Chiang Mai is a city in Thailand’s northern mountains. It is very lush with nature and you are never far from a Buddhist temple – there are over 300 in this small city. One of the main reasons travellers visit Chiang Mai is to get out, the city is a hotspot for activities on the outskirts. Thailand was our final country of this five-week South East Asia backpacking holiday.
Arriving in Chiang Mai
Initial thoughts, wow Thailand has been hit by an obesity epidemic. Developing countries aren’t even safe. This was later confirmed at a petrol station…
Overweight child advertises processed food next to scales
I couldn’t believe that they were using an overweight toddler to advertise a product full of crap and had scales next to it. We also saw people buy Craig’s least favourite food product ‘shit on a stick’. Processed meat on a stick. Mmmm. We arrived at Bangkok (no visa needed as British) from Phnom Penh, Cambodia via an Air Asia flight (£171) then on to Chiang Mai (stupidly got a return £185 – soon realise that we can fly straight to Koh Samui for the next part of our trip).
Gary Glitter in Thailand
The next day was spent labouring over how to get to Koh Samui, ideally we would have liked to go to the Thia island, Koh Tao (after hearing so many backpackers rave about it) but it’s another boat ride away so agree on a relaxed week in Samui and from advice from a friend settle for Lamai and avoid Chawang ‘you’d hate it Gemma’ (we did). Craig hates this research part – magically transport plans just materialise, they don’t. You need to set aside time (too much time he’d argue) to get the best option whether it be saving time or budget. We go for budget, use already booked internal flight to Bangkok then an overnight train and the ferry to Samui (hoping we get tickets, still waiting on email from train company…). We also book a flight back up to Bangkok for our flight home. A week later at the airport we decide to scrap the train idea and fly down to Koh Samui. Annoyingly it turns out we can fly straight from Chiang Mai – miscommunication between the two of us. We polish off a stressful day in our relationship with a shoddy Tenerife style tea next to the Night Bazaar Market and at have a chuckle at Gary Glitter on the telly in Thailand. Our pockets baht light and bags heavier with presents for family, we tuk-tuk back to MD House hostel (an alternative form of transport we didn’t use was the red songthaew – strange red shared taxi bus, check them out).
Massages from a Prisoner
Everyone raves about the bar Zoes, unfortunately, we arrived on a Buddhist holiday. We only drank there one night but the police shut it down however, it did mean we were hangover free and did some alternative things such as getting a massage by a female prisoner (I say for effect) at Lila Thai Massage. I highly recommend this, it’s a dry massage (clothes on, they give you robes), professionally done.
Unusual experience in Chiang Mai
I left feeling taller after half an hour of having a small Thai woman on my back performing yoga moves. With a 70% reoffending rate in Scotland, it’s something the Scottish Prison Service might want to think about. We booked in and had a two hour wait which gave us time to go for a wander and look at the many temples.
Never Sit on an Elephant
Craig’s cousin very kindly bought Craig and myself (me freeloading of Craig’s 30th) a trip to an elephant retreat. The experience these elephants have had is atrocious – beaten in cages with sticks and metal objects until they are obedient and perform for Western tourists or obey their boss and pull down trees with their necks (logging, an illegal process). The retreat takes in sick elephants (one had a broken hip, so sad) and helps them get better then puts them back into the wild. They also have lots of dogs.
Turns out the food doesn’t go up their noses!
You get the chance to feed them (turns out food doesn’t go up their trunks…), bath them, and tut at tourists who you see in the future sitting on their backs – not cool.
Mmmmm Mango and Sticky Rice
Needing some T.O (from each other), I take a cooking class with a punchy lady who runs Basil Cooking School. The company collects you at your hotel, takes your around a market, and then back to a house with a large kitchen where you are guided to knock up (and eat) a seven, yes seven, course meal. Thai basil is my new favourite, it tastes like liquorice. I also love palm sugar which is like fudge which hasn’t set yet… and mango and coconut sticky rice, where have you been all my life?
The chef’s tip for mosquito bites was turmeric. It’s bright yellow though! They are about to ruin my life (again) in Pai, Northern Chiang Mai…
Where We Stayed
We arrive late in Chiang Mai and check in to MD House £25 for the night. We end up regrettably staying for five nights, by day four they hadn’t bothered cleaning the bathroom but it had Wi-Fi at the pool, breakfast, and two pools so it did suffice. Chiang Mai is like a hub for going places anyway so you’re never there that long.
There are heaps of things to do in Chiang Mai, it really is a decent base for the lots of activities around the area. Planning a trip to Thailand? Check out my good friend, Emily’s article which details what things cost in Chiang Mai.
Have you been to Chiang Mai?