Why is it that the journey back always seems shorter than the journey there?

If you want to see more of our adventure, watch our vlog here

The beginning

Anyway, we arrived in Chiang Mai at 4pm after our long adventure from Pai and went straight to where our hotel was via a Grab as all the local red Songtaew taxi’s were charging ridiculous prices for nearby hostels despite having massive white writing on the side saying ‘30baht no matter where you go’!

We were staying in Jaidee Bamboo Huts near to the centre of town and finally recovered my mistake of booking a single room not double (sorry Luke!). We then went out for some lunch which was apparently #2 on TripAdvisor for Chiang Mai called The Hideout – it should have been #1, it was incredible! We then went back to the hotel to unwind after a long day of travelling once again.

Exploring inside the city walls

Up and out by 10am, we went to explore inside the city walls. We ventured into many different wats, all shapes, colours and sizes. Some we went looking for and others we stumbled across behind alleyways uncovering their beauty. *if you are tight on time in Chiang Mai, read our article here on the top wats to visit*

This was about it for our day apart from dinner which was a Mexican place on the main strip called ‘Chiang Mai Saloon 2’.

Cooking class

The next day we were taking it easy, we went out for breakfast then back to our room to work on this website which obviously is amazing if I say so myself.. Then at 3pm we were getting picked up for our cooking class.

Smile Organic Farm Cooking School was the one we chose in comparisons to millions of others which you will see on your trip here, all advertised on posters, brochures, etc. The main reason we chose this particular one was it seemed like it had more value for your money and we still believe this! Plus, our Stray guide prior actually spoke about this one saying how it’s a local family who grow all the produce themselves and make a living on inviting tourists to cook with them.

Despite being an 40 minute drive out of town, our first stop was a local market which felt more authentic as it was out of the city away from tourists like us! A lovely woman who spoke a bit of English kindly explained foods to us like what’s the hottest chilli and where they come from, etc.

From here, we drove another 10 minutes to the cooking school. The restaurant was covered in amazing green shubery, all of the local produce we would be cooking with and about 30 small stoves for cooking. We put on our aprons and matching hat. As we picked out our own ingredients from the garden we were given little hampers to store our findings, which mainly consisted of lettuce, chilli and bean sprouts whilst he told us how they grow and when the season is, etc.

Once we gathered our ingredients up we first started to make our noodle dish – of course ours was Pad Thai, along with a spring roll. It was very informative to know how to make this dish baring in mind we’ve been eating it for the past month. We continued to cook and eat different varieties of dishes consisting of curry paste, curry and soup.

Once finished, he gave us all a complementary cooking book filled with 40+ recipes to cook when we are back home. He also took loads of pictures of us all when we were cooking and picking our ingredients (moments you can’t take the pictures yourself) and stored them on their local Facebook page which shows that they go the extra mile for tourists.

Canyon & night bazaar

The next day, we went to the Chiang Mai canyon which is a bit further out from the city walls. We rented a ped to get here from Pop Rider which was reliable as some wanted 5000baht deposit, whereas this one was only 3000.

There are 2 parts to the canyon so be careful which one is which as you don’t get a refund if you enter the wrong one. On the left you have the water park and on the right you have a more-relaxed approach filled with many different activities like zip lining, cliff jumping, tubing, paddle boarding or swimming. We spent some time here for 100baht (£2.10) and relaxed in the baking hot weather.

We returned back later that day and headed to the night bazaar in the evening. This again, is a little further a field than the city walls but, was worth the walk. 40+ food market stalls were outlining this area and every crusine you could imagine was here but not at the price you would expect for street food so don’t plan your budget around this place. In the centre of this food market were live bands/singers entertaining everyone with English and Spanish songs – a very wonderful atmosphere.

Temples, coffee, opening ceremony & nightlife

Today we had to change hotels as we’d originally booked this one ahead of time as we knew it would be busy for the Lantern festival – it was called Chada House. We have managed to have a system of transferring our bags when we have a ped. Where I carry Luke’s big one and small one with my small one in front of him. Then, I checked us in whilst Luke gets my bag (as it’s lighter than his).

On his way there, he actually got pulled over. The first time this has happened here in Thailand. All they check for is a drivers licence and the right to drive in foreign countries (International drivers licence) and then you’re on your way. This actually happened at least 8 times during our time here in Chiang Mai – we believe they do it as it was the lantern festival.

Anyway, this day we decided to head up to Doi Suthep National Park on the west of the city. It was about a 50 minute drive up there through the twists and turns of the countryside (don’t explore here on a motorbike if you’re not very experienced!) but about 2 thirds of the way up you can view an incredible lookout onto the city of Chiang Mai and a little further you can see a nice trickling waterfall.

Once arrived to the Doi Suthep temple, you will park up and then embarken on what seems like a million of steps to get to the temple itself. Once there, it will cost you 30baht each (£0.75) and it is truly stunning decorated with golden pagodas and shimmering temples complete with an amazing birds eye view of Chiang Mai itself from this mountain throne.

After this we made our way down and visited 2 other temples. The first one was Wat U Mong, this is a unique temple (with a hilarious name!) that was like no other we’d seen. This was underground and used claustrophobic tunnels to reach inside which was over 700 years old. The second one we went to visit was Wat Sri Suphan which is an incredibly gorgeous temple covered head to toe in silver.

