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Elephant Nature Park: Pampering Rescued Elephants In Chiang Mai

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

Thailand is home to many elephant camps. The first time I came to Chiang Mai I went to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center with my workaway team. I was saddened by how the elephants were made to paint pictures as it didn’t seem like they were painting them on their own will. I had heard about Elephant Nature Park while I was there but didn’t have a chance to get there my first time around. I came back to Chiang Mai for Yi Peng, lantern festival, and made it my priority to get there. Such an amazing experience and day. Highly recommend anyone who goes to Chiang Mai to spend a day with them and see how they’re loved and free from abuse.

About Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

The Elephant Nature Park is run by Lek (which means little one). She’s a small Thai lady with a huge heart. She rescued her first elephant in 1992 (purchased for $2000) and opened the sanctuary in 1993. Lek opened the rescue center to save as many elephants as possible from logging camps and street performing. She advocates against animal riding and painting. The elephants go through a cruel breaking process, Phajaan, which only after the elephants are broken can humans ride them. Lek uses a reinforcement and reward program to help the elephants understand they no longer need to be afraid and are in a safe place. The park is run by 70 staff members and allows up to 300 visitors a day. With many volunteer programs to choose from, you can go from 1 day to 1 week and donate your time with them.

My Day With The Elephants

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

I went for the single day visit that was 2500 Baht ($70). All the money received from the ticket goes back into the park. I was picked up from my guesthouse at 8:30AM in a minivan. There were 12 of us in our group lead by the awesome Goy. The ride over to the park is about an hour long and watched a movie on the elephants and safety tips that made the ride go by quick. Once at the park we were given a tour of the surroundings dropped out bags at our table and headed out to see the elephants.

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

We walked over to feed them from a platform for about 15-20 minutes then went out to walk around the park the rest of the morning. The park is huge with a river running along side it. The elephants spend their days hanging out with their mahout, unchained, and just eat and play all day.

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

We met most of the elephants and fed and loved on them. It was sad to see the damage done to some of them. I noticed a couple of elephants with purple streaks running down their face and asked Goy what it was. She said those elephants are blind, and sometimes they accidentally run into things, so the purple is wounds from that happening. There are three blind elephants at the camp. The one in the picture had her eyes shot out with pellets by her owner when she refused to work after losing her baby after delivery at the hands of the loggers.

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

One had a chunk missing out of its foot, which was due to being caught in a land mine crossing the border from Myanmar into Thailand.

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

Another one’s leg was deformed from breaking it during logging and being forced to continue to work without allowing it to heal. The staff vets tried to fix it, but the damage was too severe and already healed in a way that the bone couldn’t be fixed without doing more damage.Even with all these horrible things that have happened to them you can tell the elephants are happy to be here now.

Watching Elephants Play In The River

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

After our morning, we were fed a huge vegetarian buffet lunch then we went back out for my favorite part of the day. Watching them play in the river. We watched two different families play in the river, and it was just so beautiful to see them rolling around in the water, climbing on each other and pushing each other underwater. I couldn’t stop laughing and smiling the whole time. It was just so magical. Baby Bindi (male) was just so ridiculous climbing on his mother’s back and just popping his head up at random times and using his trunk as a snorkel. I could have watched them for hours. I took so many pictures of them playing!

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

The final part of the day was allowing us to bathe the elephants by throwing buckets of river water on them from a few feet away. After witnessing them playing in the river on their own, I just watched as some of my group participated. I was busy looking at the pictures I captured, and the elephants look like they cared less that they were throwing water on them, especially since they can bathe themselves.

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

I had such an amazing time, and if I’m back in Chiang Mai again, I may sign up for the overnight package so I can be there and watch them at night when the day tourists aren’t around. Even with 300 people there, it didn’t feel too crowded as the groups all scattered to different parts of the grounds and with 30 elephants there were plenty to go around.

