Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

Thailand’s International balloon festival!

Hot air balloons are fascinating aren’t they? I loved growing up as a child and gazing at hot air balloons in the sky. I’d always dreamt of going on one but being terrified of heights, never thought I would. My parents surprised me on my 16th birthday with a balloon flight and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had! Strangely, looking down out of the hot air balloon didn’t feel like we were high, it was picturesque to say the least!

When I heard about the International balloon festival arriving in Chiang Mai where I live, we just had to go and take a look!  Getting up really early, we drove in the dark to Payap University where the two day event was taking place. Arriving at 6am, we were amazed to see around a dozen hot air balloons being blown up, it was lovely and hot surrounded by the flames from the balloons. Expats, locals and tourists gathered for the mass balloon release at sunrise. It was an amazing thing to see!

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Preparing for the mass launch at 6am
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Mass balloon launch

After the launch, it was time for the kids to have some fun. Hot air balloons with all different shapes and sizes started to arrive, one shaped as an elephant, another as a fox and a tiny rainbow coloured one too! The owner of the fox balloon was playing with all the kids at the event, chasing them with the fox. It was lovely to see!

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Character balloons!

The event continued throughout the day, but we decided to go home and return in the evening. Arriving at 8 o’clock we gazed around the numerous food stalls set up by different hotels in Chiang Mai. Sampling the food and taking a walk, we were soon surrounded by kids we teach. Chiang Mai is relatively small so at any event in the city, your bound to see some of the kids and other teachers too! It’s lovely to be spotted out and parents can’t wait to take a photo of their children and their teachers together!

At the end of the night, it was time for the Lanna orchestra to perform with the huge hot air balloons joining in with the performance. Positioning ourselves on the floor in the centre of the action, surrounded by mosquitoes, we watched an amazing performance. Some of the musicians were playing along inside the various hot air balloons and the balloons lit up in time to the music. Lee, my boyfriend, even managed to skype his brother in England and show him how amazing it was! There were even fireworks at the end to add an extra surprise to the night. It was an experience I will never forget and definitely worth attending if you’re ever in Chiang Mai when the International balloon festival arrives.

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Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai

1 year as an expat in Chiang Mai

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Yesterday marked exactly one year since I embarked on my first long term adventure abroad. One year exactly since I boarded a plane at Heathrow airport with my boyfriend and said a tearful goodbye to my family. One year ago today that I landed in Bangkok and explored more of what Thailand has to offer. One year has gone by; the plan was 6 months abroad so I never thought we would get to mark this occasion.

It’s crazy how fast a year can go, and it’s amazing to look back on the amount of things I’ve done over the course of this past year. I’ve moved abroad and become an expat in a foreign country. I’ve travelled more of Thailand in one year than I have in my entire life back home in England. I’ve moved into two different apartments in Chiang Mai. I have my own swimming pool and gym to use every day to my heart’s content. I’ve become a Teacher and taught some truly incredible children for the past year. I’ve made friends. I’ve become confident standing up and speaking in front of people. I’ve learnt all about the Thai culture and even learnt how to speak some basic words in Thai. I’ve become a blogger and written all about my travels and experiences. I’ve washed, fed and ridden an elephant. I’ve swam in waterfalls, hiked through mountains, ridden on the back of a motorbike, visited and donated to a Thai hill tribe, felt lost, felt homesick, felt amazing, happy and content all in one.

I’ve achieved so much just in one year, it feels incredible. This has shown me just what it means to achieve your dreams and so much more. You hear people say, “I wish I had done that when I was younger”, or “you need to settle in the real world”. But this is the real world. I’m exploring it as much as I can, I’m living my life to the full and I have no regrets. I’m 23 years of age, I’ve seen so much and yet I’m hungry to see so much more.

Chiang Mai is an awesome place to live, there’s so much to see and do, you’re never too far from being able to explore your surrounding areas and it very much feels like home now. The time has come where I feel like I’ve done so much, it’s hard to find new things to do and see. So we have made the decision to move. Having now travelled much of Thailand, I’m itching for a new country and a new culture to explore, so a move to Bali in Indonesia is very close to becoming our reality.

I’ve had an amazing year. My first teaching experience has been more than I would have hoped for. I didn’t think I would find something that I would love to do for the rest of my life. Standing up in front of 25 students and teaching them for a year is an amazing achievement, one that I will always remember. I wish I could pick the kids up and take them to a new place. They are the highlight of my job and it has been great getting to know each of them. We played games, we’ve had parties, we’ve grown and learnt together and it was very hard to say goodbye.

Moving to Thailand and becoming a teacher here has been the best decision I have ever made. We’ve explored a new culture and found a job we both enjoy. Teaching will be my future but for now, I want to carry on exploring the adventurous world we live in.

