Songkran, celebrating the Thai New Year
01 May 2014
Our recent trip to Chiang Mai was filled fun and surprise, but most of all it was the epitome of pure pleasure. We arrived at the Chiang Mai International Airport at 8:30 in the evening and were greeted by the courtesy transfer service provided by our Shangri-La Hotel. Within minutes we were at the hotel, checked into our wonderful suite and ready to set out to see what awaited us.
We were very excited because it was the first night of the Thai New Year and their infamous water festival, Songkran. Perhaps fortunately, there wasn’t a lot of water throwing during the night. From the hotel we took a tuk-tuk to the night bazaar and the walking street. Our senses were overwhelmed by the boisterous ambiance which was filled with exuberant smells, exotic tastes and unbelievable sights. Mobile food stalls, street venders and artistic performers provided most of this nightly enchantment, but the excitement of the crowds of people was just as overwhelming. What a night!
Back at the hotel we asked for assistance from Bo at customer relations in the Horizon Club to help us plan an our next few days. The excitement and emotion of the Songkran festival was enormous but we wanted to see a little more of the area outside of the city. Although we were well aware that wherever we went their would be lots of water throwing to celebrate the Thai New Year!
Bo was great she had lots of suggestions and was ever so helpful in making all the arrangements. We decided to first visit Doi Sethep temple just about 15 kilometres outside Chiang Mai. It’s one of the most sacred temples in the area and is definitely a must-see. The temple is incredibly beautiful and its location on the mountain side allows for magnificent vistas of Chiang Mai city down below.
After the morning visit of the temple we still had plenty of time to go bamboo rafting down a scenic river and visit an elephant care center. However, I think we actually saw more water on the drive to and from our visits. There were lots of Songkran enthusiasts celebrating along the roadside, prepared with their water hoses and huge containers of water dousing everyone as we drove by. We were glad that we had decided not to take a motorbike or scooter. Though the laughter and smiles from everyone envolved really made for a fun and worthwhile adventure.
For the following day Bo had arranged for us to join a small group tour of the Chiang Rai area. Our first stop was at a hot springs area where we could soak our feet. What a relaxing treat. But the next stop was perhaps the highlight of the day for us: Wat Rong Khun or the White Temple. This is an unconventional, contemporary temple that is a true work of art. Even for those who have seen enough temples and are “templed out”, the White Temple will not leave you indifferent and is another must-see.
On our third day in Chiang Mai most of the Songkran festivities were over and it was safe to visit the city without getting drenched. We took a tuk-tuk from the hotel and went into the old part of the city to have a leisurely walk, stopping quite often at quaint cafés and artsy shops. Of course a massage was also called for and we did not let the opportunity pass us up. Oh how we will miss the Thai massages back home!
Chiang Mai and its surrounding area has so much to offer. Whether you are interested in adventure, culture or just having fun there is something for everyone. We were lucky enough to stay in an magnificent hotel with outstanding facilities,impeccable service and a great location which made our visit even more amazing!