Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Thailand: Chiang Mai

We’re just back from two amazing weeks in Thailand and Hong Kong. What was originally booked as another K+L long-haul trip to Asia turned out to be a fun mini-holiday with my sisters, BiL, and my 20 month old niece. 

My last visit to Thailand was in 2006 for a work conference, followed by a few not-so-sunny days in Koh Samui on the Gulf of Thailand. Having missed out on visiting the northern city of Chiang Mai and the fabulous islands on the Andaman Sea on my last trip, we made sure to include some jungle trekking and island hopping in the itinerary.

Working our way north to south, Keenan and I spent a week exploring Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, and Bangkok on our own before meeting up with my family in Phuket. Chiang Mai, the “Rose of the North” is a fairly laid back city with over 30 temples within the old walled city. Due to its walkable scale, it is quite easy to cover the old wall city in half a day, leaving plenty of time for relaxation by the pool (it’s scotching hot in April) and two hour massages (yes please!). If you’re in Chiang Mai on a weekend, be sure to visit the Saturday Walking Street on Wulai Street (South Gate) for souvenirs, street food/open air market, and people watching.

Most people use Chiang Mai as a gateway for trekking and adventure trips around the Mae Tang area. Having spent 5D/4N trekking in the stunning Annapurnas in Nepal in October, the 2D/1N trekking package was a walk in the park. Whilst it was touristy, it gave a glimpse of the hill tribal life in Northern Thailand and included an elephant ride, lunch, and a three hour uphill trekking to a remote village on Day 1. 

Elephants are one of Keenan’s favourite animals. They are indeed cute! If you join a tour, please be sure to do your research and ensure that the elephants are treated well. With no running water or electricity at the village hut, we past time by playing cards with six other fellow trekkers, majority were from the UK, and slept in one big wooden hut, and probably with other critters and bugs.

The next morning, we hiked to a small waterfall for a refreshing dip in the river, followed by some river-rafting, which was great fun. We only wished the rapids were just slightly stronger. We finished off by a leisurely ride on a bamboo raft before lunch.  We were back in Chiang Mai in time for a sun downer near the river and some shopping at the Chiang Mai night bazaar. Check out the Bus Bar on the river for some cold Chang beers, good 80s/90s music, though the music can be cheesy, and overall chilled out vibe.

Whilst Thailand is known for its pristine coastline and stunning beaches, be sure to take some time out to visit Northern Thailand; you’ll appreciate that Thailand is an ideal all-around destination with excellent trekking, culture, city-life, historic architecture, tasty (and spicy!) street food, and lovely beaches. 

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