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Chiang Mai Review: Best Thailand Tour

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Picture of Brian Kennett

Brian Kennett

Amateur Chef and Boozy Traveling Foodie Extraordinaire

Chiang Mai Review: today is temple time for Chiang Mai Review: Day #3 Tour. We had pre-booked Mr Kim again, as he is such a top bloke. We are off to the mountains today for an adventure, with the key item to explore being Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Rajvoravihara (wow, say that after a few Singha’s). 

Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Rajvoravihara is a mountain-top Buddhist Wat (temple) that is flocked to by tourists, and you will see why shortly.

First, we had to leave the hotel, and Mum asked Jude and me to collect her hat from the room. So Jude did. Hey Senor!

Chiang Mai Review Day #3 Kennett's Tour

“Mum, I have your hat for you!” says Baby Jude

It is about a 40-50 minute drive up to the Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Rajvoravihara temple, as it is up and up and up, and weave, weave, weave. The amazing thing on the way up is that countless old Thai guys are cycling it, as our jeepney is struggling and straining, they pedal on relentlessly. 

Mr Kim stopped halfway up at a vantage viewpoint to show off his city, which he is very proud of. Have a look below, I think this is why our series of Chiang Mai Reviews, will end up reaching double digits one day. It is such a wonderful place, and we’ll keep coming back time after time.

Chiang Mi Review Streetfood

All along the roadside are little food stalls, selling all and sundry foodstuffs. The smells and aromas are incredible and the price is dirt cheap.

Chiang Mai review city view

Have a look at that view, this is only halfway up. The sprawling Chiang Mai beneath us, is surrounded by beautiful lush mountains. So picturesque. Breath-taking.

Chiang Mai Review City Scape

And now a little more to the right, my turn to be camera-man. Quick one whilst on this photo – the weather was forecast to be rain/showers all week at Chiang Mai, and we saw no drop of rain. So lucky. There has been a slight cloud with blue skies and sunshine.

Chiang Mai Review family photo Ollie

Just look at this place. There is so much yet unexplored, so more reason to come back!

Chiang Mai Review me and family
Chiang Mai Review Golden Wat

Here is the outside of Wat Prathat Doi Suthep Rajvoravihara, check out the carvings and the gold leaf, but believe me you have seen nothing yet. There is an outer courtyard where you can meander with shoes on still, when you go into the inner sanctum it is shoes off time and cover up for the ladies for respect.

Chiang Mai Review golden buddhist temples

A tad artsy with the focus, but here are water lotus flower candles, with overseeing Buddhas.

Chiang Mai Review black and white Wat

Closed lotus flowers now on top of a minaret, again a wee bit artsy going B&W, but this was just stunning set against the clear blue skies – oh yeah and this is 100% gold in real-life colour. But you’ll see more of that soon.

Chiang Mai Review Green Glass Buddha

A first for me in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in fact. I assume this is a green glass Buddha, again dripping in gold. How stunning is this statue? So impressive.

Chiang Mai Review Wats and Green Glass Buddhas

And not just one, but two. Double wow factor.

The original founding of the temple remains a tad myth and legend, with a few versions of the potential truth. Some say the wat was founded in 1383 when the first stupa was constructed. Over time, of course, the temple was further expanded, and been made to look more extravagant with many more holy shrines and way more gold.

The first and only road to the temple, the steep one we drove up, was first constructed in 1935.

Chiang Mai Review signatures

Forever immortal? Well as long as the pen lasts. Kenno Family and Amy are now written on this robe which will eventually be wrapped around the temple.

Chiang Mai Review Wats and golden umbrellas

Now we’re getting serious. I assume this is an umbrella of sorts to shade from the sun. This umbrella is not dripping with water though, it is dripping with gold. So intricate, so beautiful.

Chiang Mai review golden wats

So much gold, but let’s show off the pure beauty of the stupa and Buddhas. I think this is stone underneath, covered in ornate metal panels that you can see, and then overlaid with loads and loads of gold leaf – finally polished.