Elephant Nature Park - Chiang Mai, Thailand: Spend a day pampering rescued elephants

See the rest of my pictures HERE 


A Guide to Chiang Mai’s Markets


Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

The Chiang Mai Markets were my favorite part of staying in old city.  There’re so many markets to choose from, and all have a variety of choices from handmade goods to the best street food vendors. I categorized them into three kinds of markets. Food markets (North Gate – Chang Phueak and South Gate), locals market (Sompet and Warorot) and the everything market (Night Bazaar, Saturday Walking Market, and Sunday Walking Market).  There’s a market every day of the week to suit anything you’d need.

STREET FOOD MARKETS

Let’s start off with the food! I ate at North Gate (Chang Phueak) or South Gate pretty much every night. North Gate was made famous by Anthony Bourdain when he featured the cowboy hat lady selling Khao Kha Moo (pictured is her assistant). Anthony didn’t disappoint; I ate her pork plate four times while I was in Chiang Mai. South Gate has the best seafood pad thai I’ve tasted, and they cook it to order in the wok. Great photo opp 🙂

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

LOCALS MARKET

I enjoyed going to the local markets to get fruits and vegetables and bbq street meat 🙂 Sompet is my favorite. It’s a small market open early and sells fruit and vegetables at great prices. Warorot is located outside of the moat and is the biggest market of them all. You can find flowers, produce, meat, fabric, textiles, toys, and clothes. The flower shops are open 24 hours a day, and if you go early morning, you can witness the trucks dropping off new stems to the shops.

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

CHIANG MAI’S NIGHT MARKETS

The most fun markets I’ve been to are the Night Bazaar, Sunday Walking Market, and Saturday Walking Market. The Night Bazaar is made for tourists. You can haggle all day long there and when you think you’re done and ready to walk away, they’ll stop you and haggle with you some more. I haggled an outfit for my niece from 500 Baht down to 150 Baht ($15.00 to $4.50). Makes me wonder what the actual cost of the product is! Most of the souvenirs here are probably made from other countries, but it’s fun to see. They’re open from 8pm- 12am. To get more local, handmade items, I went to the Saturday Night Walking Market and Sunday Night Walking Markets. These had the best street food stalls and many of the vendors were creating their products right in front of you. You can haggle at these markets too, but these vendors will tell you no if your offer is too low. Both markets start at 6pm and go until around 11pm.

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

My favorite by far was the Sunday Night Walking Market. The market was walking distance to where I was staying. I feel it has the best selection of goods with a food court at the Temple where you can get Khao Soi, Indian food, sushi, street meat, noodle soup, seafood, or juice shakes. Definitely put it on your list of markets to check out!

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

Chiang Mai Markets - Thailand

Top 10 Khao Soi Spots in Chiang Mai

Top 10 Places To Get Khao Soi In Chiang Mai

Spelled many ways ‘Khao Soi’, ‘Kao Soy’, ‘Khow Soi’ was originated in Chiang Mai. This amazing noodle soup combines two different noodles, a flat wheat noodle, and a deep-fried crispy noodle. The sauce is a spicy coconut curry traditionally served with a chicken leg. Condiments of a slice of lime, roast chili paste, shallots and pickled cabbage are served on the side.

Having tasted my first bowl and falling in love with it, I went on the hunt to find the best Khao Soi in Chiang Mai.

Here’s my top 10 with a vegetarian bonus version and map of locations at the end.

Khao Soi Top 10


KHAO SOI KHUN YAI (Grandma’s Khao Soi)


Grandma's Khao SoiA     Grandma's Khao Soi

Highly recommended from tourists and locals alike, I was super excited to try her version of Khao Soi.  Fortunately, I was in Chiang Mai for 2 months, because she was closed for three weeks, when I first tried to go. When she opened, I went there three days in a row.  She was definitely worth the wait!

Khao Soi Khun Yai (Grandma's Khao Soi)

The Space: Outdoor, it looks like it’s right outside of someone’s home. Go through the gate and the food stand is on the left. There are eight tables that each seat 4. Get there early. This place fills up! I got there at 11 am and there were already three tables enjoying Grandma’s dish. By the time I left, every table was filled.

