I had envisioned Chiang Mai being full of leafy trees, old temples and crisp mountain air. While it was those things to a certain degree, it is still the second city in Thailand and seemingly the tuk-tuk capital. It was not as serene as I had (foolishly) expected but having said that, we had a fantastic few days. These were the highlights for us, travelling with two preschoolers.
Pretty much the purpose of our trip, the elephants were magnificent. I was glad I had done my homework well and booked a day at Elephant Nature Park because as soon as we arrived, I realised that a lot of the tourism around the area is sadly built upon animal suffering. During our one day visit, we got up close and personal with these amazing giants – read more here.
This cute place didn’t sound like much but the kids had a great time – as you would expect with something that is built around the funniest thing they can imagine. They had a go at stirring it and spreading the paper mache made of it on the frames to be dried in the sun. We chose to pay extra for making a few mementos, great idea with craft-loving little people. The restaurant on site sells coffee, smoothies and cookies but no lunch.
3. Doi Suthep
We hired a taxi and drove up the mountain to climb the famous 300 steps to the Doi Suthep temple. The kids would have loved to make some music with the prayer bells, but luckily there was a dance performance on that day which grabbed their attention away from the bells. Remember to dress appropriately if you want to go inside the temples.
4. Wat Chedi Luang
Temples are really not what a 5 year old wants to do on a holiday but even a reluctant mini-teenager was mesmerised enough to sit quietly in Wat Chedi Luang and listen to the monks chanting. We had planned to go to the Monk Chat to present the monks with all those pestering questions but unfortunately all the monks were busy doing monk stuff when we were there.
5. Elephant painting
As established at the Poopoopaper Park, anything artsy will keep them entertained. We spent a rainy afternoon painting elephants at the Elephant Parade. The area had some lovely looking shopping for those who are not taking part in the painting excercise – I could not explore them properly because of the downpour. Make sure to check the location – some of the tourist maps have the old address.
6. Food in Chiang Mai
Thai food needs no introduction, I’m sure. There is lovely food to be had in Chiang Mai, and with a northern twist, it is a bit different to the usual island Thai fare. The loveliest meal and setting was definitely at Ginger. We do have the Ginger shop in KL and I am hoping they will import the rest of this place too!
Where we stayed in Chiang Mai
We stayed at the Rimping Village, which was lovely especially because of their friendly staff – nothing was too much trouble and they went out of their way with playing with our kids – to a point that the kids disappeared to the reception at every possible turn to “play with their friends”. All travel arrangements, tuk-tuks and restaurant bookings were done by them with incredible efficiency.