Chiang Mai is a cute little city in the foothills of Northern Thailand. There is an ancient city wall around the city center and the Ping River runs along the Eastern side of town. It’s one of those places where you can make it whatever you want it to be—from a relaxing getaway to an adventurous action-packed jaunt. For me, the highlight in town is the temples. There are more than 300 of them! I found them to be especially peaceful, beautiful temples. My other favorite experience though was being a mahout for a day. We were elephant trainers!
When my family visited Thailand, we chose an elephant camp that said it worked hard at caring for its rescued elephants. We learned lots about elephant behavior, how to interact with elephants, and the sad truths of elephant labor. First, we fed the local elephant herd bunches upon bunches of bananas. Then we got a demonstration on how to climb up a kneeling elephant in order to ride it bare-back. Next was THE ride. I was assigned the baby, likely because I didn’t look very confident climbing the great beast in the practice round. Our ride was up and down a steep dusty hill. I had a hard time staying balanced on the elephant’s neck. I pressed my hands into his head to try to steady myself on as he lumbered down the hill. It was quite an experience! THEN the elephants rode us straight into a warm pond where we cleaned them with scrub brushes and took loads of photos, of course. It was a really cool experience.
The temples in Chiang Mai are full of beautiful rich colors—lots of gold and deep wood, maroon painting and vibrant jewel tone accents. There is so much soothing symmetry in the altars and the carvings. I also really enjoyed the Buddhas’ faces—many of them seem to be so serenely happy. Their mouths curve up and their eyes squint with a hint of a smile. I like the open gates and the bright orange robes on the shaven-headed monks. I could feel the significance and the energy radiating from the temple halls. It was wonderful.
Chiang Mai has a great night market full of all of the touristy goodness that you can find in Thailand and Asia in general. Be sure to bargain! Chiang Mai also has the perks of being a city, like bookshops, coffee shops, and a variety of cuisine options. There’s also room for adventure in Chiang Mai, with a visit to the Tiger Temple, a snake farm, zip lining, a drag queen show, etc. Nature lovers can get into a hike up to Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep or enjoy biking or trekking through the countryside. Motorbikes are also available for daily rental. Chiang Mai also offers some great course, like cooking, boxing, meditation and yoga. It’s also a great place to just relax poolside! Possibilities are endless in Chiang Mai. *Also check out my post on Rustic and Blue, a cute farm fresh cafe!