For Spring Break, four friends and I planned an eight day trip spanning Thailand and Cambodia. This blog post is part one (of a three part series covering that trip — click here for parts two, three, and four).
We landed in Chiang Mai (off of a direct flight from Hong Kong) and went directly to the Thunder Bird Hostel. This was one of my favorite hostels I have ever stayed at…it is super clean, perfect location, and has a very modern design. The staff were extremely friendly and helped us find things to do and places to eat.
A challenge for me, really throughout this spring break trip, was keeping passover.
If you do not know what Passover it is, it is a major Jewish holiday – commemorating the liberation of Israelis from Egyptian slavery. It lasts ~ 8 days and during the period of Passover, one celebrating cannot eat leavened bread, among other things including: rice, corn, beans, nuts, etc. While there are a wide variety of interpretations and enforcements to these restrictions, that is effectively the major concept of it.
I keep passover for a variety of reasons — upholding tradition, personal challenges, etc. — and have been doing so for 8 years now. I was not going to let some “trip to Thailand” change my course of action. Though I must emphasize that I really do love Pad Thai and Thai Rice and Cambodian rice platters. So this was really hard. But I did it! And I did it because keeping passover, in my mind, is supposed to be hard.
So I ended up eating lots of egg omelettes throughout the trip and things worked out okay! I was hungry at times, especially watching my friends scarf down plates of delicious-looking noodles and rice dishes, but I did “it.” 8 days…(and for those curious I ended up making it back to Thailand just a few months later to catch up on some eating).
Evading the topic of food, Chiang Mai is a really really interesting place.
Overrun by tourists, it is surprisingly small , “home” to just 130,000 but visited by 14 million + people each and every year. The city is built for excited travelers, as there are tons of fun activities and interesting things to see.
In May 2006 Chiang Mai was the site of the Chiang Mai Initiative, concluded between the Association of Southeast Asian…en.wikipedia.org
The city is boxed into an old (and quite gross) canal.
Traffic in Chiang Mai is quite bad (not like Vietnam, but still bad).
You have to be really careful navigating the streets, walking between zooming motorbikes and roofless taxis.
As I mentioned, Chiang Mai is a hub for travelers, so there are tons of things to do. It is a bit touristy, but nonetheless exciting.
Here are a few of my favorite things that we did:
Elephant Jungle Sanctuary
I think that one of the “must see” nature activities in Chiang Mai is paying a visit to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, where you will be able to play (and swim with) some elephants. Elephants are really incredible creatures…pictures certainly do not do them justice!
If you are looking into seeing Elephants, make sure you read into the ethical/sustainability initiatives surrounding the specific group you book with. There are many poorly run/unethical companies who are doing much harm to the elephants and the environment so do your diligence. As an aside, those “play with tiger camps” that you will see advertised everywhere are bad things.
The Sticky Waterfalls are a really really cool experience and something I definitely recommend doing. Located a bit outside of the city, you can reach the waterfalls by Taxi or Motorbike.
The “Sticky Waterfall” is magically what it says it is, a sticky waterfall that you can climb up! It is a cool thing that I have never seen before in nature.
Believe it or not, in Chiang Mai they have their very own Grand Canyon…kind of. It is super touristy but basically the Grand Canyon there is a big waterpark. It was actually super fun with lots of random activities to do and a good break from the humidity.
We visited lots of temples that were located throughout the city.
We briefly checked out a rather touristy “Muay Thai” event. In hindsight, I feel as if it were kind of staged for tourists but was nonetheless cool to see.
It was passover, so I limited in what I could eat, but there were lots of things to try (some more appealing than others).