Travel Into the Forest of Chiang Mai

44You could go on vacation and look at exotic animals, like elephants, from behind a great zoo divide, while snapping a picture or two – or you could travel to a destination that lets you ride the elephants, bathe them in a river, and become familiar with their great natures. If you are the type of person who wants to live during your vacation, Thailand’s Chiang Mai is a must. Over five million visitors flock to northern Thailand’s largest and most active city each year, and while they come for a wide variety of reasons, one common thread binds them. They want to have an experience that takes them far from their everyday lives.

Located on the banks of the Ping River and nestled into the highest mountains in Thailand, Chiang Mai is a thriving hub. The city has conscientiously cultivated an atmosphere of creativity, arts, sophistication, and excitement. From “elephant camps” where volunteers help owners care for these incredible beasts to festivals and museums, there is no shortage of unique offerings for visitors.

One festival, above all, characterizes the diverse and culturally-rich identity of Chiang Mai. Loi Kratong is celebrated in 12th month of the traditional Thai lunar calendar, which is usually in November, and during a full moon. Kratong, or floating banana leaf containers, are decorated with flowers and candles and released into the waterways of the city; Khom fai, or sky lanterns made of paper, are launched into the air. It is a sight that will take your breath away.

Chiang Mai is a city that is proud of its heritage and is active in celebrating it. Visitors can take part in wonderful festivals, like the Chiang Mai Flower Festival or Tam Boon Khan Dok, in which offerings are made to Buddhist and Lanna-era icons. Visiting this beautiful Thai city during these times allows you to sample daily life at its best with lively music, dancing, and, of course, delicious Thai food.

Anytime is a great time to visit Thailand; visitors from cooler climes, though, will find the months of November to February to be cooler and more manageable. If you like balmy weather (and who doesn’t when you can lounge on a Thai beach?), try the hot season of March to May. June through October is the rainy season, but even then, you will find short bursts of rain followed by brilliant sunshine.

Instead of planning by season, try planning your vacation so you can attend one of Chiang Mai’s beautiful festivals. Whatever you do, you will find your Thai journey to be fulfilling and memorable.