Chiang Mai, Thailand- First Impressions

I have been dreaming of this trip for so long. Greg and I have been planning it for over a year, and I have wanted to go for years prior to that. Asia has always been a distant dream to me. But now I am here, my dreams are coming true!

It was a long trip to get here. We left Africa on Thursday February 8th and arrived in Thailand on February 10th. We spent a short day in Dubai because of a layover. After many flights, and many layovers, we finally got to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. One of my favourite feelings in the world is landing on the runway and feeling the humidity hit you when they first open the airplane doors. I didn’t get that experience when we landed in Africa 6 weeks ago because it was the dry season, so I was thrilled when I finally got that hit of beautiful tropical air.

The moat around the Old City in Chiang Mai

The moat around the Old City in Chiang Mai

We landed in Chiang Mai after a short flight from Bangkok and hopped on a Tuk Tuk (3 wheeled motorcycle) that took us to our first hostel. We stayed at HusH Hostel on Booking.com (Click this link for 10% off your booking) in the North east part of the old city (Chiang Mai is quite large, but in the centre is the “old city” which is surrounded by a moat and ancient city walls dating back to 1200 AD). The old city is a great place for travellers to start their Chiang Mai experience as it’s easy to walk around and there is lots going on here! We were very impressed with our hostel on our first night, so we decided to stay there another night. The hostel was clean, quiet, had AC and offered breakfast. The staff was also extremely helpful and the owner was very kind and hard working. We saw her all day, every day, always working. The second and third night we stayed there we had to move to a different room. This room was much louder as the walls were all wood, and you could hear everything going on in the hostel from there. I still gave this hostel a great review, but I would suggest it if you are the kind of person to stay out later, becuse it doesn’t get quiet till around 12am.

The first day we layed low and took some down time to recover from traveling. By the end of the first day though, I already knew I was in love with this city. We walked around our neighbourhood in the afternoon and went to the South Gate Night Food Market for dinner and got our hands on our first Pad Thai. My Pad Thai was 45 Baht, and Greg’s was 35. Both of them were easily under $2 Canadian and so much better than anything I have had before! The conversion rate right now is about $1 CAD = 24.5 Thai Baht, but we round it up to $1 CAD= 25 Baht for easy conversion. I also got a delicious fresh fruit smoothie for 30 Baht. There are so many options for eating here. I think almost anyone would be able to find food suitable for their diet here. The market gets going around 6:30pm. Some of the vendors don’t get going till around 7:30-8:00pm, but I suggest getting there earlier in the evening if you want to find a table in the court on the south side of the market! There is also a north gate food market, Greg and I didnt find it as impressive though.  

Pad Thai at the South Gate Food Market

Pad Thai at the South Gate Food Market

Rows of Vanda Orchids at Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm  

Rows of Vanda Orchids at Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm  

On our second day, Greg and I rented a scooter for 250 Baht for 24 hours (including additional insurance) to scoot up to some orchid farms north of Chiang Mai. Back home I am an avid orchid enthusiast, and thought about seeing some farms while we were here, but it was actually Greg who suggested the trip and found the farm for me! It took about 45 minutes to scoot up to Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm. If you are interested in flowers I highly suggest this little trip. As well as a wonderful display of Vanda Orchids. There is also a small butterfly enclosure housing local butterfly species. The entry fee is 40 Baht and you get a fresh orchid flower to pin to your shirt with that. There is a coffee shop as well as an all you can eat buffet serving Thai food for 250 Baht. Greg and I didn’t eat at the buffet as that’s around $10CAD and we are trying to stay around $25-$30CAD a day, so we ate at a small local place for 30 Baht instead. If you are interested in hearing more about my Orchid adventures I will make a separate blog post soon because im sure most people don’t care.... haha

Butterfly in the atrium at Bai Butterfly and Orchid Farm 

Butterfly in the atrium at Bai Butterfly and Orchid Farm 

That night we went to the Sunday Walking Night Market in Chiang Mai. Oh my gosh that place was incredible! I would compare it to a LARGE farmers market full of stalls selling lots of local goods and souvenirs. I enjoyed it becuse it seemed a lot more local and all the stalls weren’t trying to sell the same items like you will find at the other night markets. The market extends for blocks on the east side of the old city. Greg and I walked around for 2+ hours and didn’t get to see everything. There are lots of great food stalls here. You have to go into the small courtyards off the sides of the streets to find the smaller “food courts” filled with street food stalls. The best food in the market though was at the west end close to the Chiang Mai City Arts and Cultural Centre. This seemed to be restaurants from near by offering food from tables on the street at great prices. Here Greg drooled over having to choose between 25 Baht desserts and 10 Baht dishes of noodles. I got fresh sashimi for 8 Baht a piece. Overall I really enjoyed the Sunday Walking Night Market and I think this is one of the best places to buy gifts and souvenirs for your trip! I’m hoping we decide to stay here till next Sunday, because I regret not buying so many things!