The Menu: Just two dishes here. Khao Soi with either chicken or beef and noodle soup.

The Khao Soi: The presentation is beautiful and is served with a side of pickled cabbage, shallots, lime and a small bowl of chili pepper. The crispy noodles on top are super thin, and the sauce is red, thin and flavorful. The sauce has a little kick to it, but I love my Khao Soy spicy, so I added a little more chili peppers to it. The chicken is chunks of thigh meat, instead of a chicken leg on the bone. The meat was oh so tender and tasted like the had been marinating in the broth overnight. The chicken just melts in your mouth.

Location: The entrance is on the inner side of the north moat between the temples of Wat Monthian and Wat Kuan Kama.

Price: 30 Baht

Hours: 10am-2pm


KHAO SOI ARAK


Khao Soi

This place came as a suggestion from Tikky’s Café, which I frequented often, but she doesn’t have Khao Soi on the menu. Wanting to hear a local’s take on where to go, she told me to go here, and I’m so glad I did. Right now it’s a toss-up between Grandmom’s and Arak. Both are amazing with melt in your mouth chicken, but both have two distinct flavors.

Khao Soi   Khao Soi

Khao Soi

The Space: This is an outdoor area with plenty of seating and fans.

The Menu: There is Khao Soi and other noodle options.

The Khao Soi: The broth is rich and dense. The chick leg is big, and the meat has sucked in all the sauce.  The meat falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. I love spicy food! This bowl had a little kick to it, but honestly, the broth was so good, I just let it be and only put the onions and cabbage in it. Definitely not to be missed!

Location: Arak Road lane 4

Price: 40 Baht

Hours: 10am-7pm


KHAO SOI MAE SAI 


Khao Soi

A favorite among the locals, located in Nimman district down an alley.  Not hard to find though if using google maps and there’s a bright sign outside the restaurant. They even have a facebook page HERE.

Khao Soi   Khao Soi

The Space: There are about 16 tables and was mostly locals when I sat down.

The Menu: There are four noodle dishes here. Noodle curry, noodle beef, Khao Soi and rice noodle spicy soup. Most of the locals were getting the Khao Soi.

The Khao Soi: If the place is packed with locals, you know it has to be good. The broth was rich and creamy. The chicken falling off the bone and melting in my mouth. It was also spicy enough that I didn’t add anything extra.  A great choice right outside the moat.

Location: Ratchaphuek Road

Price: 40 Baht

Hours: 8am-4pm


KHAO SOY AT JAHBAN AND INTRAWOROT


Khao Soi

I passed this place a few times before I decided to do a top 10.  The day I stopped to try their Khao Soi it was pouring down rain and they didn’t mind me hanging out until the rain stopped.  The place was packed with locals and a few tourists. All but one or two tables were filled with people enjoying their lunch.

Khao Soi   Khao Soi

The Space: The covered area is shared between two food stands, one selling Khao Soi and the other serving chicken and rice. There are thirteen tables in the “restaurant”.

The Menu: One dish here Khao Soi; the other food stall serves chicken on rice.  You can get either as they share the same tables.

The Khao Soi:  The sauce is thin, not spicy, more of a subtle curry flavor. The chicken leg is a big portion and meat falls off the bone. Normal condiments of pickled cabbage, shallots, lime and chili are served with it.

Location: Corner of Jahban and Intraworot Rd

Price: 40 Baht

Hours: 10am-4pm


SUNDAY WALKING MARKET


Khao Soi

I love the Sunday walking market!  The place I stayed was only a 10 minute walk and I’d go there every Sunday to get the street food and check out what the vendors were selling that day.  At the end of the market (or beginning, depending where you start) is Phan-On Temple which turns into a food court during the market.  The place is packed with people and you can find almost every kind of street food there.  Right near the entrance though is the Khao Soi stall.

Khao Soi  Khao Soi

The Space: Food court style with tons of seating.

The Menu: There are easily 20+ food stalls here serving everything from fruit shakes to sushi.  There’s something for everyone here.

