Chiang Mai is one of the few places in Thailand where it is possible to experience both the historical and modern Thai culture coexisting side by side – picture centuries-old chedis and temples next to modern convenience stores and boutique hotels. woking taxi

This strange, but amazing, balance can best be seen and felt within the moat-encircled old city, which retains much of the fortified wall that once protected the city center as well as the four main gates that provided access to this former Lanna capital city.

We arrived mid-evening taking a quick taxi from the airport to our accommodations at The Small Hotel, a fantastic boutique hotel near the city center. After the non-stop movement that was Bangkok, it was nice to find a place with a slower pace, cleaner air, and a sense of calm that could only be found in a city rich with Buddhist temples, monks, and the smell of incense.

We crashed in the hotel for the better part of the night. We ended waking up around 4am rested, ready, and hungry.

Looking out from my hotel balcony in the moonlight sky with streetlamp lit roads I could feel there was a stillness now, but an impending madness as the city slowly woke to the new morning.

For what would not be the only time while I was staying at The Small Hotel, I watched as a small parade of saffron-robed monks with pots for alms make their way down the boulevard stopped by a local shopkeeper whom was loading in her goods for the day to pray with her. She offered alms then got down on her knees while the seven monks prayed with her.

Few people could be seen in the streets heading in one general direction, so we followed them through the old gates into the city center where we found a large open-air market that was just starting to come to life. As the sun rose so did the proprietors and shoppers in search of this morning’s ingredients or their breakfast.

The market came to a ubrupt standstill as voice came over an apparent loudspeaker system throughout the market speaking something in Thai while everyone stopped what they were doing and had a moment of silence. As soon as the voice ended they returned to their hurried stocking of produce, meats, and spices.

We took several laps around the market trying to find the best thing to try first. We finally found ourselves at a stall that sold fried pork bits, Chiang Mai Sausage, and an amazing chili sauce that complimented both perfectly.

While eating our second round of pork and sausage we saw a gentleman with an SLR taking pictures of his food as he was buying it and with a quick introduction Arie from Malaysia was seated at our table and we were sharing his sticky rice.