Where do I even begin…Thailand is everything I thought it would be, and more, and it’s only been 3 days! I have sooo much to recap for you guys so let’s just dive right in.
Day 1: Temples + monk chat
The first day was temple-hopping day. I landed in Chiang Mai around 2pm and luckily got plenty of sleep on the plane, and so I dropped by stuff off and went straight to sight seeing. Chiang Mai is full of culture and has the fun city-feel without being overwhelming as a big city like Bangkok. View outside my hostel.
First stop was Wat Chedi Luang, one of the biggest and most popular temples in Chiang Mai. The whole place felt like a huge campus for the monks, with a beautiful main temple in the center, smaller worshipping sites around, and open spaces to walk around.
Underneath the shaded trees were monks who talked to tourists in order to practice their English. I read about this beforehand and was dying to try it! I made sure to dress conservatively and be respectful to the fact that monks cannot touch women, not even shake their hands. I ended up having a two-on-one chat with two monks named Tim and Dan. Tim was less talkative, but Dan was funny, light-hearted, and surprisingly super open to my never-ending questions about life as a monk. Definitely the highlight of my day, and grateful for my first friends on this solo trip!
I also passed through two other smaller temples, but my favorite of all of them was Wat Chiang Man. The sun was going down and so all the tourists were gone, and I basically had the entire place to myself (plus the monks cleaning around it). It felt so serene and uplifting.
After a full day of travel and an afternoon in the heat, I was pretty beat. I had dinner at a cafe near my hostel and hit the hay early.
Day 2: Waterfall swim + most beautiful backpacking + evening in the Lahu village
As cool as the city of Chiang Mai is, I was dying to explore the mountain scenery and hill tribes around it in Northern Thailand, and so for the next two days I booked a trekking tour by the recommendation of a friend.
The day started early as I met the guide and three guys joining the tour: Andi, Edu, and Matt, who were friends from Switzerland. They were super friendly and welcoming to my joining them, and I knew right away we had a fun crew for the next two days.
The first stop was to the market to buy supplies for our trip. We would be carrying and living off of everything on our backs for the next two days, my first real backpacking experience!
After the market, we continued driving through the rural, windy back roads of the Mae Hong Song Province. The views of the different villages and mountain scenery were really beautiful.
Then we made it to Mok Fah Waterfall, where we got to cool off and swim around. Taking in the power of the waterfall was pretty surreal. I was in heaven.
Then it was lunch time! Our guide made us a delicious meal from the fresh ingredients we bought at the market. Notice anything strange about the spread…?
I ATE ONE!!!! It was not bad, ha!
After lunch, it was time to begin our 4 hour trek at Chiang Dao National Park to the village where we would be staying the night. I’m not gonna lie…the first hour of the hike was HARD. It was 90 degrees, straight uphill, and it took a lot of getting use to the weight on my back (I ended up dumping out half of my water to lessen the weight).
Eventually, I got into a good rhythm, and luckily the hardest part of the hike was over. I actually really enjoyed the feeling of carrying a big backpack – there was something empowering about knowing that we had everything we needed to survive right on us.
The views on this hike were beyond surreal…I’ve done a LOT of hikes in my life all across the world, but hand to my heart, I’ve NEVER been as blown away as I was on this mountain. As far as you could see were miles of untouched green scenery. We had the whole trail to ourselves as there was no other traffic; we were really in the middle of the jungle. Seriously breathtaking.
We took the longer, harder option which went all the way around the mountain, which was nice since weren’t trapped under the trees the whole time and could actually see the far-stretching scenery. I couldn’t help but keep looking over the views ever other second!
The highest point at 1400m.
I loved our tour guide because he didn’t stop to bore us with facts every other second. He went at a brisk pace that I love, and every now and then stopped to pick us nuts/berries to munch on.
Between enjoying the scenery and the fun chatter among us, the hike completely flew by! I SO loved the guys’ sense of adventure and making jokes out of almost everything. We made it to the village around 5pm where we stayed with a family of the Lahu hill tribe. This was honestly such a special part of the trip. We were actually living among the natives in the village with no WiFi, hole-in-the-ground toilets, and beds of bamboo mats and mosquito nets.
Me and the guys immediately rewarded ourselves with a local Thai beer.
Then we took a walk around the village. It was pretty surreal seeing how this group of people lived. The entrance to the village was a jank wooden bridge over the creek where kids splashed around. Everyone was close knit with only 20 or so houses in the entire village. Chickens and dogs were EVERYWHERE and there was one church in the center. It felt like this whole place was stuck in time. I loved everything about it.
We enjoyed an amazing home-cooked meal from our host family as the sun went down. To fight the mosquitos galore, we lit a campfire and the guys and I rang in the evening chilling by our fire, chatting away and enjoying the night under the stars. It was perfection.
Day 3: Elephants + bamboo rafting + night markets
I woke up at 5:30am to the sound of roosters crowing #villagelife
The guys were fast asleep, and so I had a few hours to myself in the morning. I sipped my coffee, took a walk around the village, and enjoyed the AMAZING views on the mountain as the early morning fog lifted before another sunny day.
The guys got up and we had some breakfast and enjoyed more of the lazy morning together. We walked further into the village and watched ox roaming around and the villagers fishing in the creek. Then, it was time for a short 1-hour hike to see the elephants.
Chiang Mai is known for their elephant sanctuaries, and so I was so glad that this tour included a stop at one. But…not gonna lie, this part of the tour was pretty sad. The elephants seemed to be trained for tourists and were not treated very nicely. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed feeding bananas to the huge elephants and we even got to bathe with them.
Afterwards, it was time to relax down the Mae Tang River on a bamboo raft. It was beyond relaxing. The scenery down the river was so pretty, and we all enjoyed some peace and quiet for 2 hours. I think it then hit me how grateful I was to finally be on this trip in Thailand. Spending time with nature, seeing beautiful things, learning something new, meeting nice people: that was everything I wanted from this trip, and that was everything I got so far.
After rafting, we had one last lunch together and headed back to the city. The guys and I were not ready to bid farewell yet, and so we decided to meet up later for dinner as well! I dropped off my stuff at my hostel, took a MUCH needed shower, and killed some time at the Saturday Night Market by myself.
Then, I took my first tuk tuk (a must in Thailand!) to the guys’ hotel which felt like royalty compared to my party hostel. We spent some time by the pool and then headed out to another market nearby called the Kalare Night Market. It was a massive food court surrounded by lots of vendors, and even had live music. I enjoyed my first pad-thai of the trip and a nice cold beer.
We walked around the night market a little more, had some ice cream, and then I was too beat to function and said goodbye for the night. I’m honestly SO grateful for meeting this warm and fun group of guys and getting to spend most of my time in Chiang Mai with them. What an amazing start to this trip ❤