“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.” – J.K. Rowling
Of all the places I’ve ever been, my trip to Chiang Mai was the one that was most jam-packed with adventure. It was our very first stop, after Bangkok, in Thailand and to be honest, I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, Chiang Mai (as a holiday destination) offers an ‘experience’, let’s call it. It seems that upon arrival, there are a plethora of different things you can partake in there and it’s all just part and package of the Chiang Mai experience. So, I have decided to write my post about Chiang Mai as that, a review of my Chiang Mai Experience!
We stayed in a hostel called Julie Guesthouse (which I mostly loved, at the beginning, for the utter lack of regard for grammar!) but that was definitely the best decision we made.
When we arrived at the guesthouse it was early morning – we had flown in from Bangkok – so our rooms weren’t ready. Considering we were all wrecked after a night out on Koh San road and a 5 am flight, we decided that we would chill out in the common area of the hostel while we waited for our rooms to be ready. The website really hits the nail on the head by calling it an “oasis within the city”. Chiang Mai is crazy – it’s busy and hectic (like many of the Asian cities we visited) – but inside the hostel, you would never even know.
While we waited we ate delicious (and extremely reasonably priced) food from Julie’s kitchen and we visited the travel agency right there in the foyer. This was the handiest thing about the hostel. Julie (if that is her real name!) organised everything for us. She handed our tired souls a folder of all the activities we could partake in while we were staying with her and we chose what we wanted to do and when, and she booked it for us. It was exactly what we needed. From what I can gather, it seems they do something similar to this in almost every other hostel and guesthouse in Chiang Mai, so don’t worry too much if you can’t get a bed in Julie’s.
Hannah and I decided to do a Thai cooking course on our first evening there. Again, Julie organised for us to be collected from the guesthouse by Tuk Tuk and away we went. It was such a great decision to do it. The Tuk Tuk driver brought us to the local market where we met the chef! She was our age and spoke perfect English (which was handy considering Hannah and I had exactly two words of Thai!). She escorted us around the entire market picking out the freshest local produce that we would be using. The coolest thing about our cooking classes (which was just sheer luck) was that we were the only two booked in for that evening, so we got loads of attention and we learnt loads as a result. We made three different dishes, a soup, a starter and Thai green curry. The Thai green curry was my favourite and I’ve been hooked ever since! We were given a certificate of completion at the end (so I guess I’m qualified to work in a Thai restaurant now!) and our very own cook book – which I might share some recipes from in the future. Although, doing a cooking course in Thailand is sort of a rite of passage at this stage, so anyone who has visited probably possesses something similar.
The following day we were picked up by a bus, bright and early, and headed of to Baanchang Elephant park. This was one of the most incredible experiences of my entire life. Considering elephants are my favourite animal and Dumbo was my favourite Disney movie – you can only imagine how elated I was to meet some real life elephants and act as a Mahout for the day. You can read all about it here.
While we were in Chiang Mai, we also wanted to take part in some sort of jungle activity! So we decided to go zip lining in the jungle. It was incredible – nothing more liberating than physically swinging through the jungle like a monkey. The bumpy ride there was nauseating to say the least but definitely worth it.
The other thing we did during our stay was we went to Tiger Kingdom. I’m not going to recommend this – it’s a decision that’s totally up to you. I wouldn’t go again because although they say it’s a preservation program and they’re investing all profits into helping tigers and trying to preserve the species – I came away feeling uncomfortable and having opted to see the baby tigers, I was actually quite upset at the end of the day. Yes, it’s a cool photo opportunity but I couldn’t help but feel as though the baby tigers weren’t as playful as they should have been. They all seemed very drowsy and sleepy. I’m not claiming that they had been drugged because I have no idea if they were or not, but it wasn’t as fun as I thought it was going to be. I thought it was just a zoo for tigers (which is cruelty enough) but because visitors can get photos with them, I think there’s something else going on – considering tigers should be dangerous. Anyway, as I said, that’s a decision for you to make.
To read more about my adventures in Thailand, read my blog post on Koh Tao.