Chiang Mai is a land of misty mountains and colourful hill tribes, a playground for seasoned travellers, a paradise for shoppers and a delight for adventurers. Here the curious can expand their horizons with Thai massage and cooking courses. The aesthete will be bowled over by the variety of handicrafts. The wild child will find plenty of lively nightlife, and the epicure can indulge in wonderful cuisine. Chiang Mai truly has it all. Located 700km (435 miles) north of Bangkok in a verdant valley on the banks of the Ping River, Chiang Mai was founded in 1296 as the capital of the ancient Lanna Kingdom. Today it is a place where past and the present seamlessly merge with modern buildings standing side by side with venerable temples.
Mae Sa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai
Having secured their names in the Guinness World Record, the elephants at the Mae Sa Elephant Camp are no ordinary beasts. Apart from going about their daily routine of bathing, eating, sleeping and just being domesticated elephants, these extremely intelligent animals have been trained to paint, play football, dance and perform a string of talent shows that will change the way you think about Thai elephants. Mae Sa Elephant Camp has been around since 1976, as a conservation centre for domesticated elephants acquired from across the country. Once employed in the logging industry, these elephants found themselves ‘out of jobs’ once heavy machines were brought in to replace them and, as a result, ended up roaming the streets with their mahouts to beg for food. At Mae Sa Elephant Camp, these elephants again found their self-worth, whether as artists, entertainers, or just elephants. Here, you will witness their incredible talents as well as learn about their livelihood as domesticated elephants.
Once again, the weather is fabulous, so you head out nice and early to get to the Elephant Nature Park. Once you arrive, you’ll get a chance to see these majestic animals up close and personal. While it’s called a park, you’ll soon discover that it is actually a sanctuary, as all of the elephants are rescue animals. At the park, you’ll get a chance to both feed and bathe these gentle creatures. And the price of admission includes lunch.After returning to town, you decide to visit the Chiang Mai Arts and Cultural Centre. Inside, you’ll get a full education about local culture and Thai traditions, learning about the rich history of Chiang Mai and the ancient kingdoms of northern Thailand.Even though you’ve been having fun, all the excitement has worn you out a bit. Luckily, you’re in the right place for an excellent massage. A local has told you that the best place to go is the Women’s Correctional Institution, where prisoners have been trained as masseuses. Not only will they work out all the kinks in your body, but the fee goes towards helping the women prepare for a future on the outside.In the evening, you decide to take advantage of the five-star restaurant in your hotel, where you enjoy some of the finest cuisine in all of Chiang Mai. Then you head up to the rooftop bar to savour a fine cocktail or two as the sun sets over the city.