Chiang Mai Packing List

Chiang Mai Packing List

After the heat and humidity of Bangkok, we were not surprised that Chiang Mai was along the same lines. Walking around downtown to check out the various temples was worse than the most humid of days in Houston Texas, so wearing breathable clothes, lots of sun protection, supportive shoes, and keeping hydrated was essential!

On top of gallivanting around town, a huge draw to visiting Chiang Mai are the elephant sanctuaries. The sanctuaries are typically in the mountain areas and there was an unexpected 15 minute hike to get to our location, so sneakers and sweat-wicking active wear was the way to go. Additionally, during monsoon season (May – November), it rains like crazy and gets super muddy, so you will want to ensure you have a plan for packing and washing your clothes after the fact…. Mine was washing everything in the shower afterwards and using the hairdryer to dry things…

Wandering temples in Chiang Mai, Thailand

With all of that said, below are my recommendations for making the most out of your Chiang Mai packing space:

Chaco Dorra Sandals  | NeatPack Foldable Backpack | Forever 21 Floppy Sun Hat | Cheap sunglasses bought in the night markets so if you lose or break them, its OK | a poncho / umbrella | Under Armour UA Fly-By Capri | Coach Messenger with Pop Up Pouch Bag

Clothing:

  • Shirts (1 per day): Light, breathable tanks or tees that do not reveal too much. Make sure they can match with lots of prints so, if you buy clothes in Thailand, you can mix and match!
  • Maxi skirts or maxi dresses (1 per day): Perfect to wear at temples and they dress up and down so easily! Try and buy ones with slits so you can have a bit more ventilation.
  • Athletic capri leggings and top for jungle excursions: Focus on light, breathable, sweat wicking, and easy to clean for your muddy elephant journey or adventure into the jungle.
  • Formal wear (number pending your night plans): dresses or nice skirt / top combo. Remember, the night markets are a great way to spend an evening and are very casual so, if you only have two nights, make sure you check out a market for one of them!
  • Bathing suit: bring one on the elephant tour and make sure you check out the hotel pool to relax your body after a long day of walking in the heat!
  • Buy some elephant pants in the markets. They are the most comfy $5 pants you will ever own. I wore them almost every night!

Accessories:

  • Water bottle
  • Camera
  • Light scarf: to cover your shoulders at the temples
  • Umbrella: for both sun and rain protection
  • Hat and sunglasses: A MUST
  • Day bag: pack-able backpack recommended to put your shoes in at temples, carry your water and snacks for long days, a change of clothes for after the elephant park, and anything else you may need.
  • Sun screen & bug spray: make sure you apply often!
  • Purse: A small, zipped (for security reasons), cross-body purse, to carry your personals. Try and make sure it is easy for you to get in and out of when you need to grab your phone or camera quickly to capture your favorite moments of the trip! Also, an easy to clean leather material will help if you maintain it and pick a color that is easy to match with.
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues / toilet paper: if you want some in the bathrooms…

Shoes:

  • Sneakers that can get muddy
  • Comfortable walking sandals that are easy to take on and off (at temples)
  • Sandals for walking to the spa or pool / hot tub
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Bangkok Packing List

Bangkok Packing List

Being from Texas, I figured I was used to heat and humidity, but boy did Bangkok test my tolerance! Not only was it hot, it was super humid, and when combined with the heat generated by a bustling, concrete, no-shade city, lightweight clothes and sun-gear were a must.

On top of weather control, you also have to pack for the temples. Out of respect for the Thai people, you must cover your shoulders, not show cleavage, have bottoms on that go below your knees, and take your shoes / hats off when entering and walking around Thai temples and the Royal Palace. In general, you want to make sure you are more covered-up as short or revealing clothes are not appreciated. Doing all of that while staying cool and looking cute is a challenge, but is doable!

