Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A week in Chiang Mai with kids

I had no idea when I booked us in for a week in Chiang Mai that we would enjoy our time in this city so much. There is a lot on offer to entertain families with young children, and I highly recommend it as a great place to give your children a taste of Asia.
Xavier at Wat Doi Sutep.

Before we came I sought out suggestions online from families who had spent some time here and came across two interesting blogs that I've been following for a while now: Worldschool Adventures and The Dropout Diaries. Between them, they've documented many excellent activities to do with kids, and planning our week was as simple as making a list of the ideas that appealed to me and working through them!

In the interest of sharing ideas I'll write up the highlights of our week - many of which are inspired by the writers above, and some other ideas that might be useful to short-term visitors to the city.

Accomodation: We have stayed at Lanna Boutique Village, a relaxed, comfortable and family friendly resort about 20 mins outside Chiang Mai. I chose this place based on the very favourable reviews it had received on Trip Advisor, and it seemed to offer a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city. We have had a lovely stay here - the Canadian owners have been helpful and friendly, the 2 bedroom villas are spacious and immaculate, the breakfasts are filling, tasty and fresh, and the grounds are perfect for children to run around in - and play with the hoops/balls/frisbees provided. The only downside is the distance from the city and the complete lack of any food outlets nearby or other drawcard to this area. At first this seemed difficult, but we've used a taxi service that has comfortable cars to drive us where we need to go and can be called to arrange pick up wherever we end up in the evening. The cost per trip is about $8 - $10 so fairly small and the good value of the accomodation makes up for it. All in all, we have been more than happy with our choice.

At night time, the trees are lit up with lights, and little laterns add ambience.

Highlights: The Elephant Nature Park that I wrote about in my previous blog post is the absolute highlight of the week (and potentially the whole three weeks in Thailand!). 

Up close with the elephants at Elephant Nature Park.

Exploring Wat Doi Sutep and a small number of the 300+ temples in central Chiang Mai has been very special - we haven't had a guide book, but have just wandered and found what was around the next corner.

Bob and Remy at Wat Doi Sutep.

Ringing bells at Wat Pan-On.

Wat Phant Ao

Chiang Mai Zoo was a nice way to spend half a day. It was a vast area to cover and getting around with a stroller at times was difficult as there are many stairs and steep paths. In the end we took the bus to complete the circuit and we probably should have done this from the start. All in all, they have an interesting collection of animals from around the world, including a number of species that I'd never heard of or seen before.

Flamingoes close enough to touch!

Our day at Sammy's Organic Cooking School was also very memorable and is highly recommended (see below).

Food: Food is one of the greatest highlights of travelling for me - I love to try new foods and get inspiration for my own cooking. We have eaten great meals at Pun Pun restaurant in the grounds of Wat Suan Dok and lots of delicious street snacks at the Sunday Walking Market.
Rozelle Tea at Pun Pun cafe.

Roasted Veg salad at Pun Pun cafe.

 Remy is enjoying a banana spring roll with chocolate sauce on a stick at the Sunday Night Walking Market.
Variety of grilled meats on skewers.

Vegetarian street food.
I tried Milk Tea flavour icecream.


The boys have enjoyed trying sausages on sticks, fruit shakes and a variety of fresh ready chopped fruit. Banana spring rolls and local icecreams in flavours like milk tea, pandanus and taro also enticed them to try something new.

The standout highlight for food is our day spent at Sammy's Organic Cooking School. The day began with a guided trip to a local market where we were shown the different types of rice - especially the difference between jasmine rice and sticky rice.
I loved how the vegetables were presented in these little bowls - for 10 Baht (30c each).
Freshly cooked, these smelled delicious!

The method of extracting fresh coconut cream from the flesh of the coconut was also demonstrated. Then we were taken to Sammy's family farm where we learned to cook our favourite Thai dishes including green and yellow curry,Pad Thai, Tom Young Goong, spring rolls, green papaya salad, mango sticky rice and sweet pumpkin custard dessert.

Tasting and smelling the herbs in Sammy's garden.

The first of many photos of Bob in the kitchen this year!

Xavier had a turn at pounding the green curry paste.
I am so excited to know the secrets to cooking Pad Thai!

My finished feast!

Bob's three dishes.

Amazingly, the food was the best Thai I've ever eaten, due to the talented chefs sharing their secrets, and the fresh produce from the market and garden. The boys were fascinated by the cooking and eating experience and joined in when they wanted or played around the garden at other times.

Getting Around: As we've been staying out of town we have used a variety of transport services. We have used taxis to get from our accomodation into town and back which cost about 250-300 Baht. Shorter trips around town have been in Song Teows, which are shared taxis, for around 20 Baht per person.
A red song-teow

A fun way to travel!

Also, it has worked out well for us to organise tours/day trips that include a pickup and drop off to accomodation in the package. Finally, we hired a taxi and driver for a whole day of sightseeing for 1800 Baht ($60), which is expensive, but makes travelling with children easy. 

Play: In amongst the sightseeing, the kids have seized on opportunities for play. As mentioned, our accomodation is perfect for little explorers with bridges and wooden steps to jump on, a wide open space for kicking a ball and a pool.

The grounds at Lanna Boutique Village.

We visited a playground within the walls of Chiang Mai city at Nong Buak Hard Park, a pleasant place to watch locals enjoy the late afternoon and feed the birds and fish. 

Fun discovering a new playground!
This structure added a local flavour to the playground.

Also, Chiang Mai Zoo has a fun playground and an airconditioned Children's Exhibition room with skeletons and preserved snakes etc that were fascinating to Xavier. He also enjoyed having some quiet time there doing some colouring in of animal pictures provided at low tables. It was a very pleasant space for children to enjoy.
Our first day we were dropped at Big C shopping centre near our accomodation and it had a small children's playground inside with a 'time zone' games area - each ride/game cost only 10 Baht (30 cents) so it was a lot cheaper to indulge the kids than at home!

Temples: It has been a pleasant surprise to see how much the kids have enjoyed visiting the temples around town. 
We were mesmerised watching these young monks take down the colourful lanterns from the tree.

They are appealing in their shiny gold sparkliness and difference to anything we see at home. Most have a line of bells to ring and some have a very large deep sounding gong to bang with your fist.
I've never seen so much gold!

The boys have understood the need to take off their shoes to enter each Wat, and do so with no trouble. They also are able to show some quiet and reverence inside. At one temple yesterday we met a little Australian toddler who they played with for a long while, and ended up all holding hands and walking around together - seemingly absorbed in the serenity of the Wat.

Toilets: It may be a bit strange to report on toilets, but if you have young kids you'll probably understand! Public toilets have been available around every corner (most Wats have one) in our travels around town - how I know this is that I have two little boys who seem to need to go all the time! They are still at an age that the need to go is 'urgent'. The amenities are sometimes Western, sometimes Asian (which hasn't been a problem) and are almost always clean and well maintained. In most cases you need to bring your own toilet paper. 

Remy will kill me when he's older for posting this photo, but what an amazing toilet at Sammy's place!

I hope these ideas are useful to anyone planning their own trip to Chiang Mai - a really fun place to stay with your family for a week or more. Thanks again to the bloggers who gave me so many great inside tips.

Tomorrow we board the overnight train to Bangkok, then take a flight to Surat Thani, a bus to the port, a highspeed Catamaran to Koh Samui and then finally a Song-Teow to our accomodation - 5 types of transport in one day - I must have been a bit crazy when I booked that!!! I'll let you know how it goes!!!!!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! what a post! Chang Mai was my favourite city - it looks like you've done so much! What a perfect start xx