City Love: Chiang Mai

One day Di and I were walking around one of my favorite cities, Lisbon. I was full of joy and excited to be exploring such a cool place. I got the same feeling over and over again in other cities too. And when I realized it, I was struck. It was kind of o special moment. I really like cities. In fact, I love'm!

I don't know many people that share this feeling, the opposite is far more popular. Way too often we listen others expressing their anger and frustration towards their urban surroundings. But I know I'm not alone.

I guess it's because I'm a puzzle solver. Could also be my addiction to SimCity games or the other may around. In any case, I really like to figure out how stuff works, how systems are designed and how to tweak and modify them. That's why I choose to and love to be a software engineer. Cities are exactly that, a wonderfully complex puzzle. The way I see it, cities tries to be the best place as possible for people to live close to each other in community and fulfill some kind of national goal. What sets it apart is that we live in it. We, people, are part of the puzzle. We build them to ourselves after all.

We've spent a few days in Chiang Mai, the biggest and most important city on the north of Thailand. It left a strong positive impression on me. I was constantly observing how they solved the city puzzle. Their solution was ancient and fascinating. This is the start of my personal series of posts dedicated to the coolest cities we visit called "City Love".

The city was planned and constructed on the fertile banks of the river Ping. This made sure that the needs of mobility, sanitation, clean water and food were readily available.
Ancient city planning

It is on a valley surrounded by mountains on the border of Burma, Laos and China. It was naturally a popular commercial route, were merchants and commerce flourished, different cultures mixed, technology and knowledge spread. People gathered.

Back in the day, war and conflict were common so a wall and moat were built to protect the royals, bureaucrats, temples and the rich. Clearly a lot of thought and effort was put into the city and it flourished. So much so it became an irresistible target for other conquerors. You can check Chiang Mai's complicated history online, or even better, on its cool museums.

Nowadays Chiang Mai has been largely modernized and expanded organically, without planning. The protective wall is no more, just a replica of the ancient gates are standing. The moat is still preserved. It's when we walked inside the old town that we felt somewhere special. It's full of incredible Buddhist temples, inviting spa resorts, hippy cafes, crazy tattoo parlors, music studios, arts and cooking schools, handcraft markets, diverse museums, international guest houses and hostels packed with people from all the corners of the world. Day and night the city's full of life. For me that's the legacy of a well planned city.

Inevitably it also has lots of problems too, like noise, air and water pollution, illegal drugs and prostitution, homeless and misery. It's far from perfect but I think it's as good as it gets in Thailand. It's a well balanced city.

There are many other reasons to like cities but I'll stop here. Our time in Chiang Mai was memorable, not only for the city itself, so I definitely recommend a visit. And maybe when you're there, you'll also notice how they solved their puzzle and enjoy a different city experience.

Crazy street art everywhere

The remains of one of the city gates

Beautiful and stylish paintings on a male-only temple

Gorgeous temple facades

Green jade floor. Only for men.

The temple's supporters

Madame Toussot style monk statues. Quite freaky.

Enjoying the blues

The new monks in white storming the city

Delicious western food with extra olive oil

The ugly and polluted Ping river

Local flag

Unbelievable temples

Eeer, what?!

Buddha in white style

Mythological painting exhibition

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Black Camenrider!!!