One of the most enjoyable things to do while visiting Northern Thailand is to take a “Long-Tail” boat ride. The most popular ride is on the Mae Kok river from Thaton, in far north Chiang Mai province, to Chiang Rai.
Most ride the local bus from the Chang Puak bus station departing at 7 and 9 am for the 3 1/2 hour bus journey to Thaton. It’s much better to take your time and stay in Thaton for the evening. The reason is 95% of the people riding the boats start in Thaton
Most of the boats from Chiang Rai go only as far as the touristy village of Rhummit just a 30 minute boat ride away for elephant riding. For this reason most boat drivers cannot go all the way to the villages and Thaton because they do not know the area farther up river with rapids. Only the boats from Thaton and up river villages can make the full journey. Local hill tribe people who live along the river also take this boat as it will stop for them if they wave it down. The boats from Thaton filled with tourists going to Chiang Rai won’t stop but those who live along the river with boats and provide a ferry service to Chiang Rai do.
NOTICE: There are no longer river taxis. You have to hire a private long tail boat and find others to join you to keep the price down. This should not be difficult as most who are on Thaton want to take the boat to Chiang Rai. Another thing you can do is to take the 1 day guided tour from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai that includes the boat ride and visiting hill tribe villages with local English speaking guide who knows the area well.
Another possibility is you can charter a boat and spend the evening on the river at the hot springs next to an Akha hill tribe village before going on to Thaton. This is a great way to enjoy the river for a group of two to four persons. This will require a local English speaking guide as the boat drivers do not speak English.
Good food can be had just across the river from the hot springs at the Karen village of Rhummit where you can also arrange for riding elephants. Your guide and boat driver will take you there when you want to eat.
The boat trip from Thaton to Chiang Rai takes around 3 hours. On our 1 day boat trip we start further down the river at the start of the mountain canyons which shortens the trip to 2 hours. We start the trip by picking you up in Chiang Mai then visit Chiang Dao Cave Shrine. We then visit a primitive Lahu hill tribe village then Wat Thaton temple with a magnificent view of the Fang valley and Mae Kok river below. We have lunch and visit a Shan hill tribe village famous for cotton weaving then board the long tail boat to Chiang Rai. We will then transport you to your hotei or guest house or you can ride with us in the air conditioned van back to Chiang Mai.
If you don’t speak Thai it is best to arrange for a guide from one of the tour companies or your guest house in Chiang Rai. They can also provide things like blankets or sleeping bags and food if you would rather eat by campfire. Sleeping is aboard the boat which has plenty of room and comfortable. The hot springs has toilets and showers along with a small store. The springs run into the river which is a good place to take a refreshing bath as the water is not too hot. The Akha hill tribe village next to the hot springs is very authentic with most dressed in their traditional costumes and all living in Bamboo houses. Not many tourists visit the village as most go to Rhummit to do elephant riding and trekking which leaves this area peaceful and mostly unspoiled.
In this video (Above) we visit our hill tribe friends in Chiang Mai Province away from the normal tourist route including Akha, Lahu, Lisu and Karen.
The last bus from Thaton to Chiang Mai leaves at 2:25 in the afternoon. Don’t be in a hurry to leave as Thaton has many things to see and do along with accommodations from 60 to 2000 baht. The Tourist Police in Thaton will help you with any information you may need. They are located along the river not far from the boat landing.
Hundreds of people each day during the busy season ride to boats from Thaton to Chiang Rai. They all leave about the same time in a large convoy one behind the other. For a better experience be different and see the river in the opposite direction. When you see the boats full of people passing just smile and wave from your uncrowded boat as they are sure to be envious.
Chiang Mai Loy Krathong “Yee Ping” Festival Nov. 7 – 10, 2022
The history, traditions and events of Loy Krathong “Yee Ping”.
Loy Krathong “Yee Ping” has an unequaled charm and mystique, whether it is celebrated on a grand scale in a major city or quietly in a small village, but for a truly breathtaking experience, the north of Thailand is the place to go.
This festival is held on the night of the 12th full moon of the year (in 2021 is November 19) in most of the countries where it is celebrated, except in Laos, where it coincides with the 11th full moon at the end of the rains retreat, the Buddhist Lent. In many of the Thai provinces facing Laos across the Mekong River, there may also be a major festival of floating lights at that time, such as Nakhon Phanom’s spectacular Lai Rua Fai (many illuminated boats). Loy Krathong may have originally been timed to coincide with the end of the life-giving rains, as a kind of harvest festival giving thanks for the abundance of the crop now filling the granaries and wishing for further bounty in the year to come. There is also a great deal of symbolism involved in the floating away of the Krathong, representing a cleansing of sins.
Loy Krathong has an unequalled charm and mystique, whether it is celebrated on a grand scale in a major city or quietly in a small village of just a few rude huts, but for a truly breathtaking experience, the north of Thailand is the place to go. Even from the end of Lent, the build-up starts with firecrackers banging and booming in the night and, gradually, there appear what seem to be moving orange stars in the sky. As Loy Krathong itself nears, coconut frond archways spring up at the gates of houses, earthen lamps glow in the night, and paper streamers and lanterns appear everywhere.
With the rainy season gone, the night sky is clear and coolness fills the air. On the night of Loy Krathong itself, the full moon sails over the horizon into a sky filled with light and sound, for the Lanna folk celebrate Loy Krathong in three dimensions. Giant hot air balloons, called Kome Loy, rise into the sky, their fires visible, like some galaxy of orange stars, into the far distance. Traditional rockets known as Bok Fai outdo the myriad of other fireworks crackling and popping everywhere in the crisp night air. And beneath this frenzy of noise and light, the gentle, quiet, and touching act of floating (loy) one’s Krathong.
The traditional months of Lanna are different from the rest in Thailand, and Loy Krathong is always celebrated in Duan Yee – the second month – and the period of the festival is called Yee Ping. It is an important time with Krathong and a different Buddhist ceremony, called Tang Tham Luang, falling within this month. The decorations around houses and temples come alive during Yee Peng with the Kome paper lanterns glowing a host of bright colours. Walls surrounding compounds are decorated with the earthen lamps called Phang Patit. The number of these lamps must correspond with the total age of all family members combined, and their flickering yellow flames give warmth to the cool evening.
