It was a long journey from Phoenix to Chiang Mai. I had stops in both Los Angeles & Hong Kong. By the end, I felt I was in desperate need of a shower, and some personal space. I arrived in Chiang Mai around 14:30, and was settled into my hotel, around 16:00. (I had a driver pick me up and drop me off.) I figured the best thing I could do was freshen up, and get some fresh air. So, I changed my shoes, washed my face, put makeup back on, grabbed my purse, and put some of my things in the safe. I was going to be on my own.
Not 100% sure of where to go, but just remembering a little bit from studying google maps, I headed toward the night bazaar. From their a couple of left turns led me on a journey through souvenir shops, and Buddhist temples. I pushed on knowing that I had to wear myself down and go as long as possible before I could go to sleep. I probably lasted about two hours on the streets. Not feeling bold enough to sample Thai food yet, partially because I didn’t feel like making the effort to figure out what to order, I ended up ordering Pizza Hut because it was literally right outside our hotel. I did my best to eat all I could despite the fact that I felt like I could pass out at any second. With a full belly, I took a quick hot shower, then waited to hear from Brad when he was in Phuket. I didn’t last much longer. I was trying to stay awake until he got there, but it wasn’t possible. I could feel myself dosing off, and immediately grabbed my phone to let him know that I wouldn’t be awake upon his arrival. Seconds after sending the text, I was gone. I remember, a little while later hearing the hotel room door open, and the sound of my husbands voice. We were finally back together.
The next morning we had to get our own breakfast, so we found a Starbucks. It was a nice choice because it gave us a little bit of our normal cuisine while we got “wild” with the Thai food. …and it was just a nice relaxing routine way to start our mornings together.
Our first day, we just stayed in the city. We wandered all over looking for fun treasures, and popping in and out of the small temples. As we wandered along the city walls, and near the river, we ended up finding John’s Place, this restaurant had the best Pad Thai in all of Thailand…. Here are some of our beautiful photos from that day, click to see where:
Tip: Make sure you have the appropriate attire for entering temple grounds… Some places may supply you with it, but not all… Shoulders should be covered, and often knees…
After a day of wandering through the city, we were tired, sweaty, and couldn’t wait to relax. We ended up wandering through the Night Bazaar, enjoying food & checking out the local vendors. Eventually though, it was time for bed, I had hung in there as long as possible.
The next morning we woke with only one one activity in mind. Elephants. Our first task was to wander upstairs to the concierge to try to book an event. We ended up booking with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, mainly because it was within our time frame, and they don’t offer elephant rides. They were picking us up late that morning to take us to the Sanctuary, so with the time in between we went to Starbucks to get our breakfast, and then did some light wandering through the city, a different area than usual. We ended up finding a fun temple with mother of pearl inlaid pillars, and mirrored mosaic detailing. We also, had fun taking pictures mimicking the Buddhas.
We got back to the hotel, packed the back pack, and waited downstairs for our driver. It was an extensive drive in an open back vehicle with a group of about 10 other people. It was easily about 1.5 hours of driving, with a stop at a gas station for snacks. The drive was very scenic, but towards the end I was starting to experience some motion sickness from not being able to see out completely.
Once we were out of the truck, we were instructed to put on one of the festive “ponchos”. Then we were shuffled over to the picnic tables for our orientation. Our guide/instructor walked us through the timeline for the afternoon & shared information about Thai elephants and the organization. Eventually, it was time to play. I was so excited to interact with Asian Elephants. Fact: Asian Elephants are significantly smaller than African Elephants. Take a look here:
We started off our interaction with handfuls of small bananas. Elephants love bananas! After probably 30 minutes of loving the beauties, we headed up the hill to meet the mama & her 5 day old baby. It was such a treat! We watched the little baby slowly wander around near its mom & practice using its trunk and ears. It was so cute! We all watched in awe wanting to love on the baby, but eventually it was time for everyone to have a mud bath. Our group scurried back to our belongings & readied themselves in their swimwear. Here is some of our fun, click for a larger view:
The Thai employees had already begun working the elephants toward the mud, and were not far behind. Within moments there were 5 elephants and approximately 20 people in a giant pool of muddy water. The elephants began jubilantly rolling around, and the people gathered round throwing mud on the elephants and giving them mud massages. It was so fun… At one point it became a bit of a mud fight as patrons began lobbing large wads of mud back and forth towards each other. No one was safe.
About 15 minutes after, we all made our way towards the river for our baths. We all grabbed old bowls and buckets & began rinsing each other and the elephants, splashing one another like children. It was one of the best times that I have ever had in a river. Once play time was over, and everyone was “cleaned off”, we headed back up the hill to the outdoor showers, where we were able to rinse off river debris and remaining bits of mud. Then it was snack time. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary provided us with some amazing Thai dishes & some watermelon. It was all delicious, and great to get something before our long drive back.
Eventually, we arrived back at our hotel, which meant it was time for real showers before we headed back out. We wandered a little bit, not fully sure of what to do. We explored the area a bit more, and ended up deciding to eat at one of the local restaurants, Pizza Hut. We couldn’t shake the “lame” away, and for some reason we were both craving it. So we went with it. It was surprisingly expensive compared to the Thai food, but really hit the spot.
We headed back to the hotel in an attempt to get some cool, dry air. We also wanted to scout out a potential zip-lining company. We found one. Jungle Flight Chiang Mai. I booked us for the JF3 package, with arrangements to be picked up in the morning. We were so pumped.
