Taylor-Flowers-Elephants

A woman having fun with an elephant in Chiang Mai

Thailand is an amazing country filled with historical wonders, gorgeous temples, amazing food, friendly people and so much culture! Back in July 2017, I traveled to Thailand with EF Ultimate Break where I was immersed in some of the most unforgettable adventures I’ve participated in and visited the most beautiful sites that are authentic and sacred to Thai culture. During my two weeks in Thailand, I traveled with a group where we visited the cities of Bangkok, Damnoen Saduak, Phitsanulok, Chiang Mai and the island of Koh Samet. In this blog post, discover what to do in the northern, mountainous area of Chiang Mai.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


Pin the Below Image to Keep Handy

Everything to do in Chiang, Mai, Thailand

Getting to and around Chiang Mai:

Women making blankets in Northern Thailand

Since I did a group tour to Thailand, all of my flights and hotels were taken care of beforehand. What I highly recommend you do is set your desired travel dates into Skyscanner ahead of time and wait to see when the prices are low enough to purchase. I flew from Newark Airport to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok with a 3-hour layover in Hong Kong. It took us 16 hours to get from Newark to Hong Kong and then another 2.5 – 3 hour flight to Bangkok.

It is fairly easy to get around Thailand. Since I was with a group, we traveled around via private coach, but the country is filled with railroads. Most locals recommend you travel via train as it offers a safer and more comforting experience. Other ways to get around is by taking the bus, ferry, local transportation or renting a car. Click here to discover the best ways to travel around Thailand.

We took a road trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Since the road trip was 9 hours, we stopped along the way and stayed overnight in the city of Phitsanulok. When we arrived in Chiang Mai, we spent a few nights there before taking a short flight to the island of Koh Samet.

Where to Stay:

Beautiful rice terraces in Chiang Mai

During my time in Chiang Mai, we stayed at Dusit Princess Hotel. This 4-star hotel was probably the nicest one we stayed in during our time in Thailand and I loved how it had a rooftop pool with scenic mountain and jungle views, a great breakfast, cozy rooms and it was only a 3-minute walk from the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

You could find other great hotels in Chiang Mai on Hotels.com. There are also a wide range of Airbnb and HomeAway options and with a growing number of nomads living in Thailand, there is a wide range of hostels as well.

What to do in Chiang Mai:

Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Out of all of the places I visited in Thailand, Chiang Mai was definitely my favorite area. I believe Chiang Mai is the place where I experienced the most of authentic Thai culture. Discover all of my favorite things to do in this wonderful and peaceful city.

Have Fun at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar:

The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

The most amazing bazaar I ever went to was the one in Chiang Mai. It was buzzing with endless amounts of street vendors, attractions and food!

If you are looking for a great place to get souvenirs, then this is where you will find everything from jewelry to handicrafts and elephant pants to passport covers. Just like any other market you visit in Southeast Asia, you could haggle the price that you pay for your gifts. It is amazing how cheap you could get some of these items; since you get a lot for your money with the Thai baht, I paid $2 – $5 USD on average for the elephant pants. I now have a whole drawer filled with them and they are perfect to wear from lounging at home to yoga.

Thai rolled ice cream from the Chiang Mai night market

After a shopping spree, I highly recommend you try the wonderful foodie options at Chiang Mai’s night bazaar. While I walked around, I spotted a Thai rolled ice cream stand, something that I had been searching for since I first landed in Bangkok. Thai rolled ice cream is just what it sounds like: little rolls of ice cream mixed with other fruits, candies, etc. that are packed into a cup and then topped with extra goodies. I got green tea ice cream with brownies, Oreos and whipped cream on top. It was delicious! (I also enjoyed rolled ice cream during my time in Siem Reap.)

Another popular Thai tradition is getting a fish pedicure. There was a fish pedicure spa within the night market, so my fellow travelers decided to do it. I honestly didn’t want to try it for sanitary reasons, but it was interesting to watch! A fish pedicure consists of garra rufa fish (also known as doctor fish) nibbling away at the dead skin and calluses from the bottom of your feet. If you are feeling up to it, I recommend giving it a try!