The Krathong are traditionally made from cut sections of bamboo, with neatly folded pieces of banana leaf around the edge, giving the appearance of a lotus leaf. Each must be decorated with a candle, an incense stick, and some flowers, though many are more elaborate. Often some grains of sand and good luck charms are placed on the Krathong, and a few coins are often added; though these usually end up as some young boy’s extra pocket money. At home in the water, they swim from Krathong to Krathong and a little brown hand gropes around for what it may contain. These days the convenience and buoyancy of banana tree trunks replaced traditional materials.
This year, 2021, the Loy Krathong festival is from November 17 to 20. In Chiang Mai, there are raft races on the river on the first day, and boat races for the next two days. The Yee Peng opening ceremony takes place at Tha Pae Gate early on the first evening, followed by a lantern parade and contest at the Night Bazaar. Beauty contests will be held at Tha Pae Gate on the second and last evenings, and parades of individual Krathongs and giant Krathongs start from there on the second and third evenings. Every night, there will be fireworks, Kome Loy launchings, Lanna cultural performances at the Municipal Offices near the river, and, of course, there is nowhere better to loy your own Krathong.
The origins and Traditions of Loy Krathong “Yee Ping”
Tradition has it that the very first Krathong was made by a beautiful young lady at the royal court of the ancient Kingdom of Sukhothai some 700 years ago. Her name was Naang Noppamart, and she was blessed with great artistic skills. Others imitated her and there was a competition on the night of the 11th full moon of the year. The king judged the competition. Naang Noppamart’s talents were repaid as her Krathong was declared the clear winner. The king decreed that henceforth this one night of the year should become a festival of thanks and should be celebrated by the floating of boats in the shape and form of lotus leaves. The legend lives on and the beauty queen selected at each of the Loy Krathong celebrations around Thailand is, to this day, the winner of the Naang Noppamart parade.
Dating back to ancient days, the decorative ceremony of lanterns was based on Brahmin beliefs, or Brahmanism. At this ceremony, the people of long ago paid respect by worshipping three different gods. These gods were Pra I-Suan, Pra Narai, and Pra Prom. For this reverent ceremony, the candles used to light up the lantern were made from cow’s fat or a wax that came from within the royal gates of the reigning monarch. Usually these candles were made by a Brahmin priest, and of course, the process of making the candles strictly followed the requirements of a Brahmin ceremony.
Formerly, lantern decorations were commonly seen hanging on all mansions in the grand palace. The great numbers and the beauty of the lanterns reflected the status of the royal family members. (Next to the king, the titles of royalty were Jow Fah, Pra Ong Jow, Mom Jow, Mom Rajawong, and Mom Luang). There were also three classifications of lanterns, which were the Kome Chai, the Kome Pra-Tiab, and the Kome Boriwan.
Up until the present time, a tradition developed wherein people sacrifice their time to design and assemble various kinds of strong, beautiful, and creative lanterns. The worshippers donated the lanterns to the temples, asking their wishes to be fulfilled. Usually the person would say a prayer requesting his desire to be a sharp, brighter, and more clever person in the future. This belief is based on the comparison that a bright light would lead a person out of his present darkness into a lustrous future.
As mentioned earlier, these lanterns were devoted to the three different gods. The lanterns were also presented to high ranking officials and wealthy people. It is then interesting to understand why Komes were so presentable and how these lanterns are made. The main structure of these lanterns are usually made with bamboo and covered with a coarse palm paper or cloth. Inside, a bamboo cylinder was necessary to protect the possible burning of the paper, since, altogether, 24 candles were required to light up the lantern. This large number of candles made illumination possible for about three hours. Candles were not always used to light these lanterns. Oils, such as sesame seed, castor, or coconut oils, were also used. The creation of these lanterns is open for the public to see and study during this festival.
People thought that lanterns could only be lit during Buddhist holidays or ceremonies, but, actually, lanterns can be lit every evening or night. These lanterns can be hung on gates, fences, doors, windows, or the roof, or any place an individual wants to adorn with these delightful creations. There have been four different purposes for the northern Thais to hang lanterns. They are for beauty, to pay respect to Buddha images, to make one’s home or mansion brighter, and for propitious purposes.
The Four Traditional Komes (Lanterns)
Nowadays, there are four traditional Komes in the north that attract visitors every year. They are 1) Kome Thuea (carrying lantern) or Kome Gratai (a rabbit’s ear), 2) Kome Kwaen (hanging lantern), 3) Kome Paad (revolving lantern), and 4) Kome Loy (hot air floating lantern).
A Kome Thuea or Kome Gratai has a lighted candle inside. A Buddhist believer will carry it along during the Yee Peng Parade. When the parade is over, the worshippers will take the lanterns and decorate the temples, vihara, and other buildings. If there are other celebrations other than the Yee Peng Festival, beautifully made lanterns are used to decorate a stage. Usually, a lantern shaped as a lotus is used to pay respect and the citizens will pray to the Buddha images and make offerings to the monks.
Kome Kwaen are also offered to pay respect, and prayers to Buddha images are made. There are several shapes of this certain lantern. They are the Baat Pra (Alms bowl), Dow (Star), Ta Gra (Basket), and Tammajak (the wheel of law, which means to have a thorough knowledge about religious discourses). The Buddhists will hang these lanterns around a temple, vihara, alms-house, sala, or house.
The Kome Paad is an interesting lantern since it revolves on an axis. This is done with the aide of the heat from the candle’s smoke. In order to make it revolve, the candle is placed inside the lantern where little gadgets take the energy from the smoke and then revolves. The lantern is shaped like a circle, almost like the earth. Usually there are pictures glued on, such as the 12 characters of the horoscope. This revolving lantern will give the effect of shadow puppets. Kome Paad can only be seen during the Yee Peng Festival. It is placed in the temple gates and is not allowed to be moved from one place to another.
The Kome Loy is a lantern that is similar to a hot-air-balloon. It is also quite similar to that of a normal lantern except it does not require 24 candles for illumination. Because the air lantern must rise up to float in the air, it must be lightweight; therefore, it does not have a bamboo cylinder inside. In order to send the lantern into the air, it requires a method to heat the air. This is done by tying a small bowl underneath the open section of the lantern. Oil is then placed into the bowl along with a cotton cloth. As the oil catches fire and commences burning, the hot air quickly travels into the lantern and it soon rises into the air.
