It’s hard to find a non touristy place in Thailand and although most people travel to this country for the beaches and islands, the real Thai culture and a whole different world is up north.
Chiang Mai is already quite well known, also easy to reach either by train, bus or plane. The flight from Bangkok takes around 2 hours and from the airport to the city another 15 min drive.
Chiang Mai in itself it’s a charming place, but at a certain time of the year is in particular a must to do. That’s when the light festival happens and the whole town is decorated with hanging lanterns, lots of events all around the town and of course a big number of people from all over the world.
It’s wise to book accommodation in advance because even though it’s Thailand we are talking about, with this particular occasion prices tend to rise up and hotels/ hostels get fully booked very quickly.
The few days I’ve spent in Chiang Mai were absolutely amazing and the ultimate highlight was the main event of the festival, when thousands of lanterns were released and flew up in the sky offering a breathtaking view.
Everybody could buy their on lantern, small or big , at the spot for aprox 50 baht. People say you must write on it your hidden desires and as you release it it’s going to fly toward the gods, who’ll hopefully make your wish come true. Whether that happens or not it’s up to you to decide to believe it or not, but the feeling you get when participating actively at this amazing event does worth it.
Even while riding back on the scooter the city you can still see all those beautiful lights far away in the sky, floating in a peaceful rhythm.
Every year the event might take place at different dates, but it will certainly be during full moon early November or end of October. Thai people take it pretty serious and organize even a massive parade, where they put on interesting costumes and sign happily, spreading smiles all over. During the festival Chiang Mai is busy, loud and a fun place to be.
However, Chiang Mai has way more to offer once the festival is over too. Easy access to Doi Suthep, the wonderful hill with the temple on top and with breathtaking views of the city .
You can easily spend a few hours there, wondering around and taking pictures with the kids dressed up in traditional Thai clothing. A village trip from Doi Suthep is just another 10 minutes drive, but unfortunately not as original as I’d expected. The village I got to check out was rather commercialized and you didn’t really get the chance of interacting with locals unless you let yourself talked into buying something from them. A bit of a disappointment but that’s sometimes part of the deal.
Since the village life near Doi Suthep didn’t offer me much I’ve decided to check out a different one later on during my trip. 3 hours away from Chiang Mai is located the town with a similar name, called Chiang Rai, famous for its white temple. Quiet, less touristy,Chiang Rai is a good place to calm down and enjoy the silence sort of day. Besides the white temple there’s a blue temple and several others, which I skipped.
Other than that, just some fine restaurants and a cat cafe, where you can relax with some unusual, furry company. The cats are friendly and very lazy, typical kitten style.
Northern Thailand is a great location for nature lovers and a jungle trekking trip is definitely a must do thing there. I was so excited to go and explore the jungle together with my travel buddy that I met some days before in Bangkok. Equipped with hiking shoes, insect repellent and our backpacks filled with necessities for two days, we got picked up in Chiang Rai, drove aprox 30 min to the White Buddha, where we spent around 30 min , time just enough to go up in the crown and have a look at the view.
Straight after we hit the road and arrived to the point where our jungle trekking was going to start. Most of the way was easy, not too many obstacles along the way, except some little rivers that we needed to cross, but it went all smoothly and I certainly enjoyed being in the nature.
Our guide spoke quite a broken English and had a rather fast trekking rhythm, but he had one amazing quality that I remember and probably will remember forever: he prepared us absolutely delicious meal in the middle of the nature and using as pot only bamboo that he cut himself . Our lunch table was a big rock at the waterfall and the table setting was a big leaf, cutlery some bamboo chopsticks. Nothing fancy, but certainly a lunch that I enjoyed very much.
We were set up for adventure and we got just that . And also a great view from Doi Bo, where I couldn’t resist to take a few shots with my swiss flag that I got as a present from my friends on my last days in Switzerland. As hiking and outdoors in general became an important aspect of my life during my stay in Switzerland, the jungle trekking, although a very different one from hiking in the Swiss Alps, it did bring back some beautiful memories and I must admit, I got a bit melancholic.
I recovered shortly as I fell asleep for 20 minutes under the blue sky and got up just when my travel buddy, Mariella called my name as it was time to continue our trekking.
We followed our guide for another hour or so, when we reached the hill tribe village, our overnight location. We were pumped to see our accommodation, which we knew it’s going to be very basic and a true adventure for both of us as none of us have ever spent a night in a bamboo house before.
As you’d expect, a bamboo house doesn’t offer you much privacy and you can forget about silence. You can hear everything and you can also see through the walls because the bamboo branches they use are not very thick and they have little gaps in between. Our dinner has been prepared by the locals, served on a little improvised table just in front of the house, where we sat in turkey seats on the floor and ate with a big appetite after the active day we had behind us.
There you could really see how a typical village life looks like, how people wash their kids, how they enjoy the little things in life and how content they are with what they have. A real life lesson that once in a while it’s good to have, just as a reminder that we are so privileged to have what we have.
After dinner it was already pitch dark and there’s not much to do, so the only place you could go was our improvised bed : two mattresses on the floor with a little pillow and some blankets and a mosquito net above it. I think we were sleeping around 9 pm already, especially because we expected the early alarm, which was not our clock but the rooster. I could even hear the other tourist snoring in the bamboo house next to us. The rooster started being noisy already at 4 am and quite soon after we started our day. The locals prepared us breakfast, they borrowed us a typical costume to wear and soon after we waved our goodbyes and went trekking again.
New day, new views. I just loved it!
At lunchtime our guide set a fire in the middle of the nature, broke some eggs in a bamboo brench and while the meal was getting ready he tried to reach me to make a bamboo cup. That was mission impossible but great fun.
On the other hand, the jungle lunch, as I like to call it has been another success and we licked all our ten fingers after.
The day still had some surprises for us: a beautiful waterfall and a dip in the hotspring.
Just the perfect way of finishing this adventure. On the way back to Chiang Rai I could tell that even Mariella enjoyed, although she’s not a big trekking fan. I was happy to have her around and I think that was our most interesting adventure in Thailand. Jungle trekking rules!