Around the night market are various live-music and karaoke bars, so when the market closes at midnight, you can stick around and still have fun.

Volunteer at an Elephant Save and Rescue Center:

A baby elephant from a save and rescue center in Chiang Mai

The day I visited an elephant save and rescue center was one of the best days of my life! Located an hour into the jungles and mountains of Chiang Mai is Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center. Before I go into what I did at Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center, I want to let you all know that this place really knows how to spread the light! Before you make your way to Chiang Mai or any place that is known to have “elephant sanctuaries”, I highly recommend doing your research. Not every place that says they are dedicated to helping save elephants really abide by what they promote. There are still so many places using elephants for riding and other entertainment purposes. (*PLEASE DO NOT EVER RIDE AN ELEPHANT!) If you are in Chiang Mai, I couldn’t recommend Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center more!

Ran-tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center sign

For many years, it has been a dream of mine to either go to Southeast Asia or Africa to feed and play with elephants. Ran-Tong’s elephant sanctuary is dedicated to the protection and conservation of elephants from Thailand and surrounding Asian counties. They are devoted to rescuing abused elephants, bringing them to the sanctuary in Chiang Mai and caring for them with great passion, love and enthusiasm.

Since 2009, the sanctuary has supported elephants and they do not use heavy chains, abuse them for tricks, separate the babies from their mothers or allow anyone to ride these loving creatures. When we arrived at Ran-Tong, the owners and managers greeted us. After explaining their safety rules and regulations in regards to both volunteers and the elephants, they took us to the main house where we were given a uniform to wear in respect to the elephants. Since I knew we were going to get dirty, I purchased a cheap pair of water shoes that I could easily chuck after walking through the swamps and mud. I definitely recommend getting them prior to your trip to the elephant sanctuary.

A woman preparing food for elephants

After we got ready, we headed out to the elephant area where we first prepared and cut sugar cane to feed them with as a snack. When we got our sugar cane and cutting knives, we put the knife in the middle of the cane so that we could cut it in half and then chop them up to smaller pieces so that the elephants can easily chew them. When we were ready, we walked outside to the grass where we were greeted by the friendly and happy elephants.

An elephant showing love to a woman

I will never forget when I first approached the elephants; it was one of the most magical moments of my life. I was so used to seeing elephants on TV and online, that it was surreal that these beautiful creatures were finally in front of me! They were so excited to see us, just as much as we were happy to see them. We were able to get a few kisses from the male and female elephants and one of them even greeted me with a bouquet of freshly picked flowers followed by a warm smooch on the cheek. It was so sweet! The baby elephants were adorable as well and it was amazing seeing them follow alongside their mothers.

A woman feeding a baby elephant

After we fed the elephants their sugar cane, we walked them over to a small pond where we gave them a bath and massaged them with the mud. Elephants LOVE mud, so they were in their glory and we shared smiles and laughs as they sprayed us with their trunks. Even though I am usually not one to roll around in mud, I had so much fun with the elephants and seeing how happy they were made me just as cheery.

When we finished giving the elephants a mud bath, we walked them back over to a stream where we rinsed them off. One elephant made his or her way back over to roll around in a massive mud pile. Even though we had rinsed the elephant off, it was so cute watching them roll around in the mud again. He or she knew to go back to the stream and rinse itself off.

A woman petting an elephant at a save and rescue center in Chiang Mai

Before we ended our morning with the elephants, we made their lunch. Their meal consisted of rice, meat and locally grown plants. You can tell they were hungry after we had played with them because they ate all the food we made. Afterwards, the elephants were content, so they walked back to the grass as we made our way back up to the main house to shower off and enjoy delicious coconut rice and pineapple juice as a snack.

Admire Colorful Orchids:

Colorful orchids at Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm

After our fulfilling morning at Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center, we made our way to Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm where we enjoyed a delicious Thai lunch with waterfalls, bamboo trees and other breathtaking nature surrounding us.