It is believed that by sending off these lanterns an individual can send one’s sins and bad luck into the air. Usually before the lantern soars into the sky, an individual will pray that one’s sin or bad luck will be transported on the lantern and floated away high into the sky. Sometimes an address is left inside. The purpose of this is when the lantern come back down to the ground, and individual can follow an address and seek for money from whoever wrote the address. Or even sometimes, the maker will put some money inside the lantern. The purpose of the hot air lantern is to worship and pay respect to the Phra Ged Kaew Ju La Manee. An old legend tells that during war, these lanterns were sent into enemy territory and exploded.
Today in the city of Chiang Mai the release of the Khome Loy (Sky Lantern) is no longer allowed. A few yeas ago fire have broke out in the city when the Khome Loy landed on roofs of shops and houses so the release of these lanterns into the sky has been band.
The Mass Sky Lantern Release events happening takes place at the temple grounds of Lanna Dhutanka Temple, behind Maejo University, at Sansai District some 20 kilometers northeast of the Chiang Mai.
The 4~5 hours’ programmes normally include cultural and religious activities as well as Buddhist ceremonies like the group prayers, meditation and monk procession. And then at the command of the organizer, everyone let go of their lanterns at the same time.
Ticket prices for these events could costs buyer anywhere from $90 (standard) to $350 (VIP). And due to their popularity, the sky lantern release events are held for 2 nights with the same theme and activities. Thousands of tourists attend the event and tickets sell out quickly. For this reason the Local Thais do not attend this event any longer.
You can release sky lanterns with the locals free of charge at Wat Lok Moli. This temple with a nicely decorated big garden is located on the north side of the old city.
In Chiang Mai, visitors will be treated to an air of festivity in the weeks leading up to Loy Krathong. People begin constructing their Krathong, a small raft to float down the river as an offering. They are traditionally cut in a circular slice from the trunk of a banana tree and decorated with intricate leaf-patterns and flowers. A candle, incense sticks and a few small coins are typically placed as offerings. Archways of banana stems suddenly appear outside homes and businesses, and hanging lanterns, or Kome, are hung anywhere possible. With their beautiful colors and delicate paper streamers, these lanterns glow with a warm charm in the night, along with yellow flames of thousands of miniature terra-cotta nightlights flickering on walls and gateposts in the city.
While Kome are put up all over the city, hot-air balloons, or Kome Loy, are set off into the sky during the festivities. Be careful: there are also fireworks, and the locals often set off their own with no rhyme or reason. And there’s a lot of drinking.
Chiang Mai Thailand’s Ancient City of Wiang Kum Kam
Located just few Kilometers south of the city of Chiang Mai is Wiang Kum Kam.
Wiang Kum Kam was founded in 1286 before King Mengrai established Chiang Mai in 1292.
In 1558 floods ravished Waing Kum Kam and the town was deserted and little was known about the settlement until ruins were found by villagers plowing their fields in 1984.
With the exception of the odd temple standing on higher ground, the entire township had been buried under at least two meters of silt, gravel and debris from the flood. And so it remained for centuries. Talk of the place continued for years but slowly the knowledge of Wiang Kum Kam drifted from people’s memories leaving only some mention in chronicles of that time. The soil, which now covered Wiang Kum Kam, settled, dried and was eventually used for agricultural purposes rice paddies, fruit orchards and many residential homes were built atop the buried city.
The name had been mentioned in chronicles of long ago but, aside from that, not a lot was known. The name was originated from the term of Kum Kum, Kum means Royal Residence meanwhile Kam means area or territory. And so it might have remained had not the Fine Arts Department (responsible for archeology) started digging in and around Chiangmai during the mid 1980’s. Thanks to a lot of research, hard work and effort the ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam is, once again, enjoying the light of day and a tremendous amount of archeological and religious interest.
Mengrai was a Shan Prince of the Tai people; he became King of Lanna in 1259. Lanna at the time included Yunnan China up to what now the city of Khunming, western Laos and eastern Burma (Myanmar). King Mengrai was both a warrior and a wanderer; he made a point of building fortified towns to consolidate and protect his kingdom. The cities of Chiang Saen (on the Mekhong River) and Chiang Rai were both settled by King Mengrai and pre-date the founding of Chiangmai. King Mengrai had taken Lamphun (the Old Kingdom of Hariphunchai) in 1281 but, after spending a few years there, he wanted a “New City” (Chiangmai) on the rich, fertile flood plain of the River Ping. He moved north from Lamphun and established a fortified settlement on a river-bend which would give protection on two sides and flood a moat dug around the remaining two sides. This was Wiang Kum Kam and the year was 1286.
The Lanna Kingdom was mainly ruled by the Mangrai Dynasty, and can be divided in to 3 periods which are the Early Kingdom (1259-1355), The Golden Periods–of art, culture, power and economy (1355-1525) and the Decline and Fall of the Kingdom (1525-1558).
The ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam is quiet and peaceful. Narrow roads wiht small strams and old houses dot most of the area along with 2 temples used today. So far 34 ancient sites have been identified and unearthed. Archeologists are confident that more will follow.
To visit Wiang Kum Kam on a weekend you can partake in making local handicrafts, taste local food or get a traditionl massage. You can lso visit a home constructed just as it would have been during the period of King Mengrai. There are trams to tke you to the mny ruins or you can hire a horse driven carriage.
The best way to tour Wiang Kum Kam is by horse and buggy with your guide or by bicycle. You can rent the horse and buggy with driver at Wat Mengrai and Wat Nan Chang at Wiang Kum Kam.
For an excellent Thai dinning experience, a traditional Lanna Khantoke dinner is a must.
Many believe this north Thailand dinner with music and dance was invented for tourists, but the Khantoke dinner dates back many centuries. Locals celebrate festivals and holidays in their homes with the Khantoke dinner today.
Sitting down to a well-presented meal of good and delicious food is something most of us enjoy. Then there are those stand-up occasions where we mix and mingle with other guests and enjoy cocktails and finger foods. Finger foods? Eating with one’s fingers? Considered as neither polite nor hygienic in some circles, eating with our fingers is as old as the human race. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it, as we all do it perhaps without thinking.
In Thailand, many people still eat with their fingers and this has nothing to do with social strata. It depends, rather, on the place, the occasion and the meal that is being served. A Thai hostess will follow a set etiquette when offering a meal that will be eaten with the fingers, and those eating will be polite and delicate as they partake of the meal.
