The city of Chiang Mai is apparently a must on the backpackers road while traveling in Thailand. Since we had read several favorable reviews about this charming city in Northern Thailand, we decided to drop our backpacks there and rest for a few days. We also decided to make a quick stop midway between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, in the city of Sukhothai, the ancient capital of Thailand, where are preserved important ruins for Thailand.
Sukhothai Historical Park
The main reason to visit Sukhothai is to visit the ancient capital of the first kingdom of “Thailand” which is protected by Unesco for a good reason. We can observe admirable monuments dating from the 13th and 14th centuries as well as several statues of Buddha. In order to indulge the boys who have been asking for this since our trip in Poland, we gave in to their requests and rented some bikes to visit the central zone of the park. In our defence, it is quite rare to be able to rent kid size bicycles, but close to the park, the rental shops were renting bikes in all sizes and shapes, so we jumped at the opportunity. It had been an eternity since the boys had ridden their bicycles and they really enjoyed themselves riding on the streets of the old city. They rode their bikes from one Wat to another, grinning from ear to ear, for a good part of the day. We concluded the day by visiting a national museum where we learned more about the history of Sukhothai. A bit incommoded from the heat, we decided to cut our visit short in order to return to our Guesthouse to refresh ourselves in the swimming pool.
Elephant Nature Park
One of the main activity to do in Chiang Mai is undoubtedly to make an excursion to observe elephants. While walking through the many streets of the old town of Chiang Mai, you can quickly observe that any of the hundreds travel company offer this type of excursion. Since Karine studied in biology, it was out of the question to be visiting a center that abused animals. After a thoroughly search, we decided to go with Elephant Nature Park. We were lucky to find four available spots that same week, as it is a very popular tour that is very often booked well in advance. Hugo, who loves animals, has already written a post about this excursion and speaks in great details about his experience. As parents, we are very happy that our boys have learned that animals also have rights, that they are not always as happy as they seem, and that they sometimes get mistreated for the “needs” of the tourism industry. Each of us greatly appreciated their experience on this wonderful day. Our little group was great, our guide was very funny and the food was excellent. We had fun and ate like kings, what more could we ask?
A well deserved massage
Being in Thailand, we certainly could not miss out on a Thai massage. Chiang Mai certainly does not lack options for massage center and spas and these are a part of the landscape of the city center. We decided to go to the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Center, which helps women reintegrate in society. So it was for a good cause that we were going to relax while receiving a massage. Neither of us had received a Thai massage before and Simon who was afraid to fall asleep and snore did not have the opportunity. This type of massage is very energetic, the therapist used her whole body by pushing with her feet or even her elbows, but for the most part she uses her hands.
The old town of Chiang Mai is not just massages center, tourist offices and restaurants, there is also a multitude of temples. It is a magical sensation to wake up to the sound of the monks who “sing / pray” in the morning. Our tour guide recommended us to visit seven of the many temples nestled in the four corners of the old town. We decided to visit only Wat Chedi Luang which dates from the 15th century. The most interesting part of this visit was undoubtedly the conversation we had with a monk. On the site of the Wat, in the shade of the trees, several monks come and go in order to practice their English with the numerous tourists visiting. So we jumped at the opportunity to have an intimate conversation with a monk and ask him a ton of questions about Buddhism. We learned amongst other things that the monks of the cities wear the orange “robe” while the forest monks wear the brown “robe”, that there are several branches of Buddhism, and that the Thai monks have lost their spiritual guide lately.
A Trek into the jungle
By searching several blogs for activities to do in Chiang Mai, Simon discovered that there was a temple nestled in the heart of the jungle on the edge of the city. It is therefore armed with water bottles and snacks that we have undertaken our climb up in a lush forest. It was a fairly short climb up the “monks road” that took us roughly 45 minutes. When we reached our destination, we were able to observe the exact image of what we expected a Buddhist temples to look like, that is to say some modest buildings in the jungle, a small stream that runs along the site offering a sweet melody, various places of meditation and Buddhist monks who walked peacefully. It was very busy during our visit because there was a film crew as well as a multitude of actors / extras, but we were still able to explore and get relaxing vibes this temple was giving.
Lanna Folklife Museum
We had not yet visited a museum in Thailand and since we had several relaxing days in Chiang Mai, we decided to take the opportunity to visit one. Located in a beautiful wooden building, this former royal residence was transformed into a courthouse before becoming a museum. Our visit allowed us to learn more about the Thai culture of the North of the country. The exhibition was about the Buddhist religion, traditional clothing, art, etc.
Art in Paradise
We spent a few hours in this museum which is out of the ordinary. It is essentially art in 2D but when looked at from a precise spot the work becomes 3D. It was an excellent family activity and everyone enjoyed themselves a lot. We literally took a hundred photos and we will have to go through our memory card because we will reach its limit soon. Some of the pictures comes out better than others and below are some examples of the most successful ones.
We really enjoyed our quiet time in Chiang Mai, doing only one activity per day when we did one. The old town of Chiang Mai is much more touristy than we expected and there are plenty of activities to do for the whole family, but since we still have 6 months of fun in South East Asia, we are taking our time and are trying to keep something that feels like a normal life through activities.