• Brooke Callan

Four Days In Chiang Mai

If you're new here, be sure to head over to Thailand, We Have Arrived and follow from the beginning as we make our way from Bangkok to Ayuttayah to here in Chiang Mai!

5// After a much needed good night of sleep, our train ride came to an end and landed us safely in Chiang Mai.

It was too early to check into our hostel, but we were able to take a load off and leave our bags before heading out for breakfast. We opted for a cafe called Goodsoul Kitchen and I am so glad that we did. Not only was it one of the nicer places we ate at during our time in Thailand, but the whole breakfast spread was delicious. We all got something different and sampled off of each other's plates. The banana pancakes were to die for!

With our bellies full, we set out to see more of the temples - which are called "wats" in Thailand. I'll be honest, after the long, hot day in Ayuttayah I wasn’t sure that I was interested in seeing any more wats for a while, but I thoroughly enjoyed the sights at Wat Chedi Luang and Phra Singh!

Wat Phra Singh

Side note: Somewhere around this time we realized Leigh Anna had unknowingly eaten three servings of Cliff Energy Blox and she and Olivia had a massive laugh attack about it that caused Kiana and I to walk away out of sheer embarrassment.

After spending some time exploring our new city, we all decided to get massages at Lila Thai Massage. Having a massage came highly recommended and for $7 I couldn't say no!

Lila Thai Massage takes in women who have served prison sentences and gives them career opportunities by training them in the trade of massage.

Leigh Anna and I choose to have foot massages to ease our way into the experience. It wasn’t a quiet, dimly lit room, relaxing massage kind of place but, I still enjoyed the opportunity to give my feet a little R + R as repayment for all of the walking around they had been doing for me.

Olivia and Kiana came out of their neck and shoulder massages looking like they had been rubbed down by Jesus herself. I wanted THAT, so Kiana agreed to come back with me in a few days.

That evening, we hit up one of the night markets. If you're on the hunt for souvenirs then you won't want to miss the markets. They're long strips of vendors selling everything from elephant pants to singing bowls to hand painted art. The USD is worth about three times as much as the Thai BAHT, which means that most things are super inexpensive, but don't hesitate to haggle!

Thailand is popular for its nightlife, so it should have come as no surprise when we stumbled onto some live music. A small Thai woman was the band front runner and performed cover songs of popular American songs. They were really good so we sat, listened, and sang along until they finished their set before exploring the rest of the market.

By the time we made it back to our hostel we practically melted into our beds.

6 // Are you even on vacation if you don’t brunch? This morning we woke up (late) craving another round of Goodsoul Kitchen. This time we opted for more lunch style food, and again, it was delicious. I highly recommend checking this place out if you’re ever travelling through Chiang Mai.

Next on the agenda was the hike up "The Monks Trail" to Wat Doi Suthep. I don't consider myself very outdoorsy, so I don't particularly like when Leigh Anna schedules hikes on our vacations, but this trek was well worth the little bit of effort that it took to get to the top. I’d consider it a novice level hike and we took short breaks at the waterfalls.

Along the way, we followed orange strips of fabric left by monks as a guide right into what seemed like a secret jungle, but was actually a temple, Wat Pha Lat, and a resting place for monks making their journey to the top.

The way this temple was so hidden and entangled with the nature was absolutely dreamy and hands down made it my favorite temple of the trip.

Before heading further up the mountain to Wat Doi Suthep, we grabbed a Thai bubble tea at a small coffee stand. The proceeds contribute to dental care for the monks, so if you ever find yourself at Wat Pha Lat be sure to grab a drink for the road!

Wat Doi Suthep was littered with tourists, understandably. It’s tall staircase with two winding dragons leads up to a lookout point which is a perfect place to get a view of the city.

We headed back down the dragon stairs to the market to do some exploring. It was so hot that we weren’t really up for shopping but I grabbed a fresh orange juice. One thing I absolutely miss about Thailand is how readily available (and inexpensive) fresh juices are. This one cost me 20 BAHT, which is less than $1. A fancier juice might cost around $3.

The ride down the mountain had so many twists and turns that I'm surprised no one threw up! Fortunately, no one was sick but after a long day of walking around in the heat we were TIRED. We made it back to our hostel and crashed for the afternoon.

7// Between jet lag, traveling through three cities, exploring countless wats, and hiking in the heat, we were wearing down. We spent day seven, the half way point of our trip, taking it easy but still making it a point to make the most of our time.

We wandered around the Maya mall, which was comparable to any standard mall I've seen in the U.S. but with more Asian influence. I bought a pair of shorts at H&M for our elephant excursion the following day.

Kiana and I were keen to have another massage, so while we went back to Ilia, Olivia and Leigh Anna found a little bar nearby to play pool.

Because Kiana and Olivia had had such a great neck and shoulder massage a few days prior, we opted for the full body Thai experience and boy, was it an experience.

We were instructed to change into these purple scrub-like outfits. The pants were to be wrapped around and tied somehow, but neither of us could really figure out the proper way to secure them. We just crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. From there were led into a dimly lit, private room with two beds - which Kiana and I thought was funny in itself because it felt like we were having a romantic couple’s massage.

Right from the get go, I knew this was not going to be the relaxing, therapeutic massage I anticipated because this adult woman crawled on top of me and started working out the knots in my back with her elbow! She stretched my arms up over my head, sat on me and stretched me backwards, pushed and pulled my legs around, and for the grand finale she had me sit Native American style with my hands behind my head, stepped over me from behind and slung my body left and right. She wrung me out like a wet rag!

“Relax,” she said.

When it was all said and done Kiana and I met back in the lobby. We were kind of in shock, but also found so much humor within the situation. Our wide eyes and sheepish grins said,“That was crazy.”

Don’t get me wrong, It wasn’t a bad, painful experience, I just don’t think we knew what we were getting into! We both agreed that our bodies felt looser and less tense, but maybe next time we’d stick with the neck and shoulder massage.

We met back up with Leigh Anna and Olivia at a hole in the wall bar that was playing old, but popular American songs in the background (think Justin Bieber’s “Baby”). We played a few rounds of pool before heading out to wander the night markets again.

At around 9 PM, we settled down at a small high-top table inside of a dimly lit club. A flamboyant, but beautiful man in costume brought us the drink menu. Because I’m boring I always order a virgin screwdriver - which if you’re unfamiliar, is just orange juice.

The lights dimmed; Showtime!

Five “ladies” shimmied out wearing headdresses adorned with feathers AND fruits. Their outfits looked fit for Rio’s Carnival and their energy was the jolt we needed to get excited for our first ladyboy experience.

By the end of the night one performer had tossed her wig into the crowd, a 20 something year old man had been groped on stage to Rihanna’s “S&M”, and a chubby dancer put a humorous spin on a Whitney Houston's “I will always love you” by turning around to reveal a single rose between her butt cheeks.

I wouldn’t consider myself a drag expert by any means, but the ladyboy’s at Chiang Mai Cabaret did not disappoint!

8// We saved the best for last and spend our final full day in Chiang Mai at Elephant Nature Park. This was a day that we had all been looking forward to since we started planning our trip to Thailand. We spent so much time researching different sanctuaries and making sure we chose the most ethical place possible to have this experience.

Since it was such a big day and there are a few important details I want to touch on, I'll be making a separate post about it, which you can read about soon! From there, we’ll make the long journey from Chiang Mai to Koh Samui for a few days of island life.

Be sure to subscribe - and stay tuned for elephants!


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