Below are my recommendations for making the most out of your Bangkok packing space:

Chaco Dorra Sandals  | NeatPack Foldable Backpack | Frever 21 Floppy Sun Hat | Cheap sunglasses bought in the Bangkok night market so if you lose or break them, its OK | Everything But Water Bikini | Coach Messenger with Pop Up Pouch Bag

Clothing:

  • Shirts (1 per day): Light, breathable tanks or tees that do not reveal too much
  • Maxi skirts or maxi dresses (1 per day): Perfect to wear at temples and they dress up and down so easily! Try and buy ones with slits so you can have a bit more ventilation.
  • Walking pants (1-2 pending length of stay and activities): Don’t go for jeans – they are way too hot. Try active wear type pants that are light, breathable, and easy to clean. If you wear leggings, make sure your tops go substantially below your butt so are you still within temple dress code.
  • Formal wear (number pending your night plans): dresses or nice skirt / top combo. Remember, the night markets are a great way to spend an evening and are very casual so, if you only have two nights, make sure you check out a market for one of them!
  • Bathing suit: Make sure you check out the hotel pool. The So Sofitel’s pool was an amazing infinity pool and I am so glad I brought my suit!
  • Workout gear: Just in case all of the Pad Thai makes a gym date necessary…

Outside of the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Accessories:

  • Water bottle
  • Camera
  • A scarf to cover your shoulders at the temples (note: the Royal Palace requires something more robust than a scarf. I had to buy a $2 white tee-shirt outside of the Palace entrance so I could pass the standards)
  • Umbrella: for both sun and rain protection
  • Hat and sunglasses: A MUST
  • Day bag: pack-able backpack recommended to put your shoes in at temples, carry your water, and anything else you may need.
  • Sun screen: make sure you apply often!
  • Purse: A small, zipped (for security reasons), cross-body purse, to carry your personals. Try and make sure it is easy for you to get in and out of when you need to grab your phone or camera quickly to capture your favorite moments of the trip! Also, an easy to clean leather material will help if you maintain it and pick a color that is easy to match with.
  • Hand sanitizer

Shoes:

  • Sneakers
  • Comfortable walking sandals that are easy to take on and off (at temples)
  • Sandals for walking to the spa or pool / hot tub

At the infinity pool at the So Sofitel Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand

Phuket – Day 2

Phuket – Day 2

6:45 AM wake up for our sea-canoe adventure! While there was a hint of sunshine in the morning, the monsoons were not shy and we needed our rain jackets and umbrellas just to get to breakfast. The Slate‘s Tin Mine restaurant had, hands down, the fluffiest, light as a cloud pancakes I’ve ever eaten! The bacon was nice and crispy too and, I have to say, the breakfasts at So Sofitel and The Slate in Phuket have been the best I’ve experienced.

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After we had our fill at the buffet, we grabbed beach towels and hopped on our transport to the Royal Marina for our sea-canoe adventure! The drive was about 45-minutes and our driver was a traffic pro, maneuvering quickly through the crowded roads. We pulled up to this beautiful marina with luxury, magazine worthy condo’s and lots of speed boats. We had tea and coffee during our short wait before we were quickly ushered to our boat. There were about 30 people on our speed boat to James Bond Island but it was still pretty roomy. Speeding through the islands led to some amazing views…

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About 30 minutes later, we pulled up to an island to join the 6 other speed boats already docked. Even with all of the people and boats, the islands were beautiful. We climbed up and drown a rocky path to get to the main event, the James Bond Island view.

The beach facing James Bond was packed with people, but I have to admit, the oblong shaped island sticking out of the water was pretty cool.

The beach used for viewing James Bond was jammed packed with tourist shops and tourists walking around. They really try to get you coming and going on these pit stops – unfortunate since it ruins the experience a bit. If you do not like crowds and want more a of a serene experience, I would suggest finding private tours to other islands – James Bond was cool but I would opt for a less crowded experience next time.

After about 40 minutes on the island, we were transferred over to a floating fishing village. All 2,000 inhabitants live on buildings that hover over the water on concrete stilts. In theory, it was a neat place, but the experience was again tainted by tourism. We pulled up and there were large pavilions with the capacity to host hundreds of people for at lunch buffets. We thought we were eating with locals and seeing something organic to the area, but it was not so. After a less-than-average lunch of coconut fried chicken, noodles, and rice, we walked through the village corridors to the boat pick-up area and it started to downpour!

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Everyone was getting totally soaked and there was no end in sight to the torrential rain coming down. Ryan and I put on the rain jacket and poncho we had packed, and the guides gave ponchos to everyone else . It was actually pretty fun to run through the small alleyways, dodging the waterfalls coming down from the drainpipes. We hurried to our speedboat and climbed aboard, hoping the rain would subside before we at our next stop for sea-canoeing.

