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Chiang Mai: Food, Fun, and Jungle

Chiang Mai: Food, Fun, and Jungle

By on Apr 6, 2015 in Thailand |

After spending a few days in Bangkok, we boarded a plane and flew to Chiang Mai.  The flight was pretty inexpensive and really fast considering we talked to quite a few people who took the overnight train – they said it was…an experience.  We were extremely lucky to have hosts for this portion of our trip – Tum and Vichien.  Not only did we stay with them during our time in Chiang Mai, but they also took us out to beautiful temples, had us try amazing food, and helped us experience Thai culture.  We had heard about the generous Thai spirit, but being immersed in it was a different story. A huge THANK YOU to Tum, Vichien, and Toy for our Chiang Mai adventures.

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One of the temples Tum took us too. We walked through the hallway built into the ground.

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At the temple, there were signs on many of the trees. Each of the signs had inspirational quotes.

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Another one of the temples in Chiang Mai. We spent some time walking around, looking at the different statues – including a statue of a vegetarian princess!


Chiang Mai – this is what I think of when I picture Chiang Mai now. Temples off of busy roads with lots of motor bikes zooming by. Trees with beautiful blossoms blooming nearby along the river.


In the center of Chiang Mai, the streets are filled with shops with lots of interesting things including these lanterns that made my day when I looked up at the trees.

The Walking Market

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The Walking Night Market. Every weekend, Chiang Mai has walking markets. The biggest is on Sunday where they close off one of their streets from cars and turn it into a walking market. We didn’t know what to expect and were a bit overwhelmed when after walking for 2 1/2 hours we only covered about half of it. Apparently – we also forgot to take pictures, but we did get this shot from the start. Many of the places we have traveled to shut down at night (except for some bars or restaurants). But Thailand – it comes alive at night.

Doi Suthep


Just outside of Chiang Mai is Doi Suthep – a must see mountain. At the top is Wat Phra Tat, a beautiful temple.  We walked the many steps to the top and walked around. Here – you can donate to the temple and write a name or message on a tile to go on the roof.


Inside the temple at Doi Suthep


More from inside


The top of Doi Suthep – the view overlooks Chiang Mai which was a bit hazy due to the thick layer of smog caused by burning dry leaves. In the wet season, there is a much better view. This dog seemed pretty content with it all.


These bells lined the outside of the temple.

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The top of Dui Suthep


These girls sat at the bottom of the stairs (the way up to the top of Doi Suthep).


On the ride to Doi Suthep – we met a lovely Danish couple and spent the day talking to them about Thailand and our upcoming trip to Copenhagen. After exploring the temple at Doi Suthep – we decided to try and find a waterfall nearby. We never found the waterfall but did find these beautiful eucalyptus trees and learned about Danish social systems, fishing, and a bit about the Faroe Islands all on top of a mountain in Thailand.


After our venture to Doi Suthep – we came back down the mountain to experience a traditional Thai dinner. A traditional Northern Thai dinner (the vegetarian version)


We got to experience a traditional northern Thai dinner followed by traditional Thai dancing.


Another Thai dance


The Food – We ate so much good food while in Chiang Mai! The bowl of fruit was a gift to Vichien from a colleague. Tangelos – delicious! Also delicious – the treat in the clear box. So good!


Japanese food in Thailand? yes!

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I am not normally a very adventurous eater. In fact – I had a friend a few years ago who joked I only ate beige foods. During our travels, I have tried to at least try new things. I took that challenge seriously when I tried this dish – a century egg. Yup. I ate 2. Not my favorite dish, but I did it.

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More Thai food – plenty of shared dishes instead of everyone eating themselves. The soup (Tom Yum) was one of Will’s favorite dishes.

We loved the food so much, we wanted to make sure we could take some home with us.  So we took a cooking class in Chiang Mai.  Siam Rice Thai Cookery has pretty inexpensive classes and gave us the opportunity to learn how to make our own curry.  Yes!   Friends – dinner plans when we get back!  The school picked us up and took us to a local market where they showed us some of the ingredients.  We bonded with our taxi group – cousins from Poland, an Argentinian couple, and some girls from Germany before we split off into different groups for the actual cooking.

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We got to use our slicing and dicing skills for one of the noodle dishes. Our group was really fun. It consisted of 2 Michiganders turned New Yorkers, 2 Argentinians, and 2 Taiwanese plus 2 Denverites (us).

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Can you handle Thai hot? Food here is spicy, but Will was much better at handling spice in foods than I am (remember – just starting to be an adventurous eater). I had tears in my eyes and my lips were numb while Will added more chilis to his dishes.

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We heard screams coming from the other cooking group inside. Turns out the folks at Siam have a great sense of humor. The owners have a pet snake and they brought it out for everyone. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to hold it – very carefully.


Every where you go in Chiang Mai – you spot temples and they all hold a different beauty.


We stumbled across this temple when made a wrong turn after our Thai massages (we were in the post-massage daze). It was worth the wrong turn.

Another treat we had in Chiang Mai was a 2 hour Thai massage.  2 hours?   Thai massage?  YES!   Will never had a massage before let alone for 2 hours so we were a bit skeptical – would that be too long?  Would it hurt?   After traveling for 4 months, it was just what we needed.  The two hours passed quickly.  Did it hurt?  yes – but the good kind of hurt.  The kind where you feel the knots and kinks being worked out.  Afterwards, we walked along the streets in Chiang Mai, exploring.