Traditional Thai meals are rarely one plate experiences, so the Western concept of having meat, two veggies, and gravy all on one plate is alien to Thai dining. Likewise, the use of an array of cutlery seems to be overkill in Thai minds (most Thais settle for a fork and spoon when not using their fingers). Unless one is invited to a Thai home, the closest most visitors get to dining a la Lanna (northern Thai) is at a Kantoke dinner, so this is something you might like to try.
Visitors who have been to a Thai dinner show in Bangkok usually decide to give Khantoke dinners a miss because they think the two are similar. The Khantoke Dinner Dance Show is much more enjoyable than other dinner shows because of the pervading informal atmosphere, really different style of cooking, and gentle slow-tempo dance entertainment.
Khantoke is a Lanna Thai tradition, not just something invented for tourists’ amusement. Thai Lanna was a civilized Kingdom that existed in the area of present-day northern Thailand. King Mengrai was the king who founded the capital and the dynasty. He accomplished and contributed to the prosperity of the kingdom in several aspects, e.g. political science, Buddhist religion, art, and culture.
There are several traditions that eventually became northern heritage one of which is Khantoke. Even today, khantoke implies dinner or lunch offered by a host to guests at various ceremonies or parties, e.g. in the home – weddings, housewarmings, celebrations, novice ordinations, life extensions, or funerals. At the temple celebrations for buildings in a temple’s compound, namely bhote, wiharn, sala; Grand Sermons annual festivals such as — Khao Pansa, Og Pansa, Loy Krathong, and new year.
Trays, spatulas, big spoons, and food containers are the essential implements required for eating. Wood, bamboo, rattan, and coconut shell have been used as raw materials for making the food tray and container products. Coconut shells are used to make spatulas and big spoons. Bamboo is used to make dishes, bowls, boxes, trays, and so forth.
Dimensions of the pedestal tray, Khantoke are low, round tables with several legs connected to the top tray that has a round base. Khantoke (or it is sometimes called toke) was originally made with a big solid piece of teak wood. Lathing and carving techniques are employed. After lathing, carving, and polishing, coating with natural polymers was then applied. Bamboo and rattan can be also used instead of teak wood.
Therefore, khantoke lacquer-ware, which has bamboo as a base, is also popular. Kian is a northern Thai word (similar to central Thai for word of gluing) that means lathe. Therefore, Baan Chang Kian or Wat Chang Kian used to be the community that was the residence of lathe craftsmen (chang) in the old days.
The wonderful thing about a traditional Lanna Khantoke dinner is the combination of classical Thai dance and music with excellent food. To describe Thai Classical Dance, in words, can never do justice to the art form. To view a performance, especially if many dancers are involved, reminds me of a field of sunflowers, or wheat, swaying in unison at the whim of an evening breeze. Or perhaps the soaring of seabirds as they ride the thermals, at one with the wind. Thai Dancing is a pageant of poetry in motion.
Stemming from the Royal Courts of Old Siam (not necessarily within the geographic boundaries of present-day Thailand), the influence of which extended as far East as the Khmer capital of Angkor, Classical Dancers entertained and soothed their local royalty as well as performing before visiting royals and nobility.
When you arrive for your Kantoke dinner, you will have to remove your shoes before entering into the spacious hall built of teak where decoration is from original materials and motifs only. Your hostess in traditional attire will guide you smilingly to your place, comfortably seated on cushions on the carpeted floor or at nearby tables if you prefer. Within moments, the attentive staff will bring your drinks and Khantoke. The Khantoke is the circular wooden tray set on pedestal that serves as a table. It will carry one of the most delicious meals you have ever eaten.
Using the fingers of the right hand, a small portion of sticky rice that is served in little woven bamboo baskets is kneaded into a bite-sized ball (it takes a little practice!) and the ball is dipped into the desired main dish (a portion can be melded onto the rice ball) before being popped into the mouth. The fingers shouldn’t really enter one’s mouth (the food shouldn’t be crammed) as the movements are politely delicate. A rinse of the fingers and the process is repeated again and again. Thais from the humblest to the highest continue to dine in this traditional manner when the cultural or home occasion arises, and they are adept at making it look easy and gracious.
Start with the fried pumpkin as hors d’oeuvres and then alternate as you like between the mildly spicy red chili, tomato and minced pork dip, the succulent fried chicken, and a mouth-watering Burmese pork curry that is so gentle, so soft that you will gladly accept a second helping.
The chili dip is called Nam Prik Awng and is teased from its bowl with pieces of deep-fried crispy pork skin or freshly sliced cucumber, whichever you prefer. The chicken and Hangleh, as the pork curry is called, go well with the stir-fried cabbage and either the sticky or plain cooked rice. The Khantoke also contains a bowl of crispy fried noodles to complement the rice. Dessert, served separately, consists of fried rice crispies and, if you dare to break the spell of tradition, either coffee or tea.
About halfway through your meal, a classical orchestra will begin to accompany troupes of dancers in gorgeous costumes, or occasionally a solo dancer, as they perform the graceful movements of Thai classical dance for your pleasure. These are absolutely authentic Northern Thailand dances, quite distinct from those performed in Bangkok and Ayutthaya. They are rooted in the region’s history, literature, and way of life.
While some, like the Fingernail Dance, which is usually performed only on special occasions such as a state visit, are slow, stately, and exquisitely graceful; others, such as the solo Sword Dance, have a flashing, ferocious beauty. Performances, such as the Magic Fowls Dance, meanwhile, are taken from local folklore and literature while a fourth genre that includes the Silk Reeling Dance depicts various aspects of daily village life.
In some cases, the dances were originally either choreographed or polished by northern court poets and dance instructors to celebrate a particular event such as the royal visits of King Prajadhipok and King Rama the Seventh to Chiang Mai in 1927. In others, members of the old Chiang Mai royal family were themselves the inspiration.
The Shan and Burmese courts are represented in other dances such as the Mahn Mui Chiangta Dance, while the Thai Lue Dance is originally performed by the Thai Lue people of Nong Bua village in Nan Province. The final dance is the Ramwong, or Circle Dance. This is a typical Thai folk dance that was popularized some 60 or 70 years ago. After a few introductory rounds so that you, the guests, can see how it is done, the dancers will invite you to join in on a cheerful, friendly finale to evening’s program.
