After landing in Bangkok, straight away I was on my way to catch another flight to take me northwards. My adventures around Thailand started in Chiang Mai, also known as the Cultural Capitol. Soon enough I began to discover what makes Chiang Mai so desirable and attractive to tourists.
One of the first thing I noticed about Chiang Mai was the amount and variety of temples, all of which are extremely well maintained. One of my must sees would be Wat Phra That Doi Kham. This temple is located North of the city, where beautiful views are almost guaranteed.
My absolute favourite temple was Wat Phra Singh. It was not overcrowded possibly due to the fee tourists have to pay to enter and was quite popular with locals. This made Wat Phra Singh so much more peaceful than any of the other temple. It provides a perfect opportunity to watch rituals and traditions, which are still continued by Thai people.
Another incredible thing about Chiang Mai is how close to elephant rescue centres it is. I know that riding an elephant might be appealing for some people however, it is an extremely overwhelming and unhealthy process for the elephants. Elephants are forced to work long hours, carry people, metal or wooden sits on their backs, which are not as strong as people seem to think they are. They are also forced to do tricks whilst being starved, after being tortured and often while being extremely dehydrated.
The process of taming young elephants is beastly cruel. The taming crush involves taking away young elephant from their mother, closed in wooden cages for extreme durations, beating, and terrifying them. It also involves the piercing of their delicate ears with nails, stabbing their feet; everything to crush their spirit and make them obey human. Later on the person who 'saves' the elephant comes, feeds him, cares for him, and at the end rides him and controls this magnificent animal.
I cannot convince you not to want to ride on an abused elephant with a history of an animal cruelty for 20 minutes. So if you'd like to visit an elephant riding centre, pay attention to the elephants ears and how ragged they are. However, maybe I can convince you to give them a bath, feed them, takes some cute photos, and interact with a happy elephant in Elephant Nature Park?
Read more about crushing elephants' spirit here, watch video here, learn how can you support Elephant Nature Park here.
Chiang Mai has lots of different trips and activities on offer to tourists which are provided via numerous different tour operaters. Just think of something you would like to do and approach one of the providers, they probably have something you are looking for or will have hundred of alternative options you might be interested in. I managed a visit to Wat Rong Khun, known as the White Temple, as well a few other places along the way.
Chiang Mai easily wins in terms of the best night and Sunday market. It was not only the biggest one I have ever had a chance to visit, but it also has the cheapest prices in comparison to the same products available in other markets around Thailand. For example glass earrings in funky shapes, such as dolphins etc, costed only 100 baths for 3 pairs. In comparison one pair of exactly the same earrings in Koh Phi Phi costed over 150 baths bargain, maybe not. Similarly with mango sticky rice, the cheapest one was under 50 baht in Chiang Mai and no less than a 100 in Koh Phi Phi.
Although I know that Khao San Road is supposed to be the heart and soul of parties and night life in Thailand, my personal favourite was the night life in Chiang Mai where tourists were not alienated to one 'touristy road'. It was great just having fun with everyone and not thinking that in a second someone will try to offer you a ping pong show and scam you for thousands and thousands baths.