4 feet 2 mouths

walking and eating our way around the world

Archive for the tag “Temples”

Stairway to Heaven in Emeishan (by Carmen)

Stupa at the top of Emeishan

Stupa at the top of Emeishan

We were peregrinos once again. But this time it was a little different. For one, we were in China on the holy mountain of Emeishan. Second, we were only going to hike 50km not 800km. Instead of churches, we would encounter temples. Instead of a bottle of wine with our patatas bravas we would eat a simple bowl of vegetarian noodles and drink tea. Instead of the end of summer we were hiking at the end of winter. All in all, we were ready for these changes and excited to see a more spiritual side of China.

Carved Buddha at trailhead

Carved Buddha at trailhead

Forest steps

Forest steps

Map of Emeishan

Map of Emeishan

Emeishan is one of four sacred Buddhist mountains in China and has been a site of ancient pilgrimages for centuries. A series of temples have been established along the trail to house and feed people walking to the top. A carved Buddha welcomed us at the trailhead and we began to ascend the steps built into the forest. We struggled a bit to find the correct trail since the best map we had was a schematic one from the hostel. But after some asking around and pointing we made our way to the temples.

Tibetan style Shenshui Pavillion

Tibetan style Shenshui Pavillion

 Psychedelic purple cabbage

Psychedelic purple cabbage

One of the first temples we encountered was the Shenshui Pavillion. It was covered in a riot of bright colors, similar to the Tibetans ones we had seen in Zhongdian. We took a bit of a break, then pushed on. Shortly afterwards we saw this awesome purple cabbage plant; nature’s own version of colorful decorating.

Stairway in the forest

Stairway in the forest

Wannian Temple entrance

Wannian Temple entrance

Up and up we went. The stairs through the forest at times seemed never ending. But we kept looking out for the next landmark or temple. In a few hours we were able to reach the famous Wannian Temple

Six tusk elephant at Wannian Temple

Six tusk elephant at Wannian Temple

1100 year old bronze elephant

1100 year old bronze elephant

Wannian Temple is the oldest on the mountain and is dedicated to Bodhisattva Puxian. He liked riding a white elephant and this has become a symbol of the mountain. A giant bronze elephant with six tusks was constructed 1,100 years ago(!) to honor him and bring luck and long life to the people.

Stairway down

Stairway down

Stairway up

Stairway up

And then there were more stairs. We had started the day at 500m (1,650 ft) and our ultimate goal, the Golden Summit, was 3,077m (10,100ft). But it wasn’t one straight up shot. There were foothills to traverse and winding paths that followed the natural contours of the mountains. So we definitely felt like we had climbed all 3000m, if not more! When we couldn’t take the steps anymore, we would take a break. There were plenty of cafes and tea houses along the way vying for our business. We eventually stopped for lunch in a café that seemed to be full of local construction workers. Gong bao pork and stir fried greens is an excellent way to fill up for a hike.

White elephant bathing pool

White elephant bathing pool

Simple noodles at the monastery

Simple noodles at the monastery

Looking down at white elephant temple

Looking down at white elephant temple

Our final destination for the night clocked in at 2000m. The White Elephant Bathing Temple is so named for the time Puxian flew his elephant to a pool at this site in order to bathe it. By the time we made it to the top of the infinitely long staircase, we were exhausted and so happy to the bright red walls of the temple. After checking in for the night, we went directly to the dining hall for a hot bowl of noodles. The cook got a big kick out of the fact that we wanted it lao ji (spicy) – many people can never believe that a lao wei could like spicy. But we piled it on and were very happy and comforted. We then took our large water thermos to our room to drink tea and warm up with our electric blankets.