Pad Thai for 30 Bhat

Pad Thai for 30 Bhat

Grand Canyon in Chiang Mai

Grand Canyon in Chiang Mai

On Monday, Greg and I went to the Grand Canyon Water Adventure Park. This park is a giant old pit that was supposed to be for some new infrastructure. But it was never built so they filled it with water and turned it into a park! As Greg said “that’s really turning lemons into lemonade”. We rented a scooter again for 250 Baht and drove there ourselves. We paid 450 Baht each for an all day pass into the water park. That included the Wibit (if you aren’t from the Okanagan a Wibit is a giant inflatable obstacle course that floats on top of the water), water slides, 1 zip lining pass each, kayaks, water bikes, cliff jumping and locker rental. There is also a wakeboard line at the park you can use for additional costs. We definitely blew our budget today, because we spent 380 Baht buying lunch there as well. The water park was worth the 450 though! And we both really enjoyed our time there. This would be a great place to come with a group of friends, as some of the Wibit would be better with a group! This place is like a water amusement park for young adults but I do suggest being cautious coming here.... I did come out of the park very sore. I do suffer from chronic back pain and it was just a minor injury. But honestly, if you are going to let someone catapult you 25 feet in the air, into water then don’t think there isn’t any risk for injury! The park does have very good rules and regulations for keeping its customers safe, and I think they do a great job running the place overall. Greg had the time of his life there, since he is a bit more daring than I am. His favourite part was the water slides that shoot you out 15 feet above the water. He also used both mine and his zip lining pass, because I am too chicken to do anything that requires me to be more than 3 feet off the ground. I really did have a lot of fun here and I didn’t let my sore back get in the way too much. I recommend this place if you want to feel like a kid in a water park... hehe.

The Elephants 😍

The Elephants 😍

On Tuesday Greg and I spent half the day visiting an Elephant sanctuary. I know this is a very controversial topic among people who love animals, and people who visit South East Asia. Without getting into it too much I will say we spent a lot of time researching all the different places we could go to see Elephants and we chose the one we felt most confident with. We didn’t let money factor into our decision because I strongly believe you get what you pay for. I’m not going to say too much more about choosing a company to go with becuse I don’t like preaching, but take your time doing your research, read lots of reviews and just please don’t even think of going anywhere to ride an Elephant. Riding Elephants is considered to be very unethical due to the conditions the Elephants must go through to allow humans to ride on their backs.

 Bath time with the baby Elephant  

 Bath time with the baby Elephant  

I will say I am very impressed with the company we chose and our overall experience. That day was one of the best days of my life! We were picked up right from our hostel in a very clean, nice Toyota SUV. The drive from Chiang Mai takes about an hour and our driver let us stop at a coffee shop along the way. When we arrived there we were given a lot of wonderful information about Elephants and their history in Thailand. When we finally got to meet the Elephants, it was a dream come true. We spent the first bit feeding them and taking pictures with them. We then had a fun mud bath with the two youngest ones there (3 and 4 years old). After that we went down to the river and washed all the mud off them while they sprayed us with water! The company supplied us with a Thai food buffet for lunch which we got to enjoy with the Elephants walking at their own leisure around us. After lunch we spent more time petting and taking pictures with the Elephants. They were such beautiful creatures and were very interesting to interact with. After we said goodbye to the Elephants our guide took us to a gorgeous waterfall for a little dip before we headed home.

Elephant love ❤️ 

Elephant love ❤️ 

The waterfall after the Elephant sanctuary 

The waterfall after the Elephant sanctuary 

It was such an amazing day, and being skeptical at the beginning I can honestly say I am very happy with our choice. If you want to know what company we chose, please feel free to contact me and I will be more than happy to share my suggestions with you one-on-one 😊

Our balcony at Thapae Gate Lodge at sunset.  

Our balcony at Thapae Gate Lodge at sunset.  

On Tuesday night we changed hostels. We moved to Thapae Gate Lodge, and so far I am very happy with this place. We were originally booked to stay somewhere else that night, but when we arrived there they said they were overbooked and didn’t have a room for us. So I went on Booking.com (Click this link for 10% your booking!) and chose a place close to us with good reviews that was in our price range, booked a night there on my app for 600 Baht and showed up at their desk 10 minutes later. Our room was all ready for us, and they even upgraded our room free of charge. We have a beautiful modern private room and bathroom on the top floor, with a fridge, safe, AC, fan, hot water and a balcony overlooking the city. This place is honestly nicer than a lot of hotels I have stayed in Canada... After viewing our room we asked if we could extend our stay another night, but we couldn’t stay in the same room becuse we didn’t want to spend its regular rate of 700 Baht. The owner said it was no problem for us to keep our current room and she wouldn’t charge us the extra 100 Baht! SCORE! I’m trying to convince Greg to stay here longer because it’s hard to find gems like this place.

Greg and I are very happy here in Chiang Mai. We feel very lucky that we have 4 months for us to travel South East Asia, so we don’t need to rush around everywhere trying to fit 5 countries into 3 weeks like some travellers we have met. Right now we only know we have a flight out of Bangkok to Cambodia on March 20th and we have no plans from then till now. I think we will enjoy this beautiful city for a while longer, just taking our time, and eating as much Thai food as we can get our hands on.

Thanks for reading! 

Gemma