Chiang Mai & Pai, Thailand

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I don’t have a lot of photos from Chiang Mai, because the majority of our time spent there was during Songkran, a massive yearly water festival for Thai New Year. It was total madness, but a lot of fun. People spend a week spraying each other with water guns, dumping buckets of water on each other’s heads, and of course drinking cold Chang all day. The water fighting is supposed to stop after sundown, but after friends of mine were stuck on a corner for an hour waiting for the guys with buckets to go away so that they wouldn’t be totally soaked for dinner, we quickly learned that we were never safe. That being said, the water festival is purposefully held at the absolute hottest time of year (40C+) so it was refreshing too. Also it was so fun because I was in Chiang Mai with two great friends from Korea and my sister, who joined me for the Thailand portion of my trip!

A highlight of our time in Chiang Mai was a day spent at the Elephant Nature Park. We were very lucky to squeeze in a reservation (so book early!) and got to spend a day with the elephants out at their beautiful property surrounded by mountains. Lindsay and I love elephants but didn’t want to ride them, so this park was perfect: you get to bathe them, feed them, take photos with some of them, and just watch them be themselves. They are all rescue elephants so many are disabled, and their stories break your heart. It’s just a pretty special place to be.

Then we headed up to Pai in a minibus and had an absolutely beautiful time there. We rented little scooters for the week, learned how to ride them, and spent most of our time riding around the quiet country roads looking at the gorgeous scenery, out to waterfalls and around fields of flowers. We didn’t love Pai town, it was fairly full of Western tourists of the hippie variety. But we did have some nice nights walking down the market street and ducking into bars with live music.

They were hot, summery days with absolutely beautiful sunsets and lots of laughs. We were still settling into our travel lifestyle, but I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Favourites:

Chiang Mai

Taste From Heaven: Very delicious vegetarian food!

The UN Irish Pub: They have a lovely garden terrace with fairy lights and yummy (Western) food.

Bamboo Bee: Some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had! I’d had this tiny little hole-in-the-wall recommended to me by lots of different people and it lived up to all the hype. Order the Khao Soi.

The Sunday Walking Street Market: Where we had some of our favourite pad Thai from a street vendor, gorged ourselves on mango sticky rice, bought beautiful scarves and had smoothies. There is a peaceful temple courtyard where food vendors set up on Sundays and sell all kinds of goodies. I wished that this market was every day, except that in the evening you could hardly walk down the street for all the people (but remember too that it was Songkran).

The Riverside Bar: So much fun. They have a beautiful terrace overlooking the water, an awesome cover band were playing, lots of candlelight and lanterns, and a great mix of Thai people and foreigners.

Pai

Big’s Little Café: A tiny place on the main market street with unpredictable hours (often we’d show up just as he was closing) but really delicious food made with fresh ingredients and a charming chef.

A strawberry shake at Love Strawberry Pai: This place is the definition of a tourist trap but we had fun there. The shakes are huge and sweet but perfect to split.

Pam Bok Waterfall: This was our favourite waterfall. It was small but not crowded, stunning, had a small cliff jump, was cool for those scorching days, and very beautiful. We would go for a dip and then get back on our bikes with wet suits underneath our dresses to dry off.

The Land Split: On your way to Pam Bok is this small property called the Land Split (you can’t miss the signs) where a family have set up a by-donation rest stop. Their generosity is astounding: as soon as you come in, they tell you to sit on the hammocks and bring you a huge spread of fresh food, all homemade: rosella juice, tamarind jam, roasted sweet potatoes, papaya, roasted peanuts, plantain chips, and rosella wine.

Secret Garden Bar: You have to go down a long hallway and you come out into a little courtyard where there are delicious drinks, cushions, a colourful proprietor and live music.

Café Boomlicious: Where I had the best bruschetta of my life with feta and homemade pesto, amen. Such fresh, good food here.

Na’s Kitchen: Wonderful Thai food.

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