Chiang Mai, Thailand – The Best Thai Massage & Wonderful Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
On the last day of our stay in Chiang Mai, we went to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep to admire the magnificent panoramic view from Doi Suthep hill. Before that, for the first time we have been tempted to try a traditional Thai massage at Fah Lanna Spa. Then, we spent the evening strolling along the famous Saturday Walking Street, and we went to Mr Kai Restaurant for the last time to enjoy the taste of the best khao soi in the city. Below you will find a detailed report from our trip.
Where to go for a Thai massage in Chiang Mai?
Chiang Mai is known primarily for its beautiful temples, cooler climate, mountain trekking and elephant sanctuaries. Few know, however, that the Royal Massage Academy located here is considered to be the best in the country, so being in the New Town is a good way to go for a Thai massage. We have a choice of over two hundred spa salons offering treatments in different price ranges, so you can easily find something for yourself. We were driven by the opinions of internet surfers and thus we got to Fah Lanna Spa.
Fah Lanna Spa is an intimate place run by a group of friends who share a common passion and love for ecology. Owners actively participate in the life of the local community and support charities that provide education to refugee children. The lounge is located in the center of the Old Town and is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm. Treatments must be arranged at least one day in advance. The spa has 25 private treatment rooms with 1, 2, 3 or 4 beds. The rooms where massages are made using oils have private showers and some even baths for couples. Additionally, the property offers free shuttle service to and from our hotel, so we can feel completely relaxed.
Just after crossing the threshold of Fah Lanna Spa we felt like we were moving to a true oasis of peace and quiet. Ladies greeted us with refreshing herbal tea. Then they gave us a quick questionnaire to fill about our health status and preferences regarding the intensity of the massage. With a rich menu we could choose from about fifty different body treatments. As it was our first time at the Thai spa salon, we both decided to take a traditional Thai massage that would last one hour and cost us 600 bahts per person. The treatment began with a ritual of washing the feet. Then we went to the private room where the massage was held. The room was light in the dusk, and in the air rose oriental scents. During the massage we took various positions, derived from the foundations of passive yoga (forward, back, sideways, sitting and inverted). We were impressed by how our masseurs work intensely with their body, using their own hands, feet, thumbs, elbows and forearms. With each subsequent, rhythmic pressure we felt more and more relaxed. We wished wed just decided on an hour of massage. At the end we went to the cafeteria, where for the last time we had tasted a cup of aromatic tea.
Where to eat in Chiang Mai?
Relaxed after a visit to Fah Lanna Spa, we went to the nearby Fern Forest Cafe to try local coffee and probably one of the best cakes in town. This place is popular with both tourists and Chiang Mai residents who like to spend long evenings in the garden, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. For a moment we gave ourselves a relaxing atmosphere, sipping a distinctive coffee and enjoying a refreshing orange cake.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Temple
How to get to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep?