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Fortunately for us, the rain dissipated as soon as we go to the canoeing area! We docked next to a larger pontoon boat that stored the canoes. Each group of two people were put into a boat with a paddler, so Ryan and I hopped on a canoe together and were taken for a lovely ride through a lagoon area with caves all along the bottom of the giant rock mountains.

Our canoe guide took us into caves and, at certain points, the stalactites were so low we had to lay down in the boat as not to hit our heads on the rocks! Talk about a tight squeeze! We paddled into some beautiful cavernous areas with tons of greenery and open skylight tops. It was such an amazing experience and it made me nostalgic for the sea-kayaking we did in Alaska.

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The guide also pointed out various stalactites and stalagmites that looked like different animals and figures. It started to sprinkling again and our guide kept us close to the rocky over-hangs to keep us dry. Overall, we were out on the water for about 45 minutes trying to take in the beauty of the area.

We were filed back onto the pontoon for some fruit and beverages and then back onboard our boat to head to a beach for sand and sun. Yet again, the weather had different plans and, after about 15 minutes the sky turned black and it was pouring. We went under an awning for shelter and watched the wind play wave-bumper cars with 4 of the speed boats closely parked next to each other. The boats were tossing and turning in the waves and you could hear them crashing into one another. We definitely bonded with our fellow boat mates with all of the craziness of the weather throughout the day and laughed as we ran through the rain to hop back onto our boat once the waves calmed down.

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We looked like wet dogs getting off of the boat back onto the dock, in our jeep back to the hotel, and from the hotel lobby to our door. Boy did it feel good to get dry! I am so glad we packed our waterproof gear – it really came in handy. I also had a waterproof carrying case for my phone which saved its life multiple times throughout the trip from mud, rain, and other catastrophes. I highly recommend packing one just in case your adventures take a damp turn.

After washing up at the hotel, we decided to take a stroll along the beach and find some street food. There were tons of places outside of the hotel that were 1/3 of the price of the hotel restaurants, and we set off to find a restaurant that the bar tenders at our hotel told us all of the locals loved. After browsing through local shops, getting desert snacks at a convenience store, and walking to the end of the main street, we stumbled across our restaurant destination. For under $10 USD, we had some delicious pad thai, fried large noodles with pork, mango shakes, all with a waterfront view! Not too bad if you ask me.

We did a little more walking after dinner and then, exhausted from the day, we went to bed…. at 8:30 PM.

Phuket – Day 1

6:45 AM wake up to get ready to fly to Phuket! We had a yummy breakfast of jasmine tea, banana waffles, and eggs Benedict and then hopped into our taxi for the airport. The airports in Thailand are super-efficient and, after a 15 minute ride to the airport, we were at the terminal waiting area in under 10 minutes. I journaled the majority of the 2 hour plane ride to Phuket. It was an easy flight and went pretty quickly, especially since the plane was only 50% full so we had room to spread out.

The Phuket airport was small. We were off the plane and looking for a cab in 10 minutes. We got to the first taxi station and they wanted 500 BHT for the 15 minutes drive to The Slate hotel – way too high considering we paid 350 for the 40 minute drive from our hotel to BKK in Bangkok! We decided to try the next taxi stand outside and the guy the approached us first wanted 850 BHT to get to the hotel – no way! We told him the woman inside wanted 300 and started to walk away, so he caved and said 300 was OK. Geesh!

The roads in Thailand are quite deceiving. Both the Rachamankha Hotel in Chiang Mai and The Slate hotel in Phuket were down very sketchy roads, but once inside, an Eden awaited! The Slate hotel was gorgeous and we were greeted with cold towels and tea while we checked in. So refreshing in such humidity! Our check-in hostess took us through the grounds in a golf cart, showing us the beach areas, the various pools, restaurants, and gardens on the way to our room.

We finally made it to our building – the grounds were quite massive and maze-like. Our hostess led us to the second floor and opened the door to an amazing suite! We even had a day-bed and a huge tub on the balcony overlooking a garden and one of the pools. So beautiful!

We decided to walk around the grounds and get some lunch. We went to the Dirty Monstera restaurant at the resort for a celebratory drink, sandwich, and ahi tuna flatbread. It was so light and delicious which was much-needed with all of the heavy pad thai we had been eating.

