By MANISHA AHLAWAT
If you are a woman who loves to travel, head to Chiang Mai in Thailand. A delightful experience awaits, curated for your senses.
WAT PHRA TEMPLE
Wat Phra Temple atop Doi Suthep mountain is one of the most sacred temples for the Thai people. Legend has it that a white elephant carrying Buddha’s shoulder bone climbed the mountain and after trumpeting thrice dropped to its death. The Lanna king at that time saw this as an omen and got this temple made. You can climb up the steps, 306 of them, or take a tram up to the temple. Behold the golden spires of the Wat Phra temple, get blessings from the monks and check your fortune as per the ancient Chinese prophecy. From atop the mountain you get a birds eye view of Chiang Mai, and it’s a beautiful sight.
UMBRELLA PAINTING – BO SANG HANDICRAFTS CENTRE
This is where you learn the art of making paper umbrellas. The folding umbrella was invented in China, during the Cao Wei dynasty about 1,700 years ago. The paper umbrella making art came to Chiang Mai some 200 years ago. The craft provides an added income to the farmers in the Bo Sang village. The umbrella is completely hand made.
The umbrella skin is made from the tree skin of a plant called “sa”. The umbrella skeleton is made from bamboo. It is then hand painted in oil by local artists. Witness the whole process and then paint your own umbrella at the Bo Sang centre. You can also get your mobile phone cover, bag, tshirt or jeans painted on by the artists for a small fee and carry a unique souvenir home. Or buy one from the large handicrafts store adjoining the Bo Sang centre.
OLD CHIANG MAI CULTURAL CENTRE
Experience the traditional Lanna Thai culture in a traditional Thai family home. The guide told me that in 1970 the Nimenheiman family, after watching a cultural show in Hawaii decided to start the #Khantoke cultural show in their home, to introduce Lanna traditional food, music and dances to tourists. There is a tribal crafts flea market as you enter the cultural centre. Over the years Khantoke has spread all over Thailand, but now you know where to find the original one.
CHIANG MAI HOME HOST – LANNA TRADITIONAL COOKING
If you want a rustic experience of the traditional northern Thai home cooking visit #ChiangMaiHomeHost. Your host is the cheerful ‘Pat’; of course, his name is different but as most Thai people he adopted an easier version of his name. Pat will invite you into his ancient family home and garden. But before that you have to pray to the ancient spirit gods that protect his home and hearth. Follow him for an eclectic tour through the history, herbs, cuisine and culture of his family from centuries past. Say hello to all the uncles and cousins and old grandma who are all part of his family. Grandma is 97 years old and will offer you a smoke if she happens to like you. End with a cooking lesson and a sumptuous meal with his family. And leave with a warm feeling of having visited home after a long time.
Don’t miss the biggest night markets. These are not like the Bangkok markets, here you will see more of tribal crafts and handicrafts from the northern Thailand. There are also outlet malls called Premium outlets, though it would be a waste of precious time that can be spent knowing Chiang Mai a little more.
For that one night you want to go fine dining, plan to dine at the Secret service themed restaurant located inside the Anantara Resort. The ‘Service 1921 Restaurant and Bar’ was once the British Consulate in Chiang Mai back in 1921. The charming old colonial building has been tastefully renovated with a bar at the ground floor and the restaurant on the first floor. If you sit outside on the deck, you get a beautiful view of the Mae Ping river. The restaurant serves modern Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. Though executive Chef Patricio can dish out all kinds of cuisines including authentic Indian.
Best was the dessert, Yuzu Soufflé with Ice cream. It’s served with a special sauce made of Japanese yuzu lemons which have a very typical taste.
Do visit the Oasis Spa for an out of this world experience – to feel rejuvenated for more experiences.
ELEPHANT JUNGLE SANCTUARY
For a day of fun, go play with the elephants. Bathe them, feed them, and just relax.
Chiang Mai can be dubbed the Casablanca of the east, both cities gained much importance during World War II. While Casablanca was made famous and romanticised by the epic 1942 Ingrid Bergman movie with the same name, Chiang Mai is still waiting for that epic movie. Is Hollywood listening?