A little introduction to our trip to Northern Thailand
A few years ago, back in Italy, I was browsing and I suddenly bumped into the famous photo of the Lantern Festival. It was love at first sight.
The Lantern Festival (locally known as Yi Peng) is a yearly event happening on the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar. For the ones who are not familiar with it, corresponds roughly to November but, as the exact date changes every year, it’s better to check online before booking. People light up their sky-lantern and make a wish. It is a typical festival of the Northern Thailand (Lanna) which has as legitimate capital the city of Chang Mai. There, in combination with the Yi Peng, also happens the Loi Krathong, the festival of the floating baskets. Everywhere around the city you will find women busy tangling real artistic baskets made of banana or coconut leaves with flowers and all sorts of decorations. All you need to do is to get yours, light the candle in it, and let it flow in the river with the others.
In other words, magic lights that float both in the sky and in the river, with a spiritual feeling and much joy around.
I remember that moment when I called my mum and promised her: “One day I’ll go there” – “Sure darling, you will” – She said, with a don’t-think-so not too hidden in her voice.
“Things that seem too beautiful are not destined for you” – That is what I used to think… Until I met Em few years later.
As soon as I randomly showed him the photo… BOOM! Flights booked, dates blocked, guidebook of Thailand bought.
We had never been to Asia so we went through a lot of researches (aside from my mother’s advice which was not to go as it is dangerous and we would have died of an unknown virus hidden in some meal).
As we were going for the Festival we picked Chiang Mai as our destination. Many people may not know about it but it is an amazing not-yet-too-touristy city in the North of Thailand. So the deal in this place is: no amazing sea like in Phuket, BUT real Thailand. Which is exactly what we were going for.
On the left: a “stupa” is a very common structure in Southern East Asia Buddhist temples. In Thailand you will find that almost every sacred place has one or multiple ones. They are also used as place of meditation. Yes I will be writing next to the images cause Cris doesn’t do it and I am OCD so I have to have everything in place, nice and neat.
Organising our Trip
Em – he is more the internet guy here while I am the brochures/things printed on real paper girl – went through a few booking websites to find some good places to stay while I started looking into things to do and what to see once there.
We thought we would spend there one week: the time to get around and really live the city. We really wanted to check out the white temple in Chang Rai, so we counted:
- one day for an excursion up north,
- another one for an experience with the elephants and see the tigers (I am an animal lover, and Em loves cats in general),
- four days to get around Chang Mai, have at least one Thai massage, get a dress from a tailor, check out some temples and markets and of course, live entirely the Lantern festival.
One spare day we decided we would have spent it away from everything, in the nature, so we chose a retreat made of bamboo in Mae Taeng.
Finally the departure day arrived: we left Sydney with a 5 kg carry-on each: light clothes, a pair of open shoes and a pair trekking ones, a rain jacket and swimmers was all we needed (And also the spare kilos were for me an incentive to buy all sort of things from there – yes, I have kind of a thing with shopping, I confess….). You will find many local stores there, so don’t worry if you have forgotten something!
The great thing of that part of Thailand, we then found out, is that once you are there you will find everything you need possibly in a small shop around the corner, without the need of booking too many things in advance.
My advice is just choose the dates, pick your flight, book your accommodation, get ready to bargain on almost anything… and go!
Check out where we stayed, what we did and how we did it following the links below (as they will come).