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Three nights in Chiang Mai

I remembered Chiang Mai fondly from my trip to Thailand so many years ago and I was excited to go back with the kids. Unlike Bangkok, it feels more authentic and unchanged. The streets are delightfully small and the pace is much slower. There are a lot of temples to explore and great food to cook and to eat. My daughter took it upon herself to seek out a number of cute little cafes- mostly ones serving Instagram worthy sweets. We were most excited to spend a day at the elephant nature park and it was as incredible as we'd hoped. We really took our time on this trip through Thailand. We didn't rush ourselves or force our way through an itinerary, which was a really nice way to do it, especially given the heat. 

Things we did that we loved:

  • Wat Chedi Luang. You can talk to a monk at this temple and we really enjoyed asking about the life of a young monk, what led him to study in Chiang Mai and where he was from. He also asked us questions about life in America. I think it is so important to seek out these experiences, as we are all such better people when we can understand what life is like for different types of people. 

  • Wat Phra Singh. There are several structures in this Buddhist temple compound. You will find more examples of beautiful Thai architecture, painting, tilework, and design. 

  • Three Kings Monument. This is a quick stop in the same walled area as many of the temples that you'll visit. The sculpture of the three kings is a symbol of Chiang Mai.

  • Thai massage at Oasis Spa. We had our starter massages at the massage school in Bangkok, but this was our opportunity for a slightly more upscale and super relaxing massage. It was exactly what we needed!

  • May Kaidee Cooking Class. We LOVED this vegetarian cooking class. For one thing, because Thai food is so delicious and secondly, our instructor was great. We all got into it and made it into a bit of a cooking competition. We were stuffed afterwards, as I'd apparently signed up for the extra courses. We did the afternoon session because I liked the idea of a smaller class and as a bonus we didn't need to eat dinner. 

  • Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. This is a bit outside of the city, so we hired a taxi to take us the thirty minutes up the winding roads. There are open air trucks that you can jump into, but I was relieved that we had our own private ride. And luckily our driver offered to stay and bring us back down, which was really helpful! The temple structure at the top of the large staircase is a crazy mix of gold, gold, and more garish gold. It is amazing. The views of Chiang Mai from the overlook are also beautiful.

The Elephant Nature Park. 

This was one of the main reasons we had for visiting Chiang Mai. I had never had this experience before and from everything I'd read, it just seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend a day in nature with elephants. I did a lot of research before hand and was well aware of some of the more touristy outfits that do not have the elephants best interests in mind. We chose, Elephant Nature Park, because they are primarily a sanctuary and rescue center for elephants. They take elephants from horrible situations like illegal logging, tourism sideshows where the elephants are being ridden, to even more extreme circumstances like elephants being disfigured from exploding mines. They provide care and rehabilitation for the animals and they never let visitors ride the elephants or interact with them in a way that is harmful to them. Throughout our visit our main objective was just to observe the elephants in their natural habitat. We got to feed them and follow them around, learning all about their different experiences and personalities. We also followed them to the river, where they splashed around in the water. If you are looking for some crazy experience with a lot of photo opps, then this is not the place. But if you truly care about elephants and are curious to learn about them and support a wonderful organization, then I cannot recommend this enough. 

Where we stayed:

  • We loved our hotel, The Inside House. I absolutely love hotels that are unique and reflect the culture of the city we're staying in. The architecture of this hotel was so perfect and beautiful, the staff was delightful and always easy to chat with about what we were doing or answer questions that we might have about the area. We loved the pool and all the little details that made our room so special- like the claw foot bath on the balcony. I would highly recommend staying here when you're in Chiang Mai. The location and the breakfast, that is included, is also great.

Food we loved:

  • David’s Kitchen. David does an amazing job of greeting every guest, remembering details, inquiring about your travels and recommending great restaurants in the other cities you're visiting. Thankfully his food is also excellent, so the whole evening feels like a special occasion. 

  • Woo Cafe. This is a casual spot that we went for dinner after our massages. The food was delicious and there is a little flower market, art gallery, and cute gift shop that sells local wares attached. 

  • Ginger & Kafe. We went to this comfortable restaurant, that felt like someone's decadent living room, for lunch on our last day. We had traditional dishes, but everything was elevated with the most fresh vegetables and spices. There is a little shop attached to this place as well. 

  • Cheevit Cheeva. This was one of my daughter's finds and she was very impressed with her boba sparkle. They have great tea and coffee along with these refreshing juice drinks- a perfect way to beat the summer heat!

  • Ristr8to. Come for the coffee- stay for the latte art. This is the home of the world latte art champ and you can choose from a number of beautiful art pieces, all of which are poured on your morning coffee. I have zero idea how this is accomplished- it's incredibly impressive. 

  • Sofuto Cream. I found this Japanese shaved ice, ice cream creation spot and my kids were thanking me for days. 

  • On Cloud Nine. Another Instagram worthy sweet spot that my daughter found. This unicorn creation smoked, thanks to the dry ice.