Chiang Mai Activities
Deep in Northern Thailand, in the forests near the countries cultural capital of Chiang Mai, lies the infamous Tiger Kingdom. A place that splits opinion like no other on the Asian tourist trail and remains one of Chiang Mai’s biggest draws. Chiang Mai is the jewel in Thailand’s crown offering a multitude of temples, amazing jungles, hill tribes untouched by modern society, more adventure sports than you can shake a stick at and diverse animal sanctuaries. It’s the sanctuaries that cause the controversy as the treatment of animals such as elephants and tigers in certain locations is hotly debated.
Controversy is never far away from Tiger Kingdom, a place where the customer can get up close and personal with very docile tigers. Supporters claim it offers tigers a safe sanctuary which feeds and cares for them, they are docile and hence photo happy as they are well fed and cared for. The counter-argument made by detractors is that the tigers have been trained to be docile through beatings and would never naturally behave as they do. There are also accusations of tigers being chained for days, separated from mothers at a young age and kept in small cages by themselves in adulthood. The trainers carry bamboo sticks which are to ‘train’ the tigers. The fact that the temple has no release program and no program in place to ever make the tigers fit for release into the wild is proof for conservationists that the temple is only out for profit rather than the best interest of their animals. With the negative feedback surrounding Tiger Kingdom and rumours that the Thai government wants to shut it down, I’ll look at some of the many rewarding and environmentally sound alternatives that Chiang Mai offers.
Visit Patara Elephant Farm
Patara is famed as the model all Thai elephant sanctuaries should use, the well-being of these majestic creatures always comes first and spending a day with natures giants is an experience that you’ll never forget. Patara’s mission is for all it’s customers to learn about and interact with it’s elephants. You are trained to approach your elephant correctly, know the elephant's temperament, feed and check its health, learn about and take care of your own elephant, bathe and brush it in the river, learn how to ride on its neck, and communicate through different spoken commands. You will venture out to visit forests, waterfalls and local temples with your giant companion. All whilst safely in the knowledge that your elephant is properly cared for.
A morning with the monks
Thailand’s spiritual qualities and Buddhist traditions are showcased to fine effect within Chiang Mai’s many temples, and there is no better place to observe the traditional daily alms giving ceremony. After journeying to the exquisite Wat Doi Suthep high in the hills above Chiang Mai there’s time to uncover the 14th century Wat Umong before concluding a peaceful morning with a delicious bowl of Khao Soy, a northern Thai speciality curry.
Balloons over Chiang Mai
There’s no better way to see Chiang Mai’s breathtaking mountain scenery and the mythical golden triangle of Laos, Burma and Northern Thailand than from a hot air balloon. Trips leave at dawn to witness the sunrise over this mystical part of the country and you’ll enjoy panorama’s of the terraced rice paddies, the lush green Ping River valley and traditional villages which will take your breath away.
Explore the Mae Sa valley
Blessed with scenic natural beauty, the Mae Sa valley remains one of Chiang Mai’s best kept secrets. A trip to the valley offers picture postcard scenery as well as up-close encounters with elephants, meetings with the traditional Hmong hilltribes and relaxing walks amid lush gardens and stunning waterfalls.
Thai cooking class
Thailand offers some of the most diverse, fresh and unique food in the world and learning to take some of it’s great flavours home, from a professional chef, is a must do for any itinerary. Northern Thai food is less spicy than the fiery dishes served further south on the Andaman peninsula and specialises in sharing dishes which makes it a perfect place to explore Thai cuisine.