Chiang Mai, Thailand
Arrived at our hotel close to 2 PM, where we stayed on a main road, but they set the hotel up in such a way that it feels like you’re not in a busy city. Got massages right away at the hotel because they’re 30% off earlier in the day. Went out to eat by Chabad, and checked out the night bizarre (right by Chabad) where there’s lots of souvenir shopping. Took a tuk tuk back to our hotel… first of many! They charge a little more than the regular cabs because they’re cultural, but otherwise there’s nothing faster or safer about them versus a cab.
Hired a private driver and tour guide, with the goal being to take us all the way north to the border of Thailand, near the Golden Triangle (where three countries meet). We first made a pit stop by hot springs that had little markets nearby. One lady was selling baskets of eggs which we cooked in the hot springs (we didn’t eat them because we didn’t recognize the type of egg).
We then went to the White Temple, which was beautiful to look at from the outside (has an entrance fee, we didn’t go in… and also straight up avodah zarah in its prime) – the bathroom was equally as beautiful. There are also something called Lucky Trees in the complex, where we purchased and created our own leaves to add to the trees (but actually we just brought them home 🙂
Got to the border area where we took a boat to Laos (there are three different boat options to take to Laos). We didn’t need to go through customs at Laos, and there wasn’t much to do there, but we were able to go to the markets to by knockoff brand purchases (haggle them down there). Also, just beware, Laos is known as the most bombed country in the world… and it was mainly done by the US, so the American rep there isn’t too hot.
We then took the boat back to the car to go to Myanmar. Passports are a must! There’s also a visa fee in order to get in (around $16 a person). It was also just a huge market area place, more clothing than crafts to buy, so not much to write home about. The drive is three hours each way – on the way there we had a lot of stops to break up the drive, and there was also free WiFi on board.
Hired another driver (without a tour guide) to check out Pai. It was also a three hour drive away, but it was one of our top days of our trip (most people usually spend two days here, so we tried to cram as much possible in as we could). Pai Canyon was our first stop – it’s a self hike, with lots of narrow nooks and crannies (sporty clothing recommended), and beautiful scenery. Cafes are at the bottom where you can buy pure fruit drinks and coconuts post hike.
Our driver then took us to a Chinese village called Santichon Village. It’s one of the three Chinese villages in northern Thailand, populated by the Yunan tribe. Lots to do there – cultural clothing, archery, horseback riding, shooting, and our favorite, man operated Ferris wheel (all activities require an extra fee).
We checked out the main Pai town next, where we attempted to ride a scooter, but had to settle for tandem bikes to get around. It was a quite town and wasn’t hard to get around. After biking our driver took us to a tree house place, but also throughout the town they have cute stops to take pictures by, like an all pink house. There’s also the Pai Memorial Bridge that has bamboo rafting nearby, and potentially elephant rides.
Mok Fa Waterfall was on our way back to our hotel – there was a little hike to get there. It was quite and didn’t have many tourists around, which was nice.
FRIDAY + SHABBOS
Elephant Retirement Park! The elephants seemed really happy and well cared for there, and we got to take care of the elephants there – bathing them, feeding them, playing in the mud with them. They take some pictures for you on their own, but they also offer professional shots for purchase. Bring a change of clothes, it gets pretty messy! They have lockers for your items as well. We went back to the spa before Shabbos 🙂 Friday night, the Chabad has two meals, an earlier one for families, and a later one for everyone else. It was about a half hour walk from our hotel – the food was great, and there were about 150 Shabbos guests. (Most of the food was also gluten free, for all of those who need that information like we did).
** The hotel room we had, had electric toilets, which we were kindav able to turn off. Our hotel lobby had manual toilets though, as did Chabad, so we made an effort to use those. The concierge also was able to open the doors for us, which we had left unlocked but had been re-locked by the time we got there.
Shabbos meal there started a little after 12, and there was only one meal option, with less people this time. Every Saturday there’s a special market in Chiang Mai, so we went Motzei Shabbos and it was really fun and packed. We also bumped into some new buds from our Chabad meals!
Thailand was such a great experience, and we hope more people go and check it out 🙂