On World Tourism Day, Chatteris’ own Tim Padley takes us down memory lane with his trip to Chiang Mai, Thailand during the Lunar New Year holidays in January 2020…
Famous for its beaches, full moon parties and array of islands, the South of Thailand is a must visit for anyone travelling in Southeast Asia. However, what certainly shouldn’t be skipped off your travel itinerary is the mountainous region of the country.
Up step, ‘The North’ and the ancient city of Chiang Mai, surrounded by stunning mountains, golden temples, and bustling markets. A much more idyllic alternative to the chaos of Bangkok.
Chiang Mai is a small city with an international airport and plenty of hostels offering cheap accommodation with pools. If you’re coming from Bangkok, you can opt for the night train which takes around 13 hours – I’m told it’s an ‘experience’ so make of that what you will!
I opted for a cheap flight which only took just over an hour and I’ll always remember arriving in Chiang Mai airport for the first time. Myself and a friend got ourselves a taxi at the rank but before we even had the chance to put our bags in the boot our driver insisted on giving us approximately 100 complimentary lychees… And, to this day, I don’t know if this is a local tradition or if our taxi driver had a surplus of lychees he needed to off-load. Nevertheless, we appreciated them.
After settling into our hostel, we got our bearings and started to explore. First things first, try the cheap, fresh food at the Chiang Mai night Bazaar – absolutely unreal! Then why not get a tuk tuk around town to check out the bars of Nimmanhaeman and also see some awesome local live music. Chiang Mai’s nightlife is cheap so certainly make the most of it when you’re there!
During the day, there is so much to do, but my highlight whilst staying here was a day out zip-lining through the forests!
As you meander through the trees, the zip lines start short then get faster and longer. Around 1500 baht will get you 24 zip lines, four sky-bridges, two abseils and a Thai buffet – eat your heart out!
A special mention has to go out to the 900 metre zip line at the end of course. As you’re harnessed from your back you’ll fly from one side of the valley to the other through the trees like Indiana Jones (or the Thai equivalent) – it’s epic!
Next up, the big thing to do in Thailand is, of course, elephants! It’s one of the most amazing experiences to stand alongside these creatures, in awe of their size and beauty. You’ll have the opportunity to get up close and personal, hear about each elephant’s back-story and feed and shower the elephants. Make sure you research which elephant experiences are ethical – Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is well respected for its moral approach. A mildly fun fact is that the well known Thai beer, ‘Chang’ translates to elephant in Thai… I did say mildly fun.
Moving on, it’s not just Chiang Mai the north has to offer. If you have the chance, head up to the colourful town of Pai. It’s about a three hour bus ride taking you through beautifully scenic winding mountains. My hostel was one of the best free-for-all places I’ve come across, complete with yoga, meditation and hula-hooping!
It is a classic choice for backpackers to make Thailand their first spot when they travel to Southeast Asia, but there clearly is a reason for this as this country really does have something for everyone. I’m yet to meet someone who’s headed up to Chiang Mai and regretted it, that’s for sure!
Even as I’ve been writing this, I couldn’t resist checking the flights from Hong Kong to Thailand – there’s great deals available, so there really is no excuse not to add this part of the world to your travel bucket list whilst you’re in Hong Kong. I’m certainly due a return visit soon!
Like Tim, is Thailand on your bucket list? Work with Chatteris in Hong Kong and you’re in the heart of Southeast Asia with easy flights to Thailand! Find out more about our opportunities here.