3 Things You Must Do in Chiang Mai, Thailand
When we first put Chiang Mai on the itinerary for this trip I wasn't 100% sold on the place. It seemed like just another big city to me but Thomas seemed very excited to be going back there. I was happy to give 4 days of the trip to the capital of the North as it is often referred to.
There are 3 things that you must do if you ever have to the opportunity to visit Chiang Mai. Well, three things beyond eating... Who knew there were so many great restaurants and food stands in one city?
#1- Experience Wat Phra That Temple on Doi Suthep
I read somewhere that unless you visit this temple atop the mountain Doi Suthep then you have never really visited Chiang Mai at all. This is about a 40-minute drive up the mountain out of town. At first, we were going to have the hotel we were staying at call us a taxi but we realized that would be much more expensive than finding our own. We found a gentleman with an air conditioned car to take us there and wait at the top and bring us back down. This in total was 600 baht.
Ideally, you will want to find and arrange a private driver for yourself the day before you go. Have the driver bring you to a couple of other stops outside of the main city of Chaing Mai.
Not only is the temple itself a real sight to see but so is the view overlooking the city of Chaing Mai. Take the time and go see this place because I truly believe if you don't then you may regret it one day. The extra perk is all the temple dogs living at the top. They are so cute, too bad I couldn't bring one home...
#2- Visit Elephant Nature Park
Offering both day trips, one night excursions, or week long volunteer opportunities Elephant Nature Park can fit into anyone's itinerary. I loved the experience of going and meeting the elephants who each have their own personalities.
We opted to do the two days and one-night excursion. The Elephant Nature Park picked us up at 8:30 in the morning at our hotel and transported us the park, which is located an hour away from Chaing Mai. Along the way, we watched a video about the park and safety rules to follow while there. Immediately upon arriving, we were brought to a table which was our group's rally point and given water bottles that we could use. The water the park provides for drinking is safe, this isn't always true in Southeastern Asia countries.
After the day of exploring with the elephants and viewing the park, we were brought to our accommodations for the evening. The bungalow below was our private oasis and the back porch overlooked the elephants. The word magical doesn't even begin to describe it. The bungalow has a sign naming it Thaicoon and came with its own white dog that called the front porch his home. I refilled his water bowl and we called him Thaicoon after the bungalow itself.
That evening we watched a miraculous sunset with the mountains and river both in view. I described the Thai sunsets in my journal as written below:
There is an almost indescribable difference in the sunsets here in Thailand. The whole landscape tends to glow in the milky pink light before slowly dripping as the sun falls beneath the horizon. Then everything you see disappears as the deep darkness of the night sweeps over you.
#3- Take a Cooking Class
Goodness, I don't think I will ever stop talking about the food in Thailand. So please pardon me while I go on about how fresh and tasty everything is! I read a review on Thai Farm Cooking School by That Backpacker and instantly knew this was a must-do for Thomas and I!
For 1,500 Thai baht per person, you get transportation to and from the cooking school. Transportation is important since class takes place on an organic farm just outside the city. In addition, you have a wonderful instructor, your own cooking station, a lesson on the different plants and herbs you will use, a recipe book to take home with you, a trip to a Thai market to learn about some of the ingredients and a four-course meal! That's a pretty good deal for roughly $43-45.
I do have to say this was the best experience for us. Ever since arriving home we have been making Thai food at least once a week. I seriously make myself coconut milk soup with shrimp every week, I can't get enough!
The instructors are all lively fun Thai people with a passion for cooking and teaching. Our instructor Gift was such a hoot. My favorite quote from her was "...and for us Thai's spicy means sexy." 😉
Before heading to Chaing Mai, or wherever the next airplane you clamber onto is taking you, be sure you've prepared. To help get you ready you can read my tips to prepare for an international trip! Be sure to use the free printable checklist found at the bottom of the page.