Across the border from Burma’s Shan State, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai Provinces in northern Thailand are similarly mountainous, wild, green, beautiful, and populated with lots of friendly people. Yet, the major difference is that Thailand has a well established tourist infrastructure, with every amenity you can think available. We rented a little compact Toyota for the whole month, so we had more freedom. We basically made a circle, through two provinces I visited in ’97 but barely remember. Like most SE Asian countries, Thailand has seen vast development in the previous 20 years, so most of the city of Chiang Mai, the surrounding suburbs, and highway system I did not recognize. Plus, visiting with kids in mind made the experience totally different. We stayed at family-oriented, mostly European run guesthouses that were all delightful. We interacted with so many animals from the zoos to the villages, met some who represent the last remaining tribal people of the region, visited two orphanages, got sprayed by waterfalls, rode elephants and a bamboo raft, clamored through caves with Buddhas and bats, fed monkeys, fed fish, fed goats, swam in a lot of very cold pools, and warmed up in two hot springs. With a month in the region, we really experienced the best of Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai, which is probably as a whole one of the most rewarding places in the world for kid friendly adventure coupled with ease and comfort.
The Animals: From puppies in an Aka village to giraffes at the Chiang Mai Zoo, the kids got their fill of creature contact. Mathilda in particular has loved the animals so much, especially the cats, that I think we will need to get one when we get back.
Tune in next time for more on our one month in Northen Thailand, lots of Buddhas and lots of fun.