The Sky Kingdom
It doesn’t take long to fall in love with Thailand, for me it took five days. Thailand possesses incredible landscapes, an easily immersive culture, lovely people, and truly some of the most delicious food. After months of strenuous deadlines, long work days and some post-elections blues, our trip to Chiang Mai was the exact remedy Nicole and I needed. Possessing cascading green mountains, gorgeous sunsets, and festivals that fill the sky with thousands of star-like lanterns, Thailand has a truly incredible way of making you look up, deeming it to me the Sky Kingdom. I discovered a lot while we were there, so here are my top seven tips if Thailand is now of your next upcoming destinations.
1. Make Sure to Shop
Chiang Mai is home to some of the most amazing markets, the best of which occur on the weekends. The marketsseem to go on forever. Every corner filled lively music, tasty smells, hand-dyed textiles, clothes, leather goods, intricate jewelry, all of which is available at an amazing price.
2. Go During the Off-Season
One of the biggest factors that contributed to our amazing trip was when we went. In November Chiang Mai is significantly cooler and much less crowded. It was great to walk the streets and really be able to observe the local culture.
3. Try Everything
The street food in Thailand is absolutely….fantastic. Everything is delicious from the blood orange Thai Tea, mango sticky rice, assortment of curries, coconut ice served in a fresh cut coconut, pad thai, banana spring rolls to endless assortments of coffee. I did not try one thing that didn’t leave me my mouth watering and my stomach asking for more. So please TRY EVERYTHING!
4. Hike the Sky Forest
The Sky Forest in Doi Inthanon National Park is absolutely breathtaking and home to the King and Queen’s pagoda. Here one can view the panorama of cloud covered mountains while sipping hot, orange thai tea alongside monks dressed in a color of a similar fashion. From there you can trek deep into the cloud forest, lined with flowing rivers, waterfalls, and lace-like forest canopies. When reaching the summit, it is home to a spectacular temporal view. Due to the extreme height of the mountain, accompanied with Thailand being so far below sea level, the clouds of the sky lay parallel to this mountains summit. Every five minutes or so, the landscape dramatically alters. One moment your in the midst of a sea of clouds, and the next a range of mountains cascade before you for miles.
5. Volunteer with the Elephants
Just do it. Elephant parks are available all over Thailand, however it is essential that you do your research on the most ethical place to visit. After a somewhat long but nevertheless beautiful ride, you can spend the entire day with these enormous, gentle creatures. Elephants have an incredible presence, they are so silent, yet when you look into their eyes, they tell you so much. Few beings have this sort of power. At this specific sanctuary, our day included feeding and bathing the elephants. After giving the elephants a disgustingly fun “pre-mud” bath, you descend into the flowing river so that all participants clean off. Yet, as the elephants roll happily in the river, and spray water playfully at everyone nearby, it seems that the elephants have more fun and humor about bathing than most of the humans. It’s truly magical.
6. You MUST go to the Lantern Festival
This was by far one of the most spectacular experiences of my life. Due to Thai King’s recent death, many, including Nicole and I, thought the festivalwas canceled. However, after some questioning of the locals and a three hour excursion to the airport in order to extended our tickets, we found ourselves in the back of a truck, on the way to the festival. After arriving and discovering tickets for the festival needed to be booked months in advance, we joined the rest of the misinformed in a small clearing adjacent to the festival. What at first was extremely disappointing, became a huge blessing in disguise. A huge congregation began to gather outside the festival and together all of us began our celebration. Friends, family, strangers gathered in lighting these great orbs of hope. Some wished for unity, others healing of loved ones, while some wished for vision and purpose in their lives. With every ascending lantern came a harmonious “Ohhhh…ahhhh” from the crowd, which almost always ended with immense amounts of smiles and hugs from strangers. But the best was yet to come. As 8 o’clock hit, the lanterns from inside the festival were let out into the sky. Thousands upon thousands of lanterns danced across the full-moon and took their place among the stars. From the distance at which we stood, the view was absolutely breathing-taking. The unity and joy I felt from the beloved misfit congregation was only multiplied when the rest of the festival joined in the unifying celebration.
7. Put Thailand on Your Travel Bucket List
You will not regret exploring and adventuring through the amazing Sky Kingdom