After lunch, we walked down to the beach. It was so windy we were almost swept away (not exaggerating – it was intense!). There were markets all along the beach road but they were closed due to the strong winds and rain. Instead of staying at the beach, we went to the hotel pool across from our room. We were the only ones there due to the rain, so we swam up to the covered pool bar for a drink and some Connect Four. I totally owned Ryan at Connect Four and so we started talking with the two bar tenders instead. We ended up chatting with them and drinking for about two hours until the bar closed and we went back to the room.

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The sky decided to open up and for a complete downpour. Stuck in our room, we drew the bath on our covered patio and relaxed in the water with the rain. So luxurious, especially with the sound of the monsoon rain.  It poured for hours and, eventually, we had to call down to the lobby for an extra umbrella so we could walk the grounds to the lobby area for dinner. Even with the extra cover, we got totally soaked on the 5 minute, uncovered walk over to the Tin Mine restaurant. The restaurant was outside under a large pavilion and was candle lit. It was very romantic with the rain in the back ground. We had a lovely dinner of samosa appetizers, and a duck with mushrooms entrée. Yumm! After dinner, we braved the rain back to the hotel and got a very early night.

Chiang Mai – Day 2

Chiang Mai – Day 2

Today marked the day I was most looking forward to for the entire trip – our day with elephants! We had a 3-course breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, thai soup, and banana pancakes at the hotel with the most amazing orange juice I’ve ever had, and then we met our transport at 8 AM outside of the hotel to head to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. We climbed into the back of the truck bed which had some covered bench seats and were pretty crammed in there as we picked up another 7 people.

We sat across from 2 Canadians who quit their jobs and were traveling for months through Asia and were going to end in Australia. They were really nice and we had great conversations about our travel adventures over the two hours it took to get to the jungle. We bonded even more as it started to downpour while we drove and we got soaked! We were driving up very windy mountain roads and eventually turned off onto a mud path that went almost straight down. Not only was it muddy, but the heavy monsoon rains had turned the dirt road into a part mud-slide, part river! We were scared out of our wits that we were going to slide off the 4 inches we had between the roadside and cliff. It definitely reminded me of the crazy ride I had up a jungle volcano in Guatemala – just as scary, but knowing how we survived that ride, I had faith we would somehow survive this one.

We eventually stopped on the path and parked. The drivers made us get out of the truck and the rains subsided for about 10 minutes during our hike down the very muddy forest path. We had to forge through a waterfall and go over some very small wooden bridges before the sky’s faucet decided to turn back on and drench us again. Talk about an incredibly fun hike! It was gloriously muddy so why not just embrace the monsoon season – when in Rome right?

We finally came upon a long, dry, and inviting wooden hut. Our guides gave us shirts to change into that had big pockets to hold bananas for the elephants. The rains held-off as we walked up and back down a hill into a valley where the elephants were! They were so majestic! There were three adult females, one was 55 years old, and three toddlers that were between 2 and 4 years old.

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We walked up to them and said “bon bon” to tell them we had bananas. The elephants were all about the bananas, knew where our pockets were and kept trying to stick their trunks into our pockets to grab more bananas. It was so cute and just goes to show how smart they are…

The tip of the elephant’s trunks was soft but the rest of their skin was very hard and leathery. They were also covered in 2-inch long, black hairs that stuck straight out. The hairs flung mud everywhere when you tried to pet the elephants, but I didn’t care and I got mud all over the place. We fed the elephants all of the bananas we could and then the guides took all of the guys back up the mountain to bring down what looked to be bamboo shoots for the elephants to eat. Boy do they eat a lot! We fed the elephants for about an hour before they took off up the hill towards the huts. We followed them and washed off at some water hoses overlooking the waterfall.

Our lunch of stir fried veggies, chicken wings, and fried rice was waiting for us after we got cleaned up and we ate lunch while watching the elephants swim in the rapids under the waterfall. I don’t know if I will ever be able to top that lunch experience.

Watching the elephants play in the river at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand

We chatted with our fellow tourists, some from Chili, Spain, Canada, and Belgium. They were all really friendly and we swapped stories and talked about world politics. It is always interesting to hear other opinions about world events, especially those from different countries. All of them had similar views on our Donald Trump situation, and we talked about the differences in Texan accents and view points from Texans in cities vs. the more rural country side. All of the people we talked with seemed very down to earth and worldly.

We moved to the edge of the hut and watched the elephants frolic in the water and up the hillside for a while. One of the baby elephants decided to come say hi, despite his handlers best attempt to lure him away, stepped carefully over the fence, and scratched his bum on the mud right in front of us. It was super cute. Eventually, the handler got some bananas and persuaded the elephant back down the mountain to the rest of the pack.

