The opportunity to take a holiday to Chiang Mai with kids and discover a different part of Thailand with kids was just too tempting to pass. Substitute sun and sand for mountains, rice planting, rivers, rafting, elephants and temples – we were raring to discover Northern Thailand!
Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains, rice fields and all things green. It is located on the banks of the Ping River (yes river – no beach!). It is every bit as lush as it is made out to be.
Farmers for a day
We decided to try two very distinct — but both fabulous — styles of accommodation. The oh-so-luxurious Four Seasons is built on a working rice farm and produces about 2,000 kgs of rice annually. The stunning Dhara Dhevi, on the other hand, resembles an old Lanna kingdom. It is unlike any hotel I had ever stayed at before.
Both hotels have beautiful paddy fields within their grounds and actually encourage guests to experience rice planting for themselves.
My family and I donned traditional farmer clothing, complete with high boots, waist cloths and large straw hats. We then stepped onto the resorts’ lush paddy fields to learn about the lifecycle of rice. We planted saplings as we wade through mud — something the kids couldn’t get enough of.
I was struck that despite living in a city like Singapore, renowned for its equatorial climate and dense vegetation, we had never really hit the dirt before. Interestingly, my little farmers really enjoyed sifting through the mud and found it very calming.
And the bull rides at the end of the planting sessions were such a lovely touch and an absolute hit with the kids.
Someone say poop?
One afternoon, we decided to hop on to cycles and strapped the kids firmly onto the kids’ seat. We wandered aimlessly around Mae Rim village and stopped at several roadside beetle stalls selling live beetles. Of course, we also visited quaint local Thai temples. We enjoyed Wat Pha Da Ra Pi Rom the most, as it took our breath away.
One place the kids really got a kick out of was the Elephant Poo Poo Paper Park. As the name suggests, it is a park where paper is made from elephant poop. Imagine seeing heaps of elephant poop lying around marked ‘poop’ in the different languages of the world; you will be in stitches like my kids too.
Just ahead of the paper park, we rode up to see the local tribes we had heard so much about. They are known for their age-old tradition of elongating the necks of their girls with heavy metallic rings. As the girls grow older, their necks get stretched too. This is a site you don’t see everyday and certainly a must-see when doing Chiang Mai with kids.
The word Chiang Mai oftenconjures images of these beautiful beasts, though not always for the right reasons. I too wanted to introduce these majestic creatures to the children and eventually landed up at an establishment that rehabilitate rescued elephants.
It was lovely to see the children gawk in amazement at these gargantuan mammals and at the same time get up close and personal with them to feed and caress them.
The absolutely amazing part of this trip was that for the five days that we were at Chiang Mai, the kids were so engrossed in activities that involved nature. I was not asked for the usual entertainment — TV, an iPad or an iPhone — even once.
The kids didn’t ask and I didn’t offer. It was an amazing tech-free holiday for everyone. The days were instead filled with farm to table dinners, amazing animal interactions, temple visits, picnics amidst rice fields and some serious rice planting. The kids loved their Chiang Mai jaunt and this mother couldn’t be happier!