Chiang Mai is in Northern Thailand, away from Bangkok’s city lights & tucked away in the mountains. Despite the fact that this is Thailand’s second most-visited city, its unique character, almost makes you forget about Bangkok. At least for a little while. Buckle up! This post is a long one.
The only way I know how to describe Chiang Mai, is creative and peaceful. Not as much traffic, but just as much to see and do as Bangkok. It’s here that we found many treasures and I was able to meet some elephants…
Mom & I were only here for three-ish days. So upon our arrival we were famished and grabbed a snack in our hotel. Then we called up mom’s taxi driver friend that she had just met a few weeks before during my sister and her boyfriend’s visit to Thailand.
He took us to Baan Tawai Creative Village. It was about 3pm or so when we arrived and as far as we could see there were hundreds of shops, all containing mostly hand carved wood. Here you can can find all kinds of carvings, ranging from wall hangings to furniture and everything in between.
It was a photographer’s paradise. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my good camera with me. I relied on my trusty iPhone 7 Plus to do the job. Thanks to it’s depth effect portrait feature, I did manage to snap some decent shots (in my opinion anyway).
Then the next day… Elephant Day!!!
My Christmas present was a day spent in the Elephant Retirement Park just outside of Chiang Mai. It was so incredible! This was an experience nothing short of magical. Our tour guide, Nancy, picked us up at our hotel early one morning. She was so sweet and bubbly! She loaded us into the van and we drove around for a bit to pick up the other people in our group for the half-day trip to the elephant retirement park.
Nancy gave us a briefing of the elephants located at this park and how they came to be here. Some elephants were used in shows to demonstrate their ability to paint, others were victims of the, now illegal, logging trade in Thailand. One of these stories stuck out to me.
This was the story of Bella. A 20 year old female elephant that had been used for logging trees in Thailand, had slipped down a hill after it had rained and broke her left front leg. She had not received the proper treatment for this break when it occurred, so when the retirement park was able to save Bella from this, her leg was deemed inoperable by doctors. Despite the fact that her leg is still technically broken (you can actually see it when you meet her) she is able to walk on it without pain.
Excited as we were to see the elephants, we could hear them in the distance while we prepared some medicine for the adult elephants. This consisted of tamarind paste, banana, salt and rice. Apparently, it’s good for their digestive system!
After we wrapped the medicine in banana leaves, we FINALLY walked down toward the area where the elephants were! We first met an 18 year old female and her baby.
Immediately the mama stuck her truck out to sniff us and look for the food that I’m sure she could smell. We fed mama her medicine and gave her some bananas, sugar cane and pumpkin. Her 5 month old baby is still drinking mama’s milk, so we got to watch her play around while mama ate. It wasn’t long before two other young elephants came running over to us!
They were between the ages of 3-4 years old and still haven’t acquired the taste for pumpkin, so they ate an awful lot of bananas. Bella actually grabbed her food basket and pulled it away from them because they kept stealing her treats, it was really funny!
Altogether, we met five elephants during our visit. Much to my surprise, their skin was soft. Nancy explained that this is common for happy and well-taken care of elephants. It was clear to the group that this was a safe place for these elephants, where they are fed plenty of food (did you know elephants eat 10% of their body weight daily?), they are sand bathed and rinsed with water. All elephants were free to wander around the area and they know where their boundaries are within the compound. The mahouts clearly loved and cared a great deal for their respective elephants. All around, the Elephant Retirement Park is an amazing place for animal lovers, like me, to go and visit. It’s such an incredible experience to be so up close and personal with these gentle giants. I would go back in a heartbeat!
Sidenote: the night market in Chiang Mai is insanely awesome. I didn’t get any good pictures because I was too distracted by all the art, clothes and technology accessories. I bought a beautiful pashmina there (by that, I mean my mama bought it for me) and I’ve worn it nearly everyday.
The next day was already the day of our departure.
We decided to make the best of what little time we had left, and go for a walk within the old city. On our way to see The Three Kings Monument, we met a couple of characters on the street that tried to marry me off to their sons, then we found a cute little store that told us “if no one is here to help you, come three doors down to Johnny’s Gallery”. It was here that we met the most incredible Thai artist who actually lived in Canada for some time!
He gave us an amazing deal on two of his larger pieces, and said “all I ask is that you take a picture of my art where ever you put it, and tag me in it“, which I will most definitely do once I get it back to Iloilo and then to Canada. 🙂
The piece I got is the picture on the left and it said “Can’t get lost if you don’t care where you are“. It called to me. *heart eyes*.
Once our mini adventures were over, we finally found The Three Kings Monument! These guys founded the city of Chiang Mai in the year 1296. Mama & I snapped a picture with them but they didn’t seem eager to sign autographs (I know, I’m hilarious).
Chiang Mai was such an amazing trip! I’m so glad I got to share it with my Mama!
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Check out the Elephant Retirement Park social media platforms for more information! I HIGHLY recommend going!