The total time takes about two hours to eat and enjoy the music and entertainment. This is a dinner you must do at least once while visiting Chiang Mai. Many Thai people from Bangkok and other parts of Thailand always visit a Khantoke Dinner restaurant when in Chiang Mai.
The art of Thai Boxing, Muay Thai, has been the country’s most popular spectator sport for hundreds of years.
It is unique among other kinds of fighting disciplines in its approach to close quarters fighting. Fighters are able to more effectively use their elbows, knees, feet and fists than in other martial art.
The art of Muay Thai has been the country’s most popular spectator sport for hundreds of years.. It is unique among other kinds of fighting disciplines in its approach to close quarters fighting. Fighters are able to more effectively use their elbows, knees, feet and fists than in other martial art.
The sport differs from international-style boxing in several ways. International boxing allows the use of only the fists, and blows ‘below the belt or to the kidney area are illegal as are certain kinds of punches. In Muay Thai, the fighters are allowed to do almost anything so long as they don’t cover their opponent’s face with their gloves or poke their opponent’s eyes with their fingers. This makes it a more dangerous sport for the participants, but much more exciting for the Thai spectators .
Before every match, the two fighters dance around the ring to special boxing music. The music pervades the entire event, both uplifting and following the mood of the evening. The dance is called the ‘Raam Muay’ or ‘Wai Kru’ and is intended to honor and pay respect to the boxer’s trainer, his religion, family, sport and the ‘fighting spirits’ . Gamblers and spectators say that they can tell how a fighter will do in the ring simply by watching how he performs the ‘Raam Muay’.
One of Muay Thai’s most feared tactics is the use of elbows. Boxers have a whole repertoire of forward elbows, back elbows and guards. The fearsome Muay Thai fighters of old were said to be able to use their elbows as clubs, swords and axe – resulting from the hard bone at the tip of the elbow and the size of the appendage make it a fearsome weapon. One of the elbow attacks, the swing-back elbow, is thought of as one of the most beautiful moves in Muay Thai, and some stadiums give special awards to boxers who can knock out an opponent this way.
Knees are another of Muay Thai’s unique weapons and skilled boxers can use them in both close and mid-range attacks and parries. There are only a few types of knee attacks, but the power that can be put into a kick is fear-inspiring . Muay Thai opponents often grab the other around the neck to add more force to their knee kicks, and to help their balance.
The feet and legs are the most characteristic of the Muay Thai techniques, so much so that when the Japanese borrowed the sport for their own use they called it ‘kick boxing’. The feet of a Muay Thai master can be used in many ways; sweeping kicks, jumping kicks, combinations with other attacks or even straight to the face of the opponent. Boxers practice kicking their own hands to strengthen their legs and increase their range.
The fist in Muay Thai, while not the most spectacular technique for the crowd, is the most versatile of all of the boxer’s choices. Jabs can be used effectively to annoy and anger the opponent. While hooks or uppercuts can be used to knock him out through a hole in his guard. Thai legends abound with tale of a man who could box with his fists from a crouching position, and even pull his opponent’s whiskers before getting hit. Effective straight punches can do damage to a boxer’s body. A punch must always be thrown to start a Muay Thai fight, alone or in combination with a elbow or knee attack.
The history of Muay Thai goes back some 2000 years, as long as Thai culture itself. As the Thai tribes migrated south from the southern Yunan province of China, they were exposed to attacks and constant harassment from various groups, including the expansionist Chinese. The people were forced to develop a strong military and a formal military doctrine. The military code was called the Chupasart, and it called on all able bodied people to be prepared to come to the aid of their leaders with the current weapons of the time; swords, spears, axes, bows and others. Since not everyone could afford these weapons, many took up the use of the human body as a weapon. Thus Muay Thai was born.
During the reign of King Naresuan the Great (16th cent.), Muay Thai was brought in as part of the training of foot soldiers and remains a part of their education to this day. Many of the day’s battles were settled by soldiers in hand-to-hand combat and Muay Thai reflects this use. Even today, many of the sport’s moves are efficient at breaking through the opponent’s defences to get to the other side.
As with many things in Thai history, it is said that kings have taken an interest in the sport before. One story involves a king in the Ayutthya period named Pra Jao Sri Sanpetch Vlil . He was said to be an avid boxer, and would often conceal himself in the clothes of a commoner in order to take part in the fun, despite the danger to him . Once he was accredited with beating all comers at a temple fair in Ban Pajanta in the Wiset Chaichan district.
Most people think good Thai Boxing can only be seen in Bangkok however excellent matches can be seen all over the Kingdom include small villages. In Chiang Mai Kawaila Boxing Stadium, across the street from Sampakoi market, has exciting matches every Friday night beginning at 8PM. Many good Thai restaurants and food vendors in the area so go purchase your ticket, enjoy a meal then watch the matches.
The markets on Wualai Road on Saturday and Rajdumnern Road on Sunday are much different than the Night Bazaar.
While the Night Bazaar has it’s flashing neon signs advertising the western food chains and merchandise, crowded narrow walkways crammed with hawkers and tourists, the Weekend Bazaars offer a more relaxing experience.
Large wide avenues are blocked off from vehicle traffic at 4 PM until 11 PM. Talented craft persons and northern Thai fresh food vendors politely sell they wares along the sidewalks and on colorful temple grounds. Both weekend walking markets are excellent however each is different in the types of wares sold, atmosphere and experiences.
The Saturday Bazaar on Wualai Road is the old city silver-making district and even today you can still hear the tapping of hammers as the silversmiths sculpture beautiful designs on bowls, cups, bracelets, rings and wall murals. You can watch them make their beautiful creations as they sit on the street in front of their shops.
There are several silver shops on Wualai Road so look at all of them before deciding on a purchase. Plenty of food and drink vendors along the street and small restaurants where you can take a rest and take in the surroundings so no need to rush.
The Sunday Bazaar on Rajdumnern Road begins at Thapae Gate and ends at the city police station about 6 bocks west. About half way up, at Prapokklao Road, the Bazaar continues south past Wat Chedi Luang for another block and north to the 3 kings statue and the old Provincial Hall, which is now the Chiang Mai City Museum. A stage is set up on the grounds of the museum where northern Thai musicians and dancers in traditional costumes give live performances starting around 7 PM.
Rajdumnern Road seams to have one temple after another. The temple grounds are where almost all the food stalls are set up. Here they have tables and chairs where you can sit and have everything from French Fries to Papaya Salad, soups and grilled Thai dishes. Lots of different foods and deserts you probably have never seen before are available. Soft Thai music is usually played on the temple sound system to add to the eating experience.