The Khao Soi: The bowl is served in a take away container and you season it with all the condiments at the booth.  The broth is flavorful, but the chicken leg is small. This is more like an appetizer portion, which I didn’t mind, because it left room to try more things from the other stalls. 🙂

Location: Phan-On Temple

Price: 35 Baht

Hours: 6pm-11pm


92 RACHADAMNOEN


Khao Soi

 Khao Soi

This is the first place I tried Khao Soi and fell in love.  They also have a facebook page HERE.

Khao Soi   Khao Soi

The Space: This is an air-conditioned restaurant with six sit down tables and another table with a couch. There’s free wi-fi for you to use and a book section of both lonely planet guides and fiction books for purchase. The walls have paintings and a general relaxed vibe.

The Menu: There’re plenty of menu options for those who don’t want the Khao Soi (salad, noodles, fried rice, stir-fry) with some western items (spaghetti, french fries, onion rings)

The Khao Soi: The Khao Soi is presented with just the broth, the noodles, and a chicken leg. No condiments are served with it. The sauce is the creamiest of all the Khao Soi’s I’ve tried, and they don’t skimp on putting in the broth, there was easily 2 cups worth in there.  Although this bowl was pretty bare bones, if you’re looking for a bowl of creamy both with Khao Soi flavor, this is the place to get it!

Location: On Rachadamnoen, on the opposite corner of the police station

Price: 55 Baht

Hours: 11am-9pm (Tues-Sun)


KAO SOI FAHAM BY LAMDUON FAHRM


Khao Soi

Located near Thapae Gate, Lamduan Fahrm is considered a 70+ year-old Chiang Mai institution.  Selling Khao Soi in two locations, I went to the one inside the moat.  Sitting between a travel agency and a tattoo parlor is the small restaurant that serves only a few dishes.
Khao Soi

Khao Soi  Khao Soi

The Space: This place is small with only 3 tables and 2 sit up bars.

The Menu: Khao Soi chicken or tofu available. They also serve pork noodle soup.

The Khao Soi: The dish was served with 3 chicken legs.  The broth is amazing!  So creamy, with full spice flavor, and very rich. The only downside was the meat, although seemed marinated in the broth, doesn’t fall off the bone.

Location: Ratvithi Rd

Price: 50 Baht

Hours: 12pm-7pm


KHAO SOY NIMMAN


Khao Soy

Located on Soi 7 in Nimman, this place has a restaurant area in the back and a stand-alone food cart in the front.

Khao Soy  Khao Soy

The Space: There’s plenty of seating in the outdoor area and there are some seats indoors too.

The Menu: There are many options on the restaurant menu from thai to western.

The Khao Soi: With ten different Khao Soi’s you can choose from, there will be a Khao Soi to suit everyone. I choose the traditional chicken. First thing I noticed is the chicken leg wasn’t marinated in the sauce as the other Khao Soi’s I have had. I’m guessing this could be because they offer vegetarian options. The leg was cooked on it’s own then served with the broth.  The portion size was big, and the sauce was thin with flavor.  Seems like the broth would pair well with the vegetable version.

Location: Soi 7, Nimman

Price: 65 Baht

Hours: 5pm-10pm


TONLAMYAI MARKET


Khao Soi

In the basement of Tonlamyai Market (which is next to Warot Market), is a food court. Stall F8 serves Khao Soi with all the fixings.

Khao Soi  Khao Soi

The Space: This food court style area is cooled by fans (although there are four air conditioning units, I don’t think they ever turn them on), and there’s plenty of space to sit.  There are TV’s in the room showing local news and free watercoolers to drink from. At the time I ate I was the only westerner in the place. Nice place to chill after shopping in the busy market.

The Menu: Food court style.  This booth serves a few noodle dishes and the other handful of booth serve rice dishes and smoothies.

The Khao Soi: The broth is a little watery with a hint of spice.  The chicken is not a leg, but rather chunks of meat on the bone that have been marinating in the sauce, so the chicken is not a leg tender and falls off the bone with a spoon.

