Recently, I planned a boys trip for my boyfriend and a friend visiting from NYC and I thought I’d share the itinerary with y’all!
Baanchang Elephant Park
The key highlight for their trip was to visit an elephant sanctuary. Have you been to one before? I had visited and ridden on elephants on previous trips to Thailand, but this time as I was planning, I learned a lot about the impact this has to elephants. After a lot of research, I settled on Baanchang Elephant Park. I strongly recommend this option: the park focuses on making it a learning experience for tourists and properly takes care of their elephants. They are strongly against training elephants to act in unnatural ways (dancing or painting) and only allow “bareback” riding as this is less damaging to the elephants.
The boys had a really fun trip at the Baanchang! The elephant park provides pick up and drop off service from your hotel and takes you about an hour out of Chiang Mai to the park. They went for the One Day Elephant Mahout Training course (8,900 baht for them to share an elephant; costlier if you want one elephant per person). The course provided an introduction to the elephants and the habitat, allowed them to feed the elephants, learn to ride bareback, a trek through the jungle, and to bathe the elephant. Matching mahout outfits are provided 🙂
This was undoubtedly their favorite part of Chiang Mai – it was such a different experience and an opportunity to learn about the elephants in a safe but natural environment. They wound up with the only male elephant at the camp (appropriately nicknamed Casanova) and had a fun time washing the Casanova.
A word of feedback from the guys: the elephants poop in the water as you’re bathing them so there was some concern about pinkeye 🙈
After all the elephant excitement, the boys spent the remainder of the trip visiting night markets and various temples.
Wat Chedi Luang & Wat Phan Tao
These two temples are right next to each other inside the walled old city center (where majority of the temples are located). Wat Phan Tao is one of the older temples, estimated to be built near the end of the 14th century.
Wat Chedi Luang grounds currently include three other temples: Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Ho Tham, and Wat Sukmin. According to ancient Lanna beliefs, the city pillar inside Wat Chedi Luang was erected at the epicentre of the city, to mark the center of the universe, which in the past was the Lanna Kingdom. The chedi was started in the 14th century but remained unfinished for 10 years; when it was finally completed, it was 82M high, making it the biggest building in the Lanna Kingdom.
Wat Phra Singh Temple
This temple is renown for its important Buddha statue, Phra Buddha Sihing. The arcitecture most resembles the Lanna style, native to northern Thailand. It’s an active temple and the monks are available for philosophical conversations.
Doi Suthep is a little outside of the city, but well worth the trip. It’s only about a 25 minute taxi ride from the center of the old city. It’s located inside a national park and the the peak of the park is almost 1700M tall, making it one of the top 10 highest mountains in Thailand. The temple, Wat Phra Thai Doi Suthep is considered one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Thailand and is a pilgrimage destination during Buddhist holidays. The site was built as a Buddhist monastery and currently maintains an active monastery. On the grounds, you’ll find the Bhubing Palace, which previously served as the Royal Residence and is occasionally used as a guest house for foreign dignitaries.
The boys had a really fun time on their trip and hope this helps any itinerary you may be planning for Chiang Mai!
They opted to stay inside the walls of the old city because they were less interested in the night markets (located right outside the old city) and wanted to be able to walk around to nearby temples. They enjoyed staying at U Chiang Mai. All the hotels inside the old city are smaller boutiques because the buildings cannot be any taller than the temples. Their hotel was capped at 4 floors. Your branded hotels will likely be located outside the old city walls.