One of my most favourite travel experiences so far was the Loi Krathong festival in Thailand - and Chiang Mai is one of the best places to visit for this as they really go all out!
It is held every year at full moon in the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, so the dates do vary each year but are generally around the end of November.
The festival features beautifully illuminated paper lanterns, which are launched into the night sky. Krathong which are an offering, traditionally made out of a banana stalk and adorned with candles, incense and some money, are also floated down the rivers.
The sight of hundreds of paper lanterns being set off into the night sky against the full moon is truly an incredible and memorable moment. As with most festivals in Thailand, there is a lot of partying to be done at this time of the year too, so set off your lantern (sending away any bad luck), watch the parade and then head to one of the many bars to end the night!
This is obviously a busy time for Chiang Mai so if you are planning a visit, then make sure you book transport and accommodation in advance. Accommodation prices might also be slightly more expensive - think mine was an additional 20THB a night, so it won't exactly break the bank and the experience is totally worth it!
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Spending Quality Time With Bengal Tigers
In the last week of November, 2012, I was in Chiang Mai visiting some of my ex-pat friends who live there now. I asked them if it was possible to visit the tigers of Chiang Mai. I was told to check out a place called Tiger Kingdom.
I discovered there is such a place, where even small children can spend time with baby tigers. It is also quite reasonable to spend the day there. There is a nice restaurant where you can eat lunch, and observe the tigers at play.
I paid about 420 baht, which is around $12 U.S., and obtained a reservation number. When your number is called a trainer introduces you the tigers you'll be spending time with.
When my number was called, I discovered that I would be the only one going into a cage filled with 12 Bengal Tigers. It was a little frightening at first. The trainer told me where I could sit safely just behind the big cats. I was interested in finding out if they still had their claws and teeth. He assured me that these large cats are well taken care of, and still have all of their teeth and claws. He demonstrated by showing me that nothing had been removed from these lovely cats.
After getting over some of my initial fears, I began to relax, if that if possible, and just enjoyed stroking their fur and feeling the strength of their muscles.
I highly recommend this experience, if you are interested in getting up close and really personal with a live Bengal Tiger.
This is Soo, my elephant for a day, deep in the jungle outside of Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. I was terrified of Soo when I first met him. By the end of the day I was kissing him between his tusks. Extremely cool experience.
During a recent visit to Chiang Mai, Thailand I spent a day at a Children's Shelter Foundation on a farm outside of the city. I found this little guy dancing on his own down a little dirt road on the farm. Warms my heart every single time I look at this picture.
Take a trip on the fun side and zip through town in style in a tuk tuk when visiting Thailand, India or Sri Lanka.
It's worth it just to see how the drivers pimp their rides, and most drivers offer commentary as colorful as their taxis.
I enjoyed my ride in this royal-inspired tuk tuk so much that I paid extra just to tool around town in this art museum on wheels. At the end of the tour, the driver pointed us to his favorite stand for coconut ice cream.