Location: Basement of Tonlamyai Market

Price: 35 Baht

Hours: 11am-6pm


MALEE NOODLE


Khao Soi  Khao Soi

The space: Big open air restaurant ~20 tables. Water misters and fans keep the place really cool. Many locals dine here.

The Menu: Ten different kinds of noodle soup, including Khao Soi.

The Khao Soi: The broth is oily, and the chicken is slices of meat that are not marinaded. There were also two sizes of egg noodles in the broth.  Lots of locals in here, but mostly eating other soup.

Location: Thanon Arak

Price: 45 Baht

Hours: 9am-7pm

 

Bonus Vegetarian: Blue Diamond Vegetarian

Khao Soi

Being a former vegan (started eating meat again when I began traveling), I wanted to try a vegetarian version to see if it would compare to the taste of the real deal.

Khao Soi Khao Soi

The Space: Many tables in a tranquil setting with indoor and outside seating.  The outside sitting area is filled with greenery a waterfall and koi pond.

The Menu: Full menu with many vegetarian options.

The Khao Soi: Broth was creamy with a mild flavor filled with vegetables (carrots, tofu, green beans, potato, broccoli, cabbage). Not the typical Khao Soi but a great take on it for the vegetarian out there. A big portion of vegetables with a small portion of egg noodles and crispy noodles

Location: Moon Muang 7 Alley

Price: 75 Baht

Hours: 9am – 9pm

 

Map of Khao Soi Locations

Map of Khao Soi Locations


A Lot of Thai Cooking Class

A Lot of Thai Cooking Class with Yui

Taking Yui’s A Lot of Thai Cooking Class is a must when visiting Chiang Mai! I can’t say enough great things about Yui and her class. She is passionate about cooking, and her enthusiasm and love for food is infectious. You can’t help but get excited to cook the dishes she teaches.

A Lot of Thai Cooking Class with Yui Sid Kwan

I took her full day course, and she personally came to pick me and a few other students up to take us to her house where she teaches her classes.

I have taken many cooking classes over the years and what I loved about Yui’s class is she would show us how to make one dish then we would go and make it at our cooking station after. Yui explained each ingredient to us and even showed us tricks on how to chop each one. In the full day course, you make six traditional dishes.

A Lot of Thai Cooking Class with Yui Sid Kwan

A Lot of Thai Cooking Class with Yui Sid Kwan

In the morning, we made three dishes (Click link for recipes):

Pad Thai – Most Popular Thai Food
Green/Red Curry Chicken – Traditional Thai Food
Thom Yaam Goong – Clear soup with shrimp

A Lot of Thai Cooking Class with Yui Sid Kwan

After the morning cooking session, we took a break to go to the market in her awesome VW bus to learn more about the ingredients she was using and get a fruit smoothie. It was a nice break in between the six dishes we were learning how to make.

A Lot of Thai Cooking Class with Yui Sid Kwan   A Lot of Thai Cooking Class with Yui Sid Kwan

After the market, we went back to her kitchen to learn how to make (Click links for recipes):

Chicken Cashew Stirfry – Quick, simple, tasty dish
Spring Rolls – Stuffed with chicken and vegetables
Mango Sticky Rice – Rice with coconut cream, topped with mangos

I noticed a picture of her and Gordon Ramsey on the wall. She was picked to be on his show Gordon’s Great Escape Thailand  in 2010.

A Lot of Thai Cooking Class with Yui Sid Kwan

Yui could have easily had her own cooking show after that, but she really does have a passion for teaching, and you can see she loves what she does. I’m so glad to have had the chance to learn from her. I saw she also has advanced classes that I plan to take when I’m back in Chiang Mai again!

