My favorite Chiang Mai activities
To help you make a decision on what things to do in Chiang Mai I wrote down some of my favorite activities and how I experienced them. If you’re looking for something intimate, local and cultural (and like workshops) make sure you check out this list of things to do in Chiang Mai!
1. Silversmith Workshop (at a temple)
Me at the silversmith workshop:
“So, I’m in the learning center of a temple, the teacher taught me how to craft a nickel bracelet with the traditional technique that has been used for hundreds of years. It is more difficult than I thought and it is warmer than I thought but I am focused and determined to create a beautiful bracelet for my mom. I feel like I cannot come back home after 8 months with an ugly looking bracelet. So for the past 20 minutes I have been very serious and working hard!
Then I look up and see the smile of a monk learning the same skill. He is looking at me and I see he is amused by me. With his one smile it feels like he is telling me not to worry. That I should just relax and enjoy the process and that my mom will love the bracelet. I smile back at him (and myself) and we both laugh. I relax and go back to work, for the rest of the class I enjoy myself, sometimes looking up at this serene monk, and I feel grateful!”
At the end of the class I had a mediocre looking bracelet but one that I knew my mom would love!
If you are looking for things to do in Chiang Mai, this Silversmith Workshop is definitely at the top of my list! Even though I cannot guarantee you the same smile by the same monk, the whole experience is definitely more than worth it!
2. Glass Blowing with a Master Artisan
I told my friend I was going to try a glass blowing workshop in Chiang Mai. She laughed and asked me to sent her a picture so she could have a last picture in which I still had my eyebrows (that’s how clumsy I am haha).
Thus, as you can imagine I was a bit nervous before trying this. Seeing the size of the flames on the pictures did not put my nerves at ease (they could definitely reach my eyebrows).
When I arrived, the host luckily took the time to explain everything clearly and before I knew it I felt like a pro! Feeling the heat of the fire and seeing the glass melt in front of me had something magical. I really enjoyed creating this little creature (I almost felt like god haha). I made a pig and his name is Barry. He now has a proud place on a shelve in my living room. Also, I still have both my eyebrows! So when choosing things to do in Chiang Mai, make this one of them!
3. Meditation & Monk chat by Buddhist University
Seeing the happiness of the silversmith monk I wanted to be more like him! So I signed up for a meditation workshop by the Buddhist University.
We met in the monks office for a chat, they explained a lot about Buddhism and I asked a bunch of questions. Although I was a bit embarrassed about my lack of knowledge, they were patient and encouraging! The way they talk about their personal experience and journey is inspiring.
Now it was actually time to start meditating! I was struggling to sit still and trying not to fidget, my mind was racing I felt like I was failing meditation big time! I noticed the calmness in these monks; they sit still, talk slowly and even walk relaxed. They explained to me that the racing of the mind is all part of meditation and the ease will come with experience.
I thought back about the smiling silversmith and I relaxed (sort of). Throughout the other meditation forms we learned, my mind was still racing but instead of focusing on my inability to keep my mind still I was trying to enjoy the meditation experience, which I luckily succeeded in.
4. Coffee Appreciation: Thai Coffee Journey
I am a sucker for workshops! Whether it comes to fun things to do in Chiang Mai, Yogyakarta or Siem Reap, I always end up talking about and doing workshops! They are some of my most memorable moments on a trip.
One moment that my friend and I still joke about is during this Coffee Appreciation workshop. My friend was visiting so, of course, I took her on a workshop haha. Although, we both knew nothing about coffee but that was about to change!
We get to the place, a really nice quiet cafe with a big garden. Our host (Neung Priet) tells us all about different types of coffee and has a passion for coffee I have never seen in anybody! We were clearly dealing with a professional! After learning the theory it was time to actually start. We got to see/smell and taste different types of beans and different types of making coffee. We even learned how to taste it!
Neung Priet would give us a bean or a sip of coffee and then we would rate it on different aspects. We had tons of fun and laughs but we were not even close to great coffee tasters. At one point he would ask us to name the flavours in the coffee. Every answer was not even close!
I would say caramel and he would say…..”No”. My friend would say chocolate and again his head moved sideways. This went on for a long time! We were still going at it half an hour after the workshop was supposed to end. Then, at cup #ALOT again I smelled, looked at my friend and Neung Priet and without really thinking about it I said “JACKFRUIT”. My friend looked at me thinking “what the &*%# is jackfruit?” and Neung Priet started smiling! FINALLY I got one and we could go home! (We actually ended up staying for another 30 minutes because we were having such a good time haha) 😀
Throughout the rest of our holiday, tasting our morning cup of coffee was always an extra reason to smile!
5. Elephant Nature Park
Photocredit: Elephant Nature Park
The last thing on my list is, surprise, not a workshop! I will keep it short because there is a big chance you already have this on your list. The Elephant Nature Park is an elephant rescue and rehabilitation center in Northern Thailand where you can volunteer and visit to help. When you are looking for things to do in Chiang Mai this is one of the first to pop up.
However I do want to mention it! Mostly because I want to warn you about the other (elephant park) options. Because Elephant Nature Park sells out months ahead, it might be that you are too late and have to look for an alternative.
If this is the case, please, do a bit of research about the company before you book! Because, it has become a trend to call an Elephant park a sanctuary but it does not necessarily mean that the animals are treated well. (one tip: if the park has the option to ride the elephant, skip it!)
I can tell you it is incredible to see these sweet giants up close! The strength you feel when they take a snack from your hand, you feel that they have the power to move a car. This is definitely my favorite thing to do in Chiang Mai, (that is not a workshop ;)!