A holiday in Thailand is like exploring another world. The people are so friendly, the vibrant culture is exciting and the food is delicious - it's hard to describe how much my girlfriend and I enjoyed our two week getaway there. Chiang Mai and Bangkok were two of our favourite places, so here are my top tips for visiting those destinations.
Chiang Mai is a bustling northern city in Thailand which is surrounded by dense rainforest, and I was thoroughly entertained by its charm and welcoming atmosphere. I quickly learned that Chiang Mai is one of the most culturally interesting destinations, with a variety of activities available for any holidaymaker, from historical sights, exciting sports experiences, shopping and plenty of places to eat and drink on offer. I was immediately enthralled by the friendly locals, superb food markets, the plethora of amazing temples and beautiful landscapes. I loved this city and was constantly discovering new things to do.
One hazy morning as sunlight broke, my girlfriend and I jumped into our minivan to explore the jungle via zip line, with a local tour operator recommended to us by our hotel.
We drove for just over an hour scaling steep hills, passing bathing elephants, dramatic waterfalls and local farmers steering ox carts packed with vegetables and an assortment of colourful fruits, which was a great way of seeing 'real' Thailand and viewing all the beautiful countryside just outside the city. I even saw a moped with about four people on it too!
We arrived at the zip line ranch after taking a dirt road leading to what seemed like nowhere. We were both ready to discover what lay in the jungle's vast canopy and it was one of the activities I was most looking forward to. We got harnessed up and received our health and safety briefing, which took about half an hour, before moving onto the 60-metre high wooden platforms attached to long zip lines and abseils.
We were escorted round the course by the instructors, which meant we could spend more time enjoying the spectacular views rather than just concentrating on the safety aspects, which were taken care of by the friendly professional. If you want to see the jungle, I can't think of a better way to do so!
In total, we spent around three hours having fun in the tree tops and enjoying jungle life, before enjoying a well earned dinner break. As part of the excursion, we were treated to an all-inclusive Thai buffet, which was delicious. We ate chicken Pad Thai - a noodle based dish, similar to stir fry that I became addicted to after trying for the first time there.
We also had endless dishes of rice, Thai omelettes and various curries which all tasted amazing. I'd recommend trying the red Thai curry as opposed to the green Thai curry. It's still spicy and slightly sweet, but the colour comes from the red chillies used to create the paste, which made it much tastier. It's made using garlic infused chillies, lemongrass, shallots, ginger and fish paste and then topped up with coconut milk. You'll never taste anything like it - one of my personal favourite dishes now!
Even though we spent just three nights in Chiang Mai, we still managed to fit in so many other activities. We enjoyed an exhilarating 10km white water rafting experience, which was an amazing day. We also enjoyed walking around the numerous local food and night markets, where we tried lots of different food and bought a few treats and trinkets to take home with us.
After visiting this delightful city, I can now see why so many visitors extend the time they spend here and book to go again. With so much to do and see, I think it's safe to say it's a solid must-see and we will definitely visit again!
Top 5 things to do in Bankok
On our Thailand adventure, we also spent time in Bangkok. This is a city where the ancient, exotic and modern meet, making Bangkok a one-of-a-kind destination, and a city that really begs to be explored. There is so much to do in Bangkok I could write pages about all it has to offer, but I thought I'd keep it short and sweet.
Here are my top 5 things to do in Bangkok:
1. Khao San Road: With a bustling social scene, having lots of cool restaurants and bars, it is known as the place to go for backpackers. Filled with many shops and stalls selling clothes, handbags and souvenirs, it is also home to an abundance of street food vendors selling exotic appetisers, such as scorpions, maggots and spiders for the very brave to try.
2. Wat Pho: This is one of the most spectacular temples in Bangkok, where you'll find the giant Golden Buddha statue - one place that you really need to see if visiting this vibrant city. Based in the heart of Bangkok and situated just back from the Chao Phraya River, it is one of the most beautiful places in Bangkok.
3. Taling Chan Floating Market: This unique place is filled with friendly locals selling fish and flowers on boats on the canal. It is so interesting and nothing like I've ever seen before.
4. Patpong Night Market: One of the most exciting market experiences in Bangkok. It is open from around 7pm to 2am, where you can sample various street foods and buy lots of souvenirs. It is also where you'll find an abundance of fake designer clothing too if you're looking for a new wardrobe.
5. Wat Arun: This is another temple on the opposite side of the Chao Phraya River to Wat Pho. Its fabulous architectural wonders and religious allure makes this one of the most impressive temples we visited on our trip.
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