Both Bazaars are lots of fun and several hours can be spent here enjoying the culture, food, people and atmosphere. Unlike the Night Bazaar with its copied brand products, fake jewelry and handicrafts made in China or Burma both weekend markets have real handcraft persons selling their goods.
The real fun is not the shopping but the ambience. Every block has traditional Thai Music being played by elders and children. The rich colors of the surrounding temples, the smell of garlic, grilled fish, sausages and chilies being cooked and roasted. People are eating smiling and just having a good time. Oh, one more thing. Get your snack and cold drink and take it to one of the many foot massage operations set up on the sidewalk. Sit back in the comfortable cushioned reclining chair and just watch, listen and take it all in.
This season The Chiang Mai Flower Festival is Feb. 4 – 6, 2022.
Every year during the first weekend in February is the Chiang Mai Flower Festival. The city is awash with vibrant colors ranging from the electric orange and lilac colors of the bougainvillea to the velvety blossoms of petunias in all shades of pink, white and purple. The strident red of the poinsettias, bought by many at Christmas and New Years, is echoed by beds of scarlet Salvias. Homes and shop owners alike line the city streets with colorful flower boxes. The sheer profusion of color that the flower festival and carnival brings to Chiangmai aptly gives the city its name “Rose of the North”.
On all three days of the festival, prize blooms are on display at Suan Buak Haad near the city center. Every type of flower, miniature tree and orchid is put on display for the judges to choose the best of the species. Landscape specialists put on an elaborate display, which includes patios and waterfalls with exotic decorative plants and flowers.
The best part of the flower festival is on Saturday. This is when we load our lawn chairs and ice chest in the pick-up and head to D.K. Bookstore along the moat in the city center. We go there because there is plenty of parking and excellent coffee and pastry shops.
On the way we passed the flower covered floats, Hill Tribes and Thais in their traditional dress and uniformed marching bands all getting in line to start the parade. We had to leave the house before 8 AM as the parade start around 9 AM. Although it would not be until 10 AM until the parade reached us we had lots of fun eating food from local vendors, relaxing in our lawn chairs at curbside and watching the world go by.
The parade lines up from the train station to Narawatt bridge so the police close most of Jarenmuang Road around 8 AM. The VIP viewing stand is right next to the bridge in front of the Chiangmai Governor’s home. The Parade route goes down Thapae Road to the Gate and turns left and follows the moat to Suan Buak Haad City Park.
The parade moves at a slow pace and stops several times so there is plenty of time to take pictures of the colorful floats, pretty girls and hill tribe people in costume. The people in the parade hand out roses to spectators lining the road.
When the parade finishes everyone heads to Suan Buak Haad where all the floats, award winning flower growers and landscapers projects are all on display. There are plenty of food stalls located in the park and in late afternoon the Miss Chiang Mai Flower festival starts. The party goes well into the evening until the new Flower Festival Queen is chosen.
If you are intersted in viewing flowers from all around the world a trip to the International Ratchaphruek Flower Gardens should be in your itinerary. Also a trip to Inthanon National Park for bird watching where all the trees are in full bloom should not be missed.
This is a great time to visit Chiang Mai, as the air is cool and the evenings fresh and clear. If you want to see the festival make sure you book your hotels and flights well in advance.
Chiang Mai Thailand Accommodations, Food, Night Life, Travel and Tour Advice.
About the Author: Mr. Randy Gaudet, founder and director of All Thailand Experiences has been living in Chiang Mai and north Thailand since 1989. Randy has written many informative blogs, articles and stories about his experiences in north Thailand.
Many guide books on Thailand only partially cover the real life experiences in Chiang Mai, I have been living here since 1989 so I would like to give you some advice about protocol, travel and accommodations in and around the city of Chiang Mai Thailand. Hopefully it will help you to enjoy your travels in Northern Thailand.
In the foot hills of the Himalayan Mountains 800 kilometers north of Bangkok is the culturally rich city of Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai is the longest continuously lived in settlement from the ancient days of Siam.
Chiang Mai could only be reached by an arduous river journey or an elephant back trip until the nineteen twenties. Chiang Mai’s distinctive charm is still intact up to the present day.
When you arrive in Chiang Mai Thailand, it helps to know a bit about transportation within the city. At the airport, train station, or bus station, you will probably be met by the representatives of various guesthouses and hotels and tour operators. If you have a specific place in mind and you don’t see the specific signboard, you can always call the place to have someone pick you up from the train station, airport, or bus arcade depot. Taxis are available at the airport, with a price of 150 baht to most destinations.
The common vehicles of public transportation are more varied than public buses. The terms ‘tuk tuk’ and ‘samlaw’ are open-air, three-wheel vehicles, and ‘zeelor’ and ‘songthaow’ describe vehicles with four wheels. Whenever you get in a ‘tuk tuk’, ‘zeelaw’, or ‘samlaw’, you should make sure that they take you where you want to go. Often the drivers work on commission and may tell you that the place you want to go is dirty, closed, or full if they don’t have a previous agreement with the place you have in mind. Always negotiate the price before you get in a tuk tuk or samlaw. A zeelaw ride should cost 15 Baht on a regular route, more if you hire it out to go somewhere out of the way.
The best way to get around Chiangmai is by ‘songtaow’. These are covered pick-up trucks with two benches in the back. “Songtaow” means “two benches” in Thai. You will see them everywhere, and it’s easy to get them to pick you up. All you need to do is to put your arm out and look at the driver, and they will stop. Then tell the driver which street you want to go to, and if he is going that way, he will shake his head “yes”; if not, he will say “no” and go on. Don’t worry—there will be another one right behind him. When the driver turns down the street you want, start looking for where you want to get off and press the switch located on the roof of the cab. The driver will pull over, let you out, and then you pay him.
The fare should be 20 Thai baht or less (around 50 cents). If you tell the driver a hotel or establishment, he will think you want to hire him for a private trip, and the price will be much more. Negotiate any price beforehand if you want to go to an establishment.
Renting a motorbike or scooter:
There is a wide variety of two wheeled transportation available in Chiang Mai from loads of rental agencies. Price start from just a few dollars a day for a 100CC automatic scooter to large harley Davidson cycles, off road dirt motorbikes and every thing in between. It is important to know which type of motor bike works best for where you plan to ride.
