Last week, I started my Thailand series by giving you 5 reasons to visit Bangkok. Although I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Bangkok (I grew up in Miami and am a city girl), I truly appreciated the serenity of Chiang Mai. Bangkok is definitely more modern, while Chiang Mai will offer more of a traditional experience. One of the greatest things about traveling is being able to see something vastly different than life at home. Chiang Mai is often like stepping back in time as its more rural and less congested with the happenings of city life. It honestly was my favorite city, and I highly recommend adding this magical city to your Thailand itinerary. I took a 12 hour bus ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but there is also a train, and if you want to get there faster (1 hour), you can fly. Here are my top 3 reasons to visit Chiang Mai!
1. It's very relaxing and affordable
Chiang Mai is more of that country living as opposed to a fast-paced city. Your time there will be serene and you won't experience the type of anxiety that Bangkok may induce. There are less cars and it's easy to walk around as you explore. Also, since its more rural, the cost of living is very affordable. If you're looking to get away for a month or so, your money will definitely go further here than in Bangkok or Phuket, which are more populated destinations. The massages were so affordable, that I even got them twice a day here. My go to spot was the Fan Lanna Spa near the Night Bazaar. My masseuse there was able to finally get rid of the kinks I had in my right shoulder. She wouldn't stop until she got it, and I was definitely impressed! Not much of a nightlife here, which is totally fine if you're looking to relax, but they do have bars, including a reggae bar that I found. You will find night markets, though, similar to Bangkok. This is where you can shop, try new foods, and people watch.
2. Learn to cook at the Thai Farm Cooking School
I've taken cooking lessons all over the world, but my experience at the Thai Farm Cooking School was one of the best! I may be biased because I LOVE Thai food (it's one of my favorite cuisines!), but the class came with a market tour and the opportunity to pick fresh ingredients from their farm. It was true farm to table cooking, and it was the best food I had during my 3 weeks in Thailand. We made about 6 dishes, including spring rolls as an appetizer, curry, a soup, pad Thai, cashew chicken, and dessert. I even had enough to take as leftovers, as well as a cookbook with the recipes. This alone was worth the journey to Chiang Mai.
3. There are multiple fun day trips to take
One of my favorite tours in Thailand was visiting the White Temple and Black House in Chiang Rai, which can be done as a day trip from Chiang Mai. The White Temple is absolutely breathtaking, as the entire structure is adorned in glittering white stone. It's heavenly in appearance, yet when you look closer, there are some weird components, such as skeleton hands reaching up as you walk over the bridge or fake heads hanging from tree. It's definitely an interesting temple, and the only place that has color is the restroom building, that is adorned in gold. The Black House is also cool to see, as it is a collection of art work and traditional buildings. Another fascinating day trip was visiting Doi Inthanon, which is the highest mountain in Thailand. You will visit stunning pagodas, waterfalls, and take in some of the most majestic views from the top of the mountain. There's also a sign you can pose in front of that states this is the highest point in Thailand.
What about Tiger Kingdom?
In all transparency, I did visit Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai, and had a great time in the moment. Back in 2015, EVERYBODY was taking photos with tigers and riding elephants. Over the years, people have realized that these acts usually lead to animal abuse and mistreatment. Since I was up close and personal with the tigers, I can definitely tell you that they seemed out of it and were more than likely sedated. Now that I know better, I don't recommend engaging in these type of activities that take advantage of animals. There are true sanctuaries where you can bathe and be close to elephants (do your research), but I will never ride one again. Ultimately, you have to make your own decision, but these are my current thoughts on the issue.
Thailand is truly a wonderful country, but your trip wouldn't be complete without experiencing all that Chiang Mai has to offer!
xoxo, Global Midwife