My favourite thing about the city though was just watching the busy daily life buzz around you, markets lining every street, the tiny cramped shops of china town, women selling flowers on the pavements, zipping up and down the river on water taxis and of course the continuous buzz of scooters and tuk tuks that I have come to associate with Asia!
After 4 days in Bangkok we caught the night train to Chiang Mai. We loved this city, both the city itself as well as the stunning surrounding area. The old walled city was beautiful and had a lovely small town feel about it, with great night markets and hundreds of temples. Mike won't forgive me if I don't mention breakfast world (the highlight of his holiday!) a breakfast restaurant set in a pretty little garden serving over 65 different breakfasts, we even got given cheesecake with our morning croissants and fruit, amazing but enough food for a whole day!
The second day we hired a scooter and drove up to the mountains into the Doi Suthep-Pui national park. The views of the city from the mountain were stunning and there were several waterfalls along the way that we stopped to hike around and even have a little waterfall shower! We continued on up the mountain to the hill tribe villages, where many different tribes live rural and traditional lives.
The next day we kept the scooter and visited a local lake where we could chill out on the lake in a tube, go for a swim and relax in the lake side huts. Although I did discover my vegetarian cucumber salad was full of tiny fish heads after I took a few huge mouthfuls!
We also got close up to some amazing animals whilst in Chiang Mai. We spent a day at a local elephant park learning the skills of an elephant handler, including feeding, cleaning and riding... It's much easier getting our puppy to sit than a few ton elephant!! Washing them was my favourite part of the day as the elephants seemed to love it just as much as us, and seemed to delight in spraying us with their trunks!
I also visited the baby tigers at tiger kingdom, which was amazing. I had done a lot of research trying to find a park where the animals are well treated, both with the elephant and tiger park. It was great to see how well the elephants were cared for and the relationships they had with their trainers. The baby tigers also seemed very happy and healthy, had an adequate amount of space and were very lively. They obviously were treated well by their keepers as they repeatedly went to the keepers for cuddles and fuss. Both parks claimed that the animals were all rescued from poachers and poor conditions, and that any babies born were kept as part of their breeding program or sold to zoos around the world for breeding. I really hope that this was the case, It does seem a little exploitative to allow people in to pet them, but without the tourists money they couldn't afford to feed them and keep them, so it's a bit of a catch 22. And I have to say I did enjoy the experience!
We spent a total of ten days in northern Thailand, with the plan of spending a similar amount of time in the south at the end of our trip before flying home. From Chiang Mai we traveled to Chang Khong to get a boat across the border to Laos.