Elephants Treks and Temples

About the Experience

All of Thailand will embrace you in an instant. The mesmerizing aromatics of the curries fill the air–simmering coconut milk, lemongrass, Thai basil, garlic and the fire of bird’s eye chilies. Add the buzz of the neon night markets and bazaars, vibrating with vendors selling everything from noodles to football jerseys to smoothies and intricate Hilltribe embroidery.

This itinerary is packed with childhood dreams–float down the Mea Wang river on a bamboo raft! Feed, walk and learn how to speak with gentle elephants at Chai Lai Orchid Elephant Park. Hop in a long-tail boat and visit the bamboo floating house village of Mae Ngat Dam Reservoir. 

The scenery is a guaranteed knock-out: koi ponds, rice paddies, tea plantations, bamboo hills and exotic fruit orchards. We’ll take it all in on foot, by raft and bike saddle while drinking some of the world’s best coffee from the Chiang Rai beans! This is a deep immersion in Thai culture–visit secret temples, a very quirky museum (no spoiler here!), climb up the famed Sticky Waterfalls like Spiderwoman and learn kitchen secrets from the hilltribes.

Did we mention the pampered days of Thai massage and aromatic herbal steams? The eco-lodges and resorts on this trip revolve around harmony, meditation and celebrating the natural soundtrack. Kaomai Lanna Hotel and Resort is an unforgettable boutique resort that celebrates the heritage of Northern Thailand’s tobacco industry. The former tobacco farm and curing barns have been repurposed as sumptuous guest rooms.

The feel-good bits are endless–enjoy lunch at the Free Bird Cafe–the “cafe with a cause.” Stay plugged into the positive vibes with the visit to Studio Naenna, a community of women weavers, embroiderers, designers and support staff have joined forces to establish “Weavers for the Environment,” creating sustainable products and financial support for local women. Learn the true art of tie-dye and Thai ikat (Mudmee) techniques.

We know what you’re thinking…check! Check! Check!

This trip delivers a HUGE sensory experience from spending time in the company of elephants to soupy jungle trails and century-old paths travelled by monks.

Elephants, Treks and Temples is spiritual, satiating, rejuvenating and jammed with unreal scenery. You’ll see.

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know we’re a global leader in women’s adventure travel? Check out our destinations around the world!

 

 

Click here to see the full itinerary!
Elephants Treks and Temples

About the Experience

All of Thailand will embrace you in an instant. The mesmerizing aromatics of the curries fill the air–simmering coconut milk, lemongrass, Thai basil, garlic and the fire of bird’s eye chilies. Add the buzz of the neon night markets and bazaars, vibrating with vendors selling everything from noodles to football jerseys to smoothies and intricate Hilltribe embroidery.

This itinerary is packed with childhood dreams–float down the Mea Wang river on a bamboo raft! Feed, walk and learn how to speak with gentle elephants at Chai Lai Orchid Elephant Park. Hop in a long-tail boat and visit the bamboo floating house village of Mae Ngat Dam Reservoir. 

The scenery is a guaranteed knock-out: koi ponds, rice paddies, tea plantations, bamboo hills and exotic fruit orchards. We’ll take it all in on foot, by raft and bike saddle while drinking some of the world’s best coffee from the Chiang Rai beans! This is a deep immersion in Thai culture–visit secret temples, a very quirky museum (no spoiler here!), climb up the famed Sticky Waterfalls like Spiderwoman and learn kitchen secrets from the hilltribes.

Did we mention the pampered days of Thai massage and aromatic herbal steams? The eco-lodges and resorts on this trip revolve around harmony, meditation and celebrating the natural soundtrack. Kaomai Lanna Hotel and Resort is an unforgettable boutique resort that celebrates the heritage of Northern Thailand’s tobacco industry. The former tobacco farm and curing barns have been repurposed as sumptuous guest rooms.

The feel-good bits are endless–enjoy lunch at the Free Bird Cafe–the “cafe with a cause.” Stay plugged into the positive vibes with the visit to Studio Naenna, a community of women weavers, embroiderers, designers and support staff have joined forces to establish “Weavers for the Environment,” creating sustainable products and financial support for local women. Learn the true art of tie-dye and Thai ikat (Mudmee) techniques.

We know what you’re thinking…check! Check! Check!

This trip delivers a HUGE sensory experience from spending time in the company of elephants to soupy jungle trails and century-old paths travelled by monks.

Elephants, Treks and Temples is spiritual, satiating, rejuvenating and jammed with unreal scenery. You’ll see.

