Travelling South East Asia - Chiang Mai
Why hello there strangers, I'm so sorry that I have been away for so long. If you follow me on my social channels you may have noticed that Dan and I spent Christmas and New Year travelling around South East Asia. We had this trip booked for months and it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. Travelling the world has always been a passion of mine, especially Thailand and I thought I would share with you the best five weeks of my life hoping that I can impart some knowledge if you too, are looking to travel around Thailand or Cambodia. This will be the first part of a series of blog posts so keep your eye out for future posts!
So lets get started....
The first leg of our journey was to Chiang Mai, the second largest city in Thailand after Bangkok. So many people recommended that we go here, stating it was a true Thai experience with incredible Temples, food and activities.When we arrived into Chiang Mai and jumped in our taxi to our guest house we took in the incredible sites, sounds and smells all a challenge to our senses. There were so many cars, scooters, trucks, not as many as they say there is in Bankok but enough to be excited by the busyness. Our first night in Chiang Mai we checked into a little hostel in a back street near the Thapae Gate (excellent location to stay when in Chiang Mai) it was nothing glam but it was clean and had aircon so we were quite content especially after dragging our backpacks in the hot thick air. The second night we checked into a gorgeous guest house called
. It was so lovely and simple but with comfy beds and really helpful staff. Mr X at front of house staff member was a gem who recommended lots of great places for us to see through our trip. Here are a few things that we did that I would 100% recommend you do if you get the chance to vist Chiang Mai.
Doi Suthep - Temple in the Clouds
This is a must do whilst in Chiang Mai, although the city is full of incredible temples this one for me
stood out, it is set in the mountain 1676 meters tall and provides a view like no other of Chiang Mai. In order to get to the top you have to climb the 300 steps (not easy in 30 degree heat) When you reach the top you pay a small entrance fee of 30 Baht which all contributes towards towards supporting the monks that live there. The golden spire (pictured above) is phenomenal and breath taking, so many Thai people were offering blessings to Buddha and circling the temple. Now on to the view, that view above was just unreal I think we spent a good 30 minutes at the viewing platform snapping pictures and taking in the incredible views. When booking this trip don't get swindled into buying a trip that includes a visit to a Royal Palace, we made this mistake and it was in our opinion a waste of money. It wasn't a palace but more a royal garden which although beautiful wasn't really all that enticing and interesting. Be careful to not get swindled for overpriced trips its the biggest trick in the Thailand books! There are also so many other temples to be seen in Chiang Mai which are free to visit so check out
to find the ones that would like to see the most.
Sunday Walking Markets
This has to be one of the best markets we saw in all of South East Asia. Running for streets and streets the Sunday Walking Markets are a must see when in Chiang Mai. I found the quality of the items to be good although you will find lots of duplicates when walking from stall to stall. The food markets were my favorite part of the market because there was so much variation to try. Fried rice, curries, soups, fish cakes, noodles. You name it they had it. Dan and I spent about 4 hours walking the entire market and we started off early at around 4pm. I would recommend you starting out early for these markets as it can get very busy and very very warm and there is nothing worse than being surrounded by people when you are sticky and hot.
Chiang Mai Food
As an avid foodie it's hard to really put into words how incredible the food was in Chiang Mai.Every day Dan and I looked forward to trying something new, we made a promise to ourselves that we would try and eat as much street food as we could so we could get an authentic experience of trying more local tastes. This worked out pretty well as we ate in restaurants only a handful of times during our whole five weeks.
Some of the food you must try whilst in Chiang Mai are as follows:
Khao Soi. - The first picture below is a delicious steaming bowl of Khao Soi which is the national northern dish of Chiang Mai the dish takes influences from both Laotian and Burmese cooking. The rich coconut curry broth which is to die for is made with flat yellow noodles ,chicken (on the bone) topped with crispy deep fried noodles, then finally garnished with shallots, lime and pickled cabbage. We fell in love with this dish and had it nearly every day whilst we were there SO good. One of the best places to get this is at the walking market and an indoor canteen style servery at the
markets. Go get some you will not regret it,
Pad Thai. - Whilst this isn't a favorite dish of mine the Pad Thai we had here was again the best we had out of all the places we visited, The cost of the food at the markets in Chiang Mai is dirt cheap we actually paid 10 baht for a bowl of this along Halal street also near the Galare Market it was tasty and cooked fresh in front of you and a nice option for a snack if you aren't too hungry.
