Our last day in Chiang Mai we booked a private tour with Lanna Kingdom for the day. One of the best days ever and we loved the experience - definitely recommend if you ever travel here!
Interesting side note from our tour guide - Lanna Kingdom means millions of rice fields and back in the day, wealth/strength was measured by how many rice fields you owned - so millions means very strong in Northern Thailand. #thanksUkrit! Our tour guide was Ukrit and was awesome. He grew up in Thailand so he provided a unique perspective for us and was able to explain so many things. The day wouldn't have been the same without him.
So Ukrit picked us up for the day and we headed to a small temple in the jungle before the main event (Doi Suthep). This temple was Pa La Temple (Forest Temple) and was estimated to have been built in 1385. Legend has it, the white elephant carrying the Buddha relic stopped here to rest before ending at Doi Suthep. (Hence why a temple was built here). Our guide also used to be a monk for about 5 weeks and was able to educate us on Buddhism a bit. We learned there are three pillars of Buddha - happiness, knowledge, and awakeness. Also, there are three parts Buddha that you acknowledge (which is also why you bow three times when praying to Buddha) - Buddha himself, the scripture, and the monk. The greatest offering you can give is meditation. #gettineducatedwithUkrit
Next stop - Doi Suthep, this was built around 1368. According to legend, a monk named Sumanathera had a dream to look for a relic. He found a bone, which many claim is Buddha's shoulder bone. The relic displayed magical powers: it glowed, was able to vanish, could move and replicate itself. The relic broke in two and one piece was placed on the back of a white elephant which was released into the jungle. The elephant is said to have climbed up Doi Suthep (Sugar Elephant Mountain), stopped, trumpeted three times, and then dropped dead. This was interpreted as an omen and a temple was immediately ordered to be constructed at this site. #gettineducated #thankswikipedia #whiteelephantyousay?
We took the tram up to the top of the mountain and walked around the site #prettyimpressive We got to see great views of Chiang Mai and learn even more about the Buddhist culture. There are 7 Buddhas up here (all in different poses and meaning different things, each one for one day during the week) - you pray to the Buddha according to the day of the week you were born on. Also learned that there are 5 500 year time periods in the three ages of Buddhism. Buddhists believe in reincarnation and many pray to come back during the 5th period where they believe a new Buddha will appear and save them all. #interesting #gettineducated #thanksUkrit!
Also learned a unique thing about the temple roofs in Thailand. You can see that many of them have snakes/serpents on top. This is due to an old legend where a serpent was able to turn himself into a man but could not remain a man the full 24 hours. When the serpent was turned into a man, he wanted to be a monk. The monks soon learned that he was a serpent when they saw him turn one day and said only humans could be monks. The serpent was sad and said all he wanted to do was to serve Buddha. So they made an exception and told the serpent he could help guard the temple. This is why there are serpents on top of the temples and one of the questions asked of monks in training before they become a monk is "are you human and do not possess any special powers".
After the temples, we headed to the Elephant Poo Poo Park #youheardright #poopoo? We thought our guide was joking when he first said it but there really is a whole park where they make paper from animal poop (including lots of elephants). We learned about the process and then bought birthday cards for our parents made of poo poo #wholovesya?! #withkidslikethese...
After the poo poo park we grabbed a quick lunch at the botanical gardens while waiting for our turn to play with tigers. That's right - we got to play with tigers at Tiger Kingdom. We just did the medium tigers since the wait for the large tigers and baby tigers was over 2 hrs and we didn't have time. It was a crazy experience and I never thought I'd actually be able to pet and lay on these gigantic cats! Some people have said they must be drugged for you to be so close etc. I kept my eye out for this to see but we had one tiger stalk us and another played in the pool a majority of the time we were in there! So not sure how drugged they were if they were playing like a big cat.
