Animal tourism is big business in Thailand and it comes with a nefarious side. Stories of drugged tigers and abused elephants abound — as do advertisements at nearly every corner in Chiang Mai. We nixed riding an elephant or petting a wildcat for visiting an elephant sanctuary about an hour outside of Chiang Mai instead. Established in the 1990s, Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center where the animals roam freely and are taken care of by volunteers.
It’s not every day you get to take a selfie with an elephant.
Although I’m pretty sure Nishan preferred the cats.
Lunch at Elephant Nature Park was one of the best meals I ate in Thailand. Does anyone know the name of the green vegetable in the top right of my plate? It’s delicious and I would love to find it stateside.
We were famished after a full day at the nature park so once we returned to Chiang Mai we basically ate all the things.
We probably visited Fruiturday at least once a day in Chiang Mai. Their icy concoctions and mango sticky rice were manna from heaven in the stifling heat.
From there we descended into Nutella roti. Go ahead, Internet. Shame us.
Soft shell crab showed up on the menu in Thailand often and I ordered it with every chance I got since it’s so hard to come by in California. For dinner, I had stir-fried soft shell crab with yellow curry at U Chiang Mai.
We had a lot of eating to do the next morning (obvs), so we woke up bright and early with a meal of sai ua (northern Thai sausage). Filled with meat, herbs, spices, and red curry paste, sai ua is usually eaten grilled with sticky rice and is super popular in Chiang Mai.
Afterwards we explored Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang in the old city.
But you didn’t think I was going to come to Chiang Mai and not find the best khao soi, right? Nishan dutifully navigated us through the city until we found Khao Soi Khun Yai, one of Chiang Mai’s most popular khao soi spots. It’s so nondescript you could easily walk past it, were it not for the crowd of people happily slurping noodles. (Want to make khao soi at home? Here’s my adapted recipe.)
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Warorot Market, a huge market filled with all kinds of snacks and fresh produce.
For dinner, we sought out Lert Ros, a friendly Issan restaurant where grilled, smoky fish is the most popular dish, and rightfully so.