Although our trip was short we really loved the city and definitely will be back. So much beauty, delicious food, unique experiences, and culture Chiang May has to offer.
Where to stay:
Away Chiang Mai Thapae Resort- A Vegetarian Retreat
Address: 9 Kotchasarn Rd, Chang Khlan, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50100, Thailand
Super cute boutique hotel! They offered airport transportation for about 17 USD so they picked us up from Chiang Mai International Airport (15 min drive) and was really convenient. Since it’s a pretty new hotel everything was clean and I liked how it had bright and airy vibe. Located on the outskirts of the old city it was a short 5-10 min walk from the Thapae gate so you can easily access all the fun and action. We ate at the restaurant couple times and it was pretty tasty for vegetarian. Def would stay here again and recommend.
Where to eat:
Street food, street food, street food and more street food. OMG all of it so good and cheap!!!! We mostly explored the night markets and had our fill of all the yummy options available = Meat, seafood, veggies, noodles, soups, skewers, burgers, fruit, desserts, sweets, and so much more!
What to do:
Elephant Rescue Park: https://elephantrescuepark.com
Such an amazing and memorable experience…definitely the highlight of our trip to Chiang Mai. Our friends did the same tour a few days before we arrived and recommended it since it was a legit and ethical place (some of the parks claim to be but still exploit the elephants so make sure to do the research). We booked the private half day tour 2 days in advance via WhatsApp for about $140 USD per person. The tour pics you up at 6:30 from your hotel and drops you off by 12:30 (it’s an hour drive to and from the park). The private tour was just us and one other couple and we got to feed, hang out, bathe the elephants, and ends with a yummy home cooked meal. As part of the tour they offer to take you to the sticky waterfall or the poo poo paper company but we opted out in favor of the cool ac car ride and cool hotel room waiting for us. Here are some highlights of our tour:
There was a baby and a mamma elephant (the baby was separated from his mom and the momma elephant separated from her baby so the two naturally grew fond of each other). It was sooooo freaking cute to watch him interact and copy what the momma elephant did. Even though he was pretty big he was still so floppy and goofy. Best thing ever!
Our guide explained that elephants are highly intelligent animals capable of feeling compassion and self-awareness with terrible eyesight but a keen sense of smell. So as you walk with them you get to pet them and just hang out. They enjoy getting their trunks pet and I had the coolest experience with the momma elephant. As I was petting her trunk I noticed her eye move towards me and I watched as her pupils dilated bc she recognized someone giving her love. Such a beautiful bonding experience with her I’ll never forget.
After the walk we took them to a small lake where we scrubbed and bathed them. I was being a total girl and didn’t want to get completely soaked so I stayed towards the shallow end knee deep in the water but the trainer noticed and had the elephants spray me with their trunks anyway (my gf warned us to keep our mouths shut as your bathing them bc she was laughing and got water in her mouth and was super grossed out lol = good tip).
I have mixed feelings about this place. When we arrived we could see all the adult tigers laying around sleeping and we definitely thought they looked like they were drugged. But we did some googling and it seems tigers are like domesticated cats and sleep 16-20 hours a day so that made us feel a little better since the workers told us they definitely aren’t and they were just napping. We decided to check out the baby tigers since whenever in life would you be able to have such an encounter? BTW, the price varies depending on what type of tigers you want to see and I think it was about 35 USD per person to see the babies. Honestly…..this part was amazing to me. They’re such magical animals and so freaking cute! I instantly fell in love at how playful and baby they were. There were three different babies in the area and you had a chance to go around and pet/take pictures with each one. I really enjoyed this part of the experience.
The second part was tbh kinda a bummer. To see such beautiful majestic animals caged up made us sad bc they’re meant to roam free in much bigger spaces. Supposedly they have a longer lifespan than those in the wild but that doesn’t really say much since they have to sacrifice their freedom. I do believe from what I observed that they aren’t drugged bc we sat in the café area and had drinks for at least an hour and later on in the evening they all started to wake up and seemed to be playful with their handlers. That part us feel a little bit better since they also each had a companion/mate who they would play with.
Where to shop:
If you end up staying at Away Hotel located outside the hotel is a little shop called “kajidrid” where we scored a bunch of indigo dyed gifts, accessories and home décor for super cheap. The owner is so sweet and dyes all the items herself.
Chiang Mai Night Bazaar:
Great place to buy gifts and souvenirs! Make sure you polish up on your bargaining skills here! Its a pretty big market and I believe it runs from 6pm -12:30am every day.
Located inside the old walled city area the Sunday Market is another great place to buy food, gifts and souvenirs. I believe it starts at 4pm to midnight and it’s a lot of fun with street performers, musicians, puppeteers, and etc. Make sure you check out the two temples in the area Wat Phan Tao and Wat Chedi Luang. Wat Phan Tao was beautiful at night but Wat Chedi Luang you should try to catch during the day time to see it in good light.