There are several ways to get to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep from Chiang Mai downtown. Just rent a scooter, order a regular taxi, or take advantage of the most popular means of transport in the city, so-called songthaews. We decided for this last option and headed for the northern gate of the Old Town, where there was a red taxi stand. We caught one of them and started to bargain. We knew we would have to pay around 80 bahts per person for o return trip. Unfortunately, as we were only seven (we, a mixed Portuguese-Dutch couple and a trio of Argentinean crew), the driver demanded us 100 bahts per person. We, like the true backpakers, have remained relentless and waited for more people to join us, so that we would be able to reduce the price. When we almost lost hope, two lost touritsts from Brazil came to the horizon. We talked them into a joint drive and at the last minute we made a deal with the driver. Finally for the return trip to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep we paid 80 bahts per person. Enthusiasted we boarded the rear of the vehicle and set off forwards. Unfortunately, the road to the temple turned out to be more winding than we thought, the driver did not take any precautions, and the hard seat of our vehicle after a few minutes ade oneself felt. Fortunately, we arrived at the place safe and sound.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is situated at the top of a hill (about 1060 meters above sea level) of the Doi Suthep-Pui National Park, where you can admire the impressive views of the whole city. It is a Buddhist place of worship dating back to the 13th century and its establishment is linked to a local legend, where the white elephant plays a central role. According to the parable, the monk from the Kingdom of Sukhothai had a prophetic dream, which commanded him to go to Pang Cha and find the mysterious relic. He went to Pang Cha and found the bone, which according to some was considered as part of the Buddhas arm. Relic exhibited unusual properties: it shone, could disappear, move and duplicate. The monk decided to bring the relic to King Sukhothai. Unfortunately, the magical powers of the relic have been questioned because in the presence of the king the bone did not show any supernatural qualities. Fortunately, King Nu Naone of Lanna was interested in the find and urged the monk to deliver it. He agreed and brought relic to the north of Thailand. As soon as he reached the place, the bone split into two parts. The smaller piece was decorated with a temple in Suandok, while the larger one hung on the back of a white elephant, which was released into the jungle. According to the legend, the animal climbed up to Doi Suthep, stopped, trumpeted three times and then died. King Nu Naone interpreted this as an omen and at the place of death of elephant he immediately ordered the commencement of the construction of the temple in which he placed the relics.
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep at glance
To the gates of Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, there are intricately decorated staircases, whose balustrade takes on the form of a mythical Naga snake. To get to the top, you must beat 309 steps. Of course, for the lazy, there is also the possibility of using a lift for a fee. We decided to climb, along the way passing crowds of tourists from around the world, doing selfie with Naga snake and stray dogs which people did not seem to disturb in the afternoon nap. Upon reaching the top, we bought an admission ticket which cost us 30 bahts per person and started to explore. The center of the temple is an impressive gold chedi surrounded by openwork umbrellas. The walls around the spire create a kind of enclave in which we can admire beautiful paintings and a copy of the Emerald Buddha (the original is in Bangkok). Inside the complex we can also find a statue of the Hindu god Ganesha and a statue of the legendary White elephant with a story of how this place was founded. The wide sidewalk around the temple led us to a large observation deck, which offers a great view of the whole area (as far as the weather permits). Fortunately, the sky was clear, so we could enjoy the beautiful panorama of the city.
Where to eat the best khao soi in Chiang Mai?
After leaving the temple, we headed for the car park, where was waiting for us our driver who in the meantime had already found us additional co-passengers. Before we left, we walked around the stalls in the hope that we would find something interesting. It turned out that the most popular are the local strawberries which at first glance seemed worse than the Polish ones. To the center of Chiang Mai we returned with empty hands. We immediately went to probably the best restaurant in the city - Mr Kai Restaurant.
This time apart from the unique khao soi, at Mr. Kai Restaurant we also ordered Tom Kha Gai soup based on coconut milk (recipe you can find here), stir-fry with beef and stir-fry with fresh seafood. Everything as always turned out to be delicious and very filling, and for four courses we paid only 300 bahts. We will miss you, Mr. Kai!
Saturday Walking Street
As it was a weekend, at the end of the day we went to the local marketplace known as Saturday Market. Saturday Market (otherwise known as Wui Lai Market) is located southwest of the Old Town, along Wui Lai Road and is held every Saturday from 4 pm till midnight. As in the case of the Night Bazaar, the road in those hours is closed to traffic so we can haggle with the sellers without hesitation and move freely between the stands. At the market we can get practically everything. We can find a lot of silver products at an attractive price, wood carvings, cotton t-shirts in all colors of the rainbow, counterfeit handbags, designer perfumes, hand-cut wigs and local art. There are also stalls with delicious food, and the market is filled with street performers. If you fancy, you can also take advantage of the Thai massage. Prices start at 100 bahts per person and the massage is performed in the middle of the street between stalls. Any volunteers? 🙂
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