Sunrise at White Elephant Bathing Temple

Sunrise at White Elephant Bathing Temple

Oil lamps at the rustic Taizi Ping temple

Oil lamps at the rustic Taizi Ping temple

Prayer flags

Prayer flags

The next morning we were on a mission. We stopped briefly at the temples along the way, soaking in each one’s individual flavor. Some, such as Taizi Ping, were very rustic affairs in comparison to the more elaborate Wannian or even Shenshui.  Hidden from the path Nathan spotted enormous curtains of prayer flags that weaved through the forest.

Deep gorge

Deep gorge

Cliff

Cliff

Monkey on the cliff

Monkey on the cliff

As we neared the top, the trees became less dense and we could see the dramatic gorges and cliffs of the mountain. And that’s where we encountered the monkeys. Monkeys are a common theme in many Chinese parks and people love to feed them. It’s odd, though, that they are then terrified of them when they get close. I do not quite understand the Chinese relationship to wildlife – it’s like a mix of entertainment and distrust.

Nathan on the final steps

Nathan on the final steps

Six tusk elephant at the top

Six tusk elephant at the top

Finally, after two days, 50km and 3000m, we were on the final steps of Emeishan. White elephants greeted us as we made our way to the top.

Stupa at the top of Emeishan

Stupa at the top of Emeishan

Us with stupa

Us with stupa

And then we were at the golden stupa. It was installed about 6 years ago so it does not have much historical significance. But I think it adds a lot to the atmosphere and is beautifully crafted.

Golden Summit Temple

Golden Summit Temple

Golden Summit Temple with stupa

Golden Summit Temple with stupa

We were lucky to have such a sunny day as the mists of Emeishan are legendary. And so are the crowds. I haven’t mentioned that 99% of the thousands of visitors that day had not taken a step on the path we took. Sadly, Emeishan has been overrun by the cable car. Many people were there just to take their million photos, including with us, and then they head to the gift shop. I understand that not everyone can hike the way Nathan and I did but it does cheapen the experience when those that can don’t try at all. Is it really a pilgrimage anymore when you haven’t even had time to ponder your journey, to the top and in life?

Father and daughter who wanted to take a picture with me

Father and daughter who wanted to take a picture with me

The one good thing about this easy access to the top is the easy access down. Nathan and I hike an hour down to the bus station and caught a minibus for the 1.5 hour drive back to town. I was mulling over my thoughts and getting over the shock of being in such a tranquil environment during most of the hike and then being jolted by so many people at the top.

That’s when something strange happened. As the driver took a bathroom break at one of the cable car depots, he opened the back door for anyone who wanted to get out. At that point, a lady threw her walking stick out the door. A very old woman then felt around the ground for it and I realized that she was blind. The woman on the bus had given her the stick so that she could resell it later but didn’t even have the decency to hand it to her. Fortunately, the old woman had a companion, another woman of the same age, who helped her find the stick. Together they lifted up empty plastic bags apparently asking for something. It felt like everything was happening in slow motion as I was trying to figure it out. The companion pulled out a plastic bottle and it finally dawned on me – they simply wanted plastic bottles. It was at that moment that the driver, who had returned, shut the door and left them in a cloud of dust. Something about these two women pulled strongly at my heart. Simply based on history, these women must have experienced a lot of hardship in life. They should be honored, but instead were treated with disdain. They were extremely humble to all these people on board who had just paid 150RMB ($25USD) to go into a spiritual, sacred site. I can only imagine what $25 would have meant to them. I thought about these women a lot since I’ve seen them. I had plastic bottles I could have given them but due to confusion and language barriers, I pulled them out too late. I hope they are ok. I wish there was more I could do. And I wish there was more focus on helping these hard working yet destitute elderly woman than building more malls for the nouveau riche… And there is my tale of temples, burning thighs and heart ache on Emeishan.

