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Saturday, 18 August 2018 02:05

 

For many backpackers a trip to Thailand isn’t complete without a visit to the fabulous north, where Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai offer the traveller a chance to see a hint of the old Thailand, where the pace of life is still relatively slow and mountains, temples and jungle replace the sun-drenched beaches of the south. Here we will be looking at the most popular of the three, the old capital of the Lanna Kingdom and favourite of the backpacker, beautiful Chiang Mai.

 

One of the most popular destinations in Thailand, the spirit of Chiang Mai is evident almost immediately when you step out on to the street for the first time and take in all the city has to offer. The life here is very relaxed, and the natural beauty of the place is matched only by the wonderful openness of the locals. A week can easily turn into a month here, and there’s not many who leave Chiang Mai never to return - once the true beauty of the place captivates you, your next trip is usually never too far away.

 

Here we will take a look at my 5 favourite, slightly more unusual things to do and see whilst exploring the city and its surrounding areas:

 

Huay Tung Tao Lake’s Floating Restaurants

A 15-minute ride out from the city, this lovely lake flanked by bamboo huts to relax in overlooks the mountains of Doi Pui, and for some reason is a lot more popular with locals than us farang, which I think really adds to its charm.  Try to give yourself at least half a day here, and don’t have too big a breakfast before going – you’ll probably yourself eating delicious local treats the whole time you’re there!

All you need to do is select a little hut, take a seat and staff from the nearest restaurant will be right over to take your order – papaya salads, grilled fish and other northern delicacies are the main items to choose from, as well as beer, whisky, fruits, ice cream and the ubiquitous fried insects that seem to be everywhere nowadays. Those wanting to swim are welcome to take a dip, and it’s also possible to cruise the lake on some wondrous plastic swan ‘pedalos’. For those wanting to stay on dry land there’s also a nice little cycle path round the lake, with bicycles readily available for hire.

 

107 Don Kaeo, Canal Road. 50 baht entry for non-Thais, 20 baht for locals.

 

Open daily, from sunrise to sunset.

 

 

‘Bua Thong’ Waterfalls

 

Widely known as the ‘Sticky Waterfalls’, no trip to Chiang Mai is complete without a visit to these beautiful multi-tiered falls.  Just an hour and a half drive from the city centre, the limestone rocks in these waterfalls are covered in a scaly mineral residue which gives a nice grip meaning it’s possible to actually walk up them, through the cascading water - it’s because of this that they have been nicknamed ‘Sticky’. Surrounded by beautiful forests full of butterflies and small flowers, the falls are a great way to cool off after walking through the foliage, but be aware that it can be a pretty challenging walk up them – you’ll certainly feel it the next day!

 

Best visited on a weekday, with the falls getting pretty busy on the weekends

 

 

Moo 8, Mae Ho Phra, Mae Taeng, 50150

Open daily, sunrise to sunset

 

 

Bo Sang Umbrella Village

Just outside of Chiang Mai, lies the small craft village of Bor Sang (which can sometimes be spelled a little differently), which is famous for its beautiful, handmade paper umbrellas. Used primarily to protect the wealthy, fashionable Thais from the sun in the past, they are now more often used for decoration purposes such is their beauty. Meticulously hand-painted on bamboo and mulberry bark, these exquisite umbrellas seem to be the only thing the whole village does and to wander round the streets watching the different stages of creation is really quite fascinating, and can produce some incredible photography opportunities especially in January during the Umbrella Festival.

 

Bo Sang, San Kamphaeng, 50130

Best visited in the mornings, which gives the best light for your photographs

 

 

Get a Massage from a Convict

If you have never had Thai massage, it’s something everyone should experience at least once. A combination of pushing pressure points with yoga-style stretches, it often feels like the masseur is trying to squeeze farts out of your body for an hour but leaves you feeling very invigorated – perfect for recovering from your exploring of this mountainous region.

An usual way to experience this (or less vigorous massages for those not wanting the abuse of a Thai massage) is at the Chiang Mai Women Correctional Institution Vocational Training Center, where the treatments are offered by current inmates as part of their rehabilitation. The guards are on duty, but the experience is relaxing and the convicts very talented indeed, oft described as the best massage to be had in Thailand.

Si Phum, Mueang Chiang Mai District 50200

Open daily from 09.00 – 16.30

 

Catmosphere Cat Café

It’s a café. There are many cats to play with. There is a space theme. The owners are a bit quirky, seem to hate kids (yay!) and insist on you calling the 20 odd cats only by their names OR ELSE.

Why the hell wouldn’t you go?

 

233/5 Huaykaew Rd, Tambon Su Thep, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai 50300

Open daily from 10.00 – 20.00

No dogs allowed

 

 

Whaleshark at Chumphon Pinnacle - Koh Tao - August 2018

The Monsoons of Thailand