CHIANG MAI: BEYOND THE CITY WALLS

Something I really love about Chiang Mai, is all the beauty that surrounds the city. Northern Thailand is covered in rolling hills and sweeping mountains, dense with lush green forests. It is truly breathtaking.

On our second day there, Eric and I rented a motorbike and went up to Wat Phra Dat on the top of Doi Suthep, a mountain a few miles outside of the city. On our way up, we stopped at Wat Pha Lat, a whimsical temple built into the forest that is nothing short of magical. It was built to be a resting spot for people traveling up to Doi Suthep and is still a functioning monastery. It honestly felt like a little slice of heaven on Earth.  I can’t describe the feeling I had walking through that sacred forest surrounded by towering trees, a quaint little waterfall, butterflies fluttering around everywhere, mythically enchanting stone statues and an epic view of the mountains and city.

I sat down on this rock in the midst of all that beauty and just breathed it in. It was so serene it was surreal. I knew that in that moment, I was exactly where I was supposed to be. It felt so right – I felt completely at peace as I looked out over the beauty of this hidden oasis. I couldn’t help but wonder if I was dreaming. To be honest it felt as though I had been there before in a dream at some point.

I’ve never been much a fan of big churches or temples or your typical religious landmarks – they don’t really speak to me. It seems counter-intuitive, worshipping  your creator in an opulent manmade structure. But this temple built right into the depths of God’s beautiful creations, well this spoke to me – it really spoke to me.

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We reached the top of the mountain, only to find that we needed climb up about a bazillion stairs to the temple. My legs went numb halfway through, but man was the view at the top worth it. The huge gold temple against the crystal blue sky looked insane. And the view of the surrounding area and city was breathtaking and humbling.

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Our fourth day was dedicated to Bua Tong Waterfalls aka “sticky waterfalls”. It was about an hour and a half ride outside the city – a very gorgeous ride though for the most part. Not only were the waterfalls a stunning sight, but due to mineral deposits on the rocks, they weren’t slippery like most waterfalls. They were grippy, allowing you to climb up and down as the water cascading over them. I couldn’t get over how these were just a part of nature – they seemed fake.

To say I enjoyed myself is an understatement. I was having way too much fun. I felt like a little kid. I was legit giddy and laughing the whole time, as I ran up and down the waterfalls. It was an exhilarating and renewing experience.

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My last day in Chiang Mai was spent at the Elephant Nature Park. This park is dedicated to rescuing abused elephants, helping to rehabilitate them and providing a safe and enjoyable home for them. On our way up, we were shown a video on the dark side of the majority of the elephant tourism industry. It was very sad and disturbing. Elephants are beautiful, gentle and very emotionally intelligent animals. In order for them to perform in circuses and give elephant rides they endure some pretty f’ed up stuff. I’ll admit riding an elephant did appeal to me before I saw this video – but it’s definitely not worth that kind of abuse.

I had a great day feeding, bathing and interacting with the elephants on this absolutely stunning 300 acre sanctuary. They are very endearing creatures. I am not the biggest animal person, but these these gentle giants charmed their way right into my heart.

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