Chiang Mai, Thailand
A travel bloggers insight guide and recommendations.
There are 6 main reasons that tourists to travel north of Bangkok to the much more relaxed and chilled out city of Chiang Mai. One: To see the exquisite Buddhist temples, Two: Because it is a much more relaxed and safer place than Bangkok, Three: As the gateway to jungle trekking into the surrounding mountains, Four: Probably most popular of all, to visit and experience a close up encounter with elephants. Five: For Thai massage and Six: Last but not least, the food!!
I had first visited Chiang Mai in 2014 as the meeting point with a tour guide for a 3 day trek up into the rain-forests of Northern Thailand, a trip that had turned out to be one of the best experiences of my travel adventures. For the few days spent in Chiang Mai on either side of the trekking adventure I had grown to like the laid back and friendly atmosphere of Chiang Mai itself. Based on this the aim of my return was simply to relax and enjoy that laid back atmosphere. Having gone trekking in the past I also wanted to have a close up encounter with elephants, but at a place that have a No ride policy. It is an unfortunate truth that many tourists visiting this part of Thailand do so with the aim of taking part in an Elephant encounter which has led to the rise of many unscrupulous and unethical Elephant farms. I use the term Elephant farm deliberately as they are little more than exploitative and cruel places run by people with little care for elephants, other than how to exploit them.
Hill Tribe Trek Northern Thailand
Boatman makes seats for us on the raft as today’s journey will involve traversing some rapids, so its safer to sit. Indeed he fell in a couple of times during our trip downriver. Fortunately his only injury was a little dented pride. I wish i had written down, or could remember, his name as he was a wonderful character.
Local men busy building rafts
Day 2 Trekking
Our trek begins after breakfast through spectacular scenery to another Karen village higher up in the mountains. Although the start is cool it quickly heats up. That and the altitude means thinner air, so slightly harder going.
Clear blue sky and spectacular views of the mountains and rain-forest.
Terraced fields in the valley below
Tamarind seeds pods, Tamarind tree.
Termite mound, a regular feature of the rain-forest floor.
Sunlight and shade deep within the canopy of the forest.
Stag horn ferns are another regular feature in the trees.
We reach our 2nd Karen tribe village
Cockerels are another regular sight some with fabulous plumage and colour.
Gone Trekking With Goo Trekking
3 day Hill Tribe Trek, Northern Thailand.
I made all the arrangements for the trek well in advance of leaving the UK and after much searching and research sent an email request to a Mr Chan. His response to the email was both prompt and friendly. I explained in my email that we didn’t want to visit any elephant farms or sanctuary’s believing the whole enterprise to be exploitative of these wonderful creatures. He wrote back and assured us he could arrange a tour without the need to visit an elephant place. All excellent apart from minor alarm at an email received, whilst still in Vietnam, from MR Chan days before our due arrival in Chiang Mai asking if we would not mind sharing the trek with about 4 to 6 other people. Given that i had always made clear i wanted a private trek, and was paying the extra for that, i was not best pleased. However MR Chan responded quickly saying private trek was not a problem. What id didn’t know until we met in my hotel the night before scheduled trek he would not be taking us but one of his colleagues Mr Goo would instead take us. I was on the verge of cancelling when Mr Goo turned up, he seemed a nice man with good knowledge of the hills and tribes. Little did I know this turned out to be the best possible outcome. Mr Goo, WOW, couldn’t have asked for a nicer more hospitable human being. Also helped greatly that he had spent some 20 years as a forest ranger meaning he had a great knowledge base of plants, animals and insects encountered on the trek. He also spoke 6 languages and could communicate with local tribe’s people in their native tongue.
The trek turned out to be one of the highlights of my many years of travelling. Goo also prepared all our meals and is an excellent cook!!! One day i will return to hopefully do a trek from Chiang Rai to Chaing Mai with Mr Goo, in the meantime some pictures from the recent trek.
Deep fried insects, think its grasshopper. We saw many types of bugs and insect deep fried. Eaten as a snack they are pretty much the equivalent of the Western fondness for crisps.
Waterfall one of the first stops after the long drive from the market.
Having stayed in Bankok on a couple of previous visits to Thailand i felt it was time to try a different city, so headed north. Given its location at the foothills of the mountains it also presented the perfect opportunity to do a bit of trekking and the chance to visit some hill tribes and do some home-stays. Good decision. Chaing Mai couldn’t be more different than the ever frenetic and noisy city that is Bangkok. This city has an altogether more laid back atmosphere. It is somewhere i would gladly revisit, whereas for me personally i will, if at all possible, avoid Bangkok. The people here are a lot more relaxed and you don’t get the feeling they are trying to rip you off.
The Silver Ubosoth
An Ubosoth, which is basically a place of ordination for monks. Women are not allowed to enter the ordination hall. The silver work is quite simply breathtaking in its breath, scope, and skill. The Ubosoth is located within the grounds of Wat Srisupan with the original Wat dating back to the early 1500’s