Northern Thailand is such an incredible land that deserves at least 2 weeks of exploration and I think even that won’t be enough for all of that beauty to be seen. As Thailand is such a big country and not only the islands deserve to be visited, but also the mainland which can offer so much! From exploring ancient temples, through hiking beautiful mountains, swimming in the pools of magical waterfalls and experience the real authentic Thai culture. It is so much different on the main land, the whole experience than on the islands. The people, the food even I think the culture is a bit different. It is just amazing! If you plan to visit Thailand and you have more than 1 week, please make sure to spend at least 5 days on the North.
Our trip after visiting Koh Chang and Koh Mak islands continued on the North of Thailand. We spent a very long day traveling from Koh Mak to Chiang Mai. First we took a speedboat from the island to the city of Trat on the main land, then cought the bus to Bangkok and finally made it to the airport where we took a flight to Chiang Mai. It was such a long day and in the end we were so tired, but very excited because of the adventures that we were going to experience in the next few days.
We really didn’t had much time to explore everything we wanted, so if you have even only 2-3 days time here’s what you can do and see. This is a short list of the activities we did in the North of Thailand for such a small amount of time. We had just 3 full days before leaving Chiang Mai so here’s the program we followed and the places we visited.
Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn, Lampang Thailand
On the first day after our late arrival in Chiang Mai we woke up early to visit a stunning temple in Lampang called “Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn”. This is an incredibly beautiful temple in Lampang which is on the top of the mountain and there’s some very special energy that me and my travelmate Mashi felt there. Actually that was her biggest desire to visit that magical place, she found it when she was doing the research for Thailand before we left and I’m so thankful to her, that she did, because that was a realy special one! I totally recommend visiting! It is not among the most popular spots to be seen in the country but for me this makes it so special!
Imagine being up on top of the mountain at 815 meters above sea level. There’s a sea of clouds that looks like a white blanket covers the entire valley. There are just a few pinnacles of the rocky mountain peeking through – and you’ll see a temple and more than 10 white stupas sitting on top of the pinnacle.
It’s not just the incredible location that makes Wat Chaloem Phra Kiat Phrachomklao Rachanusorn magical.The temple was built by the faith and determination of the community to pay homage to a sacred Buddhist relic at the highest peak of the mountain. Thais believes that anyone who reaches the top (by foot) where the sacred site is, will be blessed with luck and fortune.
Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai
The second day turned to be Valentine’s Day and we were about to celebrate it the best way ever! We headed to the South of Chiang Mai with a group of like minded people to visit an elephant sanctuary. I always check on elephants parks to make sure they don’t abuse the animals that’s why we already had a booking which we made before leaving to Thailand. I also strongly encourage you to never ride elephants and do your own research about parks you visit. We booked from this website and the sanctuary we visited is checked and sure they don’t abuse the animals, but take care of them and help them recover. The place we visited is part of the Elephant Nature Park organization based in Chang Mai. This is a place where elephants can recover in peace and live happily ever after. Here you can check the the program we did. You won’t find any elephant rides at Elephant Nature Park though. No circus tricks or elephant paintings either. This is because the elephants here have been rescued from such places.
So probably some of you don’t really know what I’m talking about, so here (*on my other post about the elephants in Thailand) you will find some more information about that.
Visiting this Elephant Sanctuary was one of the best things ever! Watching these gentle creatures interact with each other is a magical experience. We participated in so many fun elephant activities. We fed them fresh fruit out of the palm of our hands, watched them play in the mud, went on walks in the jungle with them, and at the end of our visit we got into the river to give them a bath! I’m stunned of how intelligent and social they really are. That was the perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day and we gave and received so much love from the elephants! This was the best day ever!
White Temple, Chiang Rai
On our third day in Northern Thailand we headed to Chiang Rai to see one of the most beautiful temples in the world (at least for me). That temple is better known as “The White Temple” but it’s actually called “Wat Rong Khun”.
Wat Rong Khun is a unique temple that stands out through the white color and the use of pieces of glass in the plaster, sparkling in the sun. The white color signifies the purity of the Buddha, while the glass symbolizes the Buddha’s wisdom and the Dhamma, the Buddhist teachings.
