Every Christmas, my family has a special tradition that requires us to travel somewhere new. This year, our custom lead us on a journey to Thailand.
Thailand has an extremely rich and diverse culture with many mysterious complexities. My family and I were intrigued by the cultural background nestled deep within the rural city of Chiang Mai and decided to start our trip from “The Rose of the North”.
On our first day we visited the temple of Wat Doi Suthep, one of my favourite locations from the whole trip. Although it was breathtaking just to walk around and explore the gold temple, what rendered my experience complete was getting to know the religious rituals and traditions from the Thai people.
The Thai place a large significance on spiritualism and most practice Buddhism. I found it incredibly inspiring how religion has become integrated in their daily life. It is custom to attend the temple daily to pray. I also discovered that many young Thai boys leave their homes to spend a year as a monk , meditatating and practicing Buddhism. It was very common to see them around wearing an orange robe.
We had hired a guide before our arrival but we found it very easy to move around the city because Thai people are so open and friendly towards foreigners. In Chaing Mai their public transportation consists of a red pick-up truck system (known as songthaews), which will take you to the other side of the city to the famous night markets for no more than 5 baths!
For the most part we tried to stay away from the touristy attractions. However, the elephant ride is one of those Thai experiences that you simply cannot miss. Around the area of Chaing Mai there are thousands of elephant parks to choose from but we made our final decision on the Maetaeng park and clinic, which included a visit to the Mae Hong Son tribe (tall neck women!).
The small village of the giraffe women is made up of a singular “high street”, which reflects the simple lifestyle of these ancient tribe. Here they make a living by selling hand-crafted souvenirs and beautiful wood carvings.
From Chaing Mai we headed south to the vibrant city of Bangkok. This city has grown into a massive metropolis with an overwhelming skyline.
One of its oldest heritage sites, the Chao Phraya river, traverses the whole city and has grown throughout the years. If you explore the riverside in a river taxi you will be able to summerge yourself in the hidden food markets for the locals – away from the masses of tourists. This allows you to truly experience the beauty of the city and its people.
When it comes to food – ask the locals for the places that they go to, don’t get tricked by the tourist restaurants that are put up for show! Do not hesitate to eat from the street either, it’s the perfect way to socialize and try the real traditional cuisine.
If you want to get away from the crowded city for a day, do not miss the opportunity to go to the floating markets. The early rise will be worth it by getting the chance to explore the channels that make up the marketplace over the water. What impressed me the most was that this floating village is only accessible through the narrow water passages. This gave a private look into how a portion of the Thai population lives.
Our next and last stop was Ayutthaya – the former capital of Thailand for 417 years . This location was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site and, in my opinion, truly lives up to its reputation. The atonishing architucture of this as well as the tangible culture of this site was impressive. I could have spent the whole day walking through the old village soaking up the history of the ruins!