We wrapped up our month long stay in Chiang Mai Thailand recently. As we flew off, we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces. It was a great trip and one we easily would have liked to extend.
Unfortunately mid-February through March the skies are filled with an unhealthy amount of smoke in the city from the burning season. After the dry season, fields are burned to make room for corn crops. The smoke has been increasing the past few years as more forest areas are burned to make room for commercial corn crops. The smoke/smog is so severe that most people leave the area for the entire season. Days before our departure we started to smell the smoke as the burn season began. As we flew out the smokey haze obstructed the beautiful views of the surrounding hillsides. We understand that the smokey haze is so severe you can’t see but a few 100 yards in front of you. The best way to escape is to leave the area!
What did we do that was so much fun? Here is a run down of our top events;
1)Elephant Sanctuary – Such a great way to meet the iconic elephants of the area. Check out Elephant Jungle Sanctuary to read more about our experience.
2) Street Food Tour – We started out our visit with a guided tour of the food carts led by Chiang Mai Street Food Tours. I highly recommend this experience to educate you about what food is available and how to order. We had SO much great food – the tour was over 4 hours long and by the end we just had to turn down food as I couldn’t eat another bite. Without the tour, it would have been difficult to break out of the safety zone of Phad Thai.
3) Cooking School – Another must do activity that furthered our education about the unique methods for cooking Thai food. We started out at a market for a little education on the ingredients and then into a fresh garden to see how the items grow and what they taste like. From there we dove into a half a day of cooking and eating. We loved Waas at the Farm Cooking School.
4) Monk Talk – Touring the wats (Buddhist temple) around Chiang Mai is a great activity and something we did quite a bit of. With over 300 wats in and around Chiang Mai you can easily see 1 or 2 a day and still not see them all. Monk talks allow you to sit down with a monk and chat with them about their life and ask any questions you want. It is an opportunity for the monks to practice english and you to get educated. We loved it and learned so much. When the monk turned the tables and asked us what we were proud about our home country. That is when the discussion really deepened.
5) Wat Doi Suthep is one fo the most famous temples that sits on the hillside looking over city. The views are incredible as is the dragon staircase leading to the temple. We made an early morning adventure to photograph during the good light. Simply beautiful.
6) Roof Top Bars at Sunset – We sought out several bars for sunset drinks and especially enjoyed the Rise Rooftop Bar. Not exactly the craft beers we are accustomed to in the States, but a great fun way to end the day before heading out into the streets and searching for dinner.
7) Long Walks Exploring Neighborhoods – We spent almost every day walking all over the city, logging 5-9 miles as we explored neighborhoods. Often seeking out something that we had read or heard about from the a best food to a specific coffee house or temple.
8) Seeking out the best Khao Soi – A famous northern Thai noodle soup that we became obsessed with. It is noodles, broth, veggies and chicken or seafood topped with crunchy noodles. My mouth waters just thinking about it. Every cook makes it a little bit differently -so we set out on a mission to find the best Khao Soi in the city. A filling and fun mission that sent us all over town doing our ‘research.’
9) Flower Festival – We attended the flower festival parade in the old town. Floats made out of flowers, bands and legions of beautifully dressed Thais, it was quite a site. The surrounding parks and streets were closed off with additional walls and tunnels of flowers to see. The sites and smells were astounding.
10) Lady Boy Show – We spent a fun evening with friends going to dinner and attending the famous Lady Boy Show in Chiang Mai. It was an evening filled with laughter and fun that is hard to describe. While it won’t be something we do over and over, it was great entertainment for the evening.
Chiang Mai is an easy town to get around filled with amazing food, kind people and lots of fun. On our next visit we plan to continue our Khao Soi research as well as investigate the countryside around Chiang Mai.