For authentic, good value and delicious food, head to the top floor of the Chiang Mai Airport Plaza. There's an excellent food court where you can get light meals freshly cooked for 30-50 THB ($1-$2) in addition to a range of quality restaurants which are very popular with the locals. Most tourists eat around the night bazaar or downtown but the food is more authentic and it's much better value where the locals eat - at the Airport Plaza.
I spent one summer from university living in the Thai countryside, right on the Burma border with the Karen people. A team of us was there to help the village build a clean water supply system so clean water could be pumped into the village for the first time. It was an experience I will never forget. If you are looking for a volunteer abroad opportunity for a summer or gap year ... look no further.
+44 (0)1904 612829
This is an upmarket backpackers guesthouse popular with all ages. We paid £13 a night for a double room with aircon, ensuite, TV, fridge, free wifi and a small balcony with views towards the mountains behind. The house has character with murals on the walls and quirky decor. Our room was very spacious and homely. The bathroom was wetroom style and fairly dated and well-used but clean with a good hot shower. It is in a very central location but set back from the busy street so feels like a welcome retreat. There is also a huge roof terrace with sunloungers and a four poster bed where you can chill out. Staff are friendly and helpful and don’t push tours and trips but do offer both. They also own a massage shop across the road which is very cheap and a really relaxing environment with experienced trained masseuses. I paid 150 Baht (£3) for a head, shoulders, neck and back massage but was given this pyjama outfit to wear and had my whole body worked on for a full hour and came out floating on air! The room rate doesn’t include breakfast but there is a café next to a small swimming pool on the ground floor. Thai food was good and better value and taste than the Western menu. We actually went just along the road to another café for breakfast run by a lovely tiny lady called Eing who makes the most amazing banana pancakes!
7 Ratchadamnoen Road, Lane 1, Thapae Gate, Chiang Mai 50200, Thailand
We had booked a day trip online in the UK and paid a deposit with the total settled on the day. It cost £50 each but was worth every penny and genuinely does help sustain the charity. You can also walk into their office to book in Chiang Mai and organise a day trip or stay for longer as a volunteer which looked really tempting when you see the location and the accommodation. This is a great way of seeing Thailand’s elephants while learning more about their history and current conservation projects as opposed to seeing them begging in the street or hauling tourists around and doing tricks. The day trip was very well organised with structure but also allowed time to relax and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and incredible view of elephants wandering around the surrounding landscape. You are picked up from your hotel and the drive takes about 1h15 from Chiang Mai and you watch a video about the park en route. You get right up close to the elephants who all have names and stories. Visitors can feed them fruit then go into the river and wash them which turns into a big water fight! There are lots of opportunities for taking photos and the tour guides who really seem to care about the animals can answer any questions. The reality of the plight of some of Thailand’s elephants is made clear in an interesting if at times distressing documentary and the hope is that visitors will help spread the word. There is a fantastic fresh buffet lunch as well as free tea, coffee and water during the day and snacks in the afternoon. I would highly recommend the experience to anyone who loves elephants or wants to experience ecotourism at its best.
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