Early last year we were enjoying the amazing northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai, and had just returned from an awesome day trip from Chiang Mai to some of the surrounding countryside attractions. The photos from our tour recently popped up in my Google Photos “rediscover this day” so I figured it was a great time to share some of them.
A Day Trip from Chiang Mai
We lived in Chiang Mai for about a month last year. During our stay we found a bunch of great kids activities, took a Thai cooking class, did way too much shopping at the night markets (Kat may disagree), learned about Buddhism at a silent retreat and many spectacular temples, and even visited an elephant rescue center.
One day that still stands out for us though is our day trip from Chiang Mai to attractions in the surrounding countryside. These types of tours are very popular and almost any tuk tuk or red truck (songthaew) driver offers them, as well as various tourism offices, hotels, hostels, etc.
We weren’t totally happy with any of the standard tour packages though, as they each hit some of the spots we wanted to see but not all. So we solved that problem by hiring a whole red truck for the whole day.
We were traveling with Nana and Papa at that point so it made even more sense to get the whole truck. We could spread out in the back, the cost wasn’t that much different from renting a car (and I wouldn’t have to drive in crazy Chiang Mai traffic), and we could completely set the agenda. Plus being able to jump off at each location and not spend the time trying to find a parking spot also saved us a lot of time during the busy day.
I realized halfway through this post that I actually already wrote about these activities in our post about Kids Activities in Chiang Mai. But I included a bunch more photos here, so I went ahead with posting it anyway. I’ll write about Cambodia or Vietnam or someplace new next time!
Wat Doi Suthep
We started at Wat Doi Suthep, a spectacular glistening temple overlooking Chiang Mai. The road up to the temple is really windy. Pack the Dramamine if you get motion sick, especially if you’ll be in the back of a pickup truck with limited visibility like we were!
The temple is worth it though. You can climb a tall set of stairs (intended as a meditative exercise) or take a funicular car to the top once you reach the parking area.
Glistening gold in the sun, and surrounding by other photogenic statues and shrines, there’s plenty to take in.
The second stop on our day trip from Chiang Mai was the Bhubing Palace, which is actually more of a garden than a palace. Apparently there’s something of a palace somewhere on the grounds, but the draw really is the beautiful landscaping and flowers. Aurora especially liked this place and ran around with my iPhone snapping photos nonstop, lost in photographic glee.
Siam Insect Zoo
After Bhubing Palace we made our way to the Siam Insect Zoo. Here you can hold all kinds of insects and learn about their cool characteristics that help them survive. We got to hold onto a giant scorpion (that got our hearts racing) as well as stick bugs, and a variety of lizards.
Mae Sa Waterfalls
After a day of bouncing around in the back of a hot pickup truck, we completed our day trip from Chiang Mai and cooled off at the Mae Sa waterfalls. From the parking area it’s a short walk to a small but very pretty waterfall (there’s actually a series of them) and swimming hole. The water starts shallow and calm, so it’s great for kids.
After our long day of touring Kat and I took full advantage of having Papa and Nana visiting. We had the songthaew drop us off at the mall and we had a great date night of Korean barbeque dinner (where you grill the food at the table) and a movie (50 Shades of Gray – which was clearly toned down somewhat by Thai censors).
We also found a well stocked grocery store in the basement of the mall – full of western delicacies like bagels! and Pepperidge Farm cookies! and red wine!!
Overall our day trip from Chiang Mai was an action-packed memorable experience. Of the weeks we spent in Chiang Mai it’s one experience that still stands out clearly.
Even if you’re only visiting for a short time, take the opportunity to explore out of the city. Don’t be afraid to set your own itinerary too, we were very happy we did!
All told it cost us about 2,000 baht ($62) for the songthaew and driver for the whole day. Bhubing Palace was 100 baht ($3), the Siam Insect Zoo was 400 baht ($12), and Mae Sa 430 baht ($13) – all prices for the 4 of us. We visited in February 2015, so prices may be a bit different today.