A Lot of Thai Cooking Class with Yui Sid Kwan

Thai Cooking Class Details

A Lot of Thai
www.alotofthai.com
+66 (0)53-800724
lothome@hotmail.com
165 Soi 9 Chiang Mai-Lampoon Road
Chiang Mai 5000
Thailand


Thailand Hill Tribes


Hilltribes, Chiang Mai

Seeing the hill tribes is something I wanted to do while visiting Thailand.  Me and a friend visited Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village, located just north of Chiang Mai old city. There are 7 hill tribes living here. Karen Hill Tribe, Lahu Shi Bala Hill Tribe, Palong Hill Tribe, Hmong Hill Tribe, Kayaw Hill Tribe, Akha Hill Tribe, and Yao Hill Tribe.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

There have been a lot of reviews on TripAdvisor calling it a human zoo. One of our local Thai friends said the village is a good thing for the hill tribes and not a human zoo as some tourists have been calling it. On this recommendation, we took a motorbike and went there on our own to check it out. We had a different impression. We went early and got there around 10am before the tour buses arrived. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was how friendly everyone was. Each hill tribe greeted us warmly, and they were happy to show us what they were making, and also invited us in to see their home. One hill tribe even shared their cherries and other fruit with us.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village    Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Unfortunately, the older women didn’t’ speak much English, so we couldn’t ask them many questions. But we played with their children and one of the men showed us how to shoot his handmade slingshot equipped with a wooden arrow.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

We did meet one vibrant little girl from Karen Hill Tribe named Maisie, who was just charming and spoke very good English. Quite the little sales lady too, she talked me into purchasing a beautiful scarf her tribe weaved.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village   Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

We also met Sek from Karen Hill Tribe and was happy to talk with us at length about the tribes. Although his family is still in the mountains, he was able to go to Bangkok for school and just graduated university with a degree in Public Administration. He said, like him, some of the Karen Hill Tribe also came to this location to be near the city. It’s better for medicine if someone gets sick. If they get sick in the mountains, they rely on herbs to help them get better. Another main attraction to move here is all the children of the hill tribes go to school and get an education. All of the other Hill Tribes that are here also came on their own accord for a better life for their children.

    Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

When asked about the 500 baht entrance fee, Sek did say the fee we paid to get in did not go directly to the tribes. Before I could get in an uproar about it, he let me know that all the tribes live on the land rent-free and all the goods they sell is their money to keep. The compound also provides transportation for the children to get to and from school, free of cost, which is 15km away.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village     Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

The one thing I was curious about was the Karen Long-Neck Hill Tribe and why they stretch their necks. Sek said the long neck came about as a fairytale. The women thought they’d be prettier, if their neck was longer. They also decide rank by the length of the neck. The longer the neck, the more high up your are, with the longest neck being like a queen. We met one lady of the Karen Long-Neck Hill Tribe who had the longest neck in the tribe. She showed us a picture of herself without the rings. Her neck is strong enough to wear without the rings.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

The tribes hand make the items they sell. They are weavers, painters, wood carvers, and sewers. All the items they produce are very beautiful. Again, anything you purchase from them goes directly into their pocket.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village   Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

So human zoo? If you go there, solely to take pictures and stare, without interacting with them. Then yes, I could see how some would call it that. But, if you take the time to stop, say hello, play with the children and ask what they do, you’ll look at it a bit differently.

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

Link to the rest of my photos here:

Baan Tong Luang Eco-Agricultural Hill Tribes Village

 

Morning Ride to Doi Suthep


Chiang Mai Temple

I left early one morning to take a ride up Doi Suthep Mountain to visit one of the most popular temples just outside of old city. The ride up the mountain is windy and long, but so beautiful with greenery the whole way up and parts of the way you can see the city down below. Such a beautiful drive first thing in the morning.

Almsgiving, Doi Suthep Mountain, Chiang Mai

What I wasn’t expecting on my ride up the mountain is to run into almsgiving. I heard of almsgiving happening at the local temples inside old city and had planned to go see it one morning, but was excited and surprised to run into it happening on my drive up the mountain. Almsgiving is a morning ritual where the monks walk down from their quarters to get their daily offerings from the locals. There is also tables set-up with bags of food and water to give out. The monks will get their days worth of food this morning. Some will give directly to the monks then will kneel and pray while the monks chant a prayer in unison to them. After staying for 30 minutes, I jumped on my bike and rode the rest of the way to the temple.