Khao Ka Moo - I don't have a picture to show of you this but you need to just trust me on this one. If you like pork then this one is for you. Head over to the north part of the gate where there are a few small stalls set up ask any tuk tuk or red truck driver to take you there the walk and find the stall where a lady in a cowboy hat is serving slow stewed pork leg. It is delicious and she is actually famous in Chiang Mai for this dish. The pork is slow cooked in a sweet and rich sauce and served with sticky rice and soft boiled egg. It sounds weird but believe me it is tasty.
Sticky Mango Rice - If you love mango and coconut and rice then this will be magic for you, it certainly was for me. This dessert dish is hugely popular around Thailand and for good reasons, it is soo yummy. It is a perfect balance of sweet and salty with chewy rice topped with fresh and delicate mango slices. Its also only £1 for a perfect sharing size portion!
Durian Fruit - Pictured above the spiky ugly looking fruit Durian also known as the Custard Fruit due to its fleshy texture is something definitely worth trying. It famous in Thailand because the fruit has been described as smelling like rotten flesh, feet and other gross smelling things. My inquisitive side got the better of me and I tried some when at the market, it wasn't as bad as everyone said but it certainly wasn't my cup of tea. If you are as adventurous with food as I am then do try thi
Elephant Nature Park
Last but most certainly not least I wanted to share with you the best most special thing that Dan and I did whilst in Chiang Mai and that is the
. Situated around 45 minutes outside of the centre of Chiang Mai a elephant sanctuary was set up to by an incredible woman named Lek to help save Elephants from all over Asia from the cruelty of Animal Tourism. When we planned this trip I made the sensible choice of investigating the idea of riding elephants and thank god that I did, Guys please please please do you research before you travel to understand what happens to Elephants during the process of Elephant riding and tourism. The cruelty that these Elephants experience is beyond horrific and if you choose to make the decision to ride and elephant you are most likely contributing to terrible treatment of the Elephants. The Elephant nature park is a sanctuary where over 40 Elephants have been saved and brought to a home where they are taken care for and loved, during your time at the visit you will be given the opportunity to feed and bath with the elephants in the river on their land. It is a unique and personal experience, one that we will never ever forget. We were able to learn the stories of all the Elephants we met and get the opportunity to be up close and next to the animals. I cried a number of times from the sadness of the stories but was overjoyed to be able to be so close to one of the most wonderful and gentle animals in the world. If you visit Chiang Mai I urge to consider visiting this Elephant park where no riding is allowed but you are still able to have a wonderful and close experience. If this isn't something for you be wary of tour companies that state their animals are cared for, even if this is true it is still not advisable to ride and elephant. Most importantly make your own informed decision I don't at all judge anyone that has or will go on to ride elephants so long as they have done their research to understand the full effects of contributing to animal tourism. If you do go to the Elephant Nature Park, ask for the tour guide Narissa she was amazing and so helpful, she had this wonderful way the animals which was just incredible to see. This was most definitely our favorite experience and one we will never forget.
Other Chiang Mai tips
Getting around - Travel is easy in Chiang Mai and lots of places are within walking distance however after a long day of temple walking or other high energy activities it is just as easy to jump in a Tuk Tuk. A ride on a Tuk Tuk will set you back at 100baht which is about £2 but an even cheaper option is the red trucks called Songthaew's. These will set you back a meager 20 baht and are just as fun as a tuk tuk.
Get a massage - Massages here are cheaper than anywhere else in Thailand and they are bloody good. we paid 180 baht which is around 3.60 for a full body massage. Awana House Massage opposite our accommodation was brilliant and so relaxing after a long day of walking.
So that's it folks my first Thailand Blog post, Thailand has such a place in my heart now that I could write about it for hours! I hope that I have helped in some way provide some good tips if you ever to plan a visit to the Northern part of Thailand. If you have any personal tips about Chiang Mai I would love to hear them so please do leave a comment below in my comments box.
Sawasdee Pii Mai Ka
Happy New Year.