– M – V –
Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Wat Dab Phai
- Wat Phan Tao
- Elephant Sanctuary
- Traditional Village Walk
- Bamboo Rafting
- Night Bazaar
- Suan Buak Haad Public Park
So, we’re trying something new, and instead of having two of the same post for everywhere, we’ll be doing these together! So make sure you check back over our Bangkok post as there will be extra added! This means we’ll hopefully be posting more often, with an ultimate guide following!
Chiang Mai, the sights. What can we say, its like a temple heaven! We ended up visiting more temples here than anywhere else, apart from maybe Burma, but that’s to come later.
Of course we always get a map from our hotel/hostel of the local area, and plan out where the things are that we want to see, but it is always nice finding something you don’t know about too! The lady at the front desk of our hostel kindly printed out one for us… although it was on the back of someone’s passport information she had photocopied earlier, data protection at it’s finest!
We did stumble across a lot of smaller temples on our long walks from one side of the town to the other, but we made sure to check out the main ones too. The ones like Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang, but you have to pay to get in to them. Only 100 Baht, but on our budget, and with the other main things that we wanted to do, we decided against it. We obviously don’t know what it’s like inside the temples, but on the outside they are very similar to the other ones that we saw and so we decided to save on this and hit the others instead.
Wat Dab Phai, Chiang Mai
We stumbled across this Wat and it ended up being the first one that we went to. It also happened to have one of our favourite Buddhas in! It was set out so that there was a little Buddha at the front, a slightly bigger one behind that, and again a bigger one behind that. If you sit on the floor in front of them like we did, then you can’t see the Buddhas at the back!
One of the main things we love about temples, is the fact that you have to take your shoes off! Anyone who knows me (V), knows that I actually live in flip flops, all seasons, even in winter. However, today I had chosen to wear trainers. The seriously long walks we were taking everyday to the embassy across town (see our posts to come on the reasons why later!), had ended up messing our feet up in the flip flops we had been wearing. The trainer situation meant that we had to keep taking our shoes and socks off, and made us miss our flip flops! Seriously, TOP TIP: wear flip flops when temple viewing!
Wat Phan Tao, Chiang Mai
Or as we remember it, the colourful ribbon temple! When we visited, actually for our whole trip, it was the run up to Chinese New Year, and this meant that there were New Year decorations everywhere. Including Christmas ones that seem to just be left up all year round over here. In the grounds of this temple there were hundreds of ribbons hanging from the trees.
There’s also a patch of grass separated by a little pond that is set separate from the rest, you can’t walk on this part, it’s reserved for the Buddha, but we got a photo by a little wooden arch next to it.
This temple was free to get in to and also still remains to be one of our overall favourite temples we went to. There were prayer bowls all along the sides of the temple’s interior, which was completely wooden. We started speaking to one of the monks there. He was lovely and we had a long chat about our travels, which included us blowing his mind by showing him pictures of how snowy England was before we left. He told us that we should come back at 5pm the next day to hear the monks chanting. It happened to be the day before we had a day trip to an elephant sanctuary though, so we couldn’t go… if you manage this then let us know what you think!
Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai
We know that this can be a bit risky, especially as you never know what goes on behind the scenes. We absolutely never advocate even visiting zoos in case our money is helping to pay for animals suffering, but we did ensure that this was one where there was no riding, no training and no abuse. Where the elephants didn’t have to do anything that they didn’t want to do. In hindsight, this was an amazing experience but we’d definitely research this more if we were to do something like this again, as we would go for an even more ethical option.
Our plan had originally been to volunteer at a different sanctuary, the one that we would say is the only real sanctuary in Chiang Mai, the one that looks after stray dogs too! However, we delayed in paying for some reason and lost our spot as its so popular! In the end it worked out well, as we didn’t really have a week to spend there. So when we arrived in Chiang Mai we sought out the next best one we could find.
On the day, we woke up extremely early despite still feeling rough, as in 6am, and got picked up in this pick-up truck, where we proceeded to sit in the back, jolted about, for 4 hours. By the time we got there, half the truck were travel sick and we’d had the best core muscle work out from trying to stay in our seats. We also had had a little dog following the truck for honestly miles. He was so cute and obviously knew the time that the truck came every morning so that he could run along behind and follow! We wanted him to get on the truck as it was so hot and he was running at full speed, even stopping for a drink from a puddle! However he just kept going, and even when we thought we had lost him, he appeared over the hill again!
When we got to the sanctuary, it was set right in the mountains and the elephants were having their breakfast. The views were insane. We got changed in to the traditional tops that you see everyone wearing at the sanctuaries, and took some bananas down to the elephants for a snack.
There were four elephants. Their names were Mo-Lor-Bo (born in 1969 and rescued from Mae Hong Son province), Mo-La-Po (born in 1972 and rescued from Mae Hong Son province), Mo-Think (born in 2007 and rescued from Tak province) and Nor-Mo-Lae (born in 2008 and rescued from Tak province). They told us they had been rescued from lives of hard labour in the logging industry, where normally they would work for 60 years before being allowed to retire.