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Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

The hidden wonders of Mae Wang national park.

Hidden within Mae Wang national park lies the old river ruins of Pha Chor. Believed to be the old course of the Ping river, after movement from tectonic plates and erosion, it has now become a small tourist destination. When I say small, I mean you’ll struggle to find much information about it. Don’t let that deter you from going though, because it’s another one of those scenic drives around Chiang Mai and it’s a natural beauty worth checking out.

The erosion has over time, left soil pillars and cliffs standing at around 30 meters high. It has become a quiet tourist destination, mainly visited by Thai nationals. In fact, when we visited, we were the only foreign people around.

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Pha Chor

Lee and I decided we wanted to see more of Chiang Mai having ticked off most of the destinations Chiang Mai has to offer in a year of living here. I came across Pha Chor only from another blogger. I found basic instructions on how to get there, a map that took us to the wrong place and just a couple of road numbers (108 and 1013). So off we went, towards Mae Wang National park. Located around an hours drive South from Chiang Mai, you reach the entrance to the park. Although if you’re anything like me, you’ll miss the turning and continue driving for a further 40 minutes in the wrong direction! Although it wasn’t completely my fault, the map we had was wrong too! Thankfully the route we took was stunning, heading into the mountains and driving past rows and rows of stunning paddy fields. So don’t be too disheartened if you miss the turn, as the views your met with through the countryside are worth it anyway!

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Desert like roads in the Mae Wang national park.
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Make sure you turn LEFT here towards the national park!

 

Finally locating the correct turn off, and heading into the park, you pay 100bht to get in plus 20bht for a motorbike. Spotting the turn for Pha Chor, we had to wait for a herd of cows walking freely to cross in front of us which was a lovely sight! The turn takes you off the nice, flat roads and onto a very bumpy dirt track!

Arriving, there’s a place to park up, go to the loo and grab a coffee before embarking on a short 10 minute walk to get to the cliffs. I think we were a rare sight for all of the Thai tourists walking past, kind of got the feeling we were being stared at.

We decided to start at the top and work our way down, admiring all the details on the structures and catching a photo opportunity whenever we could. You can walk all around the cliffs, on the way out following the actual route of the river, which can get very narrow. Tip: wear long trousers to stop the cliffs from cutting your legs. 

Pha Chor was a great find, and the drive leading up to the park was just as stunning as the cliffs too. I say it’s a tourist destination but there were only a handful of people there. Making it a quiet and relaxing place, a hidden find within Mae Wang national park. 

If you have time, take a drive past the car park of Pha Chor and follow the signs for Pha Daeng. Similar to Pha Chor with huge cliffs but on a higher level and you’re met with an incredible view across the stunning mountain range. Be aware that the roads leading up to it are full of gravel and rocks. We ended up pulling over and walking the last 200 meters as it was difficult on the bike.

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Pha Daeng cliffs.

Another point of interest before you get to Pha Chor, is to continue driving straight. You’re met with a river and in the dry season, its completely dry so you can drive along the course of the river. Deciding to take a walk, you stumble across a stream of water and a bamboo hut hidden within the trees. A very scenic walk with no one around, hearing only the sounds of nature and the trickling stream. It was probably my favourite part of the day!

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Walking along the river. 
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The river in Thailand’s dry season. 
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Bamboo hut hidden in the park/
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Here’s a more reliable map to get to Mae Wang national park.
Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

An Elephant stomped on my toe!

Living in Thailand, home to the Asian Elephant, I just had to spend a day caring for these amazing creatures. With a special occasion on the horizon, my boyfriend and I booked an afternoon at Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai, where we would become Elephant Mahouts for the day, caring, washing, feeding and walking them through their daily routine. Turns out it was one of the best days I’ve ever had!

Being picked up from our Condo at 1pm, we were driven to the site an hour away from Chiang Mai hidden within the mountains. We joined our party and wandered over to meet the first elephants of the day. If you’ve ever seen a baby elephant, you’ll know just how adorable these little creatures are! At just 2 months old, we got to meet Poof, who was no taller than my knees. He was the most loveable character. The sanctuary had even made him a step to reach his mother’s milk as he wasn’t quite tall enough.

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After capturing a great photo opportunity and having a briefing about the day, we set off for the camp. Arriving, we were greeted by at least 2 dozen elephants, all of different ages and sizes wandering around happily, without a chain in sight! There were mahouts chopping bamboo and male elephants drinking from a hose pipe, a very surreal sight I have to admit.