Gorgeous gardens in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Orchids are a popular plant grown in Asia, so it was awesome wandering around and looking at the colorful flowers. Across from the orchid green house was the butterfly sanctuary where we got to see so many beautiful butterflies. I feel like I barely ever see butterflies anymore, so it was nice getting to view their gorgeous wings up close.

Immerse Yourself in Thai Tribal Culture:

A woman making a blanket in Chiang Mai

Another memorable adventure in Chiang Mai was visiting the Akha and Kayan Hill Tribe villages of Palong and Lahu. When we arrived at the villages, everything felt surreal. The nature, peace, warm and welcoming faces, traditional Thai houses and culture that filled the air made me forget about everything and stay present in that moment. I loved how the tribal villages kept their rich traditions and simplistic life.

Rice terraces in Northern Thailand

While I was walking through the villages, I admired the beautiful mountains covered by the fog, rice paddy fields, lakes and pond with lily pads and I also went on a mini shopping spree by purchasing household souvenirs that were homemade right in front of me. (One thing to note about purchasing items at the tribal villages is that you should NOT try to bargain with them.)

A local village in Northern Thailand

As we made our way deeper into the village, we came across the Kayan tribe. The women in this tribe are known to have brass coils around their necks. I remember learning about this tribe when I was in grade school through Lonely Planet, so it was amazing to be able to meet them in real life!

Kayan tribal woman in a photo with a female traveler

Females in the Kayan tribe start to wear rings around their necks as early as 6 months. Over the years, the brass coils are replaced with long ones. The weight of the brass pushes the collarbone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened, but the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle. When they are asked, the Kayan women explain that their purpose for wearing the rings is for cultural identity, associated with beauty. The muscles covered by the coil become weakened and when the Kayan women take them off, their necks can collapse after a period of time. In addition to the neck rings, the brass coils are also worn just below the knee. I was grateful to be able to try on a necklace that looked like the brass rings and take a picture with a sweet Kayan woman.

Attend a Thai Home-Hosted Dinner:

A woman cooking pad Thai in Chiang Mai

During one of the nights in Chiang Mai, we attended our first Thai home-hosted dinner hidden in the neighborhoods of Chiang Mai. The owners of the home were excited that we were having dinner at their house and welcomed us by providing a variety of the best Thai food I’ve had during my trip.

When we first arrived at the home, we were asked to take off our shoes as a way to respect the residents and were given a cloth that we wrapped around our waists to be used as a napkin. The home was a traditional Thai house surrounded by bamboo trees and overall peace. When we entered, I was amazed at how big the house was and there were some outdoor rooms that overlooked the jungle. It was beautiful!

Beautiful homes in Chiang Mai, Thailand

After a tour of the house, we sat down in the living room where the owner gave us a leaf and freshly grown herbs to suck on to clear our palette. It was very interesting! We then headed outside to the backyard where there was an area set up for the cooking and eating. I loved how it was authentic and traditional.

Not only did the family cook for us, they even gave us the opportunity to prepare the food ourselves. The first station was for the pad Thai. I was so excited to learn how to make fresh pad Thai from a local family. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that difficult! We then went over to the second station to make chicken curry.

All of our homemade food tasted delicious! After our tasting, we took a seat to enjoy the rest of the food the host-family prepared for us. In Thailand, most meals are eaten on the floor (just like in Japan). The floor that we ate on had a bamboo spread, comfortable pillows to sit on along with plates, forks and knives. Unlike other Asian countries like China and Japan, Thailand does not eat with chopsticks.

A delicious homemade meal from Northern Thailand

Overall, the food was absolutely amazing! For dessert, we enjoyed bananas in coconut milk with fresh Thai fruit on the side. I was so thankful to have gotten this experience.