Chiang Mai review golden stupa wat

Check this out. This is the centrepiece of the Wat, the stunning gold Stupa, along with family Kennett. You can’t help but just stand and stare (and ignore the pestering photographers asking you if you want them to take your picture).

Chiang Mai Review Hairy Caterpillar

Spotted this little fella crawling across the wall. How cute is this – BUT – do not touch it, as this little bugger contains toxins that cause major skin irritation. This ain’t for show, this is saying; “p!ss off birds, you want some of me, give it a go at your own risk!”

Chiang Mai Review temples and wats

Everywhere you turn, and everywhere you look. Boom, boom, boom.

Chiang Mai Review Hindhu and Buddha

I always find this so intriguing. Do you remember blogs of Siam Reap? Here atop this mountain, dedicated to Buddha, sits a statue of Hinduism. Side by side in harmony. The way it should be!

Chiang Mai Review Free Wifi

This cracked me up and has to come in the photos. Beauty everywhere, respect, silence, ladies covered up, shoes off, but hey cool we also have free wifi at the top of the mountain just in case I need to upload the latest IOS, or watch some YouTube. Amazing!

Chiang Mai Review Free Wifi Hiding

Sort of hidden, sort of not – hmmmm!

Chiang Mai Review Ornate Temple Door

How mind-blowing is this ornate door? Where it goes, who knows, again who cares. Just stand and soak it up!

Chiang Mai Review Ornate Chair Leg

These carvings were on a pagoda’s ‘legs’ on the city viewpoint – scenes of Ancient Thailand, or I suppose then what was Siam.

Chiang Mai review - overlooking the city from the mountains above

At special request; “Babe, get me a picture of me looking over the city of Chiang Mai.” Job done! Nice one babes!

Chiang Mai review Amy overlooking the city

The world’s weight is on her shoulders, well Chiang Mai‘s at least!

Chiang Mai Review Buddhist Prayer Bells

Jude and Amy go all Quasimodo on me: “The bells, the bells…”

Chiang Mai Review - Monk Chat

SnapChat and WeChat have nothing on this place…

Chiang Mai Review golden buddhist temples

Thank goodness Ollie could keep his shoes on. If we went inside and he had to take them off, the gold would have started melting off the Stupa.

Chiang Mai Review - huge bell from Singapore

A huge bell – this time all the way from Singapore, amazing!

Chiang Mai Review 2,500 steps to the Thai Mountain Wat

To get to this Thai Wat you have to climb something like 2,500 steps. Check this out, we are on our way down, but check the next…

Chiang Mai Review 2,500 steps to the Thai Mountain Wat

And here we are at the bottom about to climb up. Jude was amazing, he killed it with big boy steps, whereas Mary…

Chiang Mai Review Buddhas and Wats

This chap is highly revered by all. Even our jeepni driver, Kim, had a special place on his necklace for him.

Here is some Daddy-pedia, for this Chiang Mai Review and day three of the Tour. According to legend, the monk above, named Sumanathera had a dream one night. In this dream, he was told to go to Pang Cha and search for a relic. He travelled to Pang Cha and found a single bone. Many claim it was Buddha’s shoulder bone. It had magic powers: it glowed, it could vanish, it could move about and copy itself. 

He took the relic to, the then-King Dhammaraja, who ruled Sukhothai. The King made offerings and hosted a ceremony when Sumanathera arrived. Strangely the relic displayed no magic, and the King said to the monk you keep it.

King Nu Naone of another province, Lan Na, heard about this and asked the monk to visit. In 1368 Sumanathera took it to what is now known as Lamphun, in Northern Thailand. The relic broke in two when it arrived. A small piece was put into a temple in Suandok, and the larger bit was placed on the back of a white elephant by the King, and he then released it into the jungle.

Apparently that elephant climbed up the mountain to Doi Suthep, stood still, trumpeted 3 times and keeled over dead. Hey presto, the King thought, well that’s clearly a sign and immediately ordered the construction of the Wat. How about that! The white elephant legend.

Now this will freak out the Brits reading this. Remember white elephant stalls when we were kids? Did you ever think that that term came from Thailand, actually the days of Siam?