As it was still afternoon, we headed to a coffee shop that I really wanted to go to. Although, it was about a 40 minute drive away, it felt like a hidden treasure as no one was talking about this on social media and no one was really there. It was called Phu Finn In The Lake where you can relax whilst drinking a coffee or a smoothie and even have a bite to eat for an affordable price too! I don’t use the term relax lightly either as you have the option to take a seat, lye in a hammock, swing on a chair, or, my favourite, lay on – what is considered a netting with massive pillow cushions, over the lake whilst the ducks swam past and beneath you – which Luke loved!

We went back home afterwards and did our own thing until 7o’clock – when the opening ceremony for Yee Ping & Loi Kathrong started! This was held opposite the Three King’s Monument in the centre of town. Hundreds of people gathered to witness this beginning. With Lanna Traditional Folk Dancers and people appearing to be going on stage, it was to worship to Lord Buddha.

After this, we headed out to grab some food before returning to see what the nightlife was like. In the North-East of the city walls, you have a cluster of bars, beer gardens and a club which we really wanted to try out! We headed over and started to have a couple of drinks in the main bar ‘Zoe In Yellow’. It wasn’t long until me and Luke were up dancing to some great house music! We ventured over to the club opposite after a while and stayed there until shut down at 11.30pm – the curfew.

Lantern Festival

The next few days were mainly chilling days, catching up with news back home and getting our new website live and a few articles. As we had nothing planned until the evenings!

The first day we had some beautiful (& cheap) breakfast from a place just around the corner from us called 29 Café. So we just chilled until 5 o’clock where we went out to the lantern festival.

There’s many different spots where this takes place and mostly all, bar one – Mae Jo University, are free to do. There’s so much conflicting information on the internet that tells you that you need to book tickets way in advance – this is not the case at all! You can light your lanterns where you please and everyone all over the city does this. You can purchase these almost anywhere for 30-40baht each (£0.80). There are some main spots such as: the Iron Bridge, Nawarat Bridge and Wat Chai Mongkolto release lanterns and anywhere along the Ping River to float Krathongs.

The lantern festival isn’t as glamorous as you first may think;

  • Your lantern might not make it up due to not enough hot air
  • The fire could catch the outside material and catch alight
  • Your lantern could get stuck in many things such as trees

We saw it all

But, once you get past the manic chaos there truly is a beauty behind why they hold this festival each year and the mesmerising beauty when they light up the night skies and how the Krathongs ignite the river.

The following evening is a light parade and fireworks display. Through the nearby streets of Thapae Gate is a parade that takes place between 7-11pm. With stunning art and energetic lights, you’ll be sure not to miss it!

Sunday Night Market

Every Sunday night there is a market in which takes up the entirety of the street all the way from the Thapae Gate all the way down Ratchadamnoen Road and among the side streets leading off – it is absolutely massive. I mean I can shop but even I was getting bored! Rows upon rows of clothes, souvenirs, food stalls, you name it, it was there! Me and Luke brought some clothes as well as our very own chopsticks seeing as we were masters of art with these now!

Elephant Sanctuary

Today was the day! Today we met, bathed, swam and interacted with the elephants!

This is a must do in Chiang Mai and we couldn’t wait! After plenty of research we finally decided on a company – In to the Wild. We booked a half day trip for 1,600baht each. When you first take a few steps into their habitat, you start to realise how big these animals really are and how beautiful they appear.

Into the Wild is an organisation where they have 5 elephants, 3 of which were rescued from nearby trekking companies where the elephants are abused and tortured to do chores and participate in tourist activities. But, instead here they are given a new life, a new chance for freedom to roam around and do what they please – how it should be. The other 2 baby elephants were born here.

Firstly, you get to feed the elephants which was surreal and quite nerve-racking to say the least, having trunks coming towards you for bananas. They were all incredibly friendly elephants and seemed accustomed to being around humans, we followed them down to the lake and watched them bathe in the waters and eat the foliage. Although beautiful, they seemed relatively uninterested in us and allowed us to pet them, be incredibly close to them and seemed generally unfazed by the endless pictures and selfies.

It was beautiful to see these elephants in their natural habitat, it wasn’t so much about seeing the elephants but supporting this beautiful campaign to save the elephants from their awful past. In the waters they played and were keen to join us in playing in the natural spring. It was an amazing sight to see these beautiful animals up close. They were truly gentle giants.

After this magical day, we got some dinner from Sheryls in town before ending our last Thailand night with a drink in Zoe in Yellow.

What’s next?

After our amazing time in Chiang Mai, even Thailand for that matter, it was time to start a new chapter. We were heading to Chiang Rai for a couple of hours before our adventure starts in the county of Laos – stay tuned!


  • If attending the Lantern festival – book accommodation early to avoid high rates
  • Buy an international drivers license it’s only £5 and it could save you getting fined
  • Research where to go for elephant sanctuaries! Many companies say ‘No riding’ when it actually turns out they do!
  • There are some temples here that won’t let women enter so do your research before travelling all the way there to avoid disappointment


About The Author

Wanderlust Lab is a collaboration between Abbie and Luke for the sharing of travelling knowledge to help backpackers and travellers all across the globe. Live Wanderlust.

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