Chiang Mai will likely be your first stop when heading up to Northern Thailand from Bangkok. Kyle and I boarded the overnight bus from the capital of Thailand around 9pm, and arrived in Chiang Mai at 8am the following morning. We had heard horror stories about people’s belongings being stolen on these overnight trips, but everything went off without hassle. I would still, however, recommend to always keep valuables with you on these types of journeys throughout anywhere in Southeast Asia.
Coming from Vancouver where mountain scenery can be witnessed in almost every direction, it was great to be in a city nestled under a few rolling hilltops. Low-hanging clouds wrapped their way around the tree-covered hills, offering a small taste of home while in Thailand. I can see why so many bloggers come here and never leave: with cheap rent and a relaxed vibe, it’s perfect for making a living online while eating at great restaurants and taking in a bit of nature. While we caught up on a few blogging activities while here, most of our time was spent partaking in all of the activities around Chiang Mai, namely elephant riding and zip-lining.
Jungle Flight Zip-Lining
I’ve always wanted to do zip-lining after hearing about my parents swinging through the rainforest in Costa Rica. After talking to the woman at our hostel, we went with the company Jungle Flight, which we would highly recommend. The guides were entertaining, pickup from the hostel was included and we even received lunch and a free t-shirt. There are two routes you can do, and we chose to pay a bit extra for the one that included more zip-lines (well worth it). One point to note: if you get carsick easily be prepared for the drive to the base camp. I had to keep my eyes fixed on the road most of the time to stop myself from up-chucking.
For this we went with Baan Chang Elephant Park, a sanctuary that allowed us to feed the elephants, bath them and learn the basic commands for riding them through the surrounding trails. I absolutely loved this experience, although afterwards Kyle and I had mixed feelings about how ethical the entire process really is. You hear so much about people abusing these animals, and even though we were told that many of the elephants had been rescued from overwork and violent owners, they were still all kept on a short chain throughout most of the day. After living on a farm and training horses for most of my life, I have nothing against domesticating animals, but it’s always tough to tell the training methods put in place by many of these companies. My advice for those wanting to partake in elephant riding is to do your research ahead of time and find as much information about a sanctuary as possible.
A lot of other people visit Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai to pet and pose with these giant cats. We opted not to do this, considering we had heard of a recent attack on a young backpacker. While these cases are rare, just keep in mind that these are naturally wild animals, and even when tame can still act unexpectedly.
For temples, Kyle and I had just come from Angkor Wat, the mother of all temple experiences. As such we weren’t overly enthused to see Wat Prathat Doi Suthep, which is situated just outside of the city on a nearby hill. However, the view of Chiang Mai from the top made our journey worth it. Instead of taking a tuk-tuk here where you have to wait until the driver fills up his van, I would recommend just renting a scooter instead. It’s much faster and you can then also explore around the temple too.
From the zip-lining to the mountainous scenery, Chiang Mai did not fail to impress, and is a must-visit destination for anyone thinking about going to Northern Thailand.