Ellie and I recently spent 4 days in Chiang Mai- a beautiful city in Northern Thailand known for its many temples, night markets and close proximity to the jungle. After just having spent time in chaotic Bangkok, the laid back vibe of Chiang Mai was very welcomed and we enjoyed leisurely wandering the streets and exploring temples before hanging out with elephants and trekking through the jungle…
We arrived in Chiang Mai at 5am after a gruelling 10 hour overnight bus journey from Bangkok. Me, Ellie and two guys we met called Harry and Mark were dropped at our hostel, which didn’t open until 8, so we had to wait outside for 3 hours until someone let us in. After we’d checked in, eaten and showered, we powered through our exhaustion and wandered towards the old town, quickly stumbling across one of Chiang Mai’s many temples (the city is home to about 300 Buddhist temples so you could spend weeks temple hopping here).
We spent the rest of the day wandering the old town before heading to the night market for dinner. The night market was crazy busy, going on for streets and streets, selling food, clothes, jewellery and souvenirs- we struggled to find a way out at some points. After we’d had quite enough at the market, a group of us headed to a bar called Pirate Cove for some drinks. This bar was run by a hilarious Australian guy with a pet parrot who insisted on playing us YouTube videos of a jazz band- it ended up being a pretty good night.
Ellie and I rewarded ourselves with a lay in after the exhausting bus journey from the night before, and so after a casual morning, we headed to a mall called Maya Mall to do a bit of shopping. As Maya Mall was quite far from our hostel, we jumped on a red truck called a a songtaew, which is a sort of bus/taxi hybrid you’ll see everywhere in Chiang Mai. It takes you wherever you want to go but also picks up and drops off other people, and is a pretty cheap and enjoyable way of getting about.
After we finished at the mall, we headed back to the old town to see Wat Chedi Luang at sunset. This temple was really stunning, and was built in the 14th century when King Saen Muang Ma planned to bury his father there. As we were walking around the site, some monks invited us over for a chat to practice their English which was pretty interesting.
After dinner, I went to the hostel where my friend Sophie was staying with two of her friends and we spent the evening drinking and playing cards before heading to a bar called Zoe In Yellow.
On our third day in Chiang Mai, we were picked up at an early 8am and driven a couple of hours north to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. The road was rocky and winding and many people felt pretty carsick, but upon arrival, it was clear that it was worth it. The sanctuary was beautiful, the elephants looked happy and healthy and we spent the day feeding, bathing and learning about them- we even got to hang out in a waterfall with them which was pretty surreal. I couldn’t recommend this sanctuary enough. I’ve written a post about elephant tourism which you can read here if you want to learn more about the reality behind the industry.
On our final day, I decided I wanted to see more of the jungle surrounding Chiang Mai so I signed up for a 5 hour trek through Doi Inthanon National Park. This was a really good way to see the jungle and explore and our guide even made us a lunch of coffee and stir fried rice at a camp by a waterfall. It was a great day, made better by our guide who made us all laugh a lot. I really recommend you visit the jungle properly if you come to Chiang Mai, whether you do a trek or even go zip lining through the canopy.