Would you ever! The term refers to an extravagant but burdensome gift that cannot be easily disposed of, based on the legend of the King of Siam giving away rare albino elephants to members of his court that had annoyed him.

A “white elephant sale” sells items that retain some value but have no intrinsic use; items are often referred to as, yep you got it, white elephants. As a Cub Scout aged 8, I had no idea about that – did you?

We need lunch now and Mr Kim has an idea. But first up we are to see a lovely little waterfall where he takes his kids of a weekend. Huai Keaw Waterfall. No tourists, as to be honest it is hard to find. Just down from the zoo. Again more reason not to use tour buses and go with a local, and see the local things. Much better in my book!

Chiang Mai Review HUAY KAEW WATERFALL (CHIANG MAI)

This is very Siam Reap and Tomb Raider look and feel. Such similarities when you get out of the city between there and Chiang Mai. Quite amazingly similar.

Chiang Mai Review HUAY KAEW WATERFALL (CHIANG MAI)

A lovely little waterfall here – I thought with all the apparent rain, it being the rainy season and all, it would have been a gushing torrent. But no…

Chiang Mai Review HUAY KAEW WATERFALL (CHIANG MAI)

A bit rocky for Baby Jude, so just the three of us in these photos.

And then Mr Kim takes us to an amazing place for lunch – Muan Huay Keaw Restaurant. If you get a chance make sure you go. In fact they are looking for someone to partner them or buy them out right now. I suggest you call them to allow them to give your driver directions, it is a little off the beaten track. Off the main road, down a side road, into a small street, park, and walk down a back alley – but then hey presto!

+66 (0) 5389 2698, 31/2 Moo 2 Tambon Suthep, Srivichai Road, near Huai Keaw waterfall, Muang District.

Chiang Mai Review Muan Huay Kaew Restaurant

Here’s us at the front entrance of Muan Huay Kaew Restaurant, by the fountain archway. You walk down some stairs with no idea if it is open or closed and then hit this uber-cool corridor before getting to that treehouse place.

It’s an absolutely stunning little oasis in the middle of nowhere this is – but again how about the food?

Chiang Mai Review Muan Huay Keaw Restaurant

Now that is not a bad little backdrop to have lunch next to, now is it? How stunning is that?

Chiang Mai Review Muan Huay Keaw Restaurant tom kha gai

My spicy sour soup with chicken, a Tom Kah Gai by any other name. OMG, this was a cracker. I was thinking not so spicy until I stirred it up a little and then the chillies came to the fore.

BOOM! HOLY COW. The perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty, spicy – a belter.

Chiang Mai Review Muan Huay Keaw Restaurant chillies

See what I mean? A wee fish around at the bottom and look what showed up for some fun. Holy cow, how many Thai Bird’s Eye Chillies? Phew!

Chiang Mai Review Muan Huay Keaw Restaurant sour fish soup

My Mary goes for spicy sour soup with seafood. Sadly she was not impressed. She thinks the prawns were actually river prawns, it was overly spicy, and really does it need so much? So a mark down for this dish.

Chiang Mai Review Muan Huay Keaw Restaurant deep-fried pork ribs

This was Jude’s and how good was this? Deep-fried pork ribs. Soft meat, but crispy fried with herbs like lemon grass. An absolute stonker of a dish.

Chiang Mai Review Muan Huay Keaw Restaurant Laa Moo

Be still my aching heart, this is some death-row cuisine here. Deep fried beef. This is like jerky that has been sun-dried and then deep-fried, but marinated in spices too. And then add to that deep-fried Kaffir lime leaves, genius!

They were like lime chips with superb deep-fried beef. Holy cow, what a pairing. Brilliant. I’ll be nicking that idea for home and ChillaxBBQ.

Chiang Mai Review Muan Huay Kaew Restaurant laab moo

Ollie goes for his usual favourite of Laab Moo, spicy pork salad. Now we both had a taste of this and could not work out what the secret ingredient was. There was something in there that was not in the normal recipe we have had – what was it? So annoying. And then hey presto he pulls out a lump of liver – ta dah! Now that’s different!

