Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Japanese visitors are here to stay!

photo credits: Caroline Marsh

Luckily for me Chiang Mai has been our home for over 20 years firstly as a traveller discovering for myself the nuances of South East Asia, especially Chiang Mai and the magical 'hold' it has on you. Having  since settled down here, experiencing a life style first hand that bridges both Thai and Foreign understanding making an ideal care specialist for Long Stay visitors to Chiang Mai working closely with certified Long Stay advisors based in Tokyo.

Chiang Mai has all the attributes of a perfect winter oasis for the many visitor’s whose homes are frozen over, and now with climate change coming into the equation, winter’s are predicted to be colder and longer, so if your  health suffers, nowhere is more inviting than a warm sunny climate that combines the colours of autumn, spring and  summer all rolled into one.

Chiang Mai is now a quality stand  alone all year destination. It is the capital city of the ancient Lanna Kingdom, steeped in old cultures and customs combining a new contemporary facade. Lanna is made up of the eight far north provinces of northern Thailand, situated 700 metres above sea level and surrounded by the immediate hills of Doi Suthep, Doi Pui and Doi Saket mountain with some of Thailand’s highest peaks conveniently close to the city.

2011 will be the city’s 715th Birthday with ancient Buddhist temples, more than 300 in total! age old Chedi’s (pagodas ) dotted around the city, the most  striking is that of Wat Chedi Luang close to the three kings monument and the colonial buildings and inner courtyard of the Chiang Mai Cultural Museum. Criss crossing the numerous narrow lanes (soi) you'll discover traditional Lanna style teak family homes with their tropical gardens mingled with contemporary design.

Living standards are high with a wealth of luxury hotel accommodation, comfortable affordable housing and condominiums in secure locations with all amenities considered along  with boutique resorts in the hills plus  ‘alternative living’ such as  'Homestays' and 'Farmstays' to suit  individual taste.

Food and local cuisine your are spoiled by the vast array of ‘ flavours’ There are some wonderful traditional northern Thai  menus mixed with other regional tastes from around Thailand . Ethnic restaurants abound with expatriates (expats) running Chinese, Italian, Vietnamese, Mexican, British, American, Isreali, Indian, Spanish and Burmese plus the one’s I’ve forgotten to mention!  With Japanese food easily found  with excellent sushi freshly available, all your favourite noodles plus quality evening style dining.  If you ever get bored ‘fusion’ food at many trendy restaurants is in vogue.

Health and well being are high on the priority list for the majority long stay visitors. International standard hospitals and dental clnics are based in Chiang Mai with 24 hour emergency care services with translators available for your peace of mind. For the less mobile there are qualified nurse assistants that can care for you at your home and private retirement homes with 24 hour care are situated in peaceful locations close to the city.

This is an exciting creative city of traditional and contemporary design, Chiang Mai’s historic artisan villages and skilled craftsmen complement local and international design themes using locally sourced materials. Excellent ideas for your home furnishings in cotton and silk, quality teak furniture and stylish one off design items. Hand crafted jewelry, leather and quality local tailoring means you return back home with a new designer wardrobe for the summer!

For Long stay visitors it’s essential to be able to access most of your favourite ‘comfort foods’ from home and now  specialty stores in Chiang Mai are very aware of these needs  and now offer a wide choice of quality American, British, European, Australian and Korean imported and locally sourced products, health shops and weekly organic farmer's markets. 

ISAC's JJ Weekly Market every Saturday 5am to 9am
photo credit: Caroline Marsh 
For Japanese visitors you will be pleased to hear Yamazaki Bakery and Daiso brand 100 Yen stores  are in Chiang Mai for all those gadgets and handy nick-knacks that the Japanese are famed for – every item 65 Baht each.

Daiso Brand Store

Yamazaki Bakery

Activities and hobbies abound in Chiang Mai taking in the the more typically promoted visitor destinations  and attractions such as Doi Inthanon, Elephant Camps, Buddhist temples and sites around the city as well as niche ethical tourism  operators offering exclusive trips and activities supporting local wisdom and knowledge of the varied indigenous cultures of the Lanna kingdom.

Come to study, Thai Dance, Thai Boxing, weaving, natural dyeing, leather work, ceramics, dressmaking, Lanna traditional crafts , learn Thai cooking, Thai Massage, organic farming, earthen  homes. Practice Yoga and meditation daily or on retreat . Sports are well supported here such as classic golf with many quality courses close to the city. Swimming, Horse riding, Daily Aerobics and Tai Chi.
Alternative therapies are practiced here or can be studied such as Reiko, Ayurvedic  Medicine, massage techniques and intriguing Feng Shui, Tarot card readings and numbers with a local cultural twist.

Additional study trips where you can learn Thai, English and other languages such as German, French or Chinese as private one to one or small groups. One month quality accredited TEFL courses where you qualify to teach English worldwide are a new feature of our 'Long Stay' activity programs

Annual Festivals from October to February are some of the best to be seen in Thailand. Loy Krathong or "Yee Peng" is held in November following the lunar calendar for three days. Traditional sports and activities are held at Temples all around town during the day, but the nights the streets are filled with parades and beautifully decorated floats and paper lantern of the full moon is quite spectacular with individual floating banana leaf 'Krathongs' dressed with flowers,incense and candles to make offerings of god luck to the water goddess and hundreds of floating fire balloons lighting up the night sky

The 35th Chiang Mai Flower Festival was held this year, always the 2nd weekend in February with hundreds of visitors and locals lining the streets to see the intricately decorated floats with 100's of thousands of fresh flowers and clever use of seeds, School marching bands and traditional northern Thai dress on show.

Chiang Mai Flower Festival 2011

Transportation around the city ranges from cycling following a city bicycle lane, which is increasingly popular, fashionable and economically smart  supporting the low carbon vision for Chiang Mai as the first green eco city in South East Asia ( )if you wish to be  in tune with the ways of  northern culture travelling by tricycle (Samlor thip) is  the best way to get a good  feel of the old city and supporting a great low carbon way of getting around plus  supporting the uncles ‘loong’ that appreciate your fare. Our love hate affair with red truck taxis (Seelors) are that they are convenient and run pretty much 24hrs, but too many of them ply the streets with their black smoke exhausts going unchecked by the powers that be! Tuk -Tuk’s which are a fast, but loud way of getting around are handy as they also operate  the graveyard shift, many proud owner's personalise their Tuk - Tuk with bright neon's, mega sound systems and dangling kitch gadgets  it’s like being on a magical fun fair  ride…….hang on!

Written by Caroline Marsh.

Caroline Marsh is co-founder of Chiang Mai based independent ethical tour operator .."Expertise, Ethical travel and Authentic Experiences contribute to making a difference to local communities and the environment." passionate about new experiences and travel; preaches and teaches community environmental well being; Caroline writes for travel sites, regional travel magazines, her own blog Authentic Chiang Mai promoting her adopted city of more than 20years!; coordinates local 'grassroots' community peoples actions through Holistic Environment Urban Schools Program (HEUSP)and a member of the umbrella network group Lanna Community Life Network (LCLN) formerly NCCN. Visit channel


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