For our last 6 days in Chiang Mai, we were joined by our son (Kyle), daughter-in-law (Candice), and grandson (Alex). They had spent the previous 2 weeks in Indonesia on their own, and then joined us for Christmas. We had such fun introducing them to street food and some of our favourite eateries, and then discovering many new ones together.
We all stayed together in a comfortable 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom 4th floor walk-up penthouse condo (AirBnB) near the north gate of the old city.
In a 95% Buddhist country, Christmas decorations in Chiang Mai are minimal (and probably mostly for tourists) except in the big modern shopping malls. Christmas in our AirBnB was equally minimalist. I purchased a string of red and white patio lights at the market before they arrived, and Candice brought Alex’s stocking and a magic Christmas tree.
Alex opened his stocking, we made eggs benedict for breakfast, had a nice relaxing day and then got picked up at 4:00 for our Christmas dinner Thai cooking class. All of us, including Alex, cooked our own selected dishes. Alex with a cleaver in his hand was a bit frightening, but Yam, our instructor, helped him lots and kept us all laughing with her teasing. We had loads of fun and finished the evening with a delicious meal.
Elephant Nature Park
December 26 (Boxing Day in Canada and Candice’s birthday everywhere) was our day with the elephants. Though there are many organizations that offer elephant visits, they vary in their treatment of the animals. Candice had done the research and selected what is possibly the most humane sanctuary where old and injured elephants come to spend their last years. The Elephant Nature Park houses 80 elephants with only a couple of young ones since their population is mostly beyond its baby-elephant-bearing years. We were able to feed these fascinating beasts (who can live to 100 years old), pat the sides of some of them when they were eating, and observe them as they roamed the land and played in the river.
And more family
Ken called his brother, Dave, who was visiting family in Spain, to wish him a Merry Christmas. During the call, we discovered that our niece, Dave’s daughter, was heading to Thailand from Kuala Lumpur where she was spending part of the holiday with her boyfriend’s parents. Dave promised to call her and find out where she was going to be, and only a few hours later (as we were arriving at our Christmas Day cooking class) we received a call from niece Carmen letting us know they had just arrived in, of all places, Chiang Mai. We managed to arrange a visit with Carmen and Quentin for dinner after we all had spent a day with elephants (they also went to an elephant sanctuary that day). We hadn’t seen Carmen, who lives in Spain and is going to university there, for 3 years. What a happy surprise!
Our last full day in Chiang Mai was an Alex, Mimi, and Grandpa day so Kyle and Candice could go for a hike and take a bit of time for themselves. We had several kid-friendly options to choose from and, with Alex’s input, chose our two activities for the day.
Elephant PooPooPaper Park
Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park (which elicited giggles and scrunched-face ewwws every time I said it) offers a demonstration of the paper-making process right from the poo balls (which we had seen many of the day before) to the finished product. A guide takes everyone through the stages of cleaning and dying and then has us all make a sheet of paper. Since the paper needs a day to dry, we don’t get to take our handiwork home, but the tour ends at a craft area where you can select from a number of pre-made paper items like bookmarks, boxes, and wallets (additional charge) and decorate them with multicolored pre-cut bits of poo paper.
We didn’t bother with the craft, but everyone enjoyed the visit to the jungle-like park.
Art in Paradise
Our next kid’s day stop was to the museum/gallery called Art in Paradise just outside the southeast corner of Chiang Mai’s old city. I wasn’t sure how much Alex would enjoy this experience, but the reviews from families suggested that it could be a lot of fun. It was. Alex ran from one display to the other, posing for photos and occasionally taking one of us. Partway through we downloaded the app and that added another layer of fun as we watched augmented reality on some of the installations and even took videos that included the animations.
- Cooking class: Candice’s research found us Siam Rice Thai Cookery School. 800 baht ($32 CAD) per person.
- Elephant Nature Park: We chose the single day visit, which included pick-up from Chiang Mai and the hour-long drive to the sanctuary, lunch, and the day at the park. 2,500 baht ($100 CAD) for adults, 50% off for kids 2-11.
- Elephant PooPooPaper Park: About 30 minutes outside of town, we called a Grab car. Citing lack of business in that area, our driver waited for us, and then drove us to our next stop for no additional charge. Entry to the park is 100 baht ($4 CAD) for everyone over 4 years old.
- Art in Paradise: Their website isn’t very useful, but you can find more about it in blog posts. Entry is about 290 baht ($12 CAD) for adults, 150 ($6 CAD) for kids.