Chiang Mai: my home for 4 days and where my exploration of Northern Thailand began. For those wondering why I didn’t venture down to the beautiful beaches and white sand of southern Thailand, here’s why. I had heard so many positive reviews of Northern Thailand from friends, plus I was heading to the Philippines right after Thailand where sand & beaches are hard to ignore. So, I decided to head somewhere that was completely different in terrain.
- Chiang Mai Night Market
- Elephant Nature Park
Other notable highlights include Doi Suthep, a temple located on top of a mountain that gives a great bird’s eye view of the city. Finding “UP Cafe”, a super friendly and family owned coffee shop that looked straight out of a Pinterest board. I spent two mornings there, enjoying fresh homemade bread, eggs and a mango smoothies (yay for real food!). I was also fortunate enough to meet many people along the way from all over the world, that helped make my time in Chiang Mai memorable.
Let me start by saying how unique the city of Chiang Mai really is. The central and old part of the city is completely enclosed by high brick walls and several different “gate” entrances. I swear it’s quite beautiful and not actually the amusement park that I just made it sound like. If that didn’t sell you on the city, around those walls is a giant moat that surrounds the city. Yes, a moat! Unfortunately, I neglected to take any photos of the brick wall (I’ll blame it on the food poisoning). I did however, get 2 photos of the moat. Phew!
Chiang Mai at Night
Chiang Mai Moat
One of the only things I could do at night because of my food poisoning highlights of Chiang Mai was the Night Market. I spent 3 nights here. Probably more time than you would ever need at any Market, but hey. It was filled with unique jewelry, silk, lanterns, Thai spices & seasoning mixes, and of course the super obnoxious touristy t-shirts.
My second highlight of Chiang Mai was the Elephant Nature Park. It’s a non-profit rehabilitation and conservation centre for elephants that have been rescued from all kinds of unfortunate circumstances. This include abuse in the trekking, logging and circus industry, along with many others. Some baby elephants are forced to work on the busy streets of Bangkok, as a tool to beg for money. After doing plenty of research on elephants in Thailand, I knew riding them was the last thing I wanted to do. Which unfortunately is still a huge attraction, especially Chiang Mai. After learning about the opportunity of volunteering at Elephant Nature Park, I knew I’d find a way to make it there. And I’m so glad I did!
There were only 6 of us in our group, creating a very intimate setting. After picking us up from our accommodations, we started our day by eating breakfast WITH the elephants. It was so cool to just be casually eating breakfast and look over and see these ginormous and beautiful creatures. We then got slowly introduced to the elephants by feeding them watermelons and bananas. Boy, can they eat! After what seemed like an impossible task (getting the biggest quantity of fruit I’ve ever seen from the baskets and into the bellies of the elephants), we headed into the jungle for our trek. We walked at the elephants pace, AKA super slow. It was nice to see them just enjoying themselves. We made our way over steep hills and lush fields, admiring the greenery surrounding us, quite literally going off the beaten path. Never before I had I seen leaves so large, and vines so abundant- that you could actually swing from them like Tarzan. After trekking for a few hours, we stopped for lunch at a spot that was clearly designed just for this purpose. Bamboo benches and tables with a thatched roof structure overhead. We unraveled our lunch, nicely packed into a large bamboo leaf, to find a nice cashew and veggie stir fried rice. Our guides also cut up plenty of fresh pineapple- the rinds of which we gave to the elephants! I guess they will eat almost anything.After lunch, we continued our trek to a nearby waterfall, which was followed by bathing the elephants. On the way back, we were each given a piece of cloth from monk robes. We were to tie it to any tree of our choosing- a method used to prevent trees from being cut down.
Chiang Mai, you were truly wonderful. Thank you for nursing me back to health (almost). I will miss your cute cafes and cheap pedicures. Until next time!
Next up: Chiang Rai