I wasn’t ready for bed just yet, I wanted a little more time on my feet, so we headed back out for about an hour until Brad was worn down. The extensive rows of street vendors and tourists were quite overwhelming, and seemed like they went on for miles and miles, probably because they did. Finally though, the weather overtook us and we were back in our room with a movie before getting some rest for a very fun day ahead.
It was zip-lining day! We headed out to grab a quick McDonald’s breakfast before our big adventure. Next thing you knew, we were in an air-conditioned van headed for the bumpy Mountains outside of Chiang Mai. Upon arrival, we were issued a locker and basically asked to leave anything that couldn’t be firmly secured to our person. We filled out our paperwork and then were geared up and broken into our groups.
They took us down to the starting point, and from there we were off! It was incredible! Especially the 1000M line…. The view of the canopy was so amazing that I wish I could do it every day. We didn’t see any wildlife, and the only loud noises you hear are those of other thrill seekers near by. It was a really fun afternoon… except maybe the “roller coaster” you are latched in & hold onto two handles over head and basically get voluntarily whiplash… It was truly thrilling, but also a bit painful at times. It is possible to get flung, but you are still attached and still make it to the end. We eventually ran out of lines to zip, and were led down the road to a local restaurant that had some cuisine prepared for us. Honestly, it was good, but it sketched me out a little bit so I didn’t go hog wild for it like I did at the Elephant Sanctuary.
When we got back to the hotel, we quickly rinsed off the jungle sweat and then headed out to wander and to grab an early dinner. We were thinking about going to Doi Suthep the next day, and I needed something to cover my shoulders so that I wouldn’t have to wear my lightweight pullover again because that was brutal. I had found something at one of the souvenir shops, but it was a little pricier than what I wanted, but I didn’t want a traditional Thai silk sarong… I wanted something that I could wear at the beach or wherever. …anyways long story short, I thought about it, looked at other places, but went with the one I like best.. Tip: Ladies – pack something lightweight to cover your shoulders with if need be, and that can just be tossed in your bag while you explore. It’s a game changer. For dinner we went to a restaurant that sat along the river, The Riverside Bar & Restaurant (it doesn’t get more straightforward than that!). We had a great view, and great service. I went with Chicken Fried Rice, and Brad got something a little more exciting. It was a calm & a fast meal, but it was all I needed at the moment.
We headed back to the hotel after so that I could change into something more comfortable given the weather…. A dress and humidity just don’t go hand in hand when your thighs stick together. I’m not one of those stick leg model types… Anyways, we then headed back out to explore more of the markets. We wandered for several hours, wanting to try several things and just experience Chiang Mai. We tried some of the hummus from the middle eastern couple, we tried Pad Thai from one of the local ladies (it was exquisite)…. We ended up at another market where we wandered for a little while, and then Brad ditched me to find Thai beer… While we were separated, I considered it a perfect time to buy a few pieces of fun jewelry. With my purchase complete, and my first “negotiating” sale done, I went back to find Brad. He had pitcher of Chang, and I couldn’t help but assist him with it. We enjoyed sipping our beer and watching the tourists and locals mingle and mix.
Then it was time for something new. Brad wanted to try another dish, so we went across the way to one of the restaurants and got a small table where we both proceeded to order soup. I’m pretty sure that may be part of why the Thai people are so skinny — soup and hot humidity just make you sweat even more… I enjoyed mine as it was basically a chicken noodle, and Brad hated his… I think it was like a seafood soup that he said had a very strong ginger taste. It was pretty funny to watch him try to suffer through it, but eventually he just couldn’t do it, so we got the check and left. We wandered on a bit more…. and found another market for Brad where he was able to find another snack…. Finally, we were both full. We were both exhausted, and we headed back to the hotel. We were leaving the next day, so we packed the bags the best we could, and headed to bed.
The next morning we finished packing our bags, and got ready to head to Starbucks for breakfast. While we were eating we decided to go to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, a temple on the mountain. Once we were finished eating we needed to find a driver. The trick was finding one for a reasonable rate. Once we had our guy, we headed up and up and up. He stopped at a picturesque spot where you can overlook the city. This is also a spot with several street vendors offering food and souvenirs. We were able to snap a pretty great selfie, and then were quickly back in the car. We finally arrived at the top, and our driver agreed to wait for us until we were finished. We bought our tickets, and took the tram up. It was packed with people, and honestly… the stairs wouldn’t have been a problem. Anyways, when we got to the top, we found the spot where we had to remove our shoes & we headed into the temple. It filled with tourists and locals paying their respects to Buddha, and many dressed in black to honor their late king. It was decadent and beautiful. Although I personally am not a follower of Buddha, nor do I understand Buddhism, I find it to be a very beautiful and peaceful religion. We spent probably about and hour to and hour and half wandering the grounds before we found our way out and back down the stairs.We wandered across the street and headed down hill past the street vendors. We grabbed some meat skewers, and perused. Without souvenirs we crossed the street once again to find our driver. He found us first, went and got his “tuk-tuk”, and drove us back down the mountain, and dropped us off at our hotel.
We immediately regretted having this as our drop off point because we wanted to go to John’s Place again for lunch, and neither of were dressed for that journey. I was in jeans… It was a miserable, hot and humid walk. We drank through our water quickly, and scarfed down our Chicken Pad Thai once again, and then headed back to our hotel to grab our bags, get checked out, and just sit. We had a driver scheduled to pick us up early that afternoon to take us to the airport.
1) For countries where religion enforces a dress code, make sure you have something comfortable for covering your shoulders
2) The best Pad Thai is in Chiang Mai – it isn’t overly saucy
3) Mud is way better when it involves elephants