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know we’re a global leader in women’s adventure travel? Check out our destinations around the world!

 

 

DAY ONE: CHIANG MAI ARRIVAL

ยินดีต้อนรับ (welcome) to Chiang Mai! Upon arrival at Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX), you’ll meet your spirited Wild Women guide and driver at 3PM at Starbucks (near the domestic arrivals gate). As a group we will then transfer to the hotel to check-in, refresh, recharge and revive before our briefing at 4PM. Dinner tonight will be at The Whole Earth, one of the top restaurants in Chiang Mai. It will be an authentic introduction to the fragrant spices and distinct flavours of Thai cuisine.

 

DAY TWO: SPICE OF LIFE

Today will be spent far removed from the buzzy tourist congestion of Chiang Mai. Instead, we’ll be intimately immersed in the local culture courtesy of Mr. Prapat and his family. Our generous hosts will warmly welcome us into their home and allow us to explore their property. Mr. Prapat will describe local architectural styles and share stories about the traditional ways of the Thai people. We will watch an intricate basket-weaving demonstration–a handmade process that has remarkably remained unchanged for centuries.

We’ll also visit Mr. Prapat’s robust organic gardens and select a few 100% fresh ingredients for an interactive cooking experience (grab an apron!). The Prapat family will share their coveted recipes and demonstrate the traditional techniques required to prepare northern Thai dishes. We’ll swap stories and family recipes while learning about staples like Thai bird chilies, curry paste, Thai basil and Vietnamese coriander as we prepare today’s lunch. We’ll then enjoy lunch with the Prapat family to see how well we were paying attention when slicing and dicing!

In the afternoon, we will be well-spoiled and fully indulge in self-care. We’ll experience traditional spa treatments like the Fah Lanna healing treatment, aromatic herbal steam, an oil massage and surrender to the powerful, near-hypnotic effects of Thai massage techniques.

Dinner tonight will be at the Michelin-recommended Khaomao-Khaofang Restaurant. It’s celebrated for its imaginary jungle experience complete with an enormous, crashing waterfall, blooming flowers and soundtrack that adds to the vibe.

DAY THREE: MAE NGAT LAKE RESERVOIR 

We’ll make a beeline for Sri Lanna National Park this morning (a 1.5 hour drive from Chiang Mai). We’ll visit the park’s famed Bua Tong or limestone “Sticky Waterfalls”. The name of the falls is derived from the mineral deposit that makes the surface of the rocks super grippy. The limestone is callous and feels like hardened sponge–no algae adheres to the rock allowing the falls to be ascended like an agile Spiderwoman. There are five different levels and ropes in addition to steps alongside the waterfall if you’re not feeling very superhero-like!

We will have a picnic in this area, allowing for ample time to climb up these surreal falls. After our Spiderwoman experience, we’ll hop on bikes for a 17km (11 mile) ride to Mae Ngat Dam reservoir, known best for its one-room bamboo floating houses. We’ll pedal along quiet, flat rural roads through mesmerizing scenery. The rolling landscape shifts from tidy, organized rice paddies to bountiful exotic fruit orchards to bamboo and verdant fern groves. (*For those who wish not to participate in the cycling portion, you can take a transfer to the lake instead.)

At Mae Ngat Lake Reservoir, our biking trail comes to an end but another adventure instantly unfolds! We’ll climb into the narrow hull of a long-tail boat and cut through the freshwater lake’s placid surface and cross the expanse of the reservoir to absorb the backdrop of distant landscapes. 

We’ll have an incredible traditional lunch in a floating bamboo raft house and spend the remainder of the afternoon at this otherworldly location. We can swim in the rejuvenating waters, take five on the shoreline or navigate the more remote corners of the reservoir by kayak. After a full day spent pedalling and paddling in Sri Lanna National Park, we will sleep well tonight!

 

DAY FOUR: MOVING THROUGH MOUNTAINS

After breakfast, we will leave our resort to explore Doi Ang Kang, the second highest mountain in Thailand. The views here are unparalleled–neighbouring Myanmar is also visible from this vantage point. We’ll learn about the historical battles that took place (almost unbelievably) in this serenity.  

We’ll also visit Thailand’s most famous botanical gardens and linger over an authentic lunch. If time permits we’ll go on a short 20-minute trail to stretch our legs.

In the afternoon, we’ll follow a 30-minute jungle trail before moving on through the mountains to our end destination of Fang. We’ll pass through the addictive mountain scenery to the Phumanee Lahu Home. The family-run property is operated by ancestors of Phu Muen, the man who boldly initiated and led the migration of Lahu people from Myanmar into Thailand over 120 years ago.