Another thing I didn’t capture – getting my hair cut in Chiang Mai.  Tum got me an appointment with the woman who cuts her hair and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity – plus I needed a hair cut.  Thanks again to Tum.  Getting a haircut in a country where I don’t speak the language – never crossed my mind, but I’m glad I did it.  Also added to my list of experiences.


Every city has graffiti or street art. We didn’t see much in Chiang Mai, but did see this.

After an amazing week in Chiang Mai – we concluded our time with a jungle trek.  Two days, one night spent in the jungle!  We were picked up early in the morning and drove to some markets and an orchid farm before driving to the jungle.  The first stop: an elephant ride.  Then a 2 hour hike to a Lahu hill tribe village where we stayed the night.  The next morning, a hike down to a waterfall for a swim, followed by white water rafting and a bamboo raft ride down the river.


When we got to the elephant ride location, our group needed to wait for a few more elephants. While we waited, we got to feed the elephants some bananas and sugar cane. The elephants just walked around – making their way to anyone that had treats. Our guide only got a little nervous when they started following people closer to our truck.


We also go to pet the elephants. Their skin was rough and coarse – different than what I thought it would feel like.


The view from the top of an elephant. We got to ride through the jungle while on the elephant. Jostling and swaying side to side, the travel was a little bumpy. On the way, there was a run away elephant that came towards us. It ran right by, our elephants didn’t care much. Our group laughed about it later.


Part of the trek we didn’t expect – loading in to a cage and being sent over the river to the other side.


The top of the 2 hour jungle trek. This part was a little tough for me. Here are some things to consider before going on a 2 hour jungle trek: 1. the temperature – it was HOT. around 95 plus humidity that put it over 100. 2. Humidity – it made me miss the dry climate of Denver 3. Smoke – the dry season in Chiang Mai means lots of smoke from burning. 4.  Straight up.  They took a page from New Zealand and decided not to use switch backs.  These factors combined made it really hard for me to breathe. It was the only time so far on our journey that I started wheezing a bit from my asthma. Also the only time I didn’t bring my inhaler *this is me shaking my head at myself.*  Add storm clouds rolling in, making things look a bit ominous and our tour guide got visibly nervous encouraging us to go faster so we wouldn’t get stuck on the side of a mountain in a torrential downpour.   Everyone looked a little red in the face and exhausted as we kept going.  My asthma isn’t bad, but I didn’t want to press my luck and took it upon myself to stop when it got hard to breathe.  Will was amazing and helped me out.  A couple of people threw me some “thank you” looks as they waited for me.  Our guide definitely threw me some “can’t you go any faster” looks which I returned with “no way” looks as I made sure to catch my breath.  Needless to say – there are not many pics from the hike and it was a good reminder to always bring my inhaler – even when I think I don’t need it anymore. But once we got to the top – the rain stayed away and we enjoyed the view.


Bamboo Hotel – our lodging for the evening. Our group – 3 Germans, 2 Belgiums, 2 Japanese, 1 Korean, and us. As experienced young people (that’s what we’ve been calling ourselves – just go with it), we saw some extra pads along the wall. When no one claimed them, we took them and added them underneath the blanket covering the floor which helped make our stay at the bamboo hotel a little more comfortable. Always an adventure.


We hung out around the Bamboo Hotel in the Lahu village. Some of the kids invited us to throw a frisbee with them. Behind us, the sun lowered behind our lodging. Later that night, the kids put on some traditional garb and sang for us. It was one of the longest songs we’ve ever heard and it was impressive how much they knew!


The sunset in the jungle.

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Enjoying our bamboo hotel. After dinner we hung out outside, sitting on some mats. We joked about it being the “half moon party” instead of the “full moon party.” Earlier in the day, we all played a card game together – Mau. It’s like Uno, with different rules – I don’t think I’ve played since high school. It was pretty fun to see all of us from all over the world playing the same card game.


Our candlelight dinner in our bamboo hotel


Our hike the next day was much easier. It was almost all down hill and the weather was much cooler than the day before (there wasn’t as much humidity so it felt like 95 instead of 130). Johnny kept throwing me worried looks and expecting us to be much further behind – I didn’t know how to explain it to him, so I just smiled and gave him a thumbs up. On the way, we found this cool acorn. One of the guys from our group threw it up in the air and we watched as it helicoptered down. He tried again and accidentally almost took out another group member.


The waterfall – we took off our shoes and got to swim in the refreshing water. I made friends with a cute shibu inu dog hanging out with us, belonging to some locals who taught us how to shoot a sling shot (I need to work on it).


This tree made me think of the movie Alien

We finished our walk through the jungle and ended with white water rafting.  We ended up in the fun raft.  As we paddled along, our guide helped us cause trouble A.K.A. splash fights with everyone else.  We paddled hard to end up in front where we were safe to splash everyone else, but remained almost dry (our guide made sure to get us wet).  Then we transferred to a bamboo raft until we made it to shore.   The ride back to Chiang Mai felt long as the ten of us filled up the back of the taxi.  When we got back, Tum and Vichien greeted us with open arms and plans for our last day in Chiang Mai.


Our last day, Tum and Vichien took us to an umbrella factory and silk factory. These are umbrellas made by hand.


This woman glued on the fabric to the umbrella.


A silk worm used in the silk factory we visited.

The week in Chiang Mai went quickly, but inspired us.  Thai culture and the people are incredibly kind and generous.  Our experiences would have been lacking and less fulfilling without Toy, Tum, and Vichien.  Leaving – we thought about how we can incorporate some of the Thai culture and spirit into our lives.  As we go through the rest of our travels and head home – we hope to bring the generosity of the Thai culture with us.