Visiting the Big Guy in Leshan (by Nathan)

The big toe of the Big Guy

The big toe of the Big Guy

Two visionaries: Nathan and Buddha

Two visionaries: Nathan and Buddha

What an enormous toe!  That is what I kept thinking to myself while standing below the largest Buddha statue on earth.  The toes alone of this statue made me feel small and the towering statue made me feel miniscule.  I guess that is the whole point, the enormity of God and the frivolous creatures that we are as humans on earth.  It was very humbling to enjoy and admire such a creation as this in China. Look at what they carved from a mountain 1,300 years ago!

Stairway along the cliff

Stairway along the cliff

222ft carved statue of Buddha

222ft carved statue of Buddha

The Leshan Dafo is now the largest statue of Buddha on earth.  I use the word “now” because there used to be a bigger one, but it was destroyed in Afghanistan.  I am kinda liking Buddhism and its global respect for humanity versus the religious extremism that so prevalent.  The Leshan Buddha stands 222ft (70m) tall with earlobes as tall as a house.  Long earlobes are often seen throughout Asian statues as it is a sign of long life and prosperity.  We climbed several hundred stairs along the cliff to reach the bottom.  At the base, Buddha sits serenely staring into the horizon and into the souls of all those admiring his grandeur.

Carved hand on the knee

Carved hand on the knee

Tibetan family

Tibetan family

We had a particular rewarding experience with a Tibetan family that had made a pilgrimage here from their homeland somewhere in western China.  They were so courteous and friendly in their “hellos” to us that we were at first taken aback; that’s not our typical reception in China. There is still a clear divide among Tibetan and Han Chinese. While many of the Chinese visitors would do a cursory incense lighting they would then proceed to take pictures of themselves from all angles in front of the Buddha. Many of these visitors dressed in their heels and glamorous clothes trying their best to show off. The Tibetan family, on the other hand, was dressed in thick robes and animal furs that were clearly better suited for a freezing winters than the warm temperatures they were feeling in Leshan.  They did their best to shed clothes, but their main focus was to pray to Buddha. They lit candles and meditated.  It was nice to see people that saw more of this statue than its tourism. I secretly wished that they would invite me for some yak butter tea, but I did not know how to get that across :)

Arch bridge and blossoming flowers

Arch bridge and blossoming flowers

Yellow flower fields

Yellow flower fields

We made our way into Leshan on a bus from Zigong.  The plan was for a day trip to visit the “big guy” and the surrounding temples and then hop on another bus to where we would stay the night in Emeishan.  With great luck, everything went as planned and we were able to see everything, including some beautiful fields of yellow flowers, arched bridges, temples and painted rock caves.  This would not be the end of our spiritual journey through China; it was time to put our pilgrimage shoes back on…

Finding Peace and Cold in Zhongdian (by Carmen)

Monastery through the prayer flags

Monastery through the prayer flags

“Brrr, it’s cold up there.” This was everyone’s reaction when we mentioned we were going to Zhongdian. The town, in the northern reaches of Yunnan, is pretty much as close to Tibet as it gets without going there. It was just so tantalizingly close to Tiger Leaping Gorge that we couldn’t resist. So we hopped on a minibus headed north.

Street in "old town"

Street in “old town”

Roof tops of "old town"

Roof tops of “old town”

We got dropped off in “old town”, which I have to use quotes for. The old town is actually completely new, built by the government to attract some of the tourists away from old town in Lijiang. It is cute and old feeling for the most part, with crooked streets and wooden Tibetan style buildings. It was rather dead in the winter but I could imagine a lively place in the summer.

However, the government didn’t stop there. The tourism agency has gone on to say that Zhongdian is the legendary site of Shangrila, the magical utopia of James Hilton’s novels. Hilton used pictures of southwest China for inspiration of his work but really, it was a metaphorical place. The government officially changed the name to Shangrila anyway. I don’t know, I just like Zhongdian better.

