Bangkok is one of the most visited cities in the world. As Chiang Mai is the second-largest city in Thailand, it get’s its share of visitors. While from one standpoint it’s merely another city without a lot to offer, a closer inspection will illuminate plenty of unique activities to enjoy.
One of the most popular activities in Chiang Mai is the Saturday Night Market, located just to the south of Old Town. Spanning the full length of Wua Lai Road (0.6 miles) and many of the side streets, there are hundreds of street vendors hawking food, clothing and souvenirs.
On one of the side streets, there is a temple which deserves a whole host of adjectives. Opulent, spectacular, lavish, extravagant, amazing… That’s not very journalistic of me, but what else do you call a temple which is coated inside and out with silver and colorful enamel?
Wat Srisuphan, also known as the Silver Temple, was originally built in 1502. The current structure isn’t that old, and the decorations are newer still. In the past decade, copious amounts of silver have been added to the decorations of the ordination temple. The purpose of the silver is not just to make the place beautiful, but also to perpetuate the skill of silversmithing in northern Thailand.
While I could describe each of the details of the temple, I think the photos speak for themselves. Also, this is the kind of place where no amount of description gives it justice. You’ll just have to visit for yourself (or vicariously with this blog).
Next door, the large prayer hall is decorated with the usual gold leaf rather than silver. On the night I went, there was a ceremony with young monks in the temple and I was unable to go in. Not that I needed to, after seeing the ordination hall.
While Wat Srisuphan is accessible all week long, the best time to go is Saturday night, when the Saturday Night Market is in full swing. It’s not really necessary to walk the full length of the street since many of the wares are repeated every few stalls (same shirts, mugs, etc). It can also get really crowded, and traversing the whole market might take the entire night. Most of the stalls are located in other parts of the city during the rest of the week, and the prices aren’t anything special.
However, there are still several reasons why the Saturday Night Market should be on your bucket list in Chiang Mai. One unique feature is the really cheap massages. You can get an hour massage for as little as $3, which is half the average price in Chiang Mai. Not that there’s much to complain about between $3 and $6!
The best part of the market is simply the range of selections. Even if everyone is selling the same shirt, you’ll be able to find one vendor tucked away to the side selling the shirts for 40% cheaper.
When it comes to food, I don’t think there’s any local delicacy you can’t find. The one that caught my attention the most was the Thai ice cream, which technically didn’t have any cream. Banana, chocolate syrup and condensed milk are smeared onto a frozen plate and then shaved into thin rolls, as you can see in the video.
The night market starts around 5 PM, and lasts until midnight. There is no smoking or drinking on the street, and many of the stalls don’t allow photography. Other than that, just bring comfortable shoes and have fun. Oh, and don’t forget to cover your shoulders and knees if you plan to visit Wat Srisuphan. This is a place of Buddhist worship after all.