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We finally got to meet our own elephants for the day. A little apprehensive of the size of them, up close and personal with an elephant 3 times the size of you is pretty overwhelming I have to say. Regardless, I met my elephant, Chompoo and was thankful when I saw she was smaller than the rest. At five years old, she was still huge but the perfect size for me. We were given baskets of bananas and bamboo and I jumped straight in feeding Chompoo, although she was a fussy elephant and only wanted to eat bamboo that was sliced in half so rejected any that weren’t!

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Next on our agenda was their daily cleaning process, starting with using a collection of leaves bound together to get all of the dirt off their backs. Next was my favourite part of the day, walking down to bathe the elephants. Sitting on an elephant’s back with a brush in your hand, gently cleaning them from head to toe was so surreal, such an incredible experience!

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After being completely soaked by an elephant spraying water all over us, it was time to walk and ride our elephants. Now I know there is a lot of controversy over riding elephants here in Thailand, but there is no way I would have done so if I knew or saw that the sanctuary was unethical and treated their elephants with cruelty. With a credible reputation at Patara, I climbed onto Chompoo’s bare back, not a seat or any danger in sight and guided Chompoo through the walk, patting her and saying Dee Dee (Thai for good) along the way.

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Again riding an elephant was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget and actually I won’t have to for a while either. After thanking my Mahout and posing for the last few shots, I screamed out in pain only to realise that Chompoo had stood on my toe! In excruciating pain, I can tell you for a 5 year old, she is very heavy! She must have heard my scream because she leapt off me, complete with pink nail varnish still attached to her foot! So, as I told you, it’s an experience I won’t be able to forget for a while, with a shining purple bruise on my toe! Despite that, I would highly recommend anyone to spend a day playing and caring for an elephant, it’s highly rewarding and incredibly exciting too! IMG_20160123_165642.jpg

 

Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

Visiting a Hmong hill tribe for New Year!

Visiting a hill tribe has been high on my list of new experiences since I became an Expat in Thailand. So discovering an organised donation trip was right up my street. Joining the party, we followed in convoy up into the stunning mountains of Chiang Mai. We (my boyfriend and I) asked our school for donations and the kids went crazy! We had bags and bags full of clothes, stationery, toys and food, it was so generous! The hard part was trying to fit it all onto a moped!

The drive itself was very scenic, driving past farms, rice fields and tiny little villages hidden in the mountain.That was until disaster struck, our moped caught something and we had an instant flat tyre! Deciding to leave our bike hidden under a tree, we jumped in the back of a songtao. Literally clinging onto the back due to the lack of room, it was an experience I have to admit, not one I’d like to try again though!

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Scenic mountain views!

A Hmong hill tribe New Year is not what was expected at all, in fact the hill tribe village itself wasn’t. It was a tiny village but they had a huge stage and electricity, where Hmong children were showing off well-rehearsed dances in their traditional dress. It was lovely to see and the kids were adorable, it was just not quite what I had in mind.

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Hill tribe dances!

We organised an area for all the party’s donations, I half expected children to be running around choosing their favourite toys from our selection, or taking full advantage of the hundreds of snacks that had just been donated. What I failed to realise until the end of the day was that they had their very own shop, where they sold most of these snacks anyway.

There were some games organised for the children including face painting with the additional use of flour and water. My boyfriend was covered in this flour paste head to toe by the time the kids had been let loose on him. There was a lot of free time to wander around the village. Watching the kids play football with an old used tyre, Lee (my boyfriend) even got involved for a game too!

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Wandering around, the strong smell of farms led me to a small family of pigs and piglets feeding from their mother.

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Adorable family of pigs!

Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the children’s entertainment, hand-made wooden go-karts which looked like so much fun; I definitely would have had a go if no one was looking!

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Go-karting fun!

 

All in all, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting a hill tribe to be. But that maybe because I was a little naïve of the reality, although I don’t think anyone would expect to see expensive motorbikes all around a Hmong village or teenagers on their iPhone’s. Maybe they would, I don’t know. It was a good experience and I’d like to do it again, but maybe next time it won’t be with an organised trip and I’d like to venture a little further out to see if that makes a difference.

Have you visited a hill tribe in Northern Thailand?

I’d love to hear if your experience is any different to mine!

 

Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

My first Loy Krathong Festival!

I’ve always wanted to let off my own lantern, and I finally got to do it this week at the Loy Krathong festival in Thailand. Living here for 8 months, I’ve heard so much about this amazing festival, Thai’s look forward to it all year! It’s a festival that happens every year on the date of the full moon, in the 12th month of the Thai Lunar calendar. This year it was on the 25th November but the festival lasts for 3 days.

My first experience was just incredible, I’ve never seen anything quite like it before, it was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had!

Starting off at school on Tuesday 24th. We made our very own krathongs (flower and vegetable  baskets made with banana trees, which are put in the river to say thank you to all the water spirits in Thailand.) It was loads of fun, sitting all the kids down and giving them all the materials to make the krathongs. My class are only six years old, so we gave them ice-cream cones to makes theirs, so it’s food for the fish too!