Walk through a Gold Wonderland at Doi Suthep Temple:

Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai

During our last full day in Chiang Mai, we hopped on a tuk-tuk that took us up into the Chiang Mai Mountains. On our trip up to the summit, we got amazing jungle views as our tuk-tuk drove along the narrow and twisting roads. (I highly recommend bringing anti-nausea pills if you tend to get motion sickness because we all felt it on this journey, even for those of us who usually don’t get nauseous. I also recommend getting a Reliefband!) At the summit, we approached the Doi Suthep Temple where we trekked up a long flight of stairs to the top. Just like the other beautiful temples we have seen during our trip to Thailand, the Doi Suthep Temple featured intricate gold architecture and gorgeous Buddhas.

Learn About Jade:

A beautiful gold Buddha in Chiang Mai

On our way down from the temple, we took a tour through a jade factory. Jade is the royal gem of China, Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia. It is the toughest of all precious stones and has played a big role in art and religious life as well. Many believe this beautiful gem holds a link between the physical and spiritual worlds, encompassing the yin and the yang as well as heaven and Earth.

At the end of the tour, we went into the shop where we were able to purchase jade jewelry. The jewelry ranged from a couple hundred USD to close to a million USD. I was able to purchase a simple white jade ring that I love wearing. I get a lot of compliments from it.

Become Enlightened with a Buddhist Monk at Wat Suan Dok Temple:

A woman enjoying the Wan Suan Dok temple in Chiang Mai

Another memorable excursion during our time in Chiang Mai was attending an open forum where we gained Buddhist insight from a friendly monk at Wat Suan Dok temple. We all were so intrigued by what he said and some of us even shed a tear (including myself). It was amazing to hear everything he said as a lot of the information he shared with us is what I learned through my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training back in December 2016. (Ps. I don’t recommend bringing a camera or phone into the forum with you out of respect.)

After our precious time with the Buddhist monk, we wandered around beautiful Wat Suan Dok, also known as the flower garden temple.

Attend a Muay Thai Fight:

Our last night in Chiang Mai was attending a Muay Thai fight at Chiang Mai Boxing Stadium. Thanks to our tour guides Mr. Perez and Tony, we were able to gain VIP access where we got great views of the matches and also enjoyed a Thai beer, Chang!

Overall, the fight was very thrilling and it was awesome getting to experience it! I noticed that many other Americans also attended this match too, which I found to be pretty interesting.


Everything You MUST do in Chiang Mai

A gorgeous Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time at my favorite place in Thailand and discovering what do to in Chiang Mai. If you have any questions about my time in Chiang Mai or my trip to Thailand in general, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

Make sure to pin this post if you find it useful!

Unforgettable experiences in Chiang Mai

Basic Facts of Thailand:

Currency: Thai Baht, Capital: Bangkok, Time Zone: Indochina Time

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*Anything could happen during your travels. Always make sure you are insured in case there are unforeseen circumstances such as lost luggage/theft, natural disasters, personal liabilities and more. Click here to get insured for your next trip.

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8 Comments

  1. Sandhya on January 21, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    This is amazing! Loved reading this post, especially about the brass coils around the neck of the Kayan tribe! It is always exciting to discover traditions of tribes- both well known and lesser known, it adds to the flavour of how diversely we live!

    • Taylor Deer on January 22, 2019 at 8:28 am

      Thank you so much! I agree. It was amazing being immersed in their culture that day.

  2. Katherine Driscoll on April 12, 2020 at 10:37 pm

    This sounds like the dream trip Taylor!

    • Taylor Deer on April 12, 2020 at 11:57 pm

      It truly was Katie! 🙂

  3. Sarah Barthet on April 13, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Not gonna lie – I’m super jelly you got to hang with the elephants and try on those gold necklaces. Crazy to think they can begin as early as 6 months!

    • Taylor Deer on April 13, 2020 at 11:46 am

      They were both such amazing experiences! Have you been to Thailand?