Just before we came to the sanctuary, we had heard that humans are to elephants, what puppies are to humans. That when they see us, they think we’re cute, and we can’t even deal with this. They are treated so badly by humans and yet they still think we’re like cute puppies!
We fed them some bananas, got covered in elephant snot, and got to know them a bit, we could see that the two younger ones were still like babies and had such a strong bond. It was so amazing being this up close with them.
We headed to bathe in some mud afterwards. The elephants’ skin is so thin that the mud being stuck on them helps to cool them down and it was so much fun! We were covered in it (“no muddy no fun”), and they loved it. The elephants actually took the hose off of us and started drinking out of it too. They are so clever!
They had to get the mud off them afterwards and so we hiked to a river… The people at the sanctuary told us it was better with no shoes so we walked barefoot through this jungle to reach it and it was amazing. You can see that the elephants love it, the two younger ones actually got down in the water and were rolling over and over in it!
The day tour that we had included a hike to a waterfall too, and so this meant that once we had cleaned both ourselves and the elephants off in the river, they walked back to the sanctuary, and we hiked to the waterfall. We did not know that we would be walking this far through the jungle barefoot today!
When we had walked along the pathway (avoiding the trails of ants) for 20 minutes, we eventually reached this tiny plank bridge over the water with a beautiful waterfall in the background. We spent half an hour swimming in the water and standing beneath the streams of water coming over the edge. We say streams but the power of the water in that waterfall was crazy! We’ve swum in them before but never stood beneath them and it was something else…
Traditional Village Walk, Chiang Mai
The middle part of the day included a walk with our local tour guide through his village. If you get the chance to see everyday life in a local village, then we’d definitely say that you should take the opportunity! We spent the afternoon walking through traditional houses, seeing the local women making clothes, and trying local food like tamarind straight off the tree. Our guide had actually climbed up this tree trunk with no help and threw a load down for us to try! They are so so sour, and we couldn’t eat very much of it, but it was amazing to try this straight off the tree.
We also got to see the local animals, the pigs, the chickens and the dogs, which made us miss our dogs from back home! Before we stumbled across a primary school in the middle of the jungle. We learnt that some kids walk up to 2 hours there and back every day. Whilst the slightly older kids, the ones who can look after themselves, can stay overnight in a little house on the grounds. However, most don’t make it to secondary school as they can’t afford it (primary is subsidised by the government). They also get 3 months off in the summer because of the heat too!
Bamboo Rafting, Chiang Mai
After we had finished our walk through the village we jumped on the truck to head to a local river. We don’t actually have any photos of what followed though, as we were advised that we might lose our phones. We do wish that we had taken them though, as we do have very good waterproof phone cases that we bought off of Amazon before we left, and they really have come in handy already! They also told me (M) to take off my glasses, luckily I’m not so blind that I couldn’t enjoy the sights, but given the chance to do it again I would keep them on!
We spent the afternoon laying on these flat bamboo rafts and being punted down this river through the jungle. It was so peaceful and exactly what we did this trip for. You need to try this out if you’re in Chiang Mai, it was our favourite part of the day.
Night Bazaar, Chiang Mai
That night, after another nap, we walked the 30 minutes from our hostel (we really do like walking!) and ended up at the night bazaar that’s on the outskirts of the town. I (V) think I was expecting it to be more like the markets I had been to in Vietnam three years ago, and plan on visiting again. In reality it was much more expensive, much harder to barter (they really don’t want to hear it here!) and didn’t really have much to offer in the way of cheap thrills. There were some lovely expensive restaurants to check out though if you have some spare budget to blow.
I (V) bought my fridge magnet that I collect from everywhere I go. At first she ran away from me when I tried to haggle, when she returned from her jog, I managed to barely get 5 Baht off! (This is the same as £0.11). I (M) also got a pair of chopsticks with elephants on them, I’m trying to collect something from each location that reminds me of something I did or saw there. Other than that, it was all a load of stuff aimed at tourists. We like those traditional markets you go to, where you can’t breathe the air because its full of the smell of food, spices and fruit, and you’re shopping in amongst the locals.
Suan Buak Haad Public Park, Chiang Mai
On our last day in Chiang Mai we had half a day to kill and decided to go on a walk (of course) to find a local park that is just over the other side of the moat. On our way there we were stopped by this woman, we weren’t really too sure what she was asking, but it ended up being that she needed her car moved down the street to the mechanic as it had broken down, and could I (M), possibly push it whilst she steered. I ended up pushing this old car about 2 feet down the road!
We carried on and stumbled across this tiny temple with its beautiful grounds before making it to the park. It was absolutely beautiful, grass set around a lake which was connected to another by a tiny river and a white bridge curving over it. We spent a bit of time here before we had to leave, picking up fresh mangos on the way back (they really are the best we’ve ever tasted here).
The sights and opportunities are endless in Chiang Mai, and although we really missed out on some places like the White Temple, it just means we have an excuse to go back! So keep an eye out for the next post in our series on Chiang Mai!
Vicki and Matt xo