3 November, 2011

Chiang Mai: Tuk Tuks and Wild Jungle in Thailand’s North

3 November, 2011

Tuk tuk!? Tuk tuk!? Tuk tuk!?

Several eager tuk tuk drivers waved us down as we stepped foot out of the Le Méridien and onto Chiang Mai’s main drag. My husband and I proudly wear our “tourist” sign written across our foreheads when we travel. I smiled as I stepped into the tuk tuk and asked the driver “Walled City, how much?” Once we agreed on the price, he was off. Winding through busy streets and narrow alleys I thought to myself… gosh, Hong Kong would be perfect if we had tuk tuks!

Famous for Doi Suthep, the walled city and its night bazaar, Chiang Mai is your “candy store” for those of us who are still kids at heart.

If you are travelling solo, with a companion or two or with your entire family in tow, Chiang Mai is the perfect long weekend getaway and takes you beyond your typical Thailand beach vacation.

I found a problem with Chiang Mai though… there is too much to do! So much so, that one may have a hard time picking and choosing one activity over the other for fear on missing out! You can spend the day in a spa retreat, take in a Thai boxing match, shop, immerse yourself in the local art or just eat your way through…whatever you choose, I guarantee you won’t be bored!

Shortly after landing we started off our long weekend in Chiang Mai with a stroll around the Walled City popping into as many of the 30 temples that still stand. Buddhist monks are available for a conversation and there are plenty of amazing photo opportunities. Strolling through the city can take you as long as a few hours to an entire day depending on what you like to see and do. After a few hours, we were ready to take off, a quick tuk tuk ride and a few minutes later, we were then on a river cruise along the Ping River. I’ll admit the cruise wasn’t very exciting, but it did give us an idea of where to head for a bite! There are several river front restaurants along the Ping, they are all pretty much the same as far as food quality is concerned, so you can’t go wrong with one or the other.  A river view and cold Singha – great start to a great weekend!

Our stay in Chiang Mai was a total of four days, so we had to choose carefully what we wanted to see in do in this limited time. Our pick of poisons included:

  • A day in the treetops zip-lining across 2 kilometers of jungle canopies on a Flight of the Gibbon tour
  • A day of ATV riding on the outskirts of the city through city streets, tiny neighborhoods and farms and setting my sights on some of the most spectacular views
  • Climbing the 309 steps up to the famous Doi Suthep temple and watching as Buddhists from all over the world light incense and walk around the Grand Stupa three times in a clockwise direction for good karma
  • Plenty of foot and body massages accompanied by cold beers
  • Walking around the night bazaar and bargaining for funny t-shirts.
  • Joining in with the transgender cabaret.
  •  And let’s not forget the food…oh, the amazing food!!

Our accommodations at the Le Méridien were above and beyond our expectations. The location is right outside the famous night bazaar and is centrally located to all of the major sites within the city. I have found that service is Thailand is always excellent and it wasn’t any different here. The breakfast buffet was outstanding, offering cuisines from many cultures. It was included in our package so every morning we would stuff ourselves silly and just snack throughout the day until dinner. The terraced pool was small but did the job for a cool dip and sip on a fresh young coconut.

I found Chiang Mai to be so much more relaxed and easy compared to that of Bangkok. The people are friendlier (if that’s possible!), the atmosphere is relaxed and let’s not forget about the fresh mountain air!

The Kingdom of Lanna is waiting for you…what are you waiting for?

To read more about Jessica’s travels, check out her fab blog, American Girl in Hong Kong!

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