I arrived in Chiang Mai via sleeper train from Bangkok. The train journey cost me around 800 Baht (£18 GBP) for second class. Whilst it is around £45 GBP to get a flight from Bangkok to Chaing Mai, the train was cheaper, comfortable and really social. It was also pretty cool to wake up at 5am and see the sunrise over the jungle! I chose to go to Chaing Mai because I wanted to go to the elephant sanctuary there. However, I also chose to go there because I wanted to experience what the north of Thailand was like.
We stayed at the Raming Lodge Hotel and Spa. This hotel is located in the old town of Chiang Mai, it is a beautiful hotel and is perfect if you’re looking for a good location to stay in. We were a 5-minute walk from the night bazaar and there were lots of bars and restaurants around our hotel. Chiang Mai is much smaller than Bangkok, therefore it is easy to walk to most things. However, you will have to get a taxi, bike, or arrange an organised tour to go to certain temples. tribal villages etc.
Whilst there are lots of things that you can do in Chiang Mai, a down side to it is a lot of the excursions are expensive. Whilst there is a lot to do in the town, there are only so many temples you can go to. Therefore, you will end up paying for excursions if you are there for longer than 3 days. For example, both my boyfriend and I were interested in doing the 5km zip-line (Flight of the Gibbon), however, this was far too expensive for our budget. Therefore, I would recommend that if you are on a backpackers budget 3 days in Chiang Mai is enough time. However, if you’re on a bigger budget and can afford to do multiple excursions you should probably stay for 5 days.
Whilst we were in Chiang Mai we visited the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, Wat Phra Thai Doi Suthep, several different Tribal villages, small temples, and the night bazaar. In terms of food, we ate at several different places. Everywhere we ate was pretty standard, however, we ate at “Dash!” one night and we had really good Thai food there! The vibe was really cool, full of backpackers, good cocktails, and live music!
Tip: Whilst at Wat Phra Thai Doi Suthep you will be given the opportunity to get taxis up to some of the tribal villages. Arrange for you taxi driver to take you and wait for you in order to bring you back. Otherwise, as we learned, you will find it really difficult to get back down!
I wish on reflection we had rented a bike, or hired a taxi for the day and gone to the Chiang Mai Canyon. So make sure you check this out if you’re going as it looks amazing!
Whilst Chiang Mai was incredible, it was not one of my favourite places I visited in Thailand. Nevertheless, the day at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was the best day of my life. READ BELOW
The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary:
The day I spent at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary was one of the best days of my life… if not THE best. We booked online (*link below) and it cost 2400 Baht per person (£54 GBP). We chose to do the full day with the elephants rather than the half day as we wanted as much time as possible with the elephants. How worth it it was! We were picked up from our hotel around 7.30 am. It took around 2 hours for us to get to the sanctuary. The journey had spectacular views and the views got better and better as we got further into the jungle. When we arrived at the sanctuary (Camp 3) we were greeted by our tour guide “Jungle Boy”, who was part of the Karen Tribe. Due to the climate, that day was the very definition of tropical rain so we were provided with walking boots when we arrived. I’m SO glad it rained because the elephants LOVED it!
We then spent the entire day with the elephants. Our day stemmed from feeding the elephants, washing, and bathing with them, playing with them, taking pictures with them and so much more. We were even given the opportunity to make the elephants medicine. Their medicine consisted of salt and a Thai plant that grows in the jungle. We got to taste the medicine ourselves (it tasted like liquorice!). The experience was really educational and we learned so much throughout the day. The elephants were so well looked after. They were guided to the river and other areas by food and were free to leave when they chose to. It was clear that the elephants were not being exploited. It was also very clear that the money raised at this sanctuary was being used in an extremely moral and ethical way. The elephants could not have been treated any better! Please consider visiting a sanctuary rather than riding elephants. Animals should not be exploited for money.
We were fed lunch whilst we were at the sanctuary, the lunch consisted of traditional Thai food and there were vegetarian and vegan options. I had sautéed vegetables with sticky rice, tofu, and pineapple. We ate our lunch with the Karen Tribe and we were then given the opportunity to hike to their village and visit their homes. “Jungle Boy” welcomed us into his home and gave us passion fruit from his tree. The experience was extremely authentic and truly remarkable.
I’m so glad that my boyfriend and I decided to do the full day with the elephants. The half day would not have been long enough. So I urge you if you are going to this elephant sanctuary, or others, to choose the full day programs. We had the perfect amount of time with the elephants. However, because I loved it SO much I wish we had researched into the overnight stay. I know this specific company do an overnight stay for 4900 Baht per person. Nevertheless, I feel like I got enough time with the elephants during the full day program.
Chiang Mai is an amazing place, and I urge you to visit here once in your life. However, just be aware that the excursions are quite expensive, so choose your time wisely. We had way too long in Chiang Mai and therefore lost valuable time that we could have had in other places.
(Check out my GoPro video of Thailand and Vietnam at the bottom of this page!)
*We booked the day through http://www.elephantjunglesanctuary.com/visit-us