Our Day 1 was jam packed and full of adventure paired with animal love. Fun! Fun! Fun! Now our next two days of our stay in Chiang Mai, were filled with activities too. So lets jump right into it and explore Chiang Mai the unconventional way!
After the night before of all the amazing fun at Night Safari Park, we had to crash early and wake up early for a pick up from our hostel around 8:00-8:30am.
We quickly grabbed whatever we could from our hostel breakfast, and then came a big van with 10 people already waiting to head for our Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Full Day visit! Super stoked! Super excited!
Little did we know that its going to be almost a two drive from the city to this paradise on the outskirts of Chiang Mai. P.S. The drive through the valley, almost felt like we were on a non-stop roller coaster ride for 2 hours. Haha! Brace yourself for it, incase if you plan to do this activity. Just saying..
When we reached Karen village and we walked into this green valley with long pastures of land, fields filled with banana trees, waterfall by the side and just chilled pure air. Just pure oxygen and shade of giant beautiful trees swaying with the wind. But the best part was, the first time we heard the sound of an elephant echoing in the background! Sounded so beautiful. You could almost sense their happiness in their sound whilst they ate their food. Such a terrific day it was going to be.. . we already knew it.
Note: We were asked to bring along –
- Bathing suit
- Insect repellent
- Walking shoes
- Extra clothes
- Any personal medicine
And we are so glad, we did.
As we reached Karen village, Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, we changed into their traditional Karen clothing hand made from local fabrics and got a brief introductory lesson about elephant anatomy, history, and behaviour.
We were divided into groups and 1 guide was allotted to us through out the day. We got to know so much about elephants, from their eating habits to herbal medicine for digestion, how they were looked after and how these beautiful creatures are so close to mankind.
Did you know: Elephant in Thai are called “Chang”
Did you know: Female Elephants stay pregnant up to 2 years! Not six months like we humans, but 24 months!
We had a line of activities ready for us, but all pretty fantastic ones to say the least. We got to spend time with the elephants, got to know them, feed them food, make medicines for digestion for them, we got to get mucky and go all crazy during mud bath with them and last but not the least, we also had such fun bathing with them under the waterfall. So so so beautiful. Up, close and personal with these enormous creatures just humbles you in life.
These elephants were Asian elephants, which you generally find in South-east Asia. They were so beautiful and docile. None of them were tortured or disturbed, all of these rescued elephants were happy. They were all wonderfully looked after.
In fact, each elephant had it’s own caretaker who would look after him, sleep with him and just be with him at all times. They shared a partnership of trust, something which is even rare to find in todays world given the heights of animal cruelty. It felt so good to see this. This tradition.
Did you know: Elephant is the national animal of Thailand.
Did you know: “Mahout” is the term used to describe elephant caretakers.
We also had some food laid out for us during lunch. Simple food and fresh fruits. I was just sitting in the hut and just looking at what a marvellous concept this is. A beautiful way to give back to nature, preserve wildlife, support locals and just educate people from all around the world. It felt so peaceful and serene, I can not explain. You need to take a moment, sit down and soak it all in. You will feel one with nature.
We absolutely lost track of time and our day with these beautiful rescued elephants was over. Every single thing was looked into, from our pick-drop to food to some resting time and most importantly spending some quality time with the elephants. The staff was so welcoming and really nice. There was no language problem, as the guides were very fluent in english. Everything needed was available and rest we had carried with ourselves. Gladly no one fell ill and it was a really nice day from start till the end. I would highly recommend this activity! No two ways about it.
Tip: Booking in advance always comes in handy and the full day trip actually gives you a wholesome experience.
Tip: If anything, carry medicines for motion sickness as the drive to and fro the hotel is very curvy and steep through out the valley.
Tip: DO NOT FORGET YOUR MOSQUITO REPELLENT! You will need it.
Once we got with our day we were back at our hostel. We grabbed some phad thai noodles and some fresh fruit juice from a local stall at the near by night market ie. “naya passa” in Thai. Called it an early night and just crashed because we had a very early morning start the next day. We were tired after a glorious day with these beautiful elephants. Well worth it. Unforgettable.
We had a super duper early start to the day for something really exciting and personally something special other than the usual for us. This morning we had to wake up early, offer food to monks and explore temples (secret/hidden temples too). We were so looking forward to the day. We started around 4:30 am and were all set for the day. As we were visiting temples and this was more of holy day so to speak. We had to dress accordingly.
Tip: As a matter of respect towards Thai culture, visitors should wear clothing covering their shoulders and knees when visiting temples. In case if you don’t, there are wrap skirts and tops kept at the entrance of the temple for a donation amount. You can make use of the same. Hygienic and nice.
