Did you have a chance to review my post on Bangkok yet? We spent 3 nights there before heading north to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is located 435 mi north of Bangkok and is situated among the highest mountains in the country. Domestic air was smooth and easy from Bangkok and inexpensive at about $50 per person.
Hotel – Chiang Mai, Thailand Family Vacation
Anantara Chiang Mai Hotel: We chose to stay here for 3 nights due to the hotel’s proximity to the renowned Night Market. It was only a couple of blocks away which allowed us to easily walk back and forth to the market. We paid about $300/night for a Club Suite which had a King sized bed and a pull out couch. While the hotel suited our needs, I don’t feel it is worthy of the 5 star rating it holds. I felt the hotel was understaffed and the pool area could have been more inviting.
Activities in Chiang Mai
The Chiang Mai Night Market is considered legendary and one of the cheapest places for tourists to shop in Thailand, due to its close proximity to the source of products and the lower cost of living in Chiang Mai. It is situated along a three-block stretch of Chan Klan Road in the heart of the city. We visited here each night to feel the energy of the market. There was food, clothing, art, toys… a wide variety of market goods (many unique to Thailand).
When we visited this tiger temple run by monks, we were told it was a tiger conservation facility. We were also told the entry fees were donated to help tigers in the wild.
As in the pictures shown below, we enjoyed playing with the cubs and I got a thrill posing with the big tiger. It was a delight to see them up close and to touch their fur.
But in hindsight, we were naïve to think these animals were being treated properly. I looked up the tiger temple for this post and alas, the temple was uncovered as a tiger farm selling tigers and tiger parts in the black market for enormous profits. See this article exposing the horrors found at the tiger temple. It closed in 2015.
Lunch at the Four Seasons
If we could do it over again, we would have splurged to stay at this hotel. The grounds alone are enough to justify the premium in rates. The hotel is situated on a rice paddy farm. The lush landscaping was absolutely breathtaking. We stopped at the hotel to have lunch and were able to take a walk around and enjoy the views.
While the monkey show was entertaining and the monkeys were friendly, we would not visit this place again. We didn’t like how the monkeys were in chains. Although they seemed happy, we would have preferred visiting a monkey facility where the animals were able to roam free.
We visited a tourist hill tribe site where different hill tribe denominations live at a government subsidized location which allows tourists to view their way of life. This topic is controversial as it is a somewhat artificial form of living. The location is open until 5pm and once it closes, the villagers carry on with their lives. I agree it seemed odd walking by the different hill tribe denominations and staring into their homes. I would have preferred to have visited a real hill tribe location. However, this would have required many hours of travel time which we did not have. These villagers agreed to allow tourists to come through and learn about their way of life. I didn’t find it offensive as a tourist practice. Our feelings were more of dissatisfaction from wishing we had a more authentic experience.
This was by far our favorite part of our Thailand family vacation. Patara Elephant Farm combines conservation with education and limited tourism. It offers treks for travelers while involving and teaching them about an elephant’s daily needs and activities. Visitors are limited to eight to 12 per day. When we arrived at their beautiful grounds, we were given traditional Thai shirts to wear to look familiar to the elephants.
We adopted 2 elephants for the day. To get acquainted with them and to earn their trust, we started by feeding them.
Then we dusted them off with tree branches to prepare them for their bath. We were so lucky to play with a 12 day old baby elephant among the elephant group!
We scrubbed them and rinsed them in the nearby stream.
We learned how to climb onto the elephants backs and were ready to trek up the mountain. It was a steep climb. We were amazed at the agility of the elephants.
At the top of the hill, we arrived at a waterfall where we posed for pictures and swam with the elephants.
The tour guides prepared a beautiful picnic lunch for us to enjoy after our swim. Once we were done, we fed the leftovers to the elephants. They were so happy!
We loved Chiang Mai and the unique aspects of tourism this area offered. What I will remember most are the special interactions we had with the Thai elephants and the lush green landscaping of the area. Now on to Phuket and Don Phi Phi Island! And if you didn’t read my post about Bangkok, click here.
Flavor Your Life with an Ounce of Salt. A lifestyle blog by Jen Oliak