Our month in Thailand seemed to fly by super quick. I think it is because Thailand is a fairly easy place to travel and is set up extremely well for tourism. The food is great, it’s easy to get around and there is plenty to do , especially with kids. We wanted to experience a mix of hills and beaches so we set out mainly to explore Chiang Mai in the north and Hua Hun/ Koh Samet south of Bangkok.
After a short hiatus to the UK for a friend’s wedding, I met up with Murray and the kids in Bangkok. We were also lucky enough to have Fi with us for a few days. Fi and I had traveled to Chiang Mai together 18 years prior so it was nice to create some new memories there again. We checked in to the Rainforest Boutique Hotel and were pretty happy with our new digs. It had a buffet breakfast and two pools so the kids were in their element. Murray, Fi and I enjoyed the cheap cocktails – it made up for the hard beds and unsavoury stench when the wind blew in the wrong direction. You can’t have everything and after a few cocktails you barely noticed 😉
Chiang Mai is an awesome place to visit for a few days or a few weeks. Although it’s a reasonably big city it has the feel of a hill-side town. We had one of the best days of our trip so far at The Elephant Rescue Park ( not to be confused with other similarly named but less ethical organisations). We deliberately chose an elephant experience that put the welfare of the animals first , did not involve riding and allowed us to get up close to these magnificent creatures. We were not disappointed. After changing into our ‘red pajamas’ we were taken to meet the elephants who had all been rescued (purchased by the retreat) from circuses and working sites. There were 7 elephants in total , a couple were still babies. The elephants were all untethered and keepers did not ride them. In fact they were free to wander around if they chose. We hand fed the elephants a breakfast of bananas then head out on a walk through the valley so that they could forage on some tasty trees. At times the elephants walked alongside us and occasionally they would wander off into the bush to tear some branches off a tree. The guides would also find some extra tasty leaves for the kids to pass to them. We walked around to a couple of water holes where we were then able to take a splash with the elephants and give them a scrub. The elephants genuinely seemed to like this experience and it was fun to see them splashing, playing and spraying water. This was a genuinely uplifting experience with animals that seemed to be well looked after and happy. We finished off our day with a shower and some lunch in the rice fields.
Besides elephants, there are a lot of other cultural experiences to enjoy in Chiang Mai. We spent a morning carving fruit into what could only be described as pieces of art. While we were busy carving the twins were given paint brushes to colour the fruit with food dye. Fi and I both acknowledged that Murray was king carver; he seemed to have the superior knife and geometry skills required to make the watermelon centrepiece. Fi and I were both pretty good at turning tomato peel into roses and Maya made some excellent cucumber butterflies. All in all we made a good team.
We also spent a day out at the Smile Organic Cooking School, a day at the zoo and lazy days wandering around exploring markets and temples. The cooking school gave Maya the confidence to create and taste her own curry ( which she declared delicious) and the twins became our sous chefs adding ingredients, stirring and tasting. The zoo was an interesting day out. We didn’t have hugely high expectations but we enjoyed feeding hippos, giraffes , pigs and deer. Some of the exhibits were a bit depressing and a lot of the zoo looked half completed. It is also huge and tiring to walk around.
We thoroughly enjoyed Chiang Mai and particularly for those traveling with kids found it an easy place to visit with lots of fun things to do.
Next stop – the beaches …