After finally arriving in Chiang Mai, a little later than planned, we hopped into one of Chiang Mai’s red fire truck style taxis to our hostel. We had some typical Thai dishes for dinner - mine arrived in a pineapple! And then crashed out in our family room.
Our first stop on Thursday was breakfast at Angel’s Secrets cafe, where we enjoyed some amazing oatmeal and pancakes, setting us up for the day. We then spent the morning exploring some of the city’s many temples, including Wat Chedi Luang which had an unusual old brick stupa.
After a refreshing mango shake stop we visited a few more shops and temples, including one of the city’s largest - Wat Phra Singh - which had some very realistic monk statues.
After a fair bit of walking we decided to indulge ourselves and headed to a spa for some treatments, where all the female staff were ex-offenders who have been retrained to provide them with a route back into employment. I opted for a post-trekking treatment (despite the lack of trekking done) which included a foot massage, a Thai back massage and a manicure. Everyone else enjoyed coconut scrubs and massages.
Feeling suitably relaxed we then walked to Talat Pratu food market for our dinner. We all had really good, and amazing value, stir fries and some mango sticky rice for dessert (which started an addiction!). We then headed around to the souvenir night market for some evening shopping.
For Friday morning we’d booked an excursion to the handicraft village - the setting wasn't quite as idyllic as the name might suggest as it was more a collection of out of town workshops with shops attached. We had a lovely driver though and started off with a visit to the silk warehouse. We saw live silkworms (and were a bit worried no one was keeping an eye on the ones making a bid for escape), weaving, spinning and the thinning and dying processes.
We then visited a silver shop and a jade and jewellery shop with more demonstrations, followed by a lacquer workshop and a cotton shop where we saw women weaving - one doing a plain stretch of fabric which would grow 4-5m a day and another, much more detailed pattern, which would only grow 4-5 inches a day.
On the way to our final stop our driver took us to a lovely old temple, with beautiful designs and a friendly old monk who gave us each a Buddha image to carry with us and keep us safe. We then went to the papermaking outlet where they produced fans and parasols.
Afterwards we headed back to Chiang Mai for lunch and then went on to explore Chinatown and its markets.
Our evening was spent on an amazing cooking course where we cooked the night away. We tried our hand at spring rolls, papaya salad, pumpkin soup, a curry paste and the curry itself (I went for Massaman), Akha soup, Akha salad and Akha dipping sauce (Akha is a tribe from Northern Thailand, where our teacher was from), a soup (I went for Tom Yum with prawns), a stir fry and mango sticky rice! We learnt lots about seasoning and what to add to draw out the flavours and once we’d finished off (most) of what we had made we were given a brilliant recipe book, spice mix and paste to take home.
After our busy evening the night before, we treated ourselves to a leisurely brunch at the Chiang Mai Breakfast World in a German-style beer garden.
After we’d filled up we caught a taxi up to Wat Phra Doi Suthep - the most famous temple in the city. We knew it was on a hill but it was much much higher up than we thought, which made for a bit of a queasy taxi ride as we were all sat sideways and the driver was driving like he had somewhere else to be.
The site itself is home to a beautiful golden stupa with a temple surrounding it. Due to its height you also get amazing views over to Chiang Mai and the surrounding countryside.
We had a very quick descent and turnaround once we were back in the town to head off to the airport and catch our flight to Krabi (via Bangkok).
For our first day in Krabi we caught a long tail boat to Railay, a beautiful resort further down the peninsula. Once we arrived we headed to the west beach, which had beautiful limestone cliffs and clear blue water. We spent the day relaxing and swimming and enjoyed pizza and fruit shakes for lunch.
On way back to the boat we took a different route through the shops and were lucky to see a group of monkeys, some with their tiny babies. We walked along the east side to take in the beautiful views then boarded our boat back. It was a much choppier ride than on the way over and we ended up looking like we’d just stepped out of the shower.
We headed to the night market for dinner, enjoying more stirfries and a dessert of steamed coconut milk cakes and mango sticky rice (of course!).
On our second day we headed to Noparathara beach, which was super beautiful and quiet. We had some amazing fruit platters for breakfast and were going to attempt to wade across to an island nearby but realised (after watching others attempt it) the water got a lot deeper than we originally thought!
We had a huge and delicious lunch at one of the beach-side restaurants, including giant coconuts, spring rolls, shrimp cakes, battered fish and chicken. I think we surprised the owner when we managed to finish it all.
In the afternoon we ventured into the sea for a swim, but after a long wade out we gave up as the water was still only up to our waists. We came back in and then watched a very beautiful sun set.
We rode in a slightly precarious ‘sidecar’ tuk tuk back to Krabi and headed to a different night market for dinner with some great live music to accompany us while we ate.
For our final full day in Krabi we headed over to Ao Nang, the slightly busier resort. We had a delicious big breakfast and then caught a long tail boat over to Koh Poda, a beautiful small island nearby.
We found a quiet spot to enjoy the sunshine and swim. After a very relaxed afternoon we packed up just before the tide reached and headed back to Ao Nang, where we grabbed a bit more beach time before the sun went down.
We stayed in Ao Nang for dinner and satisfied our craving for pizza, Thai style (one had bolognese and another spicy basil with chicken).
On the last morning we wandered into Krabi Town for breakfast at a cafe whose owners cooked food inspired by their international guests, including some good homemade bread. We then left for the airport to catch our flight back to Bangkok.