Sunday in Chiang Mai: A day at Huay Tung Thao Lake

Chiang Mai, as a tourist destination, has a rich array of cultural sights, temples, tigers and elephants. Being the original capital of Thailand, there is a great deal of history for tourists to gain an insight into the rule of Siam and a world that existed over 500 years ago. But what do you do here after you have seen the sights and scoured the histories? What does Chiang Mai hold for the long stay traveller?
The perfect Sunday…

We are lucky enough to have a group of friends here in Chiang Mai who live here, a combination of Thai and many other nationalities who reside in this beautiful city full-time. It is this network of friends that has provided us with some of the richest travel experiences that we could ever hope to find on our travels. It is these people who have helped us to see the real Chiang Mai, beyond what the tourists see. This week we revisited a place that we have ventured to before, Huay Tung Thao Lake…

Huay Tung Thao is located some 15km north of the main city of Chiang Mai and it is where the mountains meet the water. A popular hang out for the local people, it is an enormous body of water fed by the mountains of Doi Suthep which is one of the most picturesque locations that Chiang Mai has to offer. On an average Sunday you will arrive at the lake to join hundreds of Thai people scattered around the banks, sitting in simple bamboo huts whilst enjoying a sip of local whiskey and some traditional Thai foods for an extremely affordable price. The waters are full of kids splashing around and enjoying the day as the parents and families look on from their comfortable beach side location. 

Sipping local whiskey with a view!
This kind of Sunday afternoon is reminiscent of my childhood days in Australia, our parents sitting on a riverbank while we paddled in the Murray River; but in Thailand the picture presents a little differently. Instead of a home abound with Gum Trees, I am faced with Thailand’s second highest mountain and a light mist, making the whole scene slightly magical. As we sit with Cartoon, thankful that he is Thai because we cannot read the menu, we talk about our lives and the differences between growing up in our respective countries. Funnily enough there are more similarities than differences in our conversations about life and the realisation that growing up is a universal thing. Marriage, kids and how to make enough money to survive and be happy – it doesn’t matter where you are from, these kinds of things are fundamental all over the world. 

I am wearing swimming gear under a sun dress – as the first and easiest thing I came across in my wardrobe that morning, without thinking (or remembering) that I am in Thailand… I sincerely dislike the Western people who visit a country and don’t follow the local dress codes for decency… So when I decide that it is time to join the local kids for a swim, I realise that going into the water in my dress is my only option. If I had thought it out, I would have realised that shorts and a singlet would have been a much more practical option because Thai people don’t swim in only bathers, there is a level of decency which is adhered to here and that generally means not stripping down to your underwear to go in the water!
So I bite the bullet and take my sundress for a dip, the water is warm from the constant sun and as I turn in the water, the sensational view of the mountains takes my breath away… again. I look back to the shoreline at the mass of people simply enjoying their Sunday afternoon and I spot a group of Western people, bikini clad, who have found this secret paradise. That image in a place like this just looks plain wrong, it doesn’t fit.
I venture back to my group, cool for the first time since Songkran and I appreciate where I am in the world at exactly this point in time. A simple Sunday, with friends in a spectacular location and I feel like the luckiest person in the world. It is these moments in life that make you stop and really appreciate what you have and the months of extremely hard work and saving that it took to get to this point and it is all worthwhile, just to be here.
Sunset over Doi Suthep

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