After a 3-hour flight, we finally arrived in Chiangmai, a beautiful city in Northern Thailand characterized largely by forested mountains, where working elephants are still used in forest management. This mountainous region is also home to Thailand's many colorful hilltribe people.
We’ve always been curious about the weather, wondering if it’ll be too cold to run in the marathon. As it turns out, December is the coldest time to visit the highlands, where temperature dips to 3C at night. Daytime temperature is very comfortable hovering around 21C. It’s much warmer in the city.
We spent the first morning playing tourist. The driver picked us up from the airport and brought us straight to the elephant camp up in the mountains. “You must catch the elephant show”, he insisted. Watching elephants performing circus tricks, dancing, painting pictures and kicking football is not exactly something we enjoy doing very much, but we walked out of there with renewed respect and admiration for these intelligent creatures. That said, we would prefer to see these gentle giants in their natural environment, frolicking by the stream, grazing or rolling in mud, in other words, not being forced into submission.
After lunch at a beautiful restaurant overlooking a waterfall, we visited a Hmong hilltribe village. Hmong houses are built on the ground in clusters, with several clusters forming a village. The Hmongs wear jackets made of black cloth decorated with elaborate embroidery and use silver both for adornment and as a show of wealth.
Intricately embroided cushion covers for sale.
At night, we watched the staff light up Khoom Fay - traditional Thai hot air lanterns. Watching them ascending gracefully in the night was such an amazing sight, it took our breath away!