Once a hidden spot, the Grand Canyon’s popularity is rapidly increasing between travellers and adventure seekers. Getting there might bit difficult if like us, you’re not comfortable riding a scooter without any prior experience or training – I’ve heard enough horror stories to put me off. Fortunately, we hired out a taxi/driver for the day from our hostel and split the cost (600 THB) between nine girls who we skilfully persuaded, heh. Once getting there, you’ll find it’s split into two areas where you pay an entrance fee of 50 THB per park. The second area driving in is the most popular, since this is where you are allowed to cliff jump. But with the lure of having the whole beach to ourselves, we made camp in the first section, intending to move on later in the day. As someone who’s not a terribly strong swimmer, it was terrifying first going into the water. Where the shoreline met the water, there was a small section of shallow water before suddenly dropping into watery darkness. Guess I now understood how people can be afraid of water. Along with this, the natural buoyancy of sea water was gone but the water itself was clean and refreshing enough that this was soon forgotten. Rafts, paddle boats and rubber rings were provided free of charge, which definitely helped in overcoming the initial terror and getting further out into the huge expanse of water! It was amazing having the whole area to ourselves (most people opted for the second spot) and just as we were getting ready to relocate, one of the girls got into a disagreement with the driver and we had to quickly collect our belongings or risk being stranded in the middle of nowhere. I’d like to imagine I would have taken the jump off a lower level, but probably would have been too scared so leaving early may have been for the best anyways.
Toilets are nearby, with a restaurant and bar in the second area, although I’m not too sure on the prices. If you’d like to get there on your own, this blog seems to have some great directions. Alternatively, make like us and ask your hostel/hotel to help you hire out a car and driver -invite more people to lower the costs and make new friends, win-win! As one of my favourite days in Chiang Mai, the Grand Canyon is spectacular in real life, making for a great place to get the adrenaline pumping and relax afterwards. Just don’t irritate the driver.
fooding around in Chiang mai
When the lady at the hostel recommended that we visit some markets, I had in my mind bustling little flea markets, full of second hand goods. What we got instead was a vibrant cluster of stalls sprawling miles down the street, packed with food, clothes and souvenirs. Seriously, I think Chiang Mai spoiled us for the rest of the trip around Thailand, nothing will ever live up to that glorious first week there. We first visited the Night Bazaar and its nearby streets, I thought they were ok, a lot of tourist memorabilia, the typical t-shirts, pants, bracelets, etc. The Saturday market served as a great introduction to what was to come on Sunday, tip: if you see something you like, it’s probably best to buy it there, unless you want to trek all the way back (if you can find it) to that one stall. I found that there was little repetition between the stalls and quite a lot of handmade products, which was pretty cool to see! Plus, prices were fairly cheap, so no need to bargain hard to get a sweet deal, yay.
For things to do during the day, we booked a Thai cooking class – another thing I would have never thought of doing on holiday. The school was located 13km outside of the city, but a really idyllic place nonetheless! We visited Thailand at an awkward time, caught in the middle of dry and monsoon season, thus the vegetation around the cooking site looked a little sparse and dry. Still lovely however! Cooking Thai food prior to this class usually meant using a pre-made paste of some sort. I was quite amazed by the simplicity of the dishes, who ever thought that making Tom Yum soup can be achieved through just a few ingredients! Also, I finally learned how to make my favourite dish – stir fried morning glory and discovered a new favourite – coconut chicken soup, oh yes. Already looking forward to adding these dishes into my university cooking repertoire!
and the beginning of an epic love story
Our two-week adventure began in Chiang Mai and admittedly, not knowing too much about Thailand, I was sceptical of what exactly there was to do. Luckily my friend insisted that we spend a week there and by the end it became one of my most favourite places I’ve visited.
After checking into the hostel, our first priority was to find food! Across the road were a few street stalls/restaurants and despite the questionable nature of the ingredients that were on display, as well as the issue of hygiene we settled on a place and gingerly sat down. Surprised at how cheap everything was, we ended up ordering three dishes to share (my proclamations of hunger were alas, dismissed) and although the food was good, the portions were TINY. Cue an ‘I told you so’ and a move onto the next food vendor! Learning from our experiences minutes ago, we were not to be fooled and ordered the large dish, which isn’t anything in western sizes, but enough to satisfy our hunger. We topped off on fruit, which was another thing we found to be amazingly cheap! Our diets in Thailand were probably at its healthiest, easily meeting the five-a-day quota.
Living in Hong Kong for nearly a year, you’d think our bodies would have acclimatised to the high temperatures. But touring the many temples of Chiang Mai the next day, we were soon forced to seek sweet air-conditioned refuge in the nearest 7/11. As we continued to explore the city, was continually surprised by how cheap everything was. Wandering around the night markets, it was tempting not to buy everything in sight and for the sake of my hand luggage, most of my money ended up on food and watermelon smoothies. One thing that I did allow myself to buy (out of necessity might I add) are the typical backpacker trousers. You know the ones. Anyways, this came in handy on numerous occasions visiting temples, wherein you could whip out these printed pants and become temple appropriate in a matter of seconds. Although we didn’t make all the temples, these ones should be on your main list fo’ sho’:
- Wat Chedi Luang – a refreshing difference from all the lavishly decorated and embellished Thai temples. Built in the 14th century and once hit by an earthquake, it was reconstructed and now stands magnificently in the centre of Chiang Mai. Its pink hue makes its one of my favourites from the city, heh.
- Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – located on top of a mountain, this temple is stunning, not least because of the sun reflecting off all the gold paint it’s covered in. One parting tip is to pay for a single journey to the top, rather than a return (using the red buses/taxis). This ensures you more time to spend up there, rather than the measly hour and a half we got given. There are plenty of red taxis about, so would be pretty easy to make your way back down.
- Wat Sri Suphan – we had attempted to visit this on our first temple tour of Chiang Mai, but did not have the appropriate clothing. This must have been fate, since we came back later in the day, drawn in by the night market around the area and marvelled at the temple in its true glory. Lit up by the lights amidst the darkness of evening, made the temple even more beautiful to look at. And the (slightly) cooler temperature was a bonus too.
Really wished we had perhaps planned things better or even stayed longer to explore the temples outside of the old town. We had wanted to visit Doi Inthanon National Park, but hadn’t allocated enough time to do so. Just another excuse to return!
damn KT, back at it again with the travel vids
It was travelling in Thailand where I got a bit overwhelmed with technology. It’s difficult to film, photograph, snapchat, instagram etc. everything while enjoying the moment~ (true, however cheesy). But I had already become fixated with this particular song and after hours scouring the internet for the perfect audio accompaniment to my last travel video, I could not let this rare opportunity simply pass by! Already having visions of the shots I would take etc., I excitedly boarded the plane to Thailand. This is the result of a wonderful two weeks.