Amazing dumpling meal

Amazing dumpling meal

Market vendors with cheese and prayer flags

Market vendors with cheese and prayer flags

We ventured out of old town for lunch the next day, determined to find something a bit more local. When I saw the sign for the dumpling restaurant I became excited and we entered through the steamy door.  I thought, “We are in southwest china, why are we eating northwestern cuisine?” But it turned out to be the best choice ever. We got a plate of fried dumplings and a plate of boiled ones. A side dish of slivered pig ears and some spicy cucumber chunks and we were set. Oh was it good. Perfect pork filling, wonderful sour, salty, spicy dipping sauce. Yum. We had stumbled on a treasure that the whole town seemed to know about. As the lunch hour progressed, customers from all walks of life streamed in. Even people in traditional outfits. The desire for good food was our common bond.

After our lunch we walked along the main boulevard of town which was lined with vendors. Two popular items were prayer flags and yak’s milk cheese, both at a fraction of the prices they charge in “old town.”

Monastery from afar

Monastery from afar

Stupa with prayer flags

Stupa with prayer flags

The main attraction of Zhongdian is a few kilometers north of the center. The Ganden Sumtseling Gompa is a 300 year old Tibetan Buddhist monastery set in a beautiful windswept valley. We almost didn’t go. The ticket price was almost double what we expected and after all the high price tickets in the other towns we had visited we had had enough. It is hard to see where the money for these tickets is going. But we paid up and our first views of the monastery instantly made us feel better. We approached by walking clockwise around a lake, past a stupa with many prayer flags fluttering in the wind. Moving clockwise was an important requirement for the monastery, within the compound as well as in individual rooms, as this is the direction one would spin a prayer wheel.

Ceiling painting on the main gate

Ceiling painting on the main gate

Front of one of the temples

Front of one of the temples

The entrance gate gave us a taste of what we would find inside. The layers of color and patterns was so intricate yet harmonious. Each of the various buildings we visited was painted in a similar fashion which contrasted with the rather stark mud colored exteriors.

Wonderfully painted interior

Wonderfully painted interior

Examples of the paintings of morals and religious stories

Examples of the paintings of morals and religious stories

Inside the paintings would pop with vibrancy. Many of the temples depicted the same themes. For example the stages of enlightenment metaphorically represented by a black elephant becoming white. Or the bird on top of the rabbit on top of the monkey on top of the elephant. All these have background stories I’m sure but they seemed mysterious to me. While many themes were repeated there was one shrine in particular that was unique from the others. The walls were black with neon sketches of skeletons and animals. Sadly no pictures allowed.

View from the roof

View from the roof

Gilded roof

Gilded roof

In our temple to temple meanderings we eventually found a little spot to get out onto the roof from where we could look out past the gilding and onto the city and the lake.

One more of the monastery

One more of the monastery

We did see a few monks in the temples arranging offerings, meditating or greeting people. They looked a little cold in their simple robes. Overall the cold winter weather (highs were in the low forties and of course nowhere, not even our hotel room, had true heaters) gave the monastery a feeling of austerity.

Local villager women

Local villager women

A yak!

A yak!

Tibetan style construction

Tibetan style construction

Outside the monastery walls a village had formed. We walked around, admired the heavy Tibetan style architecture, pet the yaks. It did feel a bit strange though, like I was intruding. I wonder how much money the villagers get from the high priced ticket.

Nathan with 20 layers of clothing

Nathan with 20 layers of clothing

Sleeper bus

Sleeper bus

We could only handle so much cold. Nathan was wearing almost everything he had! Zhongdian was a brief but worthy interlude on our Yunnan tour. We made our way south on a long journey to warmer weather and magical rice terraces.

Drinking in the Views of Dali (by Carmen)

Dali old town

Dali old town

Dali is a town with Erhai Lake to its east and tall mountains towering over it to the west. It may be small in size but it has a long history. Centuries ago, it was the capital of the Yunnan region. Today, it retains a pretty, old town atmosphere as well as cultural ties to the Bai, a tribe that has lived in this valley for thousands of years.