  4. World of Lina on April 14, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Omg wow this looks like such an epic trip Taylor! 😍

    • Taylor Deer on April 14, 2020 at 2:20 pm

      Thank you so much Alina! 🙂

Leave a Comment





Taylor-Flowers-Elephants

A woman having fun with an elephant in Chiang Mai

Thailand is an amazing country filled with historical wonders, gorgeous temples, amazing food, friendly people and so much culture! Back in July 2017, I traveled to Thailand with EF Ultimate Break where I was immersed in some of the most unforgettable adventures I’ve participated in and visited the most beautiful sites that are authentic and sacred to Thai culture. During my two weeks in Thailand, I traveled with a group where we visited the cities of Bangkok, Damnoen Saduak, Phitsanulok, Chiang Mai and the island of Koh Samet. In this blog post, discover what to do in the northern, mountainous area of Chiang Mai.

**Please note that this blog post uses affiliate links meaning that if you make a purchase via my affiliate link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. I only promote and talk about products and services that I have used and like.


Pin the Below Image to Keep Handy

Everything to do in Chiang, Mai, Thailand

Getting to and around Chiang Mai:

Women making blankets in Northern Thailand

Since I did a group tour to Thailand, all of my flights and hotels were taken care of beforehand. What I highly recommend you do is set your desired travel dates into Skyscanner ahead of time and wait to see when the prices are low enough to purchase. I flew from Newark Airport to Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok with a 3-hour layover in Hong Kong. It took us 16 hours to get from Newark to Hong Kong and then another 2.5 – 3 hour flight to Bangkok.

It is fairly easy to get around Thailand. Since I was with a group, we traveled around via private coach, but the country is filled with railroads. Most locals recommend you travel via train as it offers a safer and more comforting experience. Other ways to get around is by taking the bus, ferry, local transportation or renting a car. Click here to discover the best ways to travel around Thailand.

We took a road trip from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. Since the road trip was 9 hours, we stopped along the way and stayed overnight in the city of Phitsanulok. When we arrived in Chiang Mai, we spent a few nights there before taking a short flight to the island of Koh Samet.

Where to Stay:

Beautiful rice terraces in Chiang Mai

During my time in Chiang Mai, we stayed at Dusit Princess Hotel. This 4-star hotel was probably the nicest one we stayed in during our time in Thailand and I loved how it had a rooftop pool with scenic mountain and jungle views, a great breakfast, cozy rooms and it was only a 3-minute walk from the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

You could find other great hotels in Chiang Mai on Hotels.com. There are also a wide range of Airbnb and HomeAway options and with a growing number of nomads living in Thailand, there is a wide range of hostels as well.

What to do in Chiang Mai:

Elephants in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Out of all of the places I visited in Thailand, Chiang Mai was definitely my favorite area. I believe Chiang Mai is the place where I experienced the most of authentic Thai culture. Discover all of my favorite things to do in this wonderful and peaceful city.

Have Fun at the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar:

The Chiang Mai Night Bazaar

The most amazing bazaar I ever went to was the one in Chiang Mai. It was buzzing with endless amounts of street vendors, attractions and food!

If you are looking for a great place to get souvenirs, then this is where you will find everything from jewelry to handicrafts and elephant pants to passport covers. Just like any other market you visit in Southeast Asia, you could haggle the price that you pay for your gifts. It is amazing how cheap you could get some of these items; since you get a lot for your money with the Thai baht, I paid $2 – $5 USD on average for the elephant pants. I now have a whole drawer filled with them and they are perfect to wear from lounging at home to yoga.

Thai rolled ice cream from the Chiang Mai night market

After a shopping spree, I highly recommend you try the wonderful foodie options at Chiang Mai’s night bazaar. While I walked around, I spotted a Thai rolled ice cream stand, something that I had been searching for since I first landed in Bangkok. Thai rolled ice cream is just what it sounds like: little rolls of ice cream mixed with other fruits, candies, etc. that are packed into a cup and then topped with extra goodies. I got green tea ice cream with brownies, Oreos and whipped cream on top. It was delicious! (I also enjoyed rolled ice cream during my time in Siem Reap.)

Another popular Thai tradition is getting a fish pedicure. There was a fish pedicure spa within the night market, so my fellow travelers decided to do it. I honestly didn’t want to try it for sanitary reasons, but it was interesting to watch! A fish pedicure consists of garra rufa fish (also known as doctor fish) nibbling away at the dead skin and calluses from the bottom of your feet. If you are feeling up to it, I recommend giving it a try!

