Thai's New Year Song Kran Festival
Songkran Day has been celebrated as New Year's Day in the Thai solar calendar since ancient times. The date coincides with the day the sun leaves Pisces and enters Aries, usually falling on April 13 of each year.
The word "Songkran" means a passage or course and refers to the position of the sun within the solar system. As the sun enters each of the houses of the zodiac constellation, a songkran cycle is completed. Over time, the use of the term has become more generic and Songkran is more commonly associated with the period when the sun enters Aries, in April. During this time, the sun is equidistant to the earth so there are an equal number of hours during the day and night, a phenomenon known as "mahasongkran" (the supreme cycle). This marks the beginning of the Thai new year.
Songkran is celebrated normally over a 3-day period.
The night market in Chiang Mai is fantastic. It is huge and probably covers at least a square mile. There are market stalls lining the main streets plus many of the side streets.
I found the prices the cheapest in Thailand, cheaper than Bangkok and Southern Thailand.
You will find everything for sale from traditional Thai carvings through to clothes, CD's and fake designer goods.
Make sure you have a large suitcase when you visit Chiang Mai. Shop till you drop :) There is something for everyone in the market. Prices are cheaper than Bangkok and Southern Thailand so start haggling at a lower price than normal.
For example I bought 5 silk shirts for 10 British pounds (about 20 US dollars).
From Airport to Town by Tuk Tuk
If you do not have a lot of luggage and are not travelling with more than one companion, taking a tuk tuk to town is both an interesting and cheap way to go to your hotel or any other places downtown.
Unlike in Bangkok, there no "regular" taxis in Chiang Mai (well, at least in May 2005) and in their places, are the ubiquitous tuk tuk. Catching one is easy as they are really abundant in tourist friendly Chiang Mai.
As a guide, taking a tuk tuk to anywhere in town (whether in the old city or the surrounding areas) should cost about 80 baht (about US$2) and takes no longer than 12 minutes.
Street Food : Strawberries drenched in syrup
Come December in Chiang Mai , the weather will be cool and dry and strawberries will be in season. The berries over here are smaller than your average Californian variety so they are drenched in sugar syrup to tame the tart taste. They're are sold in little plastic cups in the steets. Grab one cup, eat the berries and watch Chiang Mai go by.
Here's my own recipe for the sugar drenched strawberries. Since the I prefer the big, ripe berries from California, there's no need to put sugar since they are naturally sweet.
Soak Strawberries in Apple Cider Vinegar. Steep the berries for one hour at least in the fridge. Scoop contents in cup and Enjoy!
Golden Triangle Part 2
It's about a 3 hour drive from Chiang Mai and you do get a toilet/drink etc stop on the way. The first place we visited was a temple in Chiang Rai and then quite quickly went on to the Golden Triangle. There we had an option to do the longtail boat trip which lasts for 40 minutes. On this trip you pass the huge gold Buddha, go to the actual "Golden Triangle" and also get to cross onto the Laos side of the river and visit the market there and get your passport stamped with a visit Laos stamp. Interesting, but extremely touristy. They sell strange things like snake whiskey as well as the usual colourful blankets and wood products. The strangest thing of all was the fact that there was a baby bear in a semi large pen out the back of the markets. What was it doing there? Was it there for the tourists? I'm glad that it sort of had enough room to move though and had plenty to eat with it.