Baby elephant joining us for lunch at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary outside of Chiang Mai, Thailand
Our guide told us it was time to make the elephants a snack of rice and banana balls, so we helped make those and then got into our swim suits to head down the muddy path to the mud bath area. All of the elephants were delighted at the banana ball treats and, after feeding them, we smeared mud all over the elephants. Our guides picked up piles of mud and threw it on us to get everyone into the experience! The mud was so deep that my legs sunk until the mud was at my knees and we got covered just like the elephants. The only thing I did not like about the whole day was that the guides were yelling a lot during the mud bath time to get everyone excited and were throwing mud around, some of which got in my eye. Also, one of the guides kept running up to the guys to rub mud on them in a bit too-touchy-feely kind of way. *Shoulder shrug* – but, other than that, it was a bunch of fun!

Once we were basically covered in brown, we all headed to the river to wash off the elephants. Since the monsoon rains were so heavy in the morning, the river was rushing and was too strong for us to full get in the river, so we stayed on the banks. It was still a blast to splash around with the elephants and watch them roll around in the water. The babies were especially playful and would fully submerge themselves by laying on their sides under the water. I could have stayed and watched them there for hours and hours.

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The experience ended waaay to quickly and we headed back up to the hut to wash off and dry off in the sun for a few minutes. We had some tea and cookies while drying and one of the guides told us that the guide who had been rubbing mud all over the guys earlier had a girlfriend who was a lady-boy. I totally knew it! The guides were saying some pretty crude things about each other which was surprising but really entertaining. Got to love a good culture shock!

Once we dried up, we hiked back up the path to the truck. The rainfall from other areas converged at the waterfall, turning it into a super strong rapid that we wouldn’t dare cross, so we had to take a different path back to the truck. It was all uphill and a bit of a workout! Our guides kept stopping to pick flowers and were being very playful – a very strange but fun pair.

One the plus side, the jungle road had dried up. There was no way the truck could have driven up that slippery, muddy mess of a path we drive down to get to the Sanctuary. Once we got piled into the truck, however, we realized it was taking a while for our guides to start the truck. I looked out the window and saw our guides flinging wrenches in the air while pointing under the lifted hood of the truck. I couldn’t imagine getting stuck in such a remote part of the jungle in monsoon season!

It turned out the carburetor wouldn’t start so we all had to get out and push the truck backwards up the hill so our driver could turn downwards and get momentum to spark the engine. Thankfully, we had 4 strong guys and all of us girls / lady like guides to push the truck. It took about 15 minutes to get it turned around and the driver kept yelling about break problems (not a funny joke!) but we finally got the engine started. Crisis averted! We barely made it back up the mountain path and there was quite a communal sigh of relief once we made it to the main road. All-in-all, with the mountain issues and traffic back in Chiang Mai, it took about 2 hours of driving and good conversation to get back to the Rachamankha Hotel.

My sneakers and clothes were totally covered in mud so I tried to wash all of as much as possible. Re-wearing clothes in Thailand sounds like a good idea, but between the tours where you get super muddy and all of the humidity, there is no way you can re-wear anything without washing it thoroughly first.

Anyways, we got cleaned up and then took off to find something quick for dinner. Street food was insanely cheap compared to our hotel. Per the recommendation of one of our Canadian tour mates, we tried some street grilled pork and friend wontons for 10 BHT total ($0.30 USD) which was amazing! We then found a little restaurant and I ordered “the best noodles in Chiang Mai”, Khao Soi, to try something different. Gosh was it good! It was like a chicken curry with thick ramen type noodles. Ryan’s Pad Thai was also scrumptious and, in total, our 2 entrees, spring rolls, and two drinks were 200 BTH – $7 USD! While we opted for nice hotels on this trip, our fellow elephant tour friends were staying in nice hostels that were $4 USD per night and living on about $20 a day. It is amazing how different the costs are in Thailand!

A delicious dinner in Chiang Mai, Thailand

My mud inflicted eye was really starting to bug me at this point. I was really afraid I had gotten pink eye or something from the elephant park mud that had flown into it earlier in the day and needed to flush it out more with eye drops and water. We walked back to the hotel so I could do so, and then relaxed by the pool listening to the birds before heading to bed.