Around the night market are various live-music and karaoke bars, so when the market closes at midnight, you can stick around and still have fun.

Volunteer at an Elephant Save and Rescue Center:

A baby elephant from a save and rescue center in Chiang Mai

The day I visited an elephant save and rescue center was one of the best days of my life! Located an hour into the jungles and mountains of Chiang Mai is Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center. Before I go into what I did at Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center, I want to let you all know that this place really knows how to spread the light! Before you make your way to Chiang Mai or any place that is known to have “elephant sanctuaries”, I highly recommend doing your research. Not every place that says they are dedicated to helping save elephants really abide by what they promote. There are still so many places using elephants for riding and other entertainment purposes. (*PLEASE DO NOT EVER RIDE AN ELEPHANT!) If you are in Chiang Mai, I couldn’t recommend Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center more!

Ran-tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center sign

For many years, it has been a dream of mine to either go to Southeast Asia or Africa to feed and play with elephants. Ran-Tong’s elephant sanctuary is dedicated to the protection and conservation of elephants from Thailand and surrounding Asian counties. They are devoted to rescuing abused elephants, bringing them to the sanctuary in Chiang Mai and caring for them with great passion, love and enthusiasm.

Since 2009, the sanctuary has supported elephants and they do not use heavy chains, abuse them for tricks, separate the babies from their mothers or allow anyone to ride these loving creatures. When we arrived at Ran-Tong, the owners and managers greeted us. After explaining their safety rules and regulations in regards to both volunteers and the elephants, they took us to the main house where we were given a uniform to wear in respect to the elephants. Since I knew we were going to get dirty, I purchased a cheap pair of water shoes that I could easily chuck after walking through the swamps and mud. I definitely recommend getting them prior to your trip to the elephant sanctuary.

A woman preparing food for elephants

After we got ready, we headed out to the elephant area where we first prepared and cut sugar cane to feed them with as a snack. When we got our sugar cane and cutting knives, we put the knife in the middle of the cane so that we could cut it in half and then chop them up to smaller pieces so that the elephants can easily chew them. When we were ready, we walked outside to the grass where we were greeted by the friendly and happy elephants.

An elephant showing love to a woman

I will never forget when I first approached the elephants; it was one of the most magical moments of my life. I was so used to seeing elephants on TV and online, that it was surreal that these beautiful creatures were finally in front of me! They were so excited to see us, just as much as we were happy to see them. We were able to get a few kisses from the male and female elephants and one of them even greeted me with a bouquet of freshly picked flowers followed by a warm smooch on the cheek. It was so sweet! The baby elephants were adorable as well and it was amazing seeing them follow alongside their mothers.

A woman feeding a baby elephant

After we fed the elephants their sugar cane, we walked them over to a small pond where we gave them a bath and massaged them with the mud. Elephants LOVE mud, so they were in their glory and we shared smiles and laughs as they sprayed us with their trunks. Even though I am usually not one to roll around in mud, I had so much fun with the elephants and seeing how happy they were made me just as cheery.

When we finished giving the elephants a mud bath, we walked them back over to a stream where we rinsed them off. One elephant made his or her way back over to roll around in a massive mud pile. Even though we had rinsed the elephant off, it was so cute watching them roll around in the mud again. He or she knew to go back to the stream and rinse itself off.

A woman petting an elephant at a save and rescue center in Chiang Mai

Before we ended our morning with the elephants, we made their lunch. Their meal consisted of rice, meat and locally grown plants. You can tell they were hungry after we had played with them because they ate all the food we made. Afterwards, the elephants were content, so they walked back to the grass as we made our way back up to the main house to shower off and enjoy delicious coconut rice and pineapple juice as a snack.