Our tour guide also said tigers are way more active at night, which is why the park closes at 4:30/5pm. And one of the rules is to pet the tiger firmly and not get anywhere near it's head. Apparently people would be scared and pet them lightly and the tiger would think it was a fly or something on them and swat at the person (unknowingly) and scratch them. This was the worst injuries we heard about so as far as I know, no one has died or been bitten yet.... ANYWAYS an amazing experience and one I won't soon be forgetting!
After a crazy experience at Tiger Kingdom we got to go play with elephants at Thai Elephant Park. How lucky are we?! #canwepleasedothiseveryday We got there and got in our elephant garb #gorgeousclothes Then we learned instructions and commands for the elephants (how to sit, stand, turn, go, and stop). Fun sidenote: Two ladies from Sacramento were in our group! #smallworld We then got to meet our big new friends and feed them bananas so they would like us. #pleaselikeme #bananasfordays After some sloppy elephant banana eating we got to climb up on the elephants and ride them bareback! Such an amazing experience and something I can't even describe. My elephant was 'young' (10 years old) so it moved it's head around a lot - I thought I was going to fall off half the time which wasn't fun but still wouldn't trade this experience!
After our ride through the jungle, we rode our elephants into a big river where we got to bath them. The elephants would completely dunk themselves and go underwater and a few of the elephants sprayed us. We then ended up having a huge water fight with the elephants and even got big, wet elephant kisses from them #histrunkkissedhalfmyface Who ever thought we'd get to make out with an elephant?! #memories
I had a nice bonding experience with my elephant. When I was bathing and scrubbing it in the river we got to hang out. I was petting his face and I gave him a kiss on his forehead. We made eye contact and he would then lean his head so it would touch mine (just like ricky bobby!!! He's just a big dog then right?) I felt like we totally bonded and loved it. I was a little nervous about the ride back since he likes to move his head so damn much but on the way back to the camp after our bonding experience in the river, he didn't move his head as much. And when he did move his head, he would pin his ears on top of my legs so I wouldn't move around as much (helped secure me). Elephants ARE intelligent. I had a new found love for this guy on our way back after he did this and I didn't think I was going to fall every 15 seconds. And to top it off, at the end of the ride when we were saying goodbye he reached his trunk out to my hand and grabbed it!! It was like an elephant hug! #elephanthugsarethebest I need to go adopt this elephant now and him and Ricky bob can hang out and nuzzle heads.
After our amazing fun filled day - our driver dropped us off at the night market where we grabbed a quick bite from one of the many stalls. We had BBQ'd squid, shrimp, and fish (and didn't get sick :) ) Also, apparently the that day and the two days after were part of the their holiday called Loi Krathong. The main day was the day we were flying to Thailand, where they light a bunch of lanterns and set them off into the sky (see pic below) - so bummed we missed that!
But we participated where we could. Part of the festival involves lighting a floating candle offering and putting it on the water. Our guide informed us that you should pray to the god of water, thanking him for all the water you used that year. And to make it personal, you put a nail clipping, a piece of hair, and a Thai coin before you light it and set it off into the water. We did it Thai style, according to our guide, and put in the water surrounding the old city after dinner.
Last stop on our Thailand trip - Phuket!
Follow in our Footsteps:
Our awesome tour was with
Lanna Kingdom Tours
Our guide, Ukrit also does his own tours - Facebook page here
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep Road Srivijaya Suthep Mueang
Chiang Mai District Chiang Mai, Thailand
Price: 30 baht
Hours: 6am - 6pm
Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park
87 Moo. 10, T. Maeram, A. Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai 50180, Thailand
+66 53 299 565
Price: 100 baht
Hours: 9am - 5:30pm
51/1 Moo 7, Rim Tai, Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai 50180, Thailand
+66 53 860 704
Hours: 8am - 6pm
Thai Elephant Park
Bumrung Buri Night Market
Bumrung Buri Rd, Thesaban Nakhon Chiang Mai, Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
Hours: 7an - 6pm
Megan Bond - AUTHOR
Just a girl raised in California and loved exploring Southeast Asia with my husband! We're back in the States but still exploring the world as much as we can!