Friday, August 30, 2013

Chiang Mai, Thailand: What To See, What To Do, & Where To Stay

We fell in love with Chiang Mai right away. It wasn't as big of a city as Bangkok, but had
the city vibe with plenty to see in town yet you could drive an hour out and be in the
middle of a jungle! The people were so friendly, our guesthouse was amazing,
and everything we did lived up to what others had said. We spent 6 days there, never once 
having to rush to see anything. In fact, we even had one lazy day of just wandering the 
city and trying to get well! For all our family and friends that have requested photos, here are 
many of them along with ideas for others looking to check out Chiang Mai, Thailand.

So when in Chiang Mai...

1) Go to the temples in the old city area
Pick up a tourist map of the area and start walking. If you can handle the heat and exercise,
it is very easy to get around the main part to see all the temples, try out the street food,
and check out some of the shops and/or markets in a day. However, Doi Suthap would need to 
be a day on its on mixed with something else due to the drive time. If you so happen to 
forget something to cover your legs or shoulders, most place charge a very cheap price 
for a traditional wrap to cover your skin.

We loved each temple for different reasons...this one was neat because of all the signs posted 
on the trees, seeing the plates and mats set out for the monks, the sleeping buddha, and 
of course the big belly buddha!

All the intricate work is amazing. I wish you all could see the video I have of a man
hammering a sharp steel piece into the iron to make all the designs that eventually become
beautiful decor on the temples.

Oldest temple in Chiang Mai...the detail on every one of these temples are just amazing!

Not only are the outside walls done by hand, but the ceilings are beautifully hand painted!

2) Take a tuk tuk with some others (makes the fare much cheaper) to Doi Suthap
(this drive can take a while as it is up on the mountain, but was one of our favorite stops!)

Take off your shoes please!

it's quite the climb...there are 309 steps up to the top!

3) Wander the streets in the city & say hello to all the locals!

Working on making receipts

4) Take a cooking class
We used Asia Scenic Cooking School. They are in town, take you through the local market
to explain how coconut milk is made, how to make tofu, how to decide on types of rice, &
how to choose your veggies and spices. Then you get to try out all their fresh herbs they grow 
in the back! Some of the instructors can help with ingredients to make sure it's gluten free too!

Getting started...

This is a tradtional Thai appetizer in which you place all those goodies into a special
basil leaf, wrap it up, and do something similar to a "cheers" but the Thai version.
Take a peek:

Handmaking curry paste and holy smokes was it labor intensive!

Yellow curry and probably the best one per all the other who tried mine.
It was good, but I'll tell you what...I don't think I'll ever have curry for quite some time
after only eating that, getting sick, and then smelling it all the time. Not one for my nose anymore!

Extra spicy curry, like the uncomfortable spicy type.
You can only guess who chose to make this one...Mr. Stanley!

Mango sticky rice

5) Go on a jungle trek
Depending on your timeframe you can do 2-5 days. We chose the 2 day since I had been
pretty sick in the days prior. Looking back, it was just enough time to see the countryside,
meet and eat with people in the tribes way out in the middle of nowhere, trek with other people 
from various countries, sleep in one of the most rural areas we'll ever be in in our lives, watch the
most amazing lightning storm go on for hours, boat down the dirtiest river ever, & ride
elephants in Thailand. You get the best of it all out there in 2 days!

Headed to the jungle on the back of a tuk-tuk!

Found this in the middle of nowhere on somebody's home

There wasn't any room left for Ty, so he got to ride on the elephants neck!
Harder than it may seem. Ty said it was a workout!

Our friend from Australia...she is traveling the world for a whole year! What a lucky gal!

Yes, they tell you not to play with the animals in case of disease. Ty
decided otherwise. When in Thailand, play with baby monkeys!

Part way there and a quick stop at the bat cave below. One of the tougher hikes
we've ever done in our lives. Our guide said many people have to turn back due
to the steep incline and extremely hard work you have to put in to get up there!

We put on long sleeves and pants as the mozzies were eating us alive!

A hut in the middle of the jungle for the rice farmers that farm way up here.

Our mini hut for the night with lovely thin mattresses and a mozzie net!

Dinner with other travelers and how we made tea off something 
like this the next morning!

The people in the village built this ladder that can only be used once. They climb to
top and get all the honey from the bees that made honeycombs. You
definitely have to have some tiny feet to fit on those nails!

Most of these villages are pretty self sufficient. They have chickens, pigs, cows,
and massive rice fields. The kids play with what nature gives them OR...

parents let them have knives. We were told they aren't sharp as
they want kids to start at a young age learning how to handle them.

 We made a quick stop to see the Long Neck Karen tribe. It's unbelievable how much
each coil weighs, let alone having to wear 10-20 of them! They have an amazing
talent when dying their yarn and making various items to sell at their market.

The last part to the trekking was a slow river cruise with about 10 people crammed
on this bamboo "boat". Giant spiders haunted us all the way down the river.
So creepy!

6) Spend every moment enjoying the amazing trip with whomever you travel with!
We were quite the traveling partners, weren't we?

Stay at Galare Guesthouse!

Our friend has worked here for nearly 25 years. She will be your Thai mom while
you're away from home...she takes care of booking things for you, arranges
local transportation, books flights and will have the company deliver
the tickets to the guesthouse (without even paying a dime until they arrive!),
and most of all she was incredibly concerned when I was sick.

and it truly was!

Laundry in Chiang Mai
Cheapest laundry around is right outside the guesthouse as you walk towards the main road.
There's a man and woman who live in the small place across the alley street. He usually sits
outside on his chair while she works in the fanned living room to keep cool.

Are you sick of seeing pictures of us yet? Hopefully not because we still have two more
countries to get through! Lots of things to do, things to see, places to eat at, and
people to meet. Soak it all up each and every day!

♥The SE Asian Stanleys