17 Nov Amazing Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai
by Bruno Miguel from Portugal
After 2 trips to Thailand (Bangkok, Phi Phi Islands and Raily Beach) it was time to pay a visit to North Thailand. It was on my bucket list for a long time and the expectations were quite high.
Truth is it didn’t defraud my expectations, not at all!
During my research, before the trip, I decided not to visit the Hill Tribes (Kayan people) also known as Longneck tribes, but instead to choose an elephant sanctuary where elephants are in fact preserved and treated properly and also to not consider any sanctuary that offer any tigers’ attraction.
I love to travel, but above all I like to contribute (the little I can) for a better world with less people or animal mistreatment.
Arriving in Chiang Mai the idea was to rent a motorbike and go straight to Chiang Rai to visit the White and Blue temples. The motorbike idea sounded great and in fact everything went smooth till the part when after approximately 5km motorbike riding the infamous asian rain started and it couldn’t have rained heavier!
Change of plans, back to the rental shop and swap the motorbike to a car. All done smoothly and there we go to Chiang Rai.
The roads from Chiang Mai are quite good, and we had no issue at all. After 3 hours there we were at an amazing small, cheap and family managed hostel named The Garage.
This was our first contact with Thai people from the north and we were just amazed. Such warm, genuine and helpful people, nothing to do with the gold diggers from Bangkok…
The Garage Chiang Rai by Bruno Miguel Leal
After a short visit to Chiang Rai city centre and a good night’s sleep we went to our first and main attraction, The White Temple (Wat Rong Khun).
The White temple is a compound with multiple sacred buddhist temples and the main difference from all other temples you find in Thailand is that this one is all built in white colour with fragments of mirrored glass and death related sculptures which gives it a stunning appearance.
All the surroundings of the compound include “references” to the temple itself, like for instance the traffic cones.
Traffic cones The White Temple by Bruno Miguel Leal
In the inside of the main temple, multiple Thai artists paint the walls with world’s events and people, real and fiction, graffito style. Unfortunately photos inside are not allowed and so I am forbidden to show you the ones I took! 🙂
Entrance of the main temple The White temple by Bruno Miguel Leal
After an amazing morning at White Temple it was time to go to the next coloured temple, The Blue Temple (Wat Rong Suea Ten).
This temple is different, built very recently, finished on January 2016 and it looks more like any other Buddha worship temple.
Inside the Blue Temple by Bruno Miguel Leal
The outside of the Blue temple is amazingly pretty, more in line with the White temple “idea”, but instead of the “death” theme this temple is sculptured with dragon figures.
Outside of The Blue Temple by Bruno Miguel Leal
On our way back to Chiang Mai, we had to get a little bit sun, after all we were in Thailand burning at +30 degrees celsius!
We decided to make a stop at Khun Korn Waterfall to refresh ourselves.
After about 30 minutes trekking we arrived at the amazing and quite high waterfalls. Great for a dip and to refresh from the extremely high (but enjoyable) temperatures of Thailand.
Khun Korn Waterfall by Bruno Miguel Leal
After refreshing it was time to snack and so after trekking back we went to check the restaurants that are established along the canal and once again we loved the experience. Eating pretty great fried rice with our feet inside water was exactly what we needed!
Canal restaurants Khun Korn Waterfall by Bruno Miguel Leal
After a great day and night at Chiang Rai it was time to go back to Chiang Mai and finally see why everyone speaks so well about this city.
As the plan was to stay 3 nights at Chiang Mai we decided to have a little bit more luxury and so we selected the Rimping Village Hotel. Overall a pretty great hotel, with beautiful pool and really great service, including free bikes for guests.
Pool area Rimping Village Hotel by Bruno Miguel Leal
Next step was to do the main objective of the North Thailand visit, spend a day in an Elephant Sanctuary. I could write a full article about this experience, but let’s try keep it short.
After reading so much about many of the elephant parks in Thailand where people ride elephants with heavy metal structures on their backs and how that is incredibly bad for the animals we decided to go visit one of the most recognized places around, Elephant Nature Park. In truth, it’s not cheap, but if we were going to spend money in something this was definitely the place to do so. Here, elephants are rescued (meaning bought) from other places and in most cases they arrive in a pretty bad shape and are treated accordingly.
People can’t ride elephants here and they are treated amazingly well.
We and 3 more couples spent the day with 2 elephants where we fed them, walked with them and gave them bath.
First step was of course to feed them so they can start to enjoy our company…
Feeding Elephant at Elephant Nature Park by Bruno Miguel Leal
After that we walked with them along the river, up the hill where the Park had prepared lunch for us. Again a little bit more food to the elephants (about 1 dozen of watermelons each) and a little time to make friends with them.
Elephants’ bath at Elephant Nature Park by Bruno Miguel Leal
It was time to go back to Chiang Mai and enjoy the city. The city and its surroundings are amazing, just get a bike either from the hotel or rent one and just go out to explore.
We spent the next 2 days biking around the city, enjoying its amazing people, food and scenery.
There’s not much I can recommend you to do in Chiang Mai personally as it depends on each one’s taste. The best advise is to get a bike and just explore!