Massages, Markets, and Mango Rice: Four Days in Chiang Mai

After an intense week of partying in Koh Phi Phi, we were feeling a little fragile (both physically and emotionally). After buckets, tattoos and a lot of hangover food, we were shells of human beings. The solution? The slightly more chill atmosphere of Chiang Mai. We swapped drinking for hiking and had four fun filled days which restored us to our former selves (although the tattoos still remain). These were some of my favourite experiences in the north of Thailand:

Thai massages

After nearly a month in Thailand, we finally decided to experience a Thai massage firsthand. ‘Experience’ is definitely the word I would use to describe it, while ‘relaxing’ is not. In all honesty, it was very bizarre and mildly painful, as my muscles and bones were cracked and stretched like never before. At one point, the masseuse literally mounted my back to yank my legs over my shoulders – it was intimate to say the least. While I’m not sure I would hurry back for one, it’s a part of Thai culture I won’t forget soon.

Markets

Night markets are easily one of my favourite things about Asia and Chiang Mai is heaven for market fanatics like myself. We went to the Saturday and Sunday walking markets as well as the regular markets dotted around the city. While the Sunday market was huge, all offered a great range of street food and we sampled some delicious treats while there. My personal favourite were the crispy cheese balls – think mozzarella sticks but bigger and tastier.

Elephant tour

We went on a one day tour with Chiang Heritage tours which was probably one of the best days of our trip so far. We were very wary about the poor treatment of animals, particularly elephants, by some tour operators so chose this company after some careful research. It is hard to ever know how genuine a company is, but both their reviews and our experience suggested they were a good and legitimate choice. We crammed a lot into an eight hour day. First, we hiked through the jungle and planted a tea tree each – a small nod to sustainable tourism. We then reached a waterfall which we could swim in. It was nice to visit a waterfall which seemed quite untouched, rather than the large touristy ones we had visited before. We then went white water rafting down the river for an hour which was so fun and something I’d never done before. Finally we visited the elephant sanctuary. Seeing these huge creatures in real life (and not behind bars) was a dream and I spent a heavenly afternoon feeding and bathing the elephants. If you are heading to Chiang Mai I would definitely recommend doing a similar tour as we packed a lot into the day.

Riding bikes

Being probably the only people in Asia who are unable to ride motorbikes, we though Chiang Mai was the perfect place to use push bikes instead. It all started off well as we pedalled around the old city inside the walls. However when we later tried to venture out of the city to a park, the crazy roads (and accidentally ending up on Thailand’s answer to the M25) quickly put an end to our cycling venture.

Cooking class

On our final day we took a cooking class. I wasn’t particularly keen to do this, but it turned out to be one of my favourite activities. In the morning we were taken to a local market and shown some of the ingredients we would be cooking with. At the cooking school we made several Thai dishes including traditional Pad Thai, hot and sour soup, and – a personal favourite – mango sticky rice for dessert. It’s safe to say I was pretty stuffed by the end of the day.

Overall, we crammed a lot into our short stay in Chiang Mai. It was lovely to have a break from island hopping and see a different side of Thailand – I think my liver was also grateful for the break from drinking!

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