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Temples. Temples. Temples. Temples temples temples temples temples. If there’s one thing that you can do in Chiang Mai it’s temple hop. Other blogs had warned of getting “templed out” and I thought certainly not. But even though I eventually did get “templed out” I thought it was well worth it so for this weeks’ blog I’m taking on a Must-do style with tales in between. Enjoy!
1. Get “templed out”!
The beauty the majesty, the Buddhas, the monks, the buddhas, the temple, the monks? Wait haven’t we already seen this one? Okay, towards the end all of the “Wats” start to blend together but I say give it a day. Devote one day to walking around The Old City, wandering into temples you pass, hopping on tuk tuks offering temple trips, but realize when you’ve reached your temple limit. Towards the end of our temple day we were definitely scratching our heads wondering if we’ve seen this one before but in the beginning each one was beautiful and unique on its own. Should I see every temple? Impossible my dear Sherlock. Then should I go to any? YES. You should definitely visit the temples of Chiang Mai!
2. Take a hike!
This one I will warn you is NOT for the faint hearted. Prior to the trip Ericka heard of trekking trips leaving out of Chiang Mai and Alvin was as enthusiastic as Ricky to sign right up. For those of you that don’t know me I’m kind of a not so tom boy tom boy. I say I don’t like adventurous things but am constantly partaking in them (i.e. Skydiving in Wollongong, Australia). To my kind of chagrin we signed up for a two night three day excursion through the jungles of Mae Tae with plans to stay overnight in Lahu Village (night 1) and an Elephant Camp (night 2). There were a group of 7 of us led uphill and then treacherously downhill (4 falls down a mountain with only a few bruises to show- said Ericka) by our tour guide Tommy. Tommy was super nice and helpfulish. Every time we asked sweet Tommy how far to our next destination he would say “only 9 minutes”, “between 19 and 29 minutes”, or “we’ll be there in about 39 minutes”. Is Tommy afraid that saying a round number would throw us over the edge? What is his obsession with 9s? As English as a second language does he just think that numbers ending in 9 is rounding? Either way a Tommy 9 trekking through the jungle in actual Old Navy flip flops was a group 20 decked out in hiking boots, tennies, and sandals. After about 3 hours and 9 minutes, with a pit stop at a waterfall slide, we made it to our destination. Lahu village was what you would expect: no electricity, outhouse bathrooms/showers, dirt everywhere, mosquitos more than everywhere but the view was everything. Trekking through the rain (two phones were lost..RIP sweet iPhones), getting 1236272 and 9 mosquito bites, and taking countless steps was well worth it. The next day was a whole other story.
Some of our fellow travelers planned to only do the 1 night 2 day trek and after discovering that the difference between ours and theirs was a 5 hour trek day, we quickly switched teams (much to my excitement). The day would be full of activities, white aka brown river rafting, bamboo rafting, elephant showering, plus another waterfall. The only catch is, in order to get to all these “fun” activities, one must hike down the mountain you just went up after it POURED the day/night before (hence Ericka’s 4 falls). The whole time I was wondering if it was a joke and how they just allow people (NARPs) to sign up for this. One girl in our group literally tumbled down the mountain (she’s okay, just had some nasty scratches on both of her legs). I’m two-a-days sore right now and don’t ever want to see another jungle again. Did I enjoy the experience? Yes…ish. Would I do it again? Probably because I’m crazy. Should all physically capable people traveling to Chiang Mai partake? YES, just don’t forget your bug spray and to train like you were doing an Iron Man before.
