Grapes imported from where else—California—are a pricey treat available in Chiang Mai markets. I have seen them go for about $5.25 a pound in supermarkets, though I am sure they are less in an outdoor wet market like the one in the photo. In a place where a mango costs 50 cents or so, these grapes are expensive. People pick them off the stems and take the individual grapes away in a plastic bag. Thailand has a Muslim minority in the south of the country near the border it shares with Malaysia, but this trip to the market was the first time I saw women wearing the hajib here in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand.
The centerpiece of Wat Chedi Luang, which according to its Wikipedia entry, means the temple of the big stuppa is this enormous stuppa in the center of the temple complex. Construction was begun by one of the Lanna kings in the 1300s, though the stuppa was not completed until the mid-fifteenth century, only to be damaged by an earthquake one hundred years later. A restoration was undertaken in the 1990s, though this has been the subject of controversy as some claim new elements in the reconstruction are in the Central Thai style, not Lanna style. Well, it’s all Thai to me. I felt quite fortunate to get a group of young monks in the foreground instead of a crowd of Chinese tourists.
In addition to being a very striking building, the library at Wat Phra Singh is an example of classical Lanna architecture, or so I have read. Before the modern Thai state began to take shape in the late 18th century, a Lan Na kingdom centered in Chiang Mai ruled much of the northern part of what is now Thailand. The history is complex and I certainly only know the barest outline. But Lanna as a tradition (and a marketing buzzword) is alive and well in Chiang Mai today – Lanna architecture, Lanna style, Lanna cuisine, Lanna massage, et cetera, et cetera… Be that as it may, Wat Phra Singh has one cool library building.
Wat Phra Singh is a large, wealthy temple complex in the center of Chiang Mai’s old city. I walked in when the apprentice monks were being led by elder monks in chants in the largest of the temples. I wanted a picture or two, but about the time I got ready to point and shoot, the chanting stopped and everybody got up and filed out of the temple. I did, however, get a number of images of the grounds, of which this is one.
This photo revisits Nong Bauk Hard Park, a lovely public space in the southwest corner of Chiang Mai’s old city. (You can see the earlier visit here.) For those of you who know it, think the Boston Public Garden in a subtropical climate.
Bamboo plants, seen on the right of this photo, are a variety of grass. The plants are gorgeous, the stalks are resilient and useful for making all sorts of things, and the new shoots (bamboo culms) of many types of bamboo are edible and feature in a number of Asian cuisines.
The shop across the street buys coconuts in bulk and then prepares them to have the tops cut off and sold as beverages to tourists. Street vendors come along to buy the bags and take them to stalls that can be found all over Chiang Mai. Tasty and refreshing, especially if the vendor keeps the coconuts packed in ice so the juice is slightly chilled. It seems the street vendors pay around (US) 65 cents per coconut and then resell them to passersby for $1.30 to $1.50 each. Sit down restaurants and coffee shops are somewhat more expensive. Still, nobody is getting rich from this business.
I am rather fond of the tree which has grown through the corrugated roofing in the center of the photo.
I went on a walking tour this morning of several traditional markets in Chiang Mai. A local guy organizes the walks through Meetup. I have been on a couple of these now – fun and informative, and a great group of fellow walkers on both occasions.
Many of the shops in these markets are owned by Chinese families that came to Thailand in the past, often many years ago. Today, these Chinese-Thais are assimilated into Thai society and are largely indistinguishable from other Thais. Nonetheless, originally from southern China, Guangdong and Fujian for the most part, these families continue to be a part of the vast Chinese trading networks that have long played a major role in the business and commercial worlds of Southeast Asian countries.
This photo shows a Chinese tourist doing what Chinese do best: shopping and bargaining!