We are going to give you a major 4+ out of 5, Muan Huay Keaw RestaurantOur lunch was exceptional thank you. The restaurant was a stand out for its look and feel and the surrounding countryside. Unique I have to say. Loved it. And then the food, BOOM. Apart from a wee slip up for the wife, I’d give you top marks. Exceptional food. If we come back, we will be back absolutely!

Chiang Mai Review Muan Huay Keaw Restaurant

A slow drive home, chillax in the room and hey presto we’re ready to eat again. Man have we eaten on this holiday! In to a tuk tuk and off we go to The Service 1921, but bugger it is booked solid, so I booked for tomorrow for dinner. We have to try this place.

Shoot where now? As we walk up, I remember the tuk-tuk driver from the night before saying you must try The River Market, it’s really good.

Chiang Mai review the river market restaurant

How cool is this place, looking good so far, looking good. I like it. To my immediate right one set of 2-seat tables, then a little grass and then the river. What a beautiful view as the light draws in.

Chiang Mai review the river market restaurant

And a little snap back now from the river at The River Market Restaurant Chiang Mai, see Ollie bottom right going back in after a good mosquito spray covering (word from the wise – Chiang Mai is on a river folks, bring LOADS of spray and patches!)

Chiang Mai review the river market restaurant

Happy families yet again – despite a few arguments, usually caused by iPhones and iPads, the food and location / location / location absolutely brought us all together continuously. How could it not? Happy Days!

Chiang Mai review the river restaurant oysters

Oysters up first for Ollie and Mary, all thew way from Australia, with some wicked chilli sauce which caused a lot of coughing. But the feedback was, super-fresh, and deliciously sweet.

Chiang Mai review the river restaurant salmon tom kha gai

Ollie goes off-piste with a new dish, sort of a hybrid Tom Kha Gai but with salmon. Ollie commented though that it has everything right – sweet, sour, spicy but missing the salt. I ordered a little fish sauce, in goes that and hey presto it’s a winner.

A little note to the restaurant, a little more salt please. It was cracking after the fish sauce addition: I’m just saying like.

Chiang Mai review the river restaurant massaman cury

I went for this absolutely spanking Massaman Curry. This was so complex in flavour, ever-so tender beef, and scrummy veggies. Cinnamon, Cumin, Cardamon, Turmeric and much more. Absolutely superb curry, with great spice hit too, seriously good!

Chiang Mai review the river restaurant char siew pork

Amy goes for roast pork belly, to be honest, this was more of a char siew in Singaporean terms. Pretty good. One slight hiccup is that it comes with a chili sauce as you can see, so the number 1 plate was rejected by Amy. Number 2 plate was OK though for her (phew).

Chiang Mai review the river restaurant roast lamb skewers

Mary goes for roast lamb skewers which were awesome, perfectly cooked, juicy, charred and so savoury. Great work The River Market, great work!

Chiang Mai review the river restaurant chicken satay skewers

Baby Jude’s chicken satay skewers, damned fine they were too. He wolfed these down (minus the spicy peanut dip of course).

Chiang Mai review the river restaurant son-in-law eggs

Son-in-law eggs. I really wanted to try these as it mentioned eggs, hard-boiled, egg yolk mixed with spices and tamarind. What’s inside them I asked. I don’t know. Could you find out? Finally, mustard was explained as being in there. OK, I’ll have a go, sounds yummy.

First bite – BOOM, whacking great big hot of fish paste – now that was not mentioned! Over to you Laurel. One call out to the restaurant, staff should know what is in the food guys!

Chiang Mai review the river restaurant Jude Jude

“So how was that dinner, Baby Jude?”
“I loved it thanks Dad, I am a happy boy!”

So there you have it folks, day three of our Chiang Mai Review. What an absolutely cracking day thanks to our mate Mr Kim. Some finds and experiences we would never have had on a normal organised tour.

My callouts would be temples, and lunch – memories that will never be forgotten and will be recommendations for any that visit this beautiful city. You must try these two and it is perfect for a one-day trip. Oh yeah, don’t forget your swimmers if you come to the stunning waterfall. ENJOY!!!

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