 

DAY FIVE: LISU HILLTRIBES

This morning, we’ll take off via 4X4 to the starting point of a 4-hour trek to the top of the mountain. During this trek, the views are startling and ever-changing. Once we reach the hilltribe village we’ll recharge with a predictably piquant lunch. (*Women who would like to opt out of the hike can continue on in the 4×4 to travel up the mountain to the village.)

Today’s lunch and learn will be a dynamic hands-on experience. After a tutorial, we’ll pick tea leaves and observe the complete process of making tea (and coffee!) in this vibrant Lisu village before transferring back to Phumanee where a van will be waiting to take us to Thaton for the night. 

With the grounding taste of tea intense in our mouth and the memory of slippery, smooth tea leaves on our fingertips, we will have a final transfer to the luxury eco-lodge, Phu Chaisai Mountain Resort, set in the bamboo hills. It’s a big slice of heaven in the mountains of Chiang Rai. Prepare to be pampered! Laze about in the pool, let your muscles recover from the trek with a steam or sauna. Book a volcanic lava stone massage (not included) or simply wander along the calming pathways that skirt the koi pond and elaborate gardens of paradise!

 

DAY SIX: PHU CHAISAI

Today is wholly dedicated to pure relaxation in the open arms of Phu Chaisai and the property’s incredible amenities and activities. There are two scheduled hikes and two yoga classes that we can join if we’re feeling energetic! 

If you’d like to explore the area independently or opt for another activity, be sure to ask our guide.

 

DAY SEVEN: WHITE TEMPLE

We’ll have a long ride ahead of us today but it will be peppered with history and highlights as we drive. We’ll leave our gorgeous resort this morning with a full (and quirky) agenda to anticipate. 

First stop: We’ll visit the wonder that is Wat Rung Khun (the “White Temple”). This contemporary ornate temple is one of the most famous and instantly recognized buildings in Thailand for its prevalence of white plaster which represents the purity of Buddha. Designed by renowned artist Chalermchai Kositpipat, the remarkable depictions of heaven and hell are displayed in vivid mural paintings and an eccentric sculpture garden. Unlike any other temple in Thailand, The White Temple pushes the boundaries of Buddhist art, resulting in an evocative and controversial experience.

Next: The Black House Museum or Baan Dam, is the eccentric vision of Thawan Duchanee who curated an impressive collection of animal skins, bones, teeth and taxidermy. There are a total of 15 buildings that showcase his affection for skulls, shells and remains.

Sometimes things are black and white in life! Lunch will be en route today and we’ll have a coffee break too as the Chiang Rai region is known for some of the best beans, grown in a sustainable, ethical way. The young farmers are a part of a regional cooperative and a larger, monumental movement towards coffee farming (versus opium production in the past).

We’ll return to Chiang Rai’s city centre and visit ArtBridge, a collective space established by the local art community. A passionate art expert who will share the behind-the-scenes story of ArtBridge, its evolution and activities. We will have time to browse the collection of works on display then enjoy lunch at ArtBridge’s slick restaurant. 

Tonight’s stay is just 30 minutes away from our much-anticipated visit to the Chai Lai Orchid Elephant Park. Kaomai Lanna Hotel and Resort is an unforgettable boutique resort surrounded by serene tropical gardens in Sanpatong district. In 2018, the resort won the UNESCO Asia-Pacific award for Cultural Heritage Conservation in New Design in Heritage Contexts. Kaomai is an ode to northern Thailand’s tobacco industry and heritage. The former tobacco farm and curing barns have been converted into sumptuous guest rooms thoughtfully curated with colonial-style antique furniture. The on-site cafe, Tao Cah, serves house-blended herbal teas made from local ingredients and the estate’s own garden

 

DAY EIGHT: ELEPHANT ENCOUNTERS

This morning after a bright and healthy breakfast we’ll meet the magnificent elephants of Chai Lai Orchid Elephant Park. The bonding experience is a remarkable and indelible one. We’ll learn about pachyderm personalities and behaviour and how to make a simple medicine for them. Each elephant has their own mahout (a person who works with, rides and tends to an elephant’s needs) who will demonstrate how to approach and speak to them including simple commands. The mahouts will also share the secrets and unique charms of their beloved elephant. 

The Karen are the only tribe in Thailand to own and work with elephants. Their symbiotic relationship with them is long and trusted. The highly skilled mahouts found in elephant camps in Chiang Mai are often Karen hilltribe. 

