Chiang Mai in a Day

07Mar07

an excerpt of my march 2007 article in traverama magazine is available online.

By MAJIDAH HASHIM

It is hard not to fall in love with the first sight of Chiang Mai. As the plane hovers lowly over box after box of lime-green, young rice fields, a quaint little town presents itself to me, neatly, invitingly. Just yonder north, deep green forests lie mysteriously, simply screaming to be explored. To the west, mist ringed mountain ranges in greyish-blue.

There are really two parts to Chiang Mai – The old town and the new town. The two parts would be infused into one another if not for the great Thapae Gate, which spans across the two parts. The gate is to have been built over 700 years ago in resistance to Burmese invaders. Through weathered by the years, the gate stands today as a symbol of the town’s proud past, opening to a brick pavilion on both sides. Hundreds, if not thousands of people pass through the gate each day.

Through the gate and to the older part of Chiang Mai, lies Wat Chendi Luang – Proudly the town’s most prominent temple. The temple’s main shrine, though sustaining heavy damage from an earthquake in 1545, has experienced some restoration work. Though minimal, the better part of this effort is to ensure that the temple does not deteriorate further. The formidable shrine bears four images of the Buddha facing different directions, set majestically on a high altar of bricks and surrounded by an algae-green moat. Firm yet soothing sounds radiate all around the shrine as devotees and visitors alike ring bells set before each Buddha image.

Don’t leave Wat Chendi Luang without exploring the smaller shrines around its compound. To the left of the main shrine, you will find one of Chiang Mai’s most sacred symbols, the City Pillar. A tiny shrine at the back of the main shrine is said to hold the mythical remains of revered monks and a statue of the reclining Buddha…

* The complete article can be read in this month’s issue of Traverama.

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