Guest Blogger: Grace O’ Donnell
Next stop on my trip was Chiang Mai, a city with a small town vibe, north of BKK, easily accessible from the capital by overnight train or bus. At Chiang Mai, you can go for a massage from female ex-prisoners, it was honestly the best massage I’ve ever had. I extended my massage from one to two hours, I was enjoying it so much. At the end of my massage, I struggled to leave because I had been relaxed into such a comatose state. The Chiang Mai Woman’s Prison has a programme teaching prisoners the skills of Thai massage. There are five massage centres in the city where prisoners and ex-prisoners can find meaningful employment. This improves livelihoods and empowers the poorest and most vulnerable people, so you can leave your massage feeling good in every sense of the word.
I stayed at Deejai Backpackers which wasn’t bad, good location and you could book lots of activities from there, plus they had a free pool. Through Deejai, I booked to go see Muay Thai boxing, which was wonderfully entertaining. The highlight for me had to be the blind round. It was a comedy round, there were four fighters, all blindfolded, and a referee who helped fighters to their feet after a fall and ensured they didn’t get too lost. It was particularly funny when the fighters started taking swings at the ref, he ended up on the floor more than once.
If you’re looking for some adventure you should visit the canyon. It’s man made and you can swim or, if you’re feeling brave, you can do a 15m jump into the water. It took me about half an hour to work up the courage to do so, but I’m so glad I did, it’s one of those exhilarating moments I’ll cherish when I’m old and grey, resting in my knocking chair.
As always, I was on the lookout for free stuff to do and there are several lovely temples to visit. Even better, we stumbled on an adult sized playground -on the opposite side of the road to the Maya shopping centre-. It was sooo much fun and we had it all to ourselves, a rare thing in Asia.
Before we left, I accidentally created a permanent mark of my visit. As we were walking along one of the streets I stepped in wet concrete. Though I feel a little bit guilty about it, I’m also quite delighted and intend on visiting it every time I return to Chiang Mai.
From Chiang Mai it’s only a hop, skip and stone throw’s away to Pai, or more accurately a very windy three hour bus ride (make sure you don’t have a dodgy belly for this journey). Pai is absolutely stunning, the number one thing to do here is to rent a motorbike and get lost, in the most beautiful scenery you’ll ever come across. Petrol is crazy cheap so don’t worry about fuel costs but haggle for your motorbike and make sure you get a helmet. Nearly everyone we met had a serious cut from a motorcycle accident. Locals drive like maniacs. I decided to learn how to drive a motorbike here, within my first 100m I almost crashed into a parked car whilst at the same time almost falling into a ditch. From then on my friend drove and I sat on the back, fortunately he drove like an old granny so my only injury was some bugs to the face.
The main route in Pai is a big circle so you shouldn’t really get lost. But don’t worry if you do, there are lots of friendly locals who will help you out. As you’re driving, you’ll without fail (remember the big circle route I was talking about) stumble across elephants from an elephant sanctuary, tied up on the edge of the road. It was such a delight to see them, but I had slightly conflicting emotions, I found it really sad to see such majestic creatures all tied up. As a side note, please please don’t visit any “tiger sanctuaries” while you’re in Asia. They treat the tigers awfully, keeping them drugged and in really barbaric conditions for monetary gain.
There’s lots more to explore in Pai like the enormous white Buddha atop a hill where you will espy spectacular landscapes. I didn’t make it to any of the other wonderful sights such as the waterfalls and naturally occurring water slides but some of the people from the hostel did and had an amazing time.
The South of Thailand gets a lot of love, so I wanted to give you an insight into some of the delights of Northern Thailand, check out my previous blog for an insight to Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai and Pai; if you’re in Thailand and it rhymes with Thai my bet is you’re in a great place!!
For more content by me, videos and photos and whatnot check out my website www.fallinggracefully.com