Chiang Mai, located in the Northwest region of Thailand, has a bustling city centre with an indie, artsy vibe to it… We walked through artisan night markets selling the same “unique” products you would see here on our way to dinner. You can buy clothes, jewelry and art while sipping a grande triple-shot-vanilla-soy-latte-machiatto. Yep, Chiang Mai has hipsters.
While we spent most of our time on daily excursions outside of the city, we did have a chance to explore Chiang Mai inside its’ city walls - literally.
We found ourselves all over the city… on a tropical terrace drinking coffee with fellow tourists who had stumbled across the same coffee spot in their wanders. And the coffee was gooood. Bathrooms? Not so much. Who needs toilet paper anyways..?
We went to one of the big, bustling food markets you see on television, but it was empty. No one was there. This, we figured out, is because it’s just too damn hot during the day, therefore, the markets take place at night.
We then ventured deeper into the city in an effort to get to the river… And, after a few hours of maneuvering our way through the busiest part of the city, darting traffic that didn’t stop for pedestrians, and sweating our you-know-what’s off, it wasn’t anything spectacular. So, we enjoyed a few cold ones and a much-needed break before heading back. Needless to say we taxied - not walked - nor tuk tuk’ed - our way home that day.
Once we left the city limits, we discovered Chiang Mai to be a lush, mountainous landscape with plenty of places to hike and explore… did we do any of that? No. We wanted to, but no one would take us anywhere other than overpriced tourist attractions. However, in between said attractions our driver let us stop at a few spots with great vistas and even a provincial park where the trees were covered in crazy vines.
THE ELEPHANT SANCTUARY
Being from Toronto, it’s not everyday you get to go to an elephant sanctuary. And I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a sort of stigma attached to ‘elephant sanctuaries’ as some believe the animals to be trapped - not ‘free and wild’ like the marketing suggests.
We went to one of these sanctuaries. And as we were leaving, herds of newcomers were arriving. I’d estimate there were probably 100 - 150 people in our group and this herd must have equaled at least the same. The entire world, when visiting Chiang Mai, probably does this - can you imagine how those elephants must feel? I hope they’re happy. I wonder if they get good care behind closed doors… When the tourists are there, they get fed, lots of attention and a bath - we don’t see the rest… BUT, you can buy one of their really cool ponchos as a souvenir! Only $29.99!
As sad as the aforementioned may be to ponder, the elephants were playful, interesting to touch and see up close, and their size really did demand your presence… even the 3 month old baby who went around head-butting and ramming everyone. You had to watch out!
I believe this was high up on Mark’s list of must-do’s when we went to Chiang Mai for two reasons… 1. (duh) snakes! and 2. part of Rambo was filmed here.
This place was legitimately dangerous. Not only are most of the snakes venomous (no, they are not milked), they let them loose around you… selfie anyone? Come, come take a selfie! It’s okay we have good doctor!
No explanation really needed here… other than telling you that the tigers are soft and it is terrifying as hell petting one knowing that it could take your head off at any given moment. I hugged one, then freaked out (in my mind) when it begun to turn it’s enormous head towards me… we almost made eye contact.
While it is very sad to see the tigers in cages, this company claims the tigers are not drugged… but… y’know… you can get 1 picture for $20, or 3 for $50!
Afterwards, we watched them play like the giant cats they are while taking our own photos and video for free. And unlike white men, these tigers could jump! (before you get all up-in-arms, please note that this is a movie reference and not a racist statement)
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, commonly referred to as The Golden Temple, is a Theravada wat (wat means temple) in the Chiang Mai Province. Located on the mountain, Doi Suthep, you can get dropped off at the base with a thousand other tourists. Then you have to walk up a heck of lot of stairs to actually reach the temple.
It was worth it though, such an interesting place to explore. Of course I was inappropriately dressed so I needed to borrow a few shawls to cover myself with. We ended up venturing off (no surprise there) onto what looked like a hiking trail only to arrive at the Buddhist monks’ abodes.
Oh, and if you go, don’t forget to buy your ticket… trust me, unless you’re Thai, they won’t let you in without it. Luckily, it’s very easy to find the ticket booth after you’ve climbed a breezy 304 steps (we later discovered the elevator).
This was a night full of shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrian traffic and it was hell trying to find the way out… probably because there wasn’t one and you could barely move with so many people around. The market took place on two major roads that were blocked off for the evening. They were overflowing with vendors and shoppers and they were at least a kilometer long each… not the best time we’ve had. But, I did eat a bug for Terri because that’s all she said she wanted. I actually ate 2 because someone forgot to film the first one. And yes, it was blech.
After a good 4-ish hours stuck in this maze, we made it to our destination… Burger King. (Once we had decided it was time to get the hell outta dodge, we re-routed our map so we would end up there). I regret not trying more food at the market but I needed something I knew I enjoyed to wash down the grasshoppers.
We weren’t really able to stop for photos so please enjoy the efforts of my “walk-by” shooting. Oh, and spoiler alert - if you watch the video I open my mouth at the end so unless you want to see a chewed up grasshopper carcass, I suggest you don’t watch.
To see the rest of the photos from our trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand, click here.