That wild, uncharted but actually safe destination in Asia you imagine in your head…where elephants roam, there are a million beautiful temples to pretend you are a tomb raider, the insects are as big as cats, and there’s something clawing at the door of your bungalow at night…that’s Chiang Mai! Check out what I did, and how you can have the same experience too.
Chiang Mai is a small town in the northern part of Thailand which initially I was completely disinterested in visiting. I wanted to spend my entire trip gallivanting around Bangkok, but, at the behest of my much more traveled friend, I was willing to shell out the 50 or so dollars…yes…50 dollars, for a flight to the city of temples. What I found was a hidden gem, something people like me only experience in a video game or maybe a good Netflix documentary.
The city feels in disarray, you can’t tell when you are in parts where people actually live, where there is commerce and entertainment, and where it is wild and rural. We had a bit of trouble getting transportation situated from the airport, but once we did, we were off to go on a tour of the larger temples in Chiang Mai.
I find it always impossible to describe the opulence of places of worship, and being a westerner, the deep need that I have to respect what i may find unusual or strange. Such as removing shoes, or the necessity to wear pants before walking into certain temples. Either way, the experience changed my life in ways I can’t quite put into words, but the photos may help. I was enchanted, enamored, and enraptured. There is a selfless dedication to one’s spirit and well being of others, and an obedience to divinity that I have never seen before. Chiang Mai captured this westerner’s soul.
After a day perusing the city, and having lunch and dinner, Teon and I decided to make the long journey to our Airbnb, The Chai Lai Orchid Elephant Sancuary. I found this special refuge for us to lodge in, complete with our own hut with running water and a mosquito net over the bed.
What we got, was more than I could have ever imagined. We arrived late, but not too late to admire the grounds before sunset turned to complete darkness. Our room was the size of a modest hotel room, completely wood, with a giant hole in the floor and a bed. There was also a bathroom. Sidenote, bathrooms in Thailand have a water hose you’re supposed to use to spray your………hole……clean, lol, instead of using toilet paper. Naturally, I found this fascinating and oddly perfect.
After assuring my travel buddy of every possible insect and animal sound being benign, I fell asleep. Awakening to complimentary breakfast and some quality time with the elephants. We got to walk with them, ride them, help bathe them, and take several photos. The grounds of the elephant sanctuary were well kept, and provided plenty of areas for the elephants to rest and rehabilitate outside of their daily “jobs”. There were also lots of snakes, frogs, insects and stray dogs to play around with. There were river raft rides as well, and lots of great hiking opportunities which I indulged in.
Chiang Mai is as good as it gets. A tremendous value for your trip, as long as you are willing to walk and forego a few luxuries, you can have an awesome outdoor experience.