IMPORTANT: Most people rent the automatic small scooters however this is very dangerous if you plan to travel into the mountain countryside or to Doi Suthep Temple on the mountain above the city. This is because when going downhill the scooter goes into neutral so you are free-wheeling and must use only your brakes to slow you down. If there are 2 of you on the scooter going downhill you could have a brake failure and find yourself in big trouble. The automatic scooters are made for riding in the city only not in the mountains.
If you are going to go into the mountains rent an automatic clutch motorbike or better so you can downshift when going downhill so the engine can help you slow down. A Honda Dream or Honda Wave is great for beginner riders and has an automatic clutch and a 4 speed transmission so you can downshift to help slow you down and also has a better power range when going uphill.
When you rent any form of transportation take photos from every angle of the vehicle to show the condition of the vehicle before you rent it. This will protect you from any rental agency trying to get you pay for damage that was there before you rented the vehicle.
Booking accommodations might be the biggest decision you will make while visiting Chiang Mai. I hear many visitors saying “Chiang Mai has no real culture as there are too many tourists”. If you stay in the city center inside the moat and city walls, tourists is all you will see. The Chiang Mai locals call this area “Tourist Town”
Since 2010 over 100 new guest houses, small boutique hotels, restaurants, tourist souvenir shops and pubs have been built within or near the moat and old city walls. The establishments have now claimed this area as “The Old City” which is far from the truth. The real “Old City” is the area of “Gatluang” near Wararot Market located along the Ping River where all the commerce, traders and craft persons worked and lived. Inside the city walls is where the Royal Family, temple monks, Royal staff and elite military resided. The citizens of Chiang Mai were only allowed inside the old city walls during festivals, Buddhist holidays and with Royal events.
Today most of the business and residents inside the old city walls and moat are owned and operated by people from Bangkok and expats. This area now is more like the heavy touristy Kaosan Road in Bangkok than the culturaly rich Chiang Mai.
Another popular place is Nimmanhemin road in The “Huay Khao” area. This part of the city is where most of the expats live with condos, coffee shops and shopping malls catering to the western lifestyle. Again most shops owned and operated by those from Bangkok or expats, not much Thai culture here and prices are rather high so Thai people cannot afford to go there.
You can avoid the large number of tourists and experience the real charm of Chiang Mai by staying only 2 or 3 kilometers from the city walls and moat, not only that but at a lower price. There are wonderful communities where you can visit local markets, temples and talk with locals in their shops and restaurants. Experience real Thai food and daily life of local communities. The guest houses and small boutique hotels are far apart and you can get a ride by “Songtaow” into the city center within minutes.
Some of these areas are “Sanpakhoi” just across the Ping River on the Narawat Birdge. This is the home of the first Christian church in Chiang Mai, the lively Sanpakhoi market and Kawila Boxing Stadium. “Waulai” Area is across the street and moat from Chiang Mai gate and home of several small silversmiths, The silver temple at Wat Si Suphan and the Saturday night walking market.
Try booking your guest house or small hotel east of the Ping River or the old silver making area north of town near Wualai road. Waulai road has the Saturday night Walking Night Bazaar and home of the beautiful Silver Temple “Wat Siri Suphan”.
The Thai people have several customs that are important to remember to avoid causing offense. Never touch the head, because it is the most sacred part of the body. The feet are the lowliest part, so don’t point them at others or rest them above ground level. Never stop a rolling Thai Baht coin or any type of Thai currency with your foot, as the money here has a picture of the king on it.
Respect for the king and religious customs is another important part of Thai protocol. They have great respect for the royal family, the flag, and anything with an image of the king, including the money. When you visit a Buddhist temple, you should always remove your shoes before entering any buildings. Men should wear long pants, and women should wear knee-length or longer skirts. Women are not allowed to touch monks or make prolonged eye contact with them. Do not sit on the walls surrounding the jedee, which contains the temple’s sacred relics of the Buddha.
Meeting and making friends with different people is an exciting part of travel anywhere. In Northern Thailand, it helps to know a bit of the language and something about the protocol. To say “hello”, say “Sawatdee Krup” for men and “Sawatdee Kha” for women. To learn more Thai before you come, an excellent free teaching website can be found at http://www.learningthai.com/. You will gain loads of respect from the Thai people if you learn just the basics.The Thais put a lot of emphasis on manners, so it’s a good idea to learn to say “Thank you”. In Thai, it’s “Kob Khun”, followed by “Krup” or “Kha” for women. The “why”, spelled W A I, made by placing your palms together in front of the upper chest is the traditional Thai gesture of greeting or respect, and the gesture is always appreciated. The custom is that younger people “why:, elders first, so let the children and persons you think are younger than you “why” before you “why” them.
Whatever happens, though, don’t display your anger, because the Thais will think you uncultured, and ranting will get you nowhere. Smile and think “no problem”. Thais do not like confrontation, so getting angry will get you nowhere in Thailand. Here is an example:
Let’s say you arrive at your hotel and want a nice, hot shower or bath. You turn on the tap and find the hot water is not working. What most people would do is call the front desk and complain, and if you are tired, you might raise your voice a little, saying, “The hot water doesn’t work—what’s the problem?” It might take a long time before someone comes to check it out, if at all. What you should do is say, “I don’t know how to get the hot water turned on in my room; would you please have someone show me?” Someone will come to your room within a minute or two to check it out.
Food and Entertainment:
Thailand is a country of gourmands. Eating out is one the nation’s favorite activities, and knowing a bit of table manners will help you appear more civilized. Waiters and waitresses in Thailand are trained to take your entire order. When they take the order, they will often ask “one”, which is their way of asking whether they got it correctly or not. The entire meal is customarily served at the same time, but the empty dishes are removed one by one. Some street-side restaurants will not remove any dishes or bottles until you finish your meal. This is because they do not write down your order. They shout your order to the cook, and after the meal, they will count the plates and bottles and figure out the bill then.
In the evening it seems every neighborhood has pre-cooked food for sale to take home. This is Thai fast food at it’s best. See what precooked Thai food you can buy at the market. Here I bought a 3 course meal and rice for $1.20USD or 50 Thai baht. Why cook at home when you can buy excellent cooked food this cheap
Chiang Mai and the north have plenty of night entertainment available. It runs the gamut from restaurants to nightclubs, discos, or video bars. Thai people are often as interested in meeting you as you might be in meeting them, but one should exercise discretion and sometimes a bit of caution, especially in matters of the heart. In romantic situations, Westerners and Thais both occasionally get hurt. The best advice is to think with your head and your heart. Enjoy yourself, but be very adult about any given situation.
