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DAY 1 // OLD CITY // DASH! RESTAURANT // KHAO SOI.
We arrived in Chiang Mai by Sleeper train from Bangkok, which pulled into the station at around 8am. Whilst the station wasn't exactly close to our hotel, we decided to kill some time and walk the journey since we had arrived quite some time before the hotel check-in. Of course we still had our backpacks, so the journey wasn't exactly the most enjoyable... It took over an hour to get to our hotel, but we were still super early. Our hotel was BED, Phrasingh Hotel and they were simply incredible! Whilst we were unable to check in so early, they took our bags and offered us breakfast by the pool despite having only paid for breakfast to start from the following morning! We only had to wait an hour or so before we eventually checked in, and oh-my was I in love with this hotel!
Beauty all round - We even had a balcony view of the mountain! We spent the rest of the day exploring Old City in Chiang Mai which is basically made up of lots and lots of little roads.. It can be a bit of a maze, so definitely pick up a free map! There's temples to see, bars to stop at, lots of coffee to drink and book shops to browse. We also walked to the outside of Old City to view the remains of the old wall and its moat. There's also some lovely mountain views too. In the evening, we went to Dash! Restaurant and tried Chiang Mai's famous Khao Soi: Oh boy, was it good! A must-try for any visit to Chiang Mai!
DAY 2 // THAI FARM COOKING SCHOOL.
I had pre-booked a cooking class with Thai Farm Cooking School as a join-in group activity. We were picked up from our hotel and taken to a market where we learnt about different ingredients and how they are made. There was plenty to look at, and plenty to buy! We then arrived at the farm and was shown around the different fruits, veg, and herbs they grow there. I saw THE biggest Durian of my life!
We were given a choice of five different dishes to cook; A starter, a curry, a stir-fry, a side-dish, and a pudding. We each had our own station in the beautiful wood built indoor/outdoor style kitchen, and whilst help is on hand, everyone makes their own dishes themselves. Our teachers were hilarious fun, the group was wild (in an awesome way!) and this was hands-down one of the best experiences of my time in Thailand. Did I mention you get to eat all the dishes afterwards too? AND we were given a cook book which included the recipes of everything we made that day! Seriously, you cannot visit Chiang Mai without taking a cooking class, and it was incredible value-for-money!
We booked this course here.
DAY 3 // DOI SUTHEP // WAT CHEDI LUANG // NIGHT BAZAAR.
We planned to visit Doi Suthep without the costly join-in tours that seemed crazy overpriced - Instead we headed to the North Gate of Chiang Mai and hopped on a Songthaew (a kind of open-backed van/bus) for just 80baht per person for a two-way trip. Our driver waited on the mountain for an hour and a half whilst we were left to explore. Doi Suthep is mostly known for its iconic 309 steps to the temple. But equally beautiful - were the views!
It turned out that an hour and a half just wasn't enough time to look around without feeling rushed - so if I were to go again, try and negotiate the driver to wait for at least two hours! There's so much to look around; lots of little markets, a mountain-top cafe, and I think(?) there might be a waterfall nearby too.
After heading back, we decided to go find Wat Chedi Luang inside Old City. Another ruin temple inside of Old City. Can you tell we like ruins.. and temples?
In the evening we headed down to the Night Bazaar which was around a 30minute walk from our hotel. This was pretty huge with both indoors and outdoor market stalls, and plenty of food - my gosh was it incredible value here! We bought an Indian Curry one night and the owners gave us free fruit, which they proceeded to spoon feed to Grant... It was quite hilarious to say the least. Needless to say we did a little bit of shopping here too!
DAY 4 // ELEPHANTS // TREKKING // BAMBOO RAFTING.
I had slightly mixed emotions about this day - I had searched and searched the web for a trekking adventure that didn't involve riding elephants. If you don't know about the elephant culture in Thailand - they are basically bred, abused, and used as a tourist attraction. I know Indian Elephants have long been used as working elephants for hundreds of years and it is simply part of their culture.. However, as a tourist attraction, I felt it wasn't something I personally wanted to be involved in. UNFORTUNATELY, I couldn't find one damn trekking adventure that didn't involve it! I even looked to the trip advisor community board for advice on finding one - and everyone's answer was that I basically wasn't going to find one. Elephants are a huge part of Thai tourism, hence why they're everywhere! I really wanted to do a trek, so I just bit the bullet and just booked one.
We did the elephant riding first, and whilst I had in my mind that I would simply not do it, when we actually got there, I felt slightly awkward and rude and embarrassed to say I didn't want to do it.... So I did. The elephants are such beautiful animals; they were large and funny; we bought bananas to feed them, and soon they were all trying to hussle in on our bananas! But on the other hand, our 'driver' was sat on its head with a horrific looking metal stick and as we approached their 'camp' you could see baby elephants chained up with less than a meter of chain for movement. And boy, did they look restless! It's a mixed view kind-of thing, but personally, it wasn't for me and left me feeling a bit sad.
That being said, the rest of the trek was incredible and kind-of out-weighed our sad start. We had to climb over bridges made by locals from bamboo... They did not look particularly safe(!) but it was quite thrilling actually. We saw SUCH incredible views. We also met a hill-tribe. We made friends with some stray dogs who joined us on our trek for miles! We visited Mae Wang waterfall, where we could swim, chill out, climb some rocks and take an infinite number of photographs.. Oh, I took hundreds. And we finally bamboo rafted down a river with THE most hilarious bunch of guys! By the way, you WILL get wet! It really was such an incredible day!
We booked this trip here.
DAY 5 // RAJAPRUEK ROYAL PARK // NIGHT SAFARI.We took another Songthaew to Rajapruek for just 500 baht (together) as a two-way trip, where our driver waited for us for three hours. Honestly, these Songthaew drivers are awesome! Where in the UK will a driver WAIT for you, I ask?!
Rajapruek is a royal park which is basically a huuuuuuge garden! Oh my, it's large! We stayed for three hours and we still didn't get around everywhere! I seriously think you could spend all day here. Entry was only 100baht per person and it was basically deserted! I don't know whether it was because it was just so big, but for the first hour the only other people we saw was a bunch of kids on a school trip! As a garden/flower/outdoors-y lover, this place was totally up my street! The park is separated into different sections; there's a whole bunch of 'international gardens' - which was a must-visit, as well as nurseries, indoor plants, trees, pond-life - this place just had it all! As it was so quiet, it was also a seriously relaxing day out. I thoroughly recommend!
Head back tomorrow for 5 days in Phuket :)