We’ve covered north, south and east: now it’s time for the final stretch of our Chiang Mai hike, which covers the stretch of moat road between Suan Buak Hat Park and our initial starting point at the northwest corner and junction of Huay Kaew Road. This stretch is one of the least built up and most scenic of the four sides of the old city, though once again traffic on the one-way system can be brutal.
The inner ring road anti-clockwise is Arak Road, and the outer route is named Bunrueang Rit Road. From the corner of the moat, where a well preserved section of old wall still remains, the major artery Mahidol Road heads off south towards Airport Plaza, Chiang Mai immigration and of course Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX).
We kept to the inside route for this first stretch since there’s not much happening on the west side and the initial section of the old city side is interesting, with a series of gardening and pet shops broken up by a couple of juice bars. Get a freshly squeezed lime smoothie and check out the fan-tailed guppies or Siamese fighting fish!
Another good refreshment stop along here is the pleasant terrace area of the Rim Resort, which is also a very good deal in the Chiang Mai upper range accommodation category.
It’s also a good spot to pick up gardening items without going all the way out to Kamthieng market which, while not of much use to the casual tourist, is good to know for the newly arrived expat.
This section, between the park and Suan Dok Gate, is also the setting for Chiang Mai’s picturesque annual flower festival held every February.
Around half way to the central gate — Prathu Suan Dok — Ratchamanka Road leads off eastwards to slice through the old city past Wat Chedi Luang while Intrawararot Road takes you down to Wat Phra Singh and onto Ratchadamnoen Road. Heading west from the old brick gate is Suthep Road, which takes you past Wat Suan Dok up towards the foot of Doi Suthep and the Wat Umong area. Wat Suan Dok is a prestigious and attractive temple and worth a slight detour if you’re not in a rush. (It’s especially good late in the day and images of sunsets behind Suan Dok’s pagodas features regularly in local tourism blurbs.)
Another temple well worth crossing over the road for is Wat Pansao, located on the west side between Suan Dok and the northeast corner. This is a great looking little wat with an interesting history that’s regrettably rarely featured on any Chiang Mai tourist temple itinerary. Continuing along this side of the road is the excellent Roomjai Kai Yang – an Isaan restaurant which we’ve raved about earlier. It’s only open evenings but if you’ve reached the end of the strip and are feeling peckish you could always continue round the corner, past the large Chiang Mai Ran Hospital into Huay Kaew Road and stop off at the nearby Central Department Store’s rather good food hall.
The latter stretch of the old city side is a mixture of residential and commercial with a couple of popular evening Thai eateries but again not much during daylight hours. That concludes our round the city stroll; we’ll be back into the deepest jungle of Doi Suthep for our next suggested hiking itineraries.
By Mark Ord.