Thailand – Top things to do in Chiang Mai

39494_10150234946465462_4823945_nTop things to do in Chiang Mai


On our first day here we had a wonderful trip to the local Chiang Mai market, which was rather busy, however not a tourist in sight, and pushed ourselves to try some deep fried insects, which is a standard Thai snack…

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by the looks of things! We had a bit of a shock when the Thai national anthem was played patriotically through public speakers across the market, and every person including children stopped still in their tracks and stood frozen on the spot to mark their respect to the King. What a fascinating experience.
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We also had the pleasure of visiting our first Thai temple, and were shown around by a friendly local who was more than happy to help educate us on the etiquette of their sacred place of worship.  Top tips given by this chap were very useful to know and included: Take shoes off before entering the temple, dress modestly covering knees and shoulders.  Don’t point at a monk or Buddha statue, either with your fingers or feet.  Don’t touch or turn your back to an image of Buddha, (this includes if you are a tourist and eager to pose in a picture with the Buddha statue, although some temples prohibit any pictures being taken and will show this on a sign).
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Yesterday we went on our first full day tour, which consisted of a visit to a butterfly and orchid farm, which seemed great for kids, but was pretty basic for adults which was a shame.  We left craving something a bit more substantial, and this was provided shortly after with a relaxing trip down the Maetong river through the jungle on a traditional bamboo raft before experiencing white water rafting which was phenomenal! Due to it being the peak of the monsoon season, the river almost busting at its banks, was wild with a surging current and plenty of white water for us two adrenaline junkies to get our teeth into.
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 Next stop was an elephant ride at one of Chiang Mai’s elephant camps, which although incredible to get up and close to such beautiful creatures, proved to be very upsetting for us both, being animal lovers. These beautiful creatures stood in the burning sun chained by their ankles to a bare tree, giving them no shade whatsoever, their scarred skin evident that they have endured a lifetime of torture and mistreatment from their owners, which broke our hearts.  After a ride on a large bull, which we disliked due to the owner repeatedly whipping the elephant’s head with a sharp bull hook (which marked) we decided to leave early just before the animals were made to do handstands, play football and paint pictures like performing clowns in a circus!  We are so glad we listened to our instinct and left when we did, as later that night we were informed by a expat who overheard our conversations on the matter, of the horrific truth behind Thailand’s elephant camps.
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Wild elephants refuse to let humans ride on top of them, which is understandable. In order to overcome this obstacle and tame a wild elephant, it is subjected to an horrific act whilst a baby.  After being ripped apart from its mother, the calf is locked in a small cage where it is unable to move, and is tragically beaten with clubs, pierced with hooks, starved and deprived of sleep for many days until it becomes submissive.  This sickening act is known as ‘Phajaan’.  We are kicking ourselves now for helping to perpetuate this monstrous industry.  We were told if we do want to have a pleasant experience getting close to these creatures it’s much better to visit an elephant sanctuary, where rescued elephants are cared for and protected.  If only we had known this earlier, suppose we live and learn and can now share this truth to other travelers considering going.
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Travel tip:  If you long to see elephants whilst in Asia, visit an elephant sanctuary, NOT a camp.  Sanctuary’s are rehabilitation parks set up to care for endangered/injured elephants, and don’t offer cruel rides, or anything sadistic as described above.  They allow visitors to get up and close to elephants in their natural habitat and are wonderful in comparison.
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On a more positive note, today we have completed ‘Flight of the Gibbon,’ an award winning, thrilling jungle adventure comprising of 17 platforms attached to trees, reaching over 100m in height and connected by zip wires and abseiling.  Don’t worry, it is very safe,  being highly recommended throughout Thailand and managed and designed by New Zealand specialists.  Here’s their website: (www.treetopasia.com).  It has been wonderful to spend the day with other travellers and make such fond memories, flying through the trees like lunatics, surrounded by lush jungle and spectacular wildlife.  We will sleep like babies tonight for our last night In Chiang Mai, it’s been an incredible four days.

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