3. Take a leap!
Remember that time I pretended not to be adventurous? Here’s another contradiction for you. Just 30 minutes outside of Chiang Mai lies the “Grand Canyon” or “Red Rock Quarry” of the ancient city. Rent a taxi (600baht total) or for the more daring a motorcycle and the voyage is more than worth it. The scenery is beautiful with the main attraction being “cliff diving” into the canyons’ blueish but really green waters. My understanding is used to be that you could jump from anywhere without regulation. Due to a recent death, there is now one “jump area” and a plethora of “do not jump areas”. Despite many Thai people warning us of the dangers of jumping we took the leap anyway. Let me reassure you, it is more than safe. Ericka was first to go (of course) and severely impacted her gluteus Maximus, pretty hysterical. Just my cousin aka Alvin aka second best travel partner ever were left atop that 7 meter drop. Fortunately or unfortunately we were raised in an extremely unadventurous family, making us extremely un-prone to participating in dangerous frivolous activities. About 15 minutes after Ericka jumped I made the leap and boy was it worth it. The jump itself was horrifying but the water felt amazing. However I must warn you the jump changes you. .5 seconds ago I was horrified, scared, contemplating life and wondering what’s the point in jumping??? Fast forward 1.5 seconds to now as I lay gracefully upon my bamboo raft in the warm water fearless and confident while laughing and heckling at the cowards above. My cousin gave Ericka and I about 45 minutes of being horrible people as we laughed watching ten to twenty, twenty something college backpackers, take the leap as he paced anxiously forward and back. After the long wait and the efforts of people far nicer than Ericka and I encouraging Alvin one guy managed to help him of the ledge. Would I jump again? Since the probability of me ever being back on that cliff is slim to zero, yes. Was the time out there worth it? Definitely.
4. Meet some strangers!
From a very young age our parents instill a fear of strangers and the concept of “stranger danger”. As a 20 something, I say throw it all out of the window!!! Just kidding. Of course you should ALWAYS use discretion and be wise when traveling, especially aware of pick pocketers and thieves. But when backpacking, some of the best memories are made with strangers, enter stage left: Ed. Ed was a dorm
mate Ericka, Alvin, and I met at our first hostel (out of 3). Ed was a south Australian, meat head with little man syndrome, long blonde hair, and always shirtless, he was also very outgoing and friendly. One of my fondest memories of Ed is him borrowing my stick of mosquito repellent within 1 minute of meeting me, rubbing it all over his body, and then leaving the room. Cool Ed. My second fondest would be him jumping off the top bunk at about 6 am (after “whispering” with his travel buddy for about an hour) stubbing his toe and hopping around the room “silently” as I got my ab workout in for the day. When we left Brickhouse Hostel (7 out of 10 stars) we were sad to say goodbye to Ed. Alvin even titled his insta picture “goodbye Ed, you won’t be missed”. Low and behold in the middle of the jungle Alvin glances in the back of a speeding truck and sees “Ed”. Yah right Ericka and I believed him not at all and thought what are the odds. 1 hour later as we float down the river in our raft a shorter, tan, meat head looking man in a hut is cheering on passerbys and waving his arms. “Omg is that seriously Ed?” I say. “That’s definitely the same guy as in the truck” says Ericka. “It’s Ed!” Says Alvin. No freaking way, right? 6 hours later after heading back to the city, checking into our new hostel (Sunny Hostel 8 out of 10 stars), and strolling down the street in a new neighborhood we glance into bars, shops, and restaurants as we walk by and who do we see. Ed. “Ed did you raft today?? Were you yelling at people from a bamboo hut??” Please say no? yes and yes and not no. What are the odds!!!! Needless to say, Ed will be a character I remember as part of my Chiang Mai trip. We also met the nicest girl from Romania, a hilarious guy from Holland, and a friendly and informative guy from Germany to name a few. Should I make friends with my dormmates? Yes! Don’t be shy, you’ll probably end up hanging out with them or at the least getting some good travel insight. Will I keep in touch with any “strangers”? Probably not. But I am Facebook friends with some of them and will get pictures from them of our memories together! Do I hope to see Ed again? Hard yes.
Although the there are much more things to do in Chiang Mai and so much more that we experienced, these four things are a great starter point for creating wonderful memories of your travels in Chiang Mai. For now as I lay in my Bangkok express sleeper bed I’ll say goodbye and goodnight from somewhere in Thailand.
***Other noteworthy activities include: The Sunday Night Market, Zoe in the Yellow Club Area, Massages, massages, and more massages, and of course trying the local foods.