We’ll have lunch at the camp before transferring to Pha mon village, the start point of our four hour (10km/6.2 miles) trek to Pong Noi Karen homestay (Chai Lai Sisters) in the deep jungle. We’ll be in the shadows and spirit of Thailand’s highest peak, Doi Intahanon, which rises 2,565m (8,415ft) above sea level. The landscape unfolds from rugged mountain to lush tropical forest to serpentine rivers and ribbons of waterfall.

This park’s protected status creates a safe sanctuary for more than 383 dazzling bird species. Our bamboo huts near the snaking stream are an ideal place to be mesmerized and reflect on the enchantment of being in the company of elephants.

Tonight we can relax and share laughs by the fire and indulge in a traditional Karen dinner, absorbing the stillness of this remote area.

 

DAY NINE: RAFTING ALONG THE RIVER

We’ll depart our guesthouse and kick off on an hour-long trek to indulge in the ultimate childhood dream: bamboo rafting along the Mea Wang river! We’ll enjoy the thrill of a few rapids on our one-hour float (depending on the water levels) to the elephant park where we’ll have breakfast and some fresh, invigorating juices in the shade.

It’s time to totally cool off in the river and give the elephants a bath. They love playing in the river and there’s no staying dry with a few elephants who have built-in water guns (their trunks!). Prepare for very wet kisses and big splashes. 

Afterwards, we’ll walk the elephants through the verdant shade of the jungle to the cafe for a flavourful riverside lunch made even more colourful by the seasonal exotic fruits.

We will transfer back to our Chiang Mai hotel around midafternoon and have time to journal, catnap or review memory cards full of elephants before visiting the famed Chiang Mai Night Market and Bazaar. Expect to see the unexpected–everything is for sale here! Football jerseys, noodles, furniture, samurai swords, sarongs, Starbucks…

After the wild and hectic shopping experience, we’ll compare notes and spontaneous purchases over dinner at a local restaurant.

 

DAY TEN: HIKE AND HIGHLIGHTS

It will be a rise-and-shine-and-yawn early breakfast today before our final hike of the trip. We’ll transfer to the start point of the ‘monks trail’ to Doi Suthep Mountain. Monks frequented this trail on their pilgrimage to the Wat Pha Lat, one of Chiang Mai’s least visited temples. The temple is hidden in a pocket of forest which makes it all the more mysterious and captivating.

Our insightful and spiritual Chiang Mai temple tour will be followed by a feel-good lunch at Free Bird Cafe, established to help support charities and people in need. At this “cafe with a cause”, 100% of the profits from the vegetarian/vegan resto and thrift store support the Thai Freedom House foundation, a community language and arts program for minorities, refugees and Indigenous peoples. The zero-waste menu offers everything from smoothies and French toast to Thai, Shan and Burmese options.

We’ll remain plugged into the positive vibes with the visit to Studio Naenna. Founded in 1986, this Northern Thailand community of women weavers, embroiderers, designers and support staff have joined forces to establish “Weavers for the Environment” (WFE). The women unite artisan craft makers from various ethnic groups to create high quality, environmentally-friendly and sustainable products. It’s evident that they encourage pride in traditional techniques and empower women financially within their villages. 

Today’s tie-dye workshop will begin with a quick introduction to natural dyes and Thai ikat (Mudmee) technique. Patricia Cheesman, a renowned textile expert, or her daughter, Lamorna Cheesman, will guide us as we tie and dye pieces in indigo vats.

We’ll have a coffee and tea break before we poke around two galleries of textile garments, interior design textiles and antiques from Patricia’s private collection (depending on the current display) 

Note: Whatever you wear to this workshop may become inadvertently tie-dyed and accidentally stained! Please wear items that you’re not totally attached to– aprons will be provided as well. 

The tie-dye activity will finish around noon allowing for time to chill out back at the hotel after our transfer. Relax, reflect and take a deep breath and inhale the harmony found in the journey we’ve been on together for the last 10 days.  

Tonight will be our final celebratory riverside dinner. Sigh! Savour every Thai flavour and aromatic on your tongue: coconut, curry, basil, lemongrass and maybe the fire of a nam prik.

 

DAY ELEVEN: JOURNEY’S END

Our trip has come to an end in a physical sense–but Thailand’s powerful effect will stay deeply stitched in your DNA. It’s time to say goodbye to your Wild Women tribe, swap contact info and future travel plans before the transfer (25 minutes) to Chiang Mai International Airport (CNX).

Where next?

 

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