My husband thought I had lost my mind when I told him I wanted to take our oldest son with me to Thailand. “Thailand, really? Thailand? Couldn’t you go to Italy or England?” Nope, I couldn’t. While MarocBaba has never had much desire to visit Asia, I was ready to spread my travel wings and start exploring the continent. The good news was my friend Julie has a similar travel bug. We both wanted to take a trip together, each taking one of our kids. She lives on the west coast of the US and with us living in Morocco we needed somewhere central and roughly would cost us the same to get there. Turns out Thailand in October has some seriously reasonable airfare deals.
So Thailand it was, but where? We did our research and settled on Chiang Mai. As two women alone with 10 and 11 year old kids, we wanted someplace that would have plenty to do but wouldn’t be a major challenge for us to navigate. Chiang Mai is a larger city, has enough tourists and a sizable expat community to make navigating not too difficult, and the price was right. Turns out we couldn’t have made a better decision.
While our first night wasn’t one to write home about, the rest of the week in Chiang Mai was really amazing. Julie and I scheduled activities but left our calendar open enough that we had plenty of downtime too – this was a vacation after all. When we booked our hotels we sought out those that had swimming pools. We also made sure massages were part of the plan.
I’m sharing our itinerary for a week in Chiang Mai and will be writing specific posts for each of our activities to give you full details on what we did and what to expect.
Our flights arrived to Chiang Mai very late and so we booked a cheap stay near the hotel. I wouldn’t recommend the place we stayed though it was safe. In the morning a driver arrived to transfer us to a new hotel that we booked as a part of our elephant experience with Rickshaw Travel. We stayed at The Rim Resort Chiang Mai, where we had an easy check-in followed by lunch onsite and the kids enjoying time in the swimming pool. Due to lots of jet lag the night ended early.
A driver and guide picked us up early for the trip out of Chiang Mai to the Elephant Nature Park. We met several others on our tour in the mini bus that picked us up and we ventured the 50 odd kilometers out of the city to the site of the reserve. Our day was spent feeding elephants, giving a bath in the river, and enjoying a vegetarian lunch. This park is a rehabilitation center and home for animals. There is no elephant riding or forced work. In the evening we were returned to the hotel.
It was time to change hotels one more time but we had free time in the morning. After breakfast we wandered around the neighborhood and discovered a temple and small market a few blocks away. It was here we were asked to meet a group of volunteers who were studying English and in return they answered our questions about Buddhism and Thailand in general. With ample time to wander the temple complex and then return to our hotel for check out we had a new appreciation for what we would see during the rest of our days in Thailand.
We booked rooms at the Siripanna Hotel and easily found a taxi to take us there. It is not in the middle of Chiang Mai and for us this was a good thing. There are many hotels that are much less expensive in the city but we were looking not only for a good experience but a chance to relax and enjoy. I’m getting too old for hostels and roughing it! The kids were dying to go swimming in one of the most beautiful pools I had seen! They were able to swim just enough before the 5pm downpour rolled in.
The hotel has free shuttles to the different night markets in Chiang Mai several times a week. We were able to use this service to visit the Sunday night market. It was a great experience and something we highly recommend!
The day of relaxation arrives! A bit of research uncovered there was a studio giving art lessons to kids (Noina Art Studio) next door to a massage shop. How perfect! We signed the kids up for a two hour lesson, while we booked ourselves a full morning of relaxation. Afterwards the kids came over to check on us and got their own mini massages while we finished up our treatments. Whoever had this idea was pure genius!
For our evening activity we booked places on Chiang Mai Food Tours (you didn’t really think I would go somewhere and not do a food tour did you?). All I can say is AMAZING! This is getting it’s own complete blog post with loads of drool worthy images – keep watching!
Another early morning had us out of bed to head for the river where we took a river boat to an organic farm outside Chiang Mai. Truthfully it wasn’t our favorite part of the trip and we felt like it was a bit lackluster BUT the saving grace was lunch, a meal of Khao Soi, a northern Thai specialty dish and one that goes down as one of my favorite meals of 2015.
This day was a complete shot in the dark. Across the street from the hotel we found a small tour company. The friends we had made at the Buddhist temple early in the week had given us some ideas of things to see and do that most tourists don’t. But, we needed a driver. We took our chances and spoke with the man at the shop who gave us an excellent price for a full day driver and car rental. He took us to the umbrella factory, the hot springs, and a cave temple. It was totally impromptu but very fun and we were so happy to have found him.
WHEW! There you have our whirlwind week in Chiang Mai! I should add the kids did swim every single day while Julie and I spent lots of time lounging, reading and sipping cool drinks. I loved Chiang Mai, the Thai people, and everything about this trip. I couldn’t recommend the destination more highly!
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