Brooms at the Bai market

Brooms at the Bai market

Our introduction to Dali occurred with the great hostel search. Unfortunately we got lost on our way to the hostel but we did find a Bai market near the western city gate. I loved the mounds of natural brooms as well as the chili vendors that were grinding fresh chilies into powder right before your eyes.

Beautiful paintings found on our hostel

Beautiful paintings found on our hostel

Our hostel, the Jade Emu, at sunset with the Green Mountains behind it

Our hostel, the Jade Emu, at sunset with the Green Mountains behind it

We finally did make it to our hostel, the Jade Emu, right around sunset. It was a lovely place with special touches for the western traveler. For example, free access to an Internet portal that allows you to view sites typically banned in China! It was also decorated with splendid paintings that we saw on many of the homes in the area.

Tofu, mushrooms and cheese at Cang Er Chun

Tofu, mushrooms and cheese at Cang Er Chun

We quickly left for dinner and ended up at Cang Er Chun. We are trying to maximize consumption of the famous Yunnan mushrooms so we ordered a dish of them, some fried local goat cheese (oddly served with sugar) and ma po tofu. The latter is one of my favorite dishes and I welcomed the numbing spice of the Sichuan peppercorns. Afterwards, we walked around and found an expat bar with a Scottish band playing some songs. Dali definitely has a foreigner presence attracted to its cute surrounds. But this bar had a good mix of Chinese and westerners grooving to the tunes.

View along the south city wall

View along the south city wall

Holy napa cabbage idolization

Holy napa cabbage idolization

The next morning we were ready to explore the old town. Many of the Chinese tourists congregate on the tourist shopping streets, which aren’t very interesting. But it’s easy to get away from the crowds. It was pretty much just us as we walked along the south city wall. At the end was a small temple to overlook the town and lake. Inside the temple, there was a awesome carved napa cabbage at the center of an altar. Evidence of the importance of good food in China.

Buddhist meal at Yi Ran Tang

Buddhist meal at Yi Ran Tang

Near the city wall, a Buddhist restaurant called Yi Ran Tang serves a very inexpensive buffet. You can pile as much as you want on your plate for about $1 but the catch is that you have to eat everything you take. I’m talking every last grain of rice. Nathan and I practiced scooping rice grains with our chop sticks in their peaceful, newly built courtyard next to the buffet.

Bai-style Catholic church

Bai-style Catholic church

Jesus in Dali

Jesus in Dali

We kept the religious theme going by visiting the town’s Catholic church. It was the most unique church I’ve ever been to since it was built in the Bai style of architecture. We marveled at the exterior paintings, which didn’t have much to do with Christianity, and took a peak the blue painted interior. They provided a flyer describing the church’s difficulties during the cultural revolution as well as explaining how “Jesus Christ started the Catholic Church before he died…”. Hmmm. I thought the building was a really cool cultural fusion and is definitely worth seeking out in Dali.

Nathan's drink

Nathan’s drink

As a refresher, Nathan couldn’t pass up a chance to try a sour tamarind drink from a popular street vendor. She spent time on each cup, sprinkling in a variety of a spices and juices, resulting in a nicely sour treat.

The Three Pagodas

The Three Pagodas

Inside one of the temples behind the pagodas

Inside one of the temples behind the pagodas

View from the hill

View from the hill

We saved the afternoon for Dali’s major historical attraction, the three pagodas. The tallest of these is 16 stories and built in the mid 800s! It is amazing it has lasted this long though I’m not sure how many restorations it has had. Behind the pagodas a series of temples stretches at least a kilometer uphill. Each temple ensconced beautiful statues of Buddha, Buddhist leaders or local gods. The ticket was expensive (most are in China) but well worth it.

Spicy chicken, veggies and fried rice

Spicy chicken, veggies and fried rice

We finished off the night by choosing the restaurant with the most diners in it.  Our pointing got us some greens, fried rice and a spicy, garlicy chicken dish.  I liked the chicken but there were so many bones it took forever to eat.  This is true of a lot of Chinese chicken and fish dishes.