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After, we had a traditional Thai ceremony with children doing dances to the Loy Krathong traditional song. Of course I took part too, all dressed in my Northern Thai attire!

After school, I went to the Ping river, which runs right through Chiang Mai! There was loads of people selling their own Krathongs along with sparklers (so we didn’t miss out on our bonfire night at home!), it was a  lovely atmosphere. Had to bend right over into the river to let my krathong go, holding on tight so I didn’t fall in! Stopped to watch a traditional Thai parade in the city too!

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On the 25th was the much anticipated mass lantern release at Mae Jo University. Inside the Uni, you had to pay $100, we decided to stay outside and watch with hundreds of local Thais!

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Letting our lanterns off was an amazing experience although challenging at first. One had a hole in so we had to throw it in the river before it caused a huge fire, but the others worked great!

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At 9pm, the mass lantern release was due. We patiently saved our last and biggest lantern ready for the release. Almost immediately after letting it go, we heard to crowds cheering and looked up to the most incredible sight I’ve seen! Thousands and thousands of lanterns released into the sky at the exact same time, shining bright with the huge full moon in the background. The atmosphere taking them in one direction, it looked magnificent! If you’re ever planning to be in Chiang Mai for Loy Krathong, go to Mae Jo uni, its a must see! (and don’t pay for those tickets as its just as incredible if not more outside, from the view we had!)

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Midway through the lantern release, we were surprised by a huge array of fireworks, literally blowing the lanterns to pieces in the process, a sight worth seeing that’s for sure!

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Don’t miss out on Loy Krathong next year, along with the lantern launch of Yee Peng! Definitely worth planning your trip around, just remember the actual date in November changes every year!

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Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai, Exploring Thailand

17 things to do in Chiang Mai! 

One thing I’ve learnt living in Chiang Mai, is that it is totally different to being a tourist here. You’d expect it to be different but the things you see make it an awesome place to live! Being a tourist myself when I first came to Chiang Mai, I didn’t venture far from the central area of town, Thapae gate, the night markets and central temples. Having now lived here for a year there’s so much I’ve seen that’s off the tourist route, I thought it would be perfect to write about. So here’s my list of 17 things to do in Chiang Mai:

Mae Ngat Dam and reservoir

One of my favourite places to visit in Chiang Mai! Mae Ngat dam has some spectacular scenery overlooking the mountains and a huge reservoir. When you arrive, you have the option to hire a longtail boat to take you to a floating restaurant, you’ll have to pay 40bht each to enter Sri Lanna national park too. The other option is to stay on land and admire the views from their reservoir side restaurant. You can also stay overnight on a floating bungalow, I know the prices were quite high but it would be great if there’s a few of you together. Relax, have some lunch, watch the fish jumping in the water and the boats gliding across to the other side. Perfect way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon. The on land restaurant does an amazing freshly cooked Tilapia for under 200bht, it’s delicious and huge too!

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Wat Palat

Another high favourite of mine is Wat Palat. This incredible temple hidden within the Doi Suthep mountain is well worth a visit. Set in stunning grounds, overlooking the whole of Chiang Mai, this temple is very unique as many of its features are both Thai and Burmese. You can take part in a nature trek through the jungle to reach the temple which is an amazing experience. A very knowledgeable Monk told me only a handful of people visit the temple each day, making it well hidden away from the busy tourism of Chiang Mai. Read more about it here.

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Samoeng loop


If you have a motorbike, the Samoeng loop is an amazing day out, stopping off at many unique points along the way. You can check out the stunning scenery Chiang Mai has to offer, driving past rice fields and farms, with mountain views all around. Along the loop you’ll have spectacular viewpoints to stop and admire too! 100km in length, the Samoeng loop will keep you busy for the whole day! To read more, have a look at my detailed post all about it here.

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Chiang Mai Grand Canyon

Formally a quarry, which has now been filled with water. It is a quiet destination for expats and locals to visit on a relaxing weekend and only 25 minutes’ drive from the city. The water is around 40meters deep and the cliffs range in size. Some decide to jump from the cliffs for fun although there are warning signs around. Relax and have a drink or some lunch in the restaurant, rent out a rubber dingy or rubber ring and have some fun swimming in the calm, warm waters! Great fun for kids too!

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Muang On Cave

These caves are a must see in Chiang Mai, they are very grand! From the Chinese dragon steps leading to the front of the cave to the huge structures hidden inside, Muang On cave is spectacular! You’ll have to crawl under part of the cave to enter, looks daunting for any claustrophobic but after you’ve entered there’s nothing more to worry about. There are 2 floors in the caves; all very well lit so don’t be ripped off renting a flashlight from outside. The caves are very well respected with Buddhist shrines all around, including a large reclining Buddha too! I recently did a driving loop around Muang On caves– check it out if your in the area!

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Sticky waterfalls

Known to locals as Bua Thong waterfalls, these hidden waterfalls are spectacular! Around 90 minutes drive from the city, these waterfalls are popular with expats and locals alike. Being a little far from the city, you won’t see many tourists there which adds to the amazing experience. They are made from limestone rocks which means you can actually climb up and stick to the rocks. With 3 levels of the falls, if you climb to the top you get a stunning view of the forest scenery below. Climb down to the bottom and you’ve got a cool waterfall shower to soak in! And the best bit, it’s absolutely free! Read more about the sticky waterfalls here. 

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Mon Cham

Another of my favourite places to visit around Chiang Mai! Mon Cham is quite a way from the city, you can reach it on the Samoeng loop or you can go direct and camp there overnight. Driving very high through the mountains, Mon Cham overlooks a stunning sight! Have some fun on the wooden go-karts or relax overlooking their beautifully well-kept gardens. Stop for a bite to eat in a bamboo hut directly above those incredible views too!

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San Khampaeng Hotsprings

If you like hotsprings the ones in San Khampaeng are great to visit. They are situated just outside the town of San Khampaeng, about an hour’s drive from the city. Don’t be put off with the time though, as the drive is stunning! You’ll head into the natural countryside of Chiang Mai, with mountain views and paddy fields in the distance. When you arrive, you’ll pay 100bht to get in. Stop off at the shops and browse through some traditional Lanna clothing at a very reasonable price, or buy yourself some eggs to boil in the springs for 20bht. Muang on cave is located very close to the springs so bear that in mind when you go, you could visit them both in one day!

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Huay Tung Tao lake

If you visit Chiang Mai, you have to go to Huay Tung Tao Lake. Not too far from the city and only 50bht to get in, this lake is huge and full of idyllic scenery all around. Drive round the lake for the best views and pitch yourself up in one of the numerous bamboo huts. Have some great Thai food at great prices or share a few drinks with friends. This lake is popular with local Thai’s in the evenings but never too busy. If you have kids, you can even rent out a pedal boat too!

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Wat Umong

The hidden temple of Wat Umong! Situated very close to the city, Wat Umong is one of the most unique temples I have even seen in Thailand. From its gigantic Chedi, to its historical features, this temple is not to be missed! There are underground tunnels leading to large Buddhist shrines in every corner too! Don’t forget to check out the humorous artwork scattered around and the big lake at the bottom of the temple grounds. You can feed fish and birds in the lake, spot a tiny turtle swimming in the waters and buy some delicious coconut ice-cream too!

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Queen Sirikit Botanic garden

Situated just past the town of Mae Rim, Queen Sirikit gardens are a must for nature lovers! Explore the well-kept gardens, various banana tree species, or several greenhouses containing Cacti, Orchids, Lotus flowers, everything you could think of! Pay 100bht to get in, you can also drive around on your motorbike for 20bht extra and stop off at as many places as you want! The grounds are stunning!
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Doi Inthanon

Doi Inthanon hosts the highest point in Thailand, so it’d be a hard decision not to go! Located 2 hour’s drive from the city, you arrive at Doi Inthanon national park. Pay your 300bht to enter the park, and you’re free to explore the natural wonders of the park for the day! There’s loads of waterfalls to check out, my favourite being the Wachirathan waterfall as it is just magnificent! There are nature trails and caves to explore and most importantly the King’s and Queen’s Chedi’s situated at the top of the mountain. Due to the long drive, it’s worth considering staying over for the night. You can rent huts or tents in the middle of the park, but bear in mind they get full very quickly so it’s worth booking in advance! Check out Thailand’s peak here! 

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Khamtieng flower market

A spectacular flower market very close to the city. Located just off the Super highway, behind Tesco Lotus. It’s well worth a visit, there are four parallel roads, each with numerous individual shops selling an array of different plants and flowers! From miniature cacti to gorgeous orchid’s and everything in between! They have shops selling pots, stones, soil, anything that is garden centre related! Stop for a lovely break at Panmai coffee too!

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Chang Dao caves

Magnificent looking caves around 90minutes drive from the old city. These caves in Chang Dao are very unique. You enter walking up to a Buddhist temple, pay 40bht for electricity charges and enter the caves. Very grand inside, you’re offered the option to pay for a private guide in the non-lit areas or carry on yourselves in the well-lit zone. If you shine a flash light above, you may even see bats hanging from the caves, you’ll definitely see a fair few fly past you! Well worth checking out for the day, you can also stay overnight at Chang Dao Nest which is meant to be a lovely experience too!

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Mae Sa waterfall

Ever been to a waterfall with 10 tiers? Visit Mae Sa waterfall in Mae Rim for a great experience! Having 10 levels, you can relax on the lower areas, taking in the amazing scenery and sharing lunch with friends. You’ll find this place is popular with Thai’s but not so much with tourists. The further up you go, the quieter it becomes. Bear in mind it’s quite a walk to the top, but your met with some wonderful views if you venture that far. You’ll find you’re probably alone on the 10th tier as not many venture past the 7th. You can swim up there too! Great fun for all the family!
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Royal Park Rajapruek

Situated not far from the centre of Chiang Mai, the Royal gardens are stunning. Set in enormous grounds overlooking some amazing gardens of flowers from all around the world. 100bht to get in, the park is huge so you may want to use the shuttle bus to get around. Rows and rows of lovely exotic flowers, there’s a spectacular temple in the middle of the park too, well worth a stop. You could easily spend a few hours here on a nice, dry day.

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Warorot market

Visit Chiang Mai’s busiest and oldest market. Situated just beside the Ping river, the market spans a huge indoor market and numerous soi’s around the market too! A very local market, where fresh fruit and veg is on offer, along with clothes, meat, spices, flowers, anything you could want that isn’t catering for the tourist population in Chiang Mai. In the day, check out the indoor market. At night the market outside comes to life! Well worth a stop on your trip to Chiang Mai!

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Looking for a place to stay in Chiang Mai? Check out airbnb and get 712bht towards your first stay for using this link! 

Photo credits: Lee Rawson-Gill

Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai

My 17 favourite Chiang Mai eats!

Eating out in Chiang Mai and Thailand itself, is much easier and cheaper than cooking at home. There’s so much choice, why would you want to stay in and cook? Having lived in Chiang Mai for 6 months now, I’ve found a lot of amazing places to eat that aren’t always catering to the tourist population, although there are some that are very worthy of a place on the list! Here’s my favourite’s!

Thai food

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Situated behind Coffee Club at Thapae gate, this small restaurant serves some delicious Thai food. I once spent a whole week just eating here for dinner. Their menu is big, loads of choice and the portion sizes are great! Prices are low too. They do a delicious young coconut curry and a mango curry too and their morning glory is just perfect! Definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area, it won’t disappoint!

Aroon Rai

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Located just up from Thapae gate, Aroon Rai opened in 1967 and serves up some incredible Thai food. Try their Pad Kra Pao (stir fried chicken with holy basil) it’s delicious and cheap too! They even have home made brownies and ice-cream if you’re feeling tempted!

Ugo restaurant

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Situated across from Thapae gate in Chiang Mai’s most popular area, Ugo restaurant does some incredibly delicious Thai food. They have increased their prices recently but still reasonable considering the area it’s located in. Their Massaman curry is one of the best I’ve had in Thailand!

Spoon De Best

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Located in a quieter area of Chiang Mai’s old town, Spoon De best is another delicious eatery. Due to its location, it’s fairly quiet and you’ll often find you’re the only ones dining there at the time. Despite this, their food is incredible and reasonably priced. And their deserts are a must! Double crème brulee or a heart-warming chocolate fondant cooked to perfection!

Fahmui Noodle

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Hands down, the best Khao Soi I have tasted in Chiang Mai! Very authentic and rich in flavour, with fresh deep fried noodles for added texture, A must try dish in Northern Thailand! Try their Wanton’s too with delicious plum sauce, and all for a very good price. Located at the Harbour, on Huay Kaew Road!

Japanese

Tsunami

Little Japanese restaurant on Huay Kaew road opposite Chiang Mai University. Delicious dishes including freshly rolled Sushi in front of your eyes.  My recommendation would be their rich Curry Ramen full of spices and only 89bht!

Mu’s Katsu

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If you like Katsu, you’ll love this place. Located on Nimmanhaeman opposite Salad Concept, down a small back road just before Soi 8.  Specialising in Japanese Katsu, their Katsu chicken with rice is creamy and rich in flavour; you can even have it in a sub if you want! Just bear in mind it closes at 19:30pm every day, it’s worth an early dinner!

British Classics

Being a Brit, there’s nothing like a few home comforts once in a while. Searching for the best Sunday Roast was hard but I think I’ve finally found it, complete with all the condiments you could want! Here’s a few of my favourite British classic eats here in Chiang Mai:

Archers

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The famous Sunday roast! Archers is exactly like a British pub, and their Sunday roast is incredible! A little pricey compared to Thai food but so worth it. Yorkshire puds, pork crackling, mountains of roast potatoes, pumpkin mash (nice addition) and tons of gravy! You can’t beat it!

Dee’s Fish ‘N’ Chips

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Fancy a hearty British take away? Find Dee with his little motorbike stall driving around Chiang Mai’s old town. His main location is outside Loco Elvis although he has a timetable for where he is at what time. Delicious deep fried fish and chips, complete with home made tartar sauce and malt vinegar, you can’t go wrong!

UN Irish Pub

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Looking for good old British food, you’ll probably find it in the UN Irish pub. Pie and mash, Cornish pasties, Full English breakfast, the lot! Check it out, you won’t be disappointed, again a little pricey but that’s western food I guess!

Burgers and Satay

My Steak House

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The best priced burgers I’ve had in Chiang Mai. Chicken burger with home made sauce – 39bht!! Fries with a choice of size (max 50bht) and seasoning including delicious BBQ or paprika! Situated in Jed Yod, just off the Super highway near Maya, this place is not to be missed! You can even play a game of connect 4 while you wait!

Rock Me Burger and bar

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OK so this is one of the more touristy restaurants on the list but very worthy of a place. If you haven’t been to Rock Me Burger, you have no idea what you’re missing! A bit more expensive than the burgers in Jed Yod, but these burgers are huge so you get what you pay for! Try the barbecue aloha, a great beef burger with BBQ sauce and a slice of pineapple on top. It comes with home made potato wedges and the most satisfying onion rings I’ve ever had! Located on the road leading to the night bazaar, from Thapae gate!

Cowboy’s Satay

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If you like satay, or even if you don’t (like me) you have to try Cowboy Satay. Situated within the night bazaar, it’s a small stall near the back; you’ll smell it before you see it! Order half a rack of ribs for 150bht with an incredible satay sauce to accompany it. Or a mix of chicken and pork grills smothered with satay sauce, oh and a freshly barbecued corn on the cob to go with it, all for just 180bht. You won’t leave this place hungry let me tell you!

Mexican food

I love Mexican food, so I have been on the hunt for the last 6 months to find the best Mexican restaurant in Chiang Mai. There aren’t too many to choose from, but I still have 3 places, which are all worthy of the top spot!

Loco Elvis

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Near Thapae gate, Loco Elvis is great! Treat yourself to a Mexican there one night, order their beef nachos, you will not be disappointed! Their burritos are huge; one is enough to share for two people. I haven’t quite yet found a place that tops their nachos, cheesy sauce, sour cream, salsa, Jalapeños, the works!

El Diablo’s 

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Talk about competition, this Mexican specialises in Burritos and is literally opposite Loco Elvis. Free tortilla chips when you arrive with an array of salsa’s to choose from! And as you may expect, their Burritos are incredibly tasty! The veggie burrito is great and they have other more extravagant options like chorizo and egg, which again is very delicious!

Sunrise Tacos

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Hidden amongst the various eateries in Star Avenue, opposite Central Festival, Sunrise tacos is great! Their nachos are on par with Loco Elvis, and their free salsa selection is divine! Jalapeno salsa, guacamole, Pico de Gallo, thick and chunky, green tomato, hot and spicy, there’s loads to choose from! If you’re wandering through Star Avenue around lunch time, you may even be given a 100bht voucher to use with no clauses attached! Perfect!

Indian

Hinlay Curry House

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Last on my list, away from the tourism and situated by the Ping river, Hinlay curry house is very satisfying, with great prices too! Now I know I’ve listed it as an Indian restaurant but their speciality pork Hinlay curry is deliciously rich and tender. They have a large selection of Indian dishes from huge veg samosas with a tamarind dip, incredible curries and sides of naan bread, Prather, raita and mango chutney. Don’t miss their pumpkin curry too!


Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai

Exploring Thailand’s highest peak

The highest peak of Thailand is high up in the mountains of Doi Inthanon. The peak  is situated 2,565m above sea level and is home to two chedis, for the King and Queen of Thailand. Driving to the peak in the Doi Inthanon mountain is a popular destination for expats living in Chiang Mai. It is often missed by tourists being around 2 hour’s drive from the city. Despite the drive, it was a must-see on our sightseeing list being the highest mountain in Thailand. So we ventured to the mountain at the weekend, driving through some of the most spectacular scenery we’ve seen!

Starting off in the centre of Chiang Mai, you head towards Hang Dong and onto the small Thai village of Sanpatong, where there’s a huge locals market to explore. It’s around an hour until you hit those incredible scenic views but well worth the wait. Paddy fields to your left and farmer’s fields to your right, with amazing mountain views all around, it’s definitely worth the drive just for those views.

