I went to…
I stayed at:
U Chiang Mai Hotel (4*) (£££££)
Of course Thai hotels are a lot cheaper than European standard equivalents.
I went here because…
I wanted to see the historical side of Thailand I had never previously experienced.
The best thing was…
Riding on a elephant bare back (the elephant, not me)
I'd like to change…
The cooking course we completed was good for not as good as previous cooking experiences
I wish I'd had time to…
Go on to Chiang Rai
The mostly culturally significant city in Thailand and second largest to Bangkok. The old city walls house a number of ancient temples and buildings. Elephants 'farms' and cooking classes are the norm here, and there are numerous promising the same experiences. Do your research!
As the first stop in a 10 day Thai holiday following a very busy trip to India, Chiang Mai would have been a welcome resting point. Although, having said that there was so much to do here, rest was the last thing on the itinerary. U Chiang Mai hotel was chosen for is boutique-esque style, old city centre location, and charming dark wood look. Service as expected was attentive and helpful, although most of our activities were pre-booked (very easily via email from the UK).
The first of the activities was definitely the one I was most excited about. A day with the elephants at Patara Elephant Farm. There are many many places to sit on an elephant, all claiming to have the welfare of the animals as the priority. Unfortunately, the accuracy of such claims is widely disputed. Although some tourists may enjoy watching an elephant play football, or paint a picture, for me I can't imagine watching this without thinking of how on earth they trained the animals to do this. Considering animal protection can take second place to profit, we opted for an experience where we had the opportunity to observe and take part in looking after the animal. Named 'Elephant Owner for a day' we were taught (in brief) to bathe, feed and monitor the animals (even having a good sniff of the poo). Of course we were also able to ride on one without the chair and seatbelts. I had a rather disobedient young male, who wanted to anything but go straight ahead. I was grateful for wearing the 'mahout' uniform with additional trousers to protect me from the wirey hairs on the elephant's head. They look so cute and wispy from afar- definitely not cute or wispy.
That evening was a Sunday and therefore we were able to experience the Sunday Walking Market, where roads in the old city become pedestrianised, and flooded with food stalls, trinket makers and other tourist favourites. We nibbled on mango salads, sweetened pork and other treats as we wandered amongst the hoards of other tourists. A bustling and fun evening activity.
The following day we were met at the hotel, by Boon, a young woman running Basil Thai Cookery School. The first stop was via the market where we saw many others having tours and purchasing the raw materials for the cooking experience. We chose Basil, for its good reviews and because there appeared to be small groups. Although it was an enjoyable experience, I wouldn't say I learnt anything new, and I would've preferred learning to make some pastes from scratch by myself ( as I have on other cooking courses in the Orient). We went straight from the cooking school to Doi Suthep temple, on a steep hill. Beautiful and busy.
The following day we walked around the old city stopping for lunch right opposite our hotel. We visited a number of temples including Wat chiang mai, Wat phra Singh and Wat phantao, before the familiar awkward rumblings of my tummy began. That evening we booked tickets to the Muay Thai Boxing, reserving the slightly more expensive ones which allowed us to sit down. I enjoyed this much more than I thought I was going to and was sad to see it finishing. More dance, than flighting, it was great to see rounds for children, women and men of differing experience and ability.
Most definitely sad to say goodbye to Chiang Mai we left the following morning looking for the opportunity to do less and relax more.
The House- Delicious food in a beautiful colonial style building. We opted for the set meal which was very good.
Sites & Places of Interest: