Thailand has had a lot of bad press recently in regards to their animal attractions. I’m pleased. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with people turning a blind eye to attractions that were clearly abusing their animals. Photos of yourself cuddling a tiger? That animal is drugged. Tigers do not spoon humans in the wild, regardless of how domesticated they have become!.
Thankfully, Thailand has loads to offer in the way of tourism (without a bull hook in sight). The North of Thailand is particularly veggie/vegan friendly, with a lot of the locals partaking in the Chinese Buddhism teachings of eliminating meat from their diet. The old Capital, Chiang Mai, is a great place to start exploring …
Elephant Nature Park
“Elephants?”, you’re asking. Hear me out. Park Founder, Lek, was recently named ‘Asian hero of the year’ by Time magazine. From the moment you get on the Park’s bus, which’ll take you the 60 km journey out to the park, the animal welfare message is clear.
I can’t emphasis how much this place made my trip to Chiang Mai (and Thailand). First off, there’s no elephant riding. In the Elephant Nature Park, you feed the elephants and then you head into the river to bath them. On my visit, we learned the story of one large, friendly lady – a logging elephant, who had been deliberately blinded by her owner. Lek must purchase any elephant that she rescues, so the large fee you pay to visit this park is worth the pennies. An extra plus, they put on a huge vegan buffet at lunch. If you only do one thing in Chiang Mai, make it this!
Chiang Mai has over 300 temples, all so beautiful that it’s hard to get enough of them. The central temple ‘Wat Chedi Luang’ hosts ‘monk chat’, a little outdoor seating area where you can go and do exactly what it says on the tin – chat to monks! The scheme is set up for the monks to work on their education and practice their English or whichever language you speak (though it seemed English was preferable). I went almost every day for 2 weeks, visiting the same Monk every time; a young man named Mix. We chatted about a lot of things, he told me a lot about his life as a monk, rules, Thai culture etc. Some tourists took books, sitting with the monks to help them practice their reading.
Massage at a prison
In a bid to prepare inmates with a working skill when they leave, the Chiang Mai Woman’s Correctional Institution has set up massage rooms. Here, tourists can visit and pay for a Thai massage. When we arrived in our group of four the tiny ladies at work did an absolutely wonderful job, twisting me into positions I never knew possible. I learned that the ladies were mostly in here for drug crimes, so you don’t need to worry about a murdered cracking your back!
If you’re fortunate enough to visit Chiang Mai at the end of November/start of December, be sure to get tickets for the smile Party festival. Held on the banks of a lake just outside of the city, the festival appeals to the reggae crowd until around 12am, then switches to a much dancier heavy techno/dub step feel. There weren’t many tourists when we went, but the Thai’s made us feel right at home. Best party I had in Thailand!
May kaidee’s restaurant
I’ve already covered the larger Bangkok branch of this restaurant in a previous post, but I feel like this (much smaller) spot, needs a mention. Blink and you’ll miss it, this little site is a perfect haven for vegans and non vegans alike. Great food, with a lot of mock meats in all your favourite Thai flavours. Menus seem to change regularly, but anything with their famous peanut sauce is always a winner!!
Looking for more things to do in Thailand, head over to my bucket-list post about Chiang Rai’s White Temple.