Our tour guide arrived at 5:40am or so. Besides us, there were three other women and it was a full female tour. Unplanned, but nice. They were a family too, and so were we. It felt nice to wake up so early, in the wee hours of dawn and travel in the dark to our first location –
Kruba Sri Wichai Monument
This is where we learnt about Buddhist lifestyle and offered food the monks. Our tour guide, was incredibly informative. He explained every single detail about Buddhist culture and how they believe in simple things and the beauty of reincarnation. We even got the chance to pray with their Holy water, make a wish and embrace the Thai-Buddhist culture like we have never done before.
There was a lady with food lined up on her stall, which could be bought by people and then be offered to the monks. She wakes up everyday at 3am to cook all this food, pack it, get everything ready in time for morning offerings. Incredible, to say the least. There were an array of options to select from also.
My mom and me were slightly surprised to non-vegetarian food being offered to monks, as in Indian culture priests have satvic / vegetarian food. The guide asked us to choose one dish each of our choice and when the monks came, we bowed down and offered them food in their baskets. Upon which they gave us some blessings and moved forward to continue with their day.
This was a whole new experience. Very enriching and quite delightful. There wasn’t any crowd, some people had brought food from home and were offering the monks. There isn’t any limit on offering but they take how much they need. We also got the chance to pray with their holly water and take blessings from an ancient tree. It was truly, an experience in its own. We then headed, to our first temple of the day and to also catch the sunrise of the beautiful city of Chiang Mai.
Doi Suthep Temple + sunrise overlooking Chiang Mai
It’s a huge temple, lets begin with that. We had to climb over 300 odd steps to get to temple. A picturesque view all the way, almost like stairway to heaven. It was so calm and peaceful up there, moreover with the cool temperature surround by lush green forest. The view from the viewing point was amazing. Plus we got the chance to see the monks starting to chant. It was extremely calming and zen. We learnt more about the Buddhism teachings and meditative way of life. The principles of Buddha and his enlightenment defining every cycle of life. It was incredible.
Tip: The moment you get out of the temple and walk down the stairs, right opposite the road you’ll see many shops selling fresh fruits and juices. Do not forget to get your hands on glasses of fresh strawberries with sweet, salty and spicy seasoning for 10 Bhat each. We also grabbed ourselves fresh Avocado milkshake with coconut milk and no sugar! It was divine. The fresh produce was spectacular.
Wat Pha Lat (hidden temple) + a small waterfall inside
Our next temple, Wat Pha Lat was so serene and quite near to Doi Suthep. We almost felt like we’ve been transported to a different time. There is a walking trail, waterfall, temples and so much more. I would a hidden gem. A place where prayers were offered, monks were planting trees and peacocks were roaming free. So beautiful.
Wat Umong (tunnel temple) in the forest
Our third and final stop of the day, Wat Umong was situated in the city almost. Another hidden temple, extremely ancient. Pre-histroic age and a world heritage site. The temple was situated inside tunnels, very different from what we’ve seen through out Thailand. These tunnels are also used for mediation for centuries together. There is a giant pagoda and a beautiful pond as well. It’s filled with fishes and turtles and a spot for meditation right in the centre of the pond. Literally, the perfect combination of tranquility and peace. Wow.
Many Lord Buddha’s teachings were displayed on the trees surrounding the temple. It felt nice to come face to face with such basic yet effective teachings that we completely forget in our day to day lives.
Tip: There is a small shop run near the pond, by a local guy selling Bubble Tea. Do try the green tea he’s got, mention less sugar! It was quite nice.
This was the end of our morning tour. It was really nice and quite frankly – UNIQUE. We are so glad we did it. Such a blessed morning it was.
Chiang Mai Night Market
This was our last day in Chiang Mai and after such an amazing start to the day we wanted to take it easy for the remaining part of the day. Probably just hit the night market and do some street shopping. So, from our hostel at 10 minutes’ walk to the old town, we found the Night Bazar. Usually, it is 15 minutes’ walk for Sunday/Saturday Night Market.
We walked the whole road, did some street shopping, had some fresh fruit juices and ate lots of food. The street shopping is nice, but more expensive than Chiang Rai. I regretted not buying the traditional coats and jackets from there because here in Chiang Mai, they were more expensive. You’ve got to bargain here in order to get a good deal.
We got some decorative bowls, hats and bags for ourselves as our next destination was Krabi. We didn’t want to go over board with excess luggage. Anyhow, it was fun and we just called it an early night as we had to catch a flight next morning.
Review of Chiang Mai:We had fun with our activities, but didn’t get much time to spend inside the city. We were mainly on the outskirts. Perhaps, the only place where we could feel the Christmas cheer. Very decorative and fun. The city is huge and is divided by canals into the old town and new town. One can notice the stark difference. Also, it’s very forward and modern in comparison to our previous city/location Chiang Mai.
Check out – Unconventional Thailand – Chiang Mai (Part I) the previous part of Chiang Mai series.
Consensus – All in all, we had a lot of fun with the activities. The city itself seems fine. Nothing spectacular, but ordinary. Can find daily usable easily. Thai Thai Hostel, was a major disappointment.
Follow my next blog post to read about Unconventional Thailand – Krabi