Almsgiving, Doi Suthep Mountain, Chiang Mai

Almsgiving, Doi Suthep Mountain, Chiang Mai

Almsgiving, Doi Suthep Mountain, Chiang Mai

Surprise! There were more monks coming down Doi Suthep to get their morning almsgiving. I caught the tail end of it then walked up to the temple.

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai   Almsgiving, Doi Suthep Mountain, Chiang Mai

There are 306 steps to get to the top. The bottom half of the steps is lined with vendors selling food and souvenirs. Once you get to the bottom of the main steps going up, you are greeted by Hmong kids dressed in traditional clothing. They are adorable, but also know their game. They won’t look at you unless you give them money. I caught this girl off guard with my long lens 😉

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

Once at the top you pay your entrance fee and get access to the temple that is made of gold. It’s exquisite and beautiful with the morning light shining on it.

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai    Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

Part of the temple is getting ready for reconstruction. There are roof shingles with blessings piled up to put on the roof once it’s ready. While there, I saw some of the monks coming back from their almsgiving,

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai    Monks, Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

From the temple, I decided to keep going up the mountain because I saw signs for Hmong Village, which is one of the six hill tribes in Thailand. The ride was down a long windy road with lots of potholes. Once to the village I was greeted by an open market, but a completely different feel than the ones in old city. The markets were right outside the village homes. It was pretty awesome to see all the kids and families together. Some of the kids were playing with Legos, and some of the mothers were teaching their children math in their down time. It was so cool to walk around the streets and see a different side of markets here in Thailand.

Hmong Village, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hmong Village, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Hmong Village, Chiang Mai, Thailand

On my drive back down Doi Suthep Mountain, I stopped at Wat Umong where monks go to meditate. So many statues and moss growing everywhere. I was told there’s a waterfall there, which looks like it would be cool, but it was dried up.

Wat Umong, Chiang Mai, Thailand   Wat Umong, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Wat Umong, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Such a great day! I was only expecting to see the temple, but it turned into a day of great surprises seeing beautiful Thailand culture.

 

Thai Elephant Conservation Center

 Save the Elephants

When you visit Thailand, you hear about many different tourist attractions that you must do while you’re here. One of them is spending a day at an Elephant Park. Through learning about which one to go to, I discovered that not all elephant parks are created equal. Many parks still abuse the elephants, but there are a few that treat the elephants well. The house I stayed at frequents the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, and I went along with them one day to check it out.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

 

According to my housemates, the Thai Elephant Conservation Center is a highly recognized organization that works to protect and look after the animals giving them the best possible care. All the money raised by tourists going to see the elephants goes back into helping maintain the park and giving the elephants the best care, including having an elephant hospital and nursery on premises.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1       Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center has an elephant show which was the first thing we did when we got there. I am not a fan of animal shows to begin with, don’t even get me started on Sea World, so I had mixed feelings about this show. It showcased the dexterity of the animals where a young elephant, Bai-Tong, rang a bell and raised a flag without her mahout (elephant handler).

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1 Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

The older elephants showcased their strength by pulling and pushing logs with their trunk. We also witnessed 3 of the elephants create paintings. There’s been mix controversy over this, including my own feelings, so I did some research.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

According to “Do Elephants Have Souls?” by Caitrin Nicol, in The New Atlantis, Winter/Spring 2013. “Zoo elephants have occupied themselves with doodling in the sand, and, given art supplies, have used them to draw.”

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

Still not sure the reason why you would need to teach elephants to paint other than to make an attraction that would bring people in, so I asked for more information. What I learned what was different about the Thai Elephant Conservation Center versus other parks is the elephants here that are taught to paint are rewarded with sugar cane, not abuse. The animals that are trained, only do the shows for a few months then are rehabilitated back to living on the conservation grounds. The money from buying their paintings goes directly back to the conservation and helping the elephants, not for profit.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

The hospital was the next place we visited. There were two sections one for infectious animals and one for non-infectious. The two elephants we saw in the infectious section had a skin disease and an eye infection they were treating.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

Our last stop was at the nursery. Where we saw two sets of mama’s with their baby. Here we had a chance to feed them fresh bananas for 20 baht.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

How do I feel about the Thai Elephant Conservation Center after visiting?

