Today I am pleased to feature a guest post by writer and tech expert Dave Dean. Dave has been traveling the world for fifteen years, amassing an incredible amount of expertise along the way. He writes about travel technology at Too Many Adapters and the highs and lows of life as a long term traveler at What’s Dave Doing?
With seemingly every other travel blogger passing through – or staying in – Chiang Mai these days, finding lists of things to do in this large northern Thai city isn’t too difficult. Stories about trips through the temples or out to Tiger Kingdom abound. Photos of glorious food and incredible lantern releases tantalise the taste buds and spirit in turn.
But what about the other side of coin? Where is the list of things that you really should not do while you’re there? Who is telling that story?
Well, actually … me.
So here goes:
1. Don’t visit Mrs. Pa’s smoothie stand on your first night in town
Mrs. Pa has a smoothie stall that she sets up at the Chiang Mai Gate night market most afternoons. At first glance it looks much like any other street stand, with a couple of blenders and a range of different fruit piled high, until you spot the queue of people approximately 17 miles long waiting for their opportunity to pray at the altar of Pa.
Yes, the smoothies are that good, and for 20 baht (around 70c) it isn’t going too far to suggest that they may well be the best you have in your entire life. For that very reason, do not visit Mrs Pa on your first night in Chiang Mai.
If you do, you will not be able to order a smoothie anywhere else in the city for the entire time you are there. You will find yourself anxiously counting down the hours until 4pm when Mrs Pa’s smiling face reappears at Chiang Mai Gate. If you do happen to order somewhere else, you’ll find yourself downing a perfectly fine smoothie, turning to your companion and saying “well it was good, but…”.
Trust me, I know.
2. Don’t ride an elephant. No really, don’t.
Elephant’s backs aren’t built for humans to ride, and they often end up with foot injuries and permanent spinal damage as a result. Young elephants destined for tourism are abused, beaten and starved to crush their spirits. When not working, the animals are frequently chained up and under-fed, leading to severe psychological and physical problems. All this, so that tourists can spend lots of money to ride them round for a while. It doesn’t seem worth it, does it?
Head out to the Elephant Nature Park instead, a renowned rescue and conservation organisation near Chiang Mai. You’ll have all of the elephant interaction you could hope for – feeding, bathing and more – without any of the guilt.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Nahabedian, Canvas of Light Photography
3. Don’t go for a midnight swim in the moat. Or any other time, for that matter.
Chiang Mai is famous for the moat that encircles the old city. On those long hot days in the dry season, cooling off in that body of water might seem like a good idea. After half a dozen large bottles of the local beer, it might seem like a great one.
The thing is that the moat is deep. Like, several metres deep in parts. Back in the day it was meant to keep invading armies out, remember? Combine that with everything on the streets that gets washed into the moat when it rains and … well … it sounds like a recipe for a quick visit to the hospital at best. If you must do it, wait until Songkran in April when the moat is full (making it easy to get out) and possibly chlorinated.
None of that seems to stop the occasional scooter or car driver from checking it out right up close, mind you. One can only hope that’s by accident…
4.Don’t dress like you’re on Koh Phi Phi.
The dress code in northern Thailand is quite different to the islands in the south. T-shirts and shorts are fine (except in the temples and high-end bars). Flip-flops are still an expectation. Bikini tops, however? Not so much. While a guy wandering around shirt-less is tolerated on the streets and in the bars of Phi Phi, you’ll just look silly if you try the same thing in Chiang Mai.
The nearest beach is hundreds of kilometres away. Remembering that when figuring out what to wear in the morning probably wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Have you been to Chiang Mai? Is there anything you think that should be added to this list?