Older Bai women on the tourist shopping street

Older Bai women on the tourist shopping street

Our last day in Dali we spent a bit more time in the old town. As we walked around we noticed a group of Bai women moving in a hurry. We followed them as they rushed their way through the main tourist drag, stopping to say hello to a few shop owners. I’m still not sure why they were rushing so, but what sticks out in my mind was a middle aged woman with a deformed foot. She was keeping up with the others by hopping along on her one good foot. I wonder if she didn’t have a crutch by choice or if it was the poor medical care. Probably the latter, which shows the dichotomy of rich Chinese tourists and poor locals. Reminders are everywhere!

Baiju shop

Baiju shop

We did do some shopping ourselves, at the local baiju (rice wine) shop. The owner had created a number of specialty flavors and we settled on a pineapple-rice liquor that had a sour, sweet and slightly fermented taste.

Awesome shao er quai

Awesome shao er quai

Nearby, a woman was selling some delicious shao er quai, a street snack Adam had recommended. It is rice pancake that is grilled and smeared with a variety of sweet, nutty and spicy sauces. This is wrapped around a Chinese doughnut and served warm. Good stuff. This lady was particularly good because she rolled out the rice pancake fresh, instead of having pre-made ones ready to heat up.

Scrumptious coffee and cookies at Sweet Tooth

Scrumptious coffee and cookies at Sweet Tooth

Our final stop was to satisfy our sweet cravings at a cafe appropriately named Sweet Tooth. Our French pressed coffee was great and the tiny cookies were spot on. Chocolate chip, white chocolate, oatmeal raisin…it’s been so long.

Small bus between Yunnan towns

Small bus between Yunnan towns

Before long it was time to board a bus to our next destination, Shaxi. We crowded on to the local bus, chatted with a friendly English speaking local and wound our way higher in the mountains (and deeper into the cold!).

Wat Hopping in Chiang Mai (by Carmen)

Chiang Mai, the square city

Chiang Mai, the square city (photo credit: artandcultureasia.com)

The city of Chiang Mai was born on Thursday the 8th day of waxing moon, 1296AD, at 4:00am, in the year of the monkey. This we learned at the city’s history museum, which explained that Chiang Mai, like people, has certain personality traits as well periods of good and bad health. I liked this personification of cities and I knew Chiang Mai and I would get along just fine. First of all, I liked its shape. Not many cities have such a strong square moat, with remainders of its crumbling city wall still presiding over residents.

Khao Kha Mu

Khao Kha Mu

And, of course, there was the delicious food. Fortunately for us, Julia and Jonathan had been in Chiang Mai just before we got there and provided some noteworthy recommendations. Two were just north of the city gate, at the Chang Puek market. Recognizable by their cowboy hats, the pork choppers at the khao kha mu (stewed pork over rice) stall are working non-stop to fill the mountain of orders. We joined the crowds, got our plate and doused it with a sweet spicy chili sauce on the table. The slightly sweet pork mingled perfectly with the tangy sauce.

Pad thai stall

Pad thai stall

Pad thai close up

Pad thai close up

At the same market, look for the lone man towards the end pumping out pad thai. It was perfect. His pad Thai uses good tamarind paste so is more sour than the ones I’ve eaten in the States. The “original” mix he offered involved tofu, eggs, and dried shrimp. Many thanks to Mark at the Travelfish Thailand blog for pointing out this market!

Wat Phan Tao

Wat Phan Tao

Wat Monthian

Wat Monthian

We were not in Chiang Mai for food alone. As the capital of the Lanna kingdom for centuries, Chiang Mai was also a spiritual center leaving a legacy of wats. Every street seems to have two or three. Some are more famous than others, such as the dark teak wood Wat Phan Tao. But all of them have a beauty to them. We really enjoyed Wat Monthian, on the northern border of the old town.

