“Travel. As much as you can. As far as you can. As long as you can.”
This stop: Chiang Mai, Thailand.
After Kate & Chelsey spent (a very rainy) 6 days in Hong Kong, they flew out to explore southern Thailand for a few days while I started a new week of work. Fortunately though, they traveled during Mid-Autumn festival, which left me with a long weekend from work and the chance to meet back up with them in northern Chiang Mai, Thailand.
When you think of Thailand, most people imagine clear water, beautiful beaches, and nightlife full of world-famous “lady boys”. This is certainly true if you if you travel down south, which you can read about in Sean & my Phuket travels: https://havebagswilltravelblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/flashback-phuket-thailand
Chiang Mai is vastly different: a much more cultural and scenic city nestled in Northern Thailand’s jungle and hills. Sean and I took a short 3 hour flight Thursday afternoon so we would have three full days to explore. Chelsey had found a great Airbnb property of a refurbished rice farm a bit outside of the city. It really added to the authenticity of our northern Thai vacation. If you were staying in the city, most people say you should stay inside the Old City which is a few block square surrounded by the old fortified wall. We went to the Old City to explore, but I think our Airbnb was much better!
Day 1: Patara Elephant Farm & Night Markets
Before I go on, I would like to state that I understand the issue that riding elephants’ backs are a definite NO (especially when you put a chair on top of them) that’s why rest assured, riding on their backs is NOT allowed in Patara Elephant. The safest and approved way to ride them is to sit around their neck; which Patara does. Of course it’s good if you don’t ride them at all; but in a sense, the immersion with Patara is special since you really get to bond with these animals and take care of them like a real elephant owner (mahout) does, with the riding activity done as part of the elephant’s exercise. Besides, Patara participants can even choose not to ride these elephants at all; what they basically just aim is for you to experience and be exposed to how a regular day goes like for a mahout. (Patara also routinely frees elephants to the wild once they are deemed to be prepared and fit to do so; though most of the time, to prevent them from poachers, circus-owners, and illegal logging individuals that are rampant in Thailand, they would still monitor them from time to time or choose to just keep them in).
Patara Elephant farm was one of the best travel experiences that I have ever had. After a lot of research, Sean had found out about Patara last December so we had been very patiently waiting 9 months for this day. We did a program called “Elephant Owner for a Day” which allowed us to be educated and interact with the elephants as we were their trainers: learning and looking after their health, feeding, hygiene, reproduction etc.
Patara is relatively small. Although there are over 50 elephants on their preserve, they only allow small groups come onto the property each day, so if you plan to do this make sure you reserve your day with plenty of advance notice. We arrived to the farm and it was pouring, which is why initial photos show us in a poncho, but we weren’t going to let that put a damper on our day. Fortunately though, by the time we went through our education and safety briefing the skies cleared up and by the time we were introduced to our elephants it turned out to be gorgeous blue skies.
As words cannot describe what an amazing and beautiful experience it was, I’ll let you see through pictures.
We ventured into Chiang Mai that evening for dinner. Kate & Chelsey are both best friends from college, and funny enough the sister of one of our other college best friends was travelling in Thailand at the same time. We got to meet up with her and her friend for dinner in the middle of the night market.
After dinner, we spent a few hours meandering through the seemingly endless night market bazaar, which is over 1km long. Night market shopping is like Black Friday shopping: you get such a rush haggling prices amongst the different stalls. It’s really more of a sport.
After a few hours of night market shopping we had to end the night with one of the best street deserts I’ve found. I’m not exactly sure what the name is, but it’s like a pan-fried buttery stuffed crepe. So, so good!
Day 2: Fah Lanna & Temple Hopping
How do you follow the amazing day we had at Patara? Well, to start we booked two hour treatments at one of the top-rated spa’s in all of Chiang Mai: Fah Lanna spa. Sean and I did a couples Siam Massage which was a reflexology foot massage followed by Thai Massage #WhenInRome and Chelsey and Kate did a hot oil massage. Not only do I love Thai massages because I leave feeling fantastic, but who could pass up listening to (extremely non-flexible) Sean get massaged (or manhandled – debate is still open with Sean) by a masseue. You know it’s good when the massuse is saying “relax sean.. relax.. RELAX”.
After the spa, we decided to indulge in one of Chiang Mai’s favorite pastimes: temple hopping. There are more than 27 temples (also known as Wats) in the Old City alone, and more than 120 in Chiang Mai city. Each of the Wats are greatly different and we spent the afternoon walking around visiting a few.
Day 3: Relaxation & Great Thai Food
When we woke up the last day in Chaing Mai it was pouring. We spent the morning relaxing in the open living room our of Rice Barn before we had to pack up to head to the airport.
Of course, one last thing to do when your in Thailand… find really great Thai food! The previous day we had found the best taxi driver in all of Chiang Mai, and made arrangements for him to pick us up to bring us to the airport. When he got there, we asked for a really good restaurant recommendation and he knew just the place. Picture a more authentic, Thai version of a Rainforest Cafe restaurant. I’m not throwing this idea out there to describe a chain restaurant, but more of eating amongst nature. We had our last meal (in which we fully indulged) in an open restaurant with a waterfall and beautiful scenery.
One of the best things about traveling is you never know who you are going to meet. In the airport on the way home, we happened to start to chat with a couple sitting behind us while we were waiting for our flight. One of them turned out to have invented a germ-killing silver-coated filter which is produced into a book to make clean drinking water accessible and was traveling in Asia for her company called Folia Water. You can learn more about this: http://edition.cnn.com/videos/tv/2016/01/05/exp-gps-0103-last-look.cnn Funny enough, the following week we also saw her on TV on the show Innovation Nation. An interesting way to end the trip.
Til next time.