Admire Colorful Orchids:

Colorful orchids at Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm

After our fulfilling morning at Ran-Tong Elephant Save & Rescue Center, we made our way to Bai Orchid and Butterfly Farm where we enjoyed a delicious Thai lunch with waterfalls, bamboo trees and other breathtaking nature surrounding us.

Gorgeous gardens in Chiang Mai, Thailand

Orchids are a popular plant grown in Asia, so it was awesome wandering around and looking at the colorful flowers. Across from the orchid green house was the butterfly sanctuary where we got to see so many beautiful butterflies. I feel like I barely ever see butterflies anymore, so it was nice getting to view their gorgeous wings up close.

Immerse Yourself in Thai Tribal Culture:

A woman making a blanket in Chiang Mai

Another memorable adventure in Chiang Mai was visiting the Akha and Kayan Hill Tribe villages of Palong and Lahu. When we arrived at the villages, everything felt surreal. The nature, peace, warm and welcoming faces, traditional Thai houses and culture that filled the air made me forget about everything and stay present in that moment. I loved how the tribal villages kept their rich traditions and simplistic life.

Rice terraces in Northern Thailand

While I was walking through the villages, I admired the beautiful mountains covered by the fog, rice paddy fields, lakes and pond with lily pads and I also went on a mini shopping spree by purchasing household souvenirs that were homemade right in front of me. (One thing to note about purchasing items at the tribal villages is that you should NOT try to bargain with them.)

A local village in Northern Thailand

As we made our way deeper into the village, we came across the Kayan tribe. The women in this tribe are known to have brass coils around their necks. I remember learning about this tribe when I was in grade school through Lonely Planet, so it was amazing to be able to meet them in real life!

Kayan tribal woman in a photo with a female traveler

Females in the Kayan tribe start to wear rings around their necks as early as 6 months. Over the years, the brass coils are replaced with long ones. The weight of the brass pushes the collarbone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened, but the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle. When they are asked, the Kayan women explain that their purpose for wearing the rings is for cultural identity, associated with beauty. The muscles covered by the coil become weakened and when the Kayan women take them off, their necks can collapse after a period of time. In addition to the neck rings, the brass coils are also worn just below the knee. I was grateful to be able to try on a necklace that looked like the brass rings and take a picture with a sweet Kayan woman.

Attend a Thai Home-Hosted Dinner:

A woman cooking pad Thai in Chiang Mai

During one of the nights in Chiang Mai, we attended our first Thai home-hosted dinner hidden in the neighborhoods of Chiang Mai. The owners of the home were excited that we were having dinner at their house and welcomed us by providing a variety of the best Thai food I’ve had during my trip.

When we first arrived at the home, we were asked to take off our shoes as a way to respect the residents and were given a cloth that we wrapped around our waists to be used as a napkin. The home was a traditional Thai house surrounded by bamboo trees and overall peace. When we entered, I was amazed at how big the house was and there were some outdoor rooms that overlooked the jungle. It was beautiful!

Beautiful homes in Chiang Mai, Thailand

After a tour of the house, we sat down in the living room where the owner gave us a leaf and freshly grown herbs to suck on to clear our palette. It was very interesting! We then headed outside to the backyard where there was an area set up for the cooking and eating. I loved how it was authentic and traditional.

Not only did the family cook for us, they even gave us the opportunity to prepare the food ourselves. The first station was for the pad Thai. I was so excited to learn how to make fresh pad Thai from a local family. Surprisingly, it wasn’t that difficult! We then went over to the second station to make chicken curry.

All of our homemade food tasted delicious! After our tasting, we took a seat to enjoy the rest of the food the host-family prepared for us. In Thailand, most meals are eaten on the floor (just like in Japan). The floor that we ate on had a bamboo spread, comfortable pillows to sit on along with plates, forks and knives. Unlike other Asian countries like China and Japan, Thailand does not eat with chopsticks.

A delicious homemade meal from Northern Thailand

Overall, the food was absolutely amazing! For dessert, we enjoyed bananas in coconut milk with fresh Thai fruit on the side. I was so thankful to have gotten this experience.

