I just looove Chiang Mai. Alicia and I are staying in a hostel in the old city, which is made up of several small lanes leading off the 4 main streets. The town in filled with temples, bars, handicraft shops, food stalls and best of all.... So many vegan cafes!! I'm in paradise!
After taking the overnight train from Bangkok (which honestly wasn't bad at all and I would happily do it again!), we arrived Friday lunch time and immediately dropped our bags at our hostel ThailandWow and went on the hunt for food! With the help of happycow.com, we discovered the gem that is Amrit'as Garden, a quaint little organic, vegan cafe and gift shop, serving everything from spaghetti to pita bread + hummus on the menu, and in the shop, selling traditional Thai handmade home wares and health products. We spent the rest of our day exploring the Old City, before heading back out later on to dinner at another vegetarian eatery, Taste From Heaven, where we each had a delicious green curry, which was served inside a coconut (of course).
Day 2 was THE BEST DAY EVER!!!! Kai, the manager at our hostel helped us book a day at the Elephant Retirement Park, which is about an hour away from where we were staying. Elephant Retirement Park rescues and gives a new, caring home to ex-riding and ex-logging elephants. The staff there treat the elephants excellently and just made the day absolutely magical for us - one that I will truly never forget! I wrote a whole post on the day here.
Saturday night we had some street food for dinner from the Saturday Night Market, famous for the thousands of stalls set up by locals, selling mainly handmade goods - from embroidered bags to elephant magnets, painted canvases to thai beer t-shirt. With a fruit shake in hand at all times, I managed to bargain my way in to buying a embroidered hobo bag, a small handmade purse, a little prezzie for the parents and 2 huge bags of dried mango.. All for under £10!
Today we gave ourselves a well-needed lie in and woke up at 10, and headed straight to brunch (can you tell our travels pretty much revolve around food?). We went to Bubbles Live where I had a banana shake and a good ol' bowl of muesli, and Alicia had pancakes and a fruit salad. We then waved down a songathew (a thai taxi that is basically a red truck) to take us up to Doi Suthep, a mountain peak just west of the city, home to Doi Duthep viewpoint and Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, a temple and pilgrimage site for many devout Buddhists.
Like so many other Buddhist temples we've seen whilst in Thailand, Wat Phrathat is so intricately detailed - a building you can just sit and gaze it, wondering how the heck they built it, and how long it took! I know the basics of Buddhism but not enough to fully understand the rituals that several people were doing today, including circling a statue with a flower in one hand and a prayer card in another, and pouring a spoonful of wax in each of the ten candles, before putting a coin in a box for each candle. I guess that despite not fully understanding what was going on around me, it was nice to just people watch and see a bit of 'true' Buddhism first hand.
Now I'm just back at the hostel chilling in my elephant pants, all packed up ready for the bus to Pai tomorrow morning - I cannnot wait!
Speak soon chicos!!