To the north of Ching Mai is a maze of lush mountains, cascading waterfalls and interesting hill tribes.
The easiest way to visit the area is on a seemingly obligatory standard day (or overnight, if you have the time) trip.
I was picked up at 8.30am for my adventure into the Mae Taeng valley. And we spent the next hour driving guesthouse to guesthouse picking up the rest of the group for the day.
After we had everyone, we headed out of the busy city with the roads becoming quieter and quieter the further away we drove.
The first stop was a butterfly garden and orchid farm. Two things I love! This was obviously a very popular stop – you couldn’t move for people!! However, that didn’t stop it from being pretty.
Disappointingly I only saw about 4 butterflies, but there were orchids of every colour on display! I have been to much better butterfly gardens in the Philippines.
After a while longer driving, we stopped off for some scenic views – lovely hill views with farmed land cutting through the dense forests.
We also wandered around a village and got to play with their baby elephant and chickens!
A little further along was our elephant camp. Here, in the middle of the farm land (mostly peanuts and cabbage) was a small pretty stream and the home of the elephants. There were about 10 big adult elephants and one baby.
They obviously like to play – one of them spraying us with water if we got too close!
Time for some lunch. The elephant camp had cooked us some yellow curry and spring rolls. Really good! [Edit – I didn’t do enough research on elephant camps in Thailand. They are not ethical and I don’t advise going to the ones where elephants are ridden. I wish I had known this before I went]
Next up, walking through the surrounding scenery to a waterfall.
We passed through terraces of small peanut plants, then a hill of cabbage, past a couple of small villages and along some small roads.
We were walking in the heat of the midday sun, making it a lot harder work than it probably should have been!
The scenery was beautiful – all the hills in the background surrounding us. The waterfall was a bit disappointing, it was tiny. And to begin with, couldn’t get anywhere near due to all the tourists who beat us there to crowd on a small platform next to the pool.
Once they had all left, it was a bit more enjoyable. Seems like everyone is on the same itinerary for the day!
And finally, time for some bamboo rafting back down the river. With 12 people on our raft, it didn’t feel particularly stable, with the water lapping around the edges and slowly creeping further onto the raft!
But we made it down stream without sinking or tipping in! Along the way we spotted some elephants grazing along the river banks and a couple of other rafts of tourists doing the same as us!!
It was a long drive back to Chiang Mai, not getting back to the guesthouse until 7pm. What a long day. It was fun – we did a lot. The scenery made up a lot for the fact everything was a bit ‘touristy’.
For dinner, the leftovers of yesterday’s cooking class!