Walk through a Gold Wonderland at Doi Suthep Temple:

Doi Suthep Temple in Chiang Mai

During our last full day in Chiang Mai, we hopped on a tuk-tuk that took us up into the Chiang Mai Mountains. On our trip up to the summit, we got amazing jungle views as our tuk-tuk drove along the narrow and twisting roads. (I highly recommend bringing anti-nausea pills if you tend to get motion sickness because we all felt it on this journey, even for those of us who usually don’t get nauseous. I also recommend getting a Reliefband!) At the summit, we approached the Doi Suthep Temple where we trekked up a long flight of stairs to the top. Just like the other beautiful temples we have seen during our trip to Thailand, the Doi Suthep Temple featured intricate gold architecture and gorgeous Buddhas.

Learn About Jade:

A beautiful gold Buddha in Chiang Mai

On our way down from the temple, we took a tour through a jade factory. Jade is the royal gem of China, Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia. It is the toughest of all precious stones and has played a big role in art and religious life as well. Many believe this beautiful gem holds a link between the physical and spiritual worlds, encompassing the yin and the yang as well as heaven and Earth.

At the end of the tour, we went into the shop where we were able to purchase jade jewelry. The jewelry ranged from a couple hundred USD to close to a million USD. I was able to purchase a simple white jade ring that I love wearing. I get a lot of compliments from it.

Become Enlightened with a Buddhist Monk at Wat Suan Dok Temple:

A woman enjoying the Wan Suan Dok temple in Chiang Mai

Another memorable excursion during our time in Chiang Mai was attending an open forum where we gained Buddhist insight from a friendly monk at Wat Suan Dok temple. We all were so intrigued by what he said and some of us even shed a tear (including myself). It was amazing to hear everything he said as a lot of the information he shared with us is what I learned through my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training back in December 2016. (Ps. I don’t recommend bringing a camera or phone into the forum with you out of respect.)

After our precious time with the Buddhist monk, we wandered around beautiful Wat Suan Dok, also known as the flower garden temple.

Attend a Muay Thai Fight:

Our last night in Chiang Mai was attending a Muay Thai fight at Chiang Mai Boxing Stadium. Thanks to our tour guides Mr. Perez and Tony, we were able to gain VIP access where we got great views of the matches and also enjoyed a Thai beer, Chang!

Overall, the fight was very thrilling and it was awesome getting to experience it! I noticed that many other Americans also attended this match too, which I found to be pretty interesting.


Everything You MUST do in Chiang Mai

A gorgeous Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai

I hope you all enjoyed reading about my time at my favorite place in Thailand and discovering what do to in Chiang Mai. If you have any questions about my time in Chiang Mai or my trip to Thailand in general, please feel free to email me at [email protected].

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Unforgettable experiences in Chiang Mai

Basic Facts of Thailand:

Currency: Thai Baht, Capital: Bangkok, Time Zone: Indochina Time

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8 Comments

  1. Sandhya on January 21, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    This is amazing! Loved reading this post, especially about the brass coils around the neck of the Kayan tribe! It is always exciting to discover traditions of tribes- both well known and lesser known, it adds to the flavour of how diversely we live!

    • Taylor Deer on January 22, 2019 at 8:28 am

      Thank you so much! I agree. It was amazing being immersed in their culture that day.

  2. Katherine Driscoll on April 12, 2020 at 10:37 pm

    This sounds like the dream trip Taylor!

    • Taylor Deer on April 12, 2020 at 11:57 pm

      It truly was Katie! 🙂

  3. Sarah Barthet on April 13, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Not gonna lie – I’m super jelly you got to hang with the elephants and try on those gold necklaces. Crazy to think they can begin as early as 6 months!

    • Taylor Deer on April 13, 2020 at 11:46 am

      They were both such amazing experiences! Have you been to Thailand?

  4. World of Lina on April 14, 2020 at 12:37 pm

    Omg wow this looks like such an epic trip Taylor! 😍

    • Taylor Deer on April 14, 2020 at 2:20 pm

      Thank you so much Alina! 🙂

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