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Knowing we still had an hour left of our journey and more driving through the national park, we made a very last minute decision to stay the night in the surrounding area of Doi Inthanon. When I say last minute, I mean driving along the highway at 50 kmph, passing a Tesco Lotus and Lee (my boyfriend) suggests stopping to get some overnight necessities.

Overnight decision making on the highway
Overnight decision making on the highway

With the decision made and a steady 2 hours later you arrive at the entrance to the Doi Inthanon national park. Stop off for some lunch near the first of many waterfalls in the park, you’ve already begun to see those much anticipated sights. Pass the national park checkpoint, where its 300bht/ adult to get in for foreigners, and head up the mountainous roads to the Doi Inthanon temple at the very top.

doi inthanon entrance

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Along the way you’ll spot signs for various waterfalls, I definitely recommend having a stop at Wachirathan waterfall. Driving on the road leading up to the waterfall, you can see it before you even hear it, which usually isn’t the case with waterfalls in Thailand, especially in the rainy season. Anyway, this waterfall was incredible! By far the best waterfall I have ever seen. After taking a while trying to get the perfect photograph, we continued our route to the top of the mountain.

Lee (my boyfriend) at the stunning Waterfall!
Lee (my boyfriend) at the stunning Waterfall!

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After driving through breath taking scenery, we spot the top of the King’s pagoda peeping out from behind the mountains. Breathing a huge sigh of relief that we’re near the highest peak in Thailand, you turn around and get an incredible view of the province of Chiang Mai below.

Amazing views all around!
Amazing views all around!

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Continuing on route, we finally arrive at the summit of the mountain and the two chedi’s built for both the King’s and Queen’s 60th birthday anniversaries. Find the much needed coffee shop closed, and head up the escalators to view each chedi. There are idyllic gardens you can look around too, and on a not so cloudy day, my guess is you could get a spectacular view of the mountains below at the designated view point.

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Noticing the time and turning around, we decided to look for somewhere to stay whilst driving through the clouds. There aren’t as many bungalows as we thought there would be, and all the ones we saw were full! We did find a cute little set of huts called Inthanon Eco Huts, but they wanted 800bht for a tiny, and I mean tiny room. Deciding to search outside the park, we headed out. Bear in mind “heading out” means another 40 minute drive through the jungle, with the sky getting darker and darker by the second. We finally found a hotel on booking.com 4km from the entrance to the park, which was just 450bht.

 

Next day, driving back to Chiang Mai, we spotted a temple we had noticed the day before, Wat Phra That Doi Noi. This temple is situated at the top of a small hill, with steps leading all the way to the top.

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Reaching the top, we noticed the temple is under reconstruction, so you get the chance to write your name on one of the roof tiles which is a great little touch for 15bht.

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Another amazing view of the mountains all around and its situated overlooking the Ping river. A recommended stop for anyone making the scenic journey to Doi Inthanon from Chiang Mai.

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Posted in Exploring Chiang Mai

The hidden temple of Wat Umong

Having been to many destinations surrounding Chiang Mai at the weekends, you often miss what’s right in the centre to explore. One Sunday, wanting quite a relaxing day, we sought out the unique temple of Wat Umong. Located to the west of Chiang Mai’s old town, 1km south of Chaing Mai University.

Entering the grounds, you find you drive into a small Buddhist village surrounded by Monks’ residence and a meditation centre. The grounds of the temple itself span around 15 acres of land and it really is as impressive as it sounds! Parking up and venturing up the 100 or so steps to reach Wat Umong’s famous pagoda, you’re surrounded by loads of chickens, you literally have to dodge them to continue your route! When you reach the top, you step out with a view of the biggest pagoda I have seen in the whole of Thailand!

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Exploring the surroundings of the pagoda, we noticed we were touring the temple backwards, although we weren’t the only ones, thankfully! Continuing backwards along the route you reach a set of underground tunnels leading to Buddhist shines in every corner you turn! Incredible to see and lovely to witness the respect people show to these underground shrines.IMG_8226IMG_8229 IMG_8232

The view of the land was just as incredible on the outside. There’s a whole area dedicated to Buddhist statues, most of them broken but you can tell they have been there for many many years, adding to the uniqueness of the temple. IMG_8239

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Outside you might spot a chicken climbing a tree or distinctive spiritual paintings and signs all around with inspirational words to add a bit of positivity to your life, although a few were lost in translation!

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wat umong sign

Continuing along the route, out of nowhere you find yourself at a huge lake surrounded by Chiang Mai’s amazing jungle views. There’s the option to feed fish in the lake or the hundreds of pigeons hovering around for food instead. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot a tiny turtle hidden in the waters too! Lovely place to unwind and relax for a while in the heat, but only if you can avoid the inevitable bird muck landing on you that is!

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Location of Wat Umong

wat umong map