Chiang Mai, Thailand – When asked about Chiang Mai, the only phrase that ever comes to mind is “college town”: not because it is raucous and rowdy but because it has a young, modern sensibility, and everyone seems to help everyone else.  It was my favourite, by far, and I can certainly see why there is a growing expat community growing here.


You must stay at the Ping Nakara Boutique Hotel and Spa (  There really is no place else, and no place better.  I chose the Grand Deluxe which was on the top floor (there are only two floors), overlooking the back of the hotel.  It had a spacious room, separate bath and shower area, and a wonderful balcony to sit outside, listen to the sounds of nature (and not traffic), reflecting on this wonderful gorgeous city.


If you only have one night, I would actually tell you to do the Chiang Mai Foodie Tour ( I know, it’s strange, but this was honestly one of the best foodie tours I’ve ever done.  We started in the night market where I was able to sample things that I never would have tried on my own, then we went to a local restaurant where my guide orders probably 6 different types of food that were specific to Chiang Mai and some vegetables that I had never tried.  It was incredible.

But if you want a proper restaurant, you must try Blackitch Artisan Kitchen (  Only available as a tasting menu (and they will do vegetarian), this is an experience that cannot be missed.  Service was a little spotty for me, but I’m certain that is because they were doing a vegetarian option rather than the standard seafood and meet tasting menu.  (I overheard presentations to others and they were much more informative so I understood).


Literally, if you only had one full day in Chiang Mai, you must, must, do the Tuk Tuk Northern Thailand all day tour  It is amazing!  I was picked up by guide and driven into the mountains to begin my tour.  But even as we were driving, he was telling me about life in Thailand, what’s the norm, and pointing things out before we even got to their camp.  You have two options – you drive the tuk tuk, which requires about 30 minutes of training, or you are driven which allows you to visit an old temple in the forest which was gorgeous – so I chose to be driven (you’re allowed to bring beers if you want to drink along the way).  The experience was liking nothing I could have ever dreamed of: I saw people working in rice fields (which double as onion fields for the second half of the year), I saw temples and monuments that you would never see if you stayed in the city, and I was able to float down the river on a bamboo raft, and, most excitedly, I was taken to an elephant rescue center where I had lunch, and then fed and walked the elephants down to the river.

Another thing that you have to do when in Chiang Mai is spend the day with elephants.  I chose the Elephant Freedom Project ( We spent the morning preparing food for the elephants, and then feeding them and taking pictures in their enclosures, before taking them into the wood to graze naturally.  But the real highlight was the second half of the tour – which only four of stay for, which was shocking – which was walking the elephants down to the river, which is more of a natural environment for them, and then bathing them (which I’m still not sure is totally ethical) but it was incredible to watch the elephants bathing and rolling in the river, unprovoked.

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