After hearing about all the other animal parks, I’ve found that this is one of the top 3 that treat the elephants best. The alternative being poached in the wild or abused at other parks with hooks and sticks. I’m not sure I would go back knowing that there are better parks out there.  I did find a place that is a dedicated rehabilitation center (no rides, no painting, no shows) and hope to go there soon. Overall, I’m glad I did go to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center to get educated on how elephants are treated in Thailand and can use this knowledge to make better choices on which elephant parks to visit in the future.

Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

You can learn more about the Thai Elephant Conservation Center and decide if you want to go  HERE
Thai Elephant Conservation Center; Olympus OM-D EM-1

Check out the rest of my elephant pictures:

ELEPHANT PICTURES

Songkran…. The Wettest 4 Days of My Life!

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Welcome to Thailand! Hope you enjoyed being dry because for the next four days you’re going to be doused with water via super soakers, buckets of water and sprayed with water hoses when you leave the house.

The craziest four days of my life and by far the best festival I’ve ever been to. I’m talking about Songkran.

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thailand’s new year is celebrated every April. The Thai’s pour water as a symbol to wash away sins and bad luck and purify and bring good luck for the new year. This 4-day festival is celebrated by many activities.

Wan Sungkharn Lohng  (Day 1) – A parade is held this day starting at Nawarat Bridge and ends at Wat Phra Singh. Here you will see the town’s people marching, bands playing musical instruments, and Buddha floats, where attendants take holy water from the crowd and pour it on the Buddha.

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Wan Nao (Day 2) – Today local residents go to Mae Ping River to collect sand to be put into mounds at the temples to create flag sand castles.

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Wan Payawan (Day 3) – This is the day the new year begins and traditionally this is the day the water pouring begins, it once was a practice of pouring gently, but has now turned into a fun water throwing festival (Starting on Day 1).

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Wan Parg-bpee (Day 4) – On the last day of Songkran respect is paid to the ancestors and elders

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Each city in Thailand celebrates Songkran in their own way, but Chiang Mai is by far the biggest party. Everyone gets involved from little kids to the elders. The main party is around the moat where you’ll find trucks filled with people on the back throwing buckets of water on the people walking on the street. You’ll find the people on foot running up to Songtaew and tuk tuks spraying the riders with super soakers and buckets of water from the barrels around the moat. Motorbikes aren’t safe from the water fight either. If you’re daring enough to be on a bike, you will get a bucket of water thrown in your face. You’ll see people riding 2-3 people on them with their water guns to retaliate back.

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

And just to throw some fun in the mix? There are vendors on the side of the road selling ice blocks to put in the barrels of water. So if you are in the path of a truck, you are likely to get a big bucket of ice cold water thrown at you.

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Songkran is a fun festival where everyone is happy and friendly. They throw buckets of water on you then let you refill your weapons with their water. The kids were the most fun to get in a water fight with. S0 cute and they really get into it!

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Some of the Thai’s walk around with clay mixture that they put on your face, and you’ll see them on cars.

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Also around the moat are numerous stages and tents with booming music, plenty of street food carts, and dance parties at Tha Phae Gate lasting until late in the evening.

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

In town shop owners have barrels set up for you to reload and are equipped with water hoses to spray anyone that passes by either by foot or vehicle. Our neighbors were well equipped with hoses, water buckets, and water guns. Once we stepped outside the safety of our home, we were free game. Within a matter of minutes, I was drenched from head to toe.

By far the most fun I’ve had. Definitely one to put on the bucket list, if it’s not already.

Songkran, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Here’s a link to all the picture I took using my GoPro Hero4

SONGKRAN PICTURES

Anyone else been to Songkran?

 


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