When We Visited: We visited Chiang Mai in February after first visiting Phuket for a few days.
How We Got From Phuket To Chiang Mai: We took Air Asia, a local budget airline. There are no frills, you have to pay for water, etc. but the flight is only 1.5hrs so we didn’t need much and the $38 price tag was perfect. Checked baggage is priced by weight ranging from 15kg to 30kg. We only have one checked bag for the whole family that weighed 20kg. Jordyns luggage was a carry-on and you are allowed 7kg for each carry-on.
How We Got From the Airport: We took a metered taxi that we booked at the taxi counter for 200 baht flat.
Where We Stayed: The RarinJinda Wellness Spa which is right outside the “square” of Chiang Mai’s old city. The resort was very nice and had some good amenities including free breakfast 7AM-10AM, a gym, pool, and a spa. The breakfast was buffet style at the restaurant across the street which is directly on the river. Waffles and eggs could be made to order.
What We Did
Day One: Doi Suthep & Elephant Sanctuary
We go in very late the night before so I wanted us to be able to relax in the morning and booked a late half day tour. We had breakfast and hung out by the pool for the 1st half of the day. We had lunch at On the Ping riverfront eatery and bar at the sala lanna Hotel. Although it was the most expensive meal we had the whole trip the food was excellent and probably also one of the best meals we had.I booked our tours while in Chiang Mai with Untouched Thailand. This 1st day we visited the Wat Phra Doi Suthep temple, the most famous temple in Chiang Mai. It is up in the mountains with a beautiful viewpoint of the city below. We spent about an hour here before heading to an Elephant Rescue Park.
When planning the trip I really wanted to go to the Elephant Nature Park, the top rated sanctuary and rescue park in Chiang Mai but since we decided on going to Thailand just 3 weeks before they didn’t have any spots left for the days we would be there. I was just glad to have found another rescue park and it ended up working out perfectly as we were the only group there by the time we arrived in the late afternoon. The staff was really attentive and made Jordyn feel like a Queen. They were so helpful and really tried there best to make our experience unforgettable. From taking pictures with my phone and video from my husbands they made sure we would have these memories forever without a price tag attached to it.
Day Two: The Golden Triangle Tour
Again our tour was booked through Untouched Thailand. We booked the Golden Triangle Tour, a 12hr tour, exploring Chiang Rai. The tour company would drop us to the airport after the tour saving us the 200 baht taxi. Our first stop was an hours drive to a hot springs where you can dip your feet into some mineral water that is supposed to be good for your skin. We only spent a few minutes here, I personally could have done without the stop but Jordyn enjoyed it and we were able to use the restroom.
Next we went to Wat Rong Khun better known as the White Temple. It was an hours drive from the hot spring and so worth the trip. A famous Thai artist, Chalermchai Kositpipat, funded the entire project. While the outside is beautiful and you can get some great photos with it as a backdrop the inside is uniquely amazing but unfortunately no photos are allowed. Believe it or not the bathroom is just as gorgeous as the temple, be sure to make a stop. Across the street is a free museum filled with Chalermchai’s work and you should definitely check it out. Had we not had a tour guide we wouldn’t have known about it which is a shame because his work is truly one of a kind. Randomly enough the artist was actually there that day at a shop across the museum and were able to get a picture with him. Our tour guide was the one who pointed him out and mentioned on the 40+ times he has been to the temples he’s only seem him there 2 others.
After the White Temple we drove another hour to the Hilltribe of the Karen Long Neck Village. Visiting this tribe is something I was hesitant about because I wasn’t really sure if it was ethical or not, something about going to look at humans as if they were part of a zoo felt weird to me. I researched a lot before deciding to go and from what I found online tourists visiting was their main source of income as they are unable to hold jobs in Thailand. The people in the village are from Burma, originally fleeing due to civil wars most now come for better education opportunities for their children. They really do depend on the money made from the entrance fee and selling trinkets to support their families so while I still felt kind of weird while we were there we made sure to buy something directly from the women. Some spoke a little English and we were able to talk for a bit and Jordyn made a friend whose mom and I exchanged some words. Our tour guide was so sweet and stopped at a store before getting there buying two cases of chips to hand out to the kids in the village. Jordyn gave one girl 5 bags, pretty sure that’s why they became friends.
Next we headed to the Golden Triangle where you can see Laos and Burma just separated by a river. We took a boat ride in the river and went to Laos where they have a little market. Everyone sells the same thing and they are very aggressive in getting you to buy something. We also stopped at the Opium Museum which my husband found extremely interested. I personally could have skipped the Golden Triangle, I was quite underwhelmed but I guess it’s better to see for yourself than wonder what you missed.
After this, we headed to the airport a 3.5-4hr drive. Our van had a pretty big flat screen TV equipped with plenty of kids movie for Jordyn to watch. The seats also reclined all the way back so I took a nap. Even though quite long it was a very comfortable ride. The tour did include lunch, we stopped at what seems like a hole in the wall restaurant and like most the food did not disappoint!
When we arrived at the hotel I saw that they do offer tours to the White Temple and the Karen Long Neck Tribe at a cheaper price, which to me were the highlights of the day. However, I don’t think they were private tours and I’m not sure if they included a guide or were just transportation.