Thailand was a place we couldn’t wait to visit and was on the list from day 1. We have heard from so many friends about the beautiful beaches, friendly people, great food, and laid back vibe (also, I had a quick visit here a few years back and loved every minute). After our difficulties in China we knew it was just what we needed. We flew into Chiang Mai planning to spend a few days there before taking the overnight train to Bangkok and eventually ending with some beach time on the islands in the south. Instead, we spent 12 nights in Chiang Mai before we flew to Cambodia. We felt as if we needed a more dramatic change of scenery…we were ready to experience a country totally opposite of the modern (and huge) cities we have seen and that we love so much, especially since we are heading to Japan and South Korea in a few weeks.
Chiang Mai was the smallest city we have been to so far. It was refreshing not to be in a huge city with millions of people. We ate delicious Thai food, a bit of western food, spoiled ourselves with cheap massages, and decided we liked it in Chiang Mai. We stayed 12 nights and enjoyed relaxing in our beautiful Airbnb apartment. After a few days we considered moving elsewhere to explore more of northern Thailand, but we didn’t.We were tired coming from China and Chiang Mai was a place for us to recharge. We are making a deliberate effort to not change locations every couple of days when possible…you get to experience places more fully if you stick around for a while. Our vacations in the future will consist of moving every few days trying to see everything. This trip is different. We aren’t going to see everything and that is okay. We rather experience each place fully and see far fewer places than burn out because we were moving too fast!
After our week plus in Cambodia we headed to Bangkok, Thailand for 3 nights. Our thoughts on Cambodia will be shared in a recap as well (coming soon). We loved Bangkok and feel like we barely scratched the surface. As soon as we started to grasp what the city was like and how to get around it was time to leave for Japan. We cannot wait to make it back there in a few months to see more of the city!
Chiang Mai, Bangkok
Things We Liked
Food, an abundance of beautiful temples, khao soi (northern Thai noodle dish), $4 massages, laid back vibe, elephants, cheap everything, Bangkok, and comforts of home were not hard to find (craft beer, excellent burgers…)
Things We Disliked
A lot of tourists/backpackers, lack of sidewalks/crosswalks, Bangkok traffic, bad coffee, and Bangkok taxi drivers (nobody seemed to want to take us anywhere, especially not with the meter)
1. Elephant Nature Park
Interacting with elephants is high on most people’s to-do lists when in Thailand. Who doesn’t love elephants? Any amount of research about elephants in Thailand will lead you to information about the abuse of elephants in southeast Asia. The last thing I wanted to do was to contribute to this abuse so I was content to not interact with elephants. Thanks to some friends’ recommendations and some serious Tripadvisor research we decided to go to Elephant Nature Park outside of Chiang Mai.
The park was founded in 1990’s and has since rescued a lot of elephants from a life of abuse at riding camps, performing shows, and illegal logging. Many of the elephants here have disabilities and/or are very old. All of the proceeds they use to care for the existing elephants at the park and to rescue, or buy, more elephants from situations of abuse. We chose to spend our day at a nearby park that used to make money by offering elephant rides before partnering with Elephant Nature Park. Now the elephants get spoiled with bananas, watermelons, long walks, and mud baths – they seem so happy! The elephants are free to roam all day (and really could run away if they would like but why would you give up a good gig?). It was awesome to learn about each of the elephants’ stories and learn about the way elephants interact, as they are very intelligent and very social. We feel privileged we could learn so much about them and had the best day here!
2. Thai Cooking Class
We both love cooking and have missed getting our hands dirty in the kitchen on this trip. We have yet to have a kitchen at any of the places we have stayed so we eat out every meal. Our day started with a trip to the market to get ingredients and then a day full of preparing/cooking so much food! On the menu for the day was:
- Khao soi – the most famous dish in Chiang Mai
- Papaya salad
- Tom-yum soup (a favorite of mine)
- Stir-fried chicken cashew nut — there was so much fire when cooking this
- Mango sticky rice
I am sure making these dishes (and finding all the ingredients) in our normal life will be a lot more difficult than it was in class, but we felt like professionals and that we could easily do this at home! We enjoyed everything we ate and cannot wait to cook up some Thai food upon our return back home. (Side note: If you are ever in Chiang Mai and want to learn to cook…go to Nimman Cooking School! It was awesome.)
Where is the Spice?
It is no secret that we love spicy food. We were very much looking forward to getting our hands on some spicy food in Thailand. We dreamed of the level of spiciness that makes your nose run uncontrollably and eyes water.
Every single time we ordered we would emphasize that we love spicy food and to make it really hot, but every time we were sorely disappointed. It seems as if enough foreigners have complained about their food being too spicy that they tone it down as soon as they see you regardless of what you say you can handle. Some things had a bit of spice to it, but no more than a mild at any Thai restaurant in the USA. Maybe we were doing it wrong. We can’t be entirely sure, but next time in Thailand we will find a way to make it happen.
Total Number of Nights: 13
Currency: $1 USD = 34.9 Thai Baht (THB)
Number of Miles Traveled: 1,250 miles (including our flight from China)
Number of Miles Walked: 99.4 miles (average of 7.6 miles per day)
Steps Taken: 213,685 steps (average of about 16,437 per day)
Transportation Used: tuk-tuk, songathaew (shared taxi), taxi
Type of Accommodations: Apartment (1), hostel (1)
Number of Beds: 2