The main building at the white temple, the ubosot, is reached by crossing a bridge over a small lake which is called The bridge of “the cycle of rebirth”. In front of the bridge are hundreds of outreaching hands that symbolize unrestrained desire. The bridge proclaims that the way to happiness is by foregoing temptation, greed, and desire. Next to the lake stand two very elegant Kinnaree, half-human, half-bird creatures from Buddhist mythology.
After crossing the bridge, the visitor arrives at the “gate of heaven”, guarded by two creatures representing Death and Rahu, who decides the fate of the dead and in front of the ubosot are several meditative Buddha images.
The principal building, the ubosot is an all-white building with fragments of mirrored glass embedded in the building’s exterior. The ubosot embodies design elements from classic Thai architecture such as the three-tiered roof and abundant use of Naga serpents.”Inside the temple, the decor swiftly moves from pristine white to fiery and bewildering. Murals depict swirling orange flames and demon faces, interspersed with Western idols such as Michael Jackson, Neo from The Matrix, Freddy Krueger, T-800 series Terminator, Batman and even Pikacu! Images of nuclear warfare, terrorist attacks, and oil pumps hammer home the destructive impact that humans have had on earth. The presence of Harry Potter, Superman, and Hello Kitty confuses the message somewhat, but the overall moral is clear: people are wicked.” We were amazed!
There is also a golden building with a structure that stands out because of its color is the rest rooms building. Another very ornately decorated structure, this golden building represents the body, whereas the white ubosot represents the mind. The gold symbolizes how people focus on worldly desires and money. The white building represents the idea to make merit and to focus on the mind, instead of material things and possession.
This was truly the most stunning temple I’ve ever seen and I definitely recommend visiting! It was incredible! You can go to Chiang Rai from Chiang Mai with a bus or taxi for about 2-3 hours. We wasn’t prepared for buying tixets for the bus earlier and when we arrived the same day at the bus station the bus where already full, but luckily we managed to share a taxi with a couple from Chile, that we met on the station. We went back to Chiang Mai with the bus. All that in 1 day and we really enjoyed Chiang Rai’s White Temple, but if you can stay longer in the city, please do, because they’re so many other sightseeings you don’t want to miss. Find out more here.
Exploring Chiang Mai before leaving to the Airport
On our last day in Northern Thailand we had to catch the plain back to Bangkok late at night, so we decided to dedicate this day to exploring Chiang Mai and visit some temples.
Chiang Mai is a modern cultural city of Thailand. They’re so many freelancers living there and also the city is pretty much well developed. You can find modern coffee shops, plenty of restaurants, shopping streets and even Starbucks. Oh, my…
We decided to visit some temples, because Chiang Mai is full of temples, all of them really beautiful. We didn’t had time to research all of them and to visit all of them, so we decided to walk around and when we see a very beautiful temple that we feel we have to visit, just then to enter and spend time inside. As our time was really short that day and running really fast we went only to 1 or 2 temples all very beautiful.
We also found a “China Town” festival because of the Chinese New Year. And we enjoyed our time so much! I can recommend you to stay in Chiang Mai for more than 3 days and make sure to check the city, but 1 day is really enough to go around. Most of the activities you would like to do in Northern Thailand are out of Chiang Mai, but the city is a good start point for all of them.
Where To Stay in Chiang Mai
Unfortunately our time was really not enough to see and do everything we wanted in this gorgeous part of Thailand, but we will definitely come back some day and catch up on everything else! So I hope that blog gave you an idea and helped you a little bit about what you can do if you have only 3-4 days time and you really want to explore this sight of the country. I will definitely recommend staying at least for a week to have enough time to visit more places and explore the mountains, waterfalls and all that Thailand can offer you, but those are the highlights if you’re short on time! So leave me a comment with your recommendations bellow if you have any, let me know about other beautiful places that need to be seen in Northern Thailand, let me know if you have any questions – I will be happy to answer all of them!