Have you ever had a déjà vu while traveling? A moment where you think, I’ve been here! It’s a strange moment — standing in a foreign country, thinking you’ve been here before. Of course, sometimes that’s because, in fact, you have been there before. That was my case when I showed up at Wat Phra Singh in Chiang Mai last month.
I first visited Chiang Mai in 2011 on my one month trip through Thailand. I spent five full days in the city then and came away with a less-than-stellar impression. Despite its relative affordability (an appeal at the time), I just couldn’t find much to enjoy the city. Massages and street food were (and still are) cheaper than in Bangkok, but there’s only so much affordable luxury you can enjoy before you lose that special oomph. However, of the handful of positive memories I left Chiang Mai with, the cultural standout was a visit to one of the many temples in the Old City. I went on a particularly hot afternoon and remember walking through the Buddhist temples at the time. But it was in the nearby garden where my fondest memories come from. To hide from the sun I sat down at a somewhat shady bench where I was soon joined by a young Buddhist monk.
Our encounter was brief but it stands out in my memory. I remember him approaching me. He was trying to learn English and asked for my help. He helped me practice some of the few Thai words I knew. I still have his notes written down in my Moleskine journal.
It was a simple chance encounter; one of those events many travelers are looking for on their holidays. Something so simple and brief, and easily forgettable. But when I showed up at Wat Phra Singh during my Out Adventures tour, that old memory came flooding back. I remembered entering the temple shown above, leaving my shoes outside. The beautifully painted yet deteriorating walls on the inside. I remembered walking behind the main temple, following the path I found myself on yet again. I remembered the garden with the rows of tables, the Buddhist bells in a row nearby. And I remembered the young Buddhist monk. The fact we scribbled things down together in my journal, the fact he had an English dictionary with him.
And it’s memories like these—those that you might otherwise forget—which remind me so much why I love revisiting places I’ve already been. Even though I once called Chiang Mai over-rated, upon a second visit I really started to discover some of its charms. And an otherwise forgotten travel memory might never have resurfaced. Now that I’ve visited Wat Phra Singh a second time, I won’t soon forget the relative impressiveness of its layout and architecture. Sometimes you really do need to give a place a second chance.
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View more photos of Chiang Mai’s Wat Phra Singh below, and read more about my trip through Thailand with Out Adventures here.
I have heard a fair bit about this palce. Would love to check it out myself. Interesting story Adam :)
It’s a pretty little temple. I probably didn’t spend more than an hour here on each of my visits, but it’s surprising how memorable of a place it is.
Great photos, Adam! I hope you had a spectacular time in Chiang Mai. How was the food over there?
P.S. I think you may have made a typo in your last paragraph: “revising” instead of “revisiting”? :)
Hey Tee – thanks! CM was really nice and the food was great! Thanks for the typo notice, corrected now! xo
Ooh Chiang Mai is definitely not overrated :) I’ve lived in Thailand for more than a decade and, after many visits to Chiang Mai, it’s still one of my favorite cities in the world. Lots to see, especially if you get off the tourist track, and the people are so friendly and nice.
I always recommend Chiang Mai to people who visit me in Thailand, and I’ve yet to find anyone who didn’t love it.
Nice photos, btw. :)
I think you’re right that to properly enjoy Chiang Mai, you need to get off the tourist track. Thanks for your comment Michelle!
Chiang Mai is so majestic no matter how you look at it. If I get some days off from work I’ll definitely make a trip there this summer!
Majestic is a really good word Katy! Hope you get to visit Chiang Mai – it’s definitely a place worth visiting.
I miss Chang Mai, I didnt get to stay there as long as I wanted to but it was by bar my favourite place that I seen in Thailand.
Your favorite place? That’s really cool to hear! Bangkok is still my favorite but Chiang Mai definitely impressed me this time around..
I loved this place. The grounds and the temples itself where amazing. I just sat and watched and took it all in. Such a peaceful place. We loved it in Chiang Mai. The street food is awesome and fruit shake stands on every corner, yummo. The Sunday Walking Market is one of a kind too. :)
Agree with all the points you’re making Lesh! I really like this temple as well – it’s a great place to sit and pass time
you have some awesome photos here. Mine don’t look that good :)
Great article and great pictures!