would enter and all of them seemed to be having a good time with their trainers.











The trainers were there to guide them into sitting position, make them face the camera or move over and in general, keep the animal entertained and in good spirits. I had read about some tigers being drugged in Thailand so they remain calm, yet sleepy around the tourists but I was relieved to see that these tigers seemed in high spirits and seemed well taken care of.

The baby tigers were running around like lunatics chasing each other, splashing around in the water and climbing giant logs the whole time. The medium and big tigers were equally spirited; climbing everything and playing around with the trainers. It seemed easy to forget that they were such enormous beasts of the jungle and not just huge kittens when they carried on like that.

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We were instructed before entering on how to conduct ourselves. For example, rules included: Don’t approach the tiger face-on, as it is a sign of a challenge or an invitation to “play.” Approach from behind and walk slowly. Stay near their hind legs and avoid the head. No loud voices or sudden movements and overall, the general idea was to use your head and don’t be a dumb-ass. They ARE tigers and respect is due.

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The trainers were mostly young Thai men and their relationship with the tigers was actually quite heart-warming to watch. They had code words they said and the tigers would react by sitting or standing, yawning or doing this weird call that sounded like a cat in heat. They were cuddling and head-butting their trainers in the legs, playing like a giant kitty would.


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When we were done with pictures and made it safely out of the cage, our driver was waiting and took us back to the Old City area of Chiang Mai where our impromptu adventure began.