Buddha presiding over Wat Chedi Luang

Buddha presiding over Wat Chedi Luang

Flags inside Wat Chedi Luang

Flags inside Wat Chedi Luang

The namesake chedi

The namesake chedi

Another one of the well known wats is Chedi Luang. It’s large golden Buddha had a string attached to his finger that wound its way around the temple interior. From the string, people hung flags with images from the Chinese zodiac. It was a peaceful place to kneel below the flags, on the thick carpet, and quietly observing people coming into pray. Afterwards, we went to the back of the wat to see the oldest chedi (sacred site usually in a mound or pyramid shape) in Chiang Mai.

Buns!

Buns!

The next day was an important one. It was Nathan’s turn to celebrate his birthday! So what does one do in Chiang Mai to celebrate? Take a bike ride to a nearby wat of course. But wait! On the way we spied a shop selling a variety of colorful steamed buns. I’m used to these being filled by Chinese style pork or red bean paste, but these were different. There was everything from taro to spinach and cheese filled buns. We opted for pandanus and Thai pork buns. They were both good but the latter was revelatory! The lemongrass in the filling was so good and I was soon dreaming up ways to market these fusion bun treats.

White chedis at Wat Suan Dok

White chedis at Wat Suan Dok

Close up chedi

Close up chedi

We did eventually make it to the Wat Suan Dok. It had a number of white chedis for some fun photos.

Huen Phen

Huen Phen

To add a bit of surprise to Nathan’s birthday I researched a place for a good but laid back lunch. Huen Phen fit the bill and offered some great eats in casual surroundings. My favorite was the amazing Thai sausage. I had read about it online and I think it lived up to the hype. It was super tender and well spiced. Another great dish was the khao soi, a curry based soup complimented with pickled veggies to sprinkle in. We even came back the next day, when the little khanom jeen nam ngiaw place we had looked up ended up being closed. Huen Phen’s version lifted our spirits with its rich pork broth, which Nathan likened to Mexican posole.

After our large birthday lunch, we biked our way over to a Thai massage parlor. They are everywhere and hard to resist! Our muscles got twisted and stretched into loose submission. I looked over to see Nathan’s brutish looking masseuse pulling his arms back with all her might while Nathan winced. As we were getting dressed we realized that our masseuses were former prisoners that had participated in a job training program. That explains a few things…

Happy birthday Nathan!

Happy birthday Nathan!

And then there was cake. Not far from our hostel was the Fern Forest Cafe. It turns out the Thai love their cakes so we had plenty to choose from. We opted for a coconut cake with fresh coconut strips lying on top and a brownie with ice cream.

Mango sticky rice

Mango sticky rice

Night market lanterns

Night market lanterns

But when it’s your birthday, you can eat all the dessert you want. So that night we bought a final mango sticky rice at the Saturday market. Chiang Mai is particularly known for it’s Sunday market, so I was under the impression that the Saturday one would be rather small. I was completely wrong. It took us two hours to walk through the crowds while checking out the merchandise! Amazingly, there weren’t many vendors selling the same thing.

Dumplings at Sompetch

Dumplings at Sompetch

The following morning Nathan went on a nice healthy run while I slept in (this is usually the way it goes). On his way back he noticed people fighting for tables at a nearby restaurant. That was all it took for us to make it our choice for breakfast. And it was a good one! We enjoyed a variety of savory and delicious dumplings as well as some congee.

Temple roof outline at dusk

Temple roof outline at dusk

Our last day was filled with visiting the city museum and then the mother of Chiang Mai’s markets – the Sunday Walking Street. We were prepared for this one because of our experience at the Saturday market. As expected it was huge and glorious with shoppers shuffling en masse down the main drag of the old town. After perusing the goods and soaking in the vibrant atmosphere it was time for us to catch a bus. Goodbye Chiang Mai, it was wonderful to meet you!

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