Many visitors to Chiang Mai enjoy taking trips outside the city. We recommend these trips highly, but don’t forget to bring a few extras in case of emergency. Flashlights and extra batteries, as well as camera batteries, are recommended, as are matches or a lighter. Jackets may be needed for the cold evenings, specially when visiting hill tribes high in the mountain, or Inthanon National Park. Don’t forget a first-aid kit and the ever-important toilet paper for emergencies. Ear plugs are a good idea if staying overnight in a hill tribe village, as the roosters can be very loud at 3AM. To see what is available outside the city from trekking and adventures to visiting hill tribe villages and ancient ruins while on tour visit ourAll Thailand Experiences Main Page.
A local hill tribe guide to join you is a must or better is a hill tribe home stay. Village customs and traditions must be strictly obeyed, only a local guide or host family knows as every village has different rules. Here are a few tips when touring or trekking.
Ask to meet your guide first. Talk alone with your guide. Find out how much your guide knows about the village as you can. Tell your guide you want to give candy to children and pay villagers money for photos and if he or she says no problem find a different operator and guide. Many tour operators don’t care about the well being of the villagers and will say yes to anything you want to do.
Make sure you are not allowed to give candy to children or money for pictures. Fruit is the best option to give and can be purchased for around 25 Thai Baht per Kilo. Hill tribe children get candy any time their parents can afford it as it is very cheap but they never have enough money for fruit. Figure to purchase around 10 Kilos of fruit for a normal sized village.
Nothing should be exchanged directly between the visitor and anyone in the village. Give your gifts or fruit to the village headman, elder or teacher and they will distribute it. They know all the children and make sure everyone gets their fair share. If you do this yourself or the guide the older children will take it away from the younger ones. Another trick is a child will run back to their house and put it away and come back for more. The teacher or village headman will not let this happen.
Please be careful with trekking operators that advertise new area or village. Most good eco-culture friendly operators go to the same area and villages year after year. They have an excellent relationship with them so everything is in balance and harmony so they do not need to go to a new area.
Ask how many persons are going on the trek with you and get it in writing as part of your receipt. Many people are told a small number later to find out there are up to 15 persons going on the trek. If they come to pick you up and there is more than what they wrote on your receipt when you paid for the trek get your money back. 6 persons should be the maximum and the fewer the better and a private trek is best. The fewer people on the trek or tour the better the experience.
An eco-culture tour and trekking operator will keep the number of persons visiting a village small. The impact of even 50 visitors a month in a village is devastating and should not be allowed. Some excellent operators take visitor to a village only once a week and then no more than 6 persons. They have many villages they can visit so they can take tourists daily to different villages.
There are areas where hundreds of trekkers visit each month to the same villages. In many villages in these areas the villagers will run up to you and try to sell you trinkets made in China as soon as you arrive. You will need to pay money for photos or make a purchase from them. Once you buy something from 1 you will be bombarded by several more selling the same trinkets. The villages heavily visited by tour groups and trekkers are mainly the Mae Teang and Pai areas.
A village is a very communal place and what belongs to one belongs to all. Jealousy and hate between villagers can arise because one family or person received something from you and they didn’t. It is true that many villages that are visited by tourists drop drastically in population because of jealousy. Most move away to a different village. Usually that of another family member who is married to someone in that village.
Most hill tribe villages do not have handicrafts as they spend most of their time working in their fields. There may however be elderly women in the village taking care of young children that do make handicrafts. In this case there will be one home or area where handicrafts can be viewed and bought. No one will bother you to buy anything and you are not looked at as a major source of income.
Hill Tribe Home Stay:
For a wonderful experience making life long friendships and learning local culture a Hill Tribe Home Stay is a must. The best areas for a village home stay is Doi Inthanon National Park and the small village of Thaton, both away from the normal tourist crowds.
Although both are with Karen hill tribes they are much different in what is available to enjoy. At Doi Inthanon home stay you will experience hiking in the cloud forest, swim at the waterfalls, learn to roast coffee and enjoy village life. In the Thaton Home Stay You visit other hill tribe villages such as Lahu and Akha, learn to weave cotton, visit the local market, cook Thai food then a private long tail boat ride.
Both are at clean comfortable traditional homes in your own bedroom, clean toilets with showers and all bedding is provided. In both villages your guide speaks perfect English and in Thaton your guide speaks all the hill tribe languages.
If you enjoy hiking and the outdoors Doi Inthanon is the one. For a more culture experience the village in the Thaton area is best.
Visiting villages on your own.
Some want to visit hill tribe villages on their own and most of these want to spend an evening with a family in the village. This is not a good idea. You must know the culture and customs of the village and each village is different. You can do a lot of harm by just entering the village from the wrong gate. Many have gates for visitors and gates for residents and the villagers believe if you enter from the wrong gate you could be bringing in bad spirits with you. They will then have to spend money for a ritual to cast out bad spirits that you brought in.
If you pay money to stay with a family the other families will be jealous and this could cause unbalance and arguing among villagers. They also barely have enough food to feed their family and will feed you and not have enough to feed themselves. They do not eat the same food as Thais so if you bring food they may not eat it. They do not use fish sauce but salt and they do not eat the white pig but black pig. Also they do not eat their own animals, not even eggs. They purchase eggs and meat from other villages to eat as they will not kill their own animals so sell them to other villages. If you give them money for food they will have to travel a long way to the market and will cost them time and money.
If you are thinking of staying overnight in a hill tribe village it is best to do a Home Stay that is included in your trek or tour not in a large group trek or going on your own. This way you will be treated like family not an unwanted guest. You will be able to visit local markets, visit neighboring villages and cook meals with your host family. You will make friends for a lifetime while enjoying a wonderful experience.
If you would like to visit a real hill tribe village find a tour or trekking operator that follow the basic rules of Eco tourism in Thailand They can provide a local hill tribe guide that knows the culture of the village and knows the villagers like family or has family in the village.
Eco-tourism is not cheap so before you go out to find the best price for a trek or tour, first think about who wins and who looses on a cheap tour or trek. No one wins. Think about it.