I am very excited to share this epic journey I’ve just had to Thailand. It’s a magical place that nurtured my body, mind and spirit.
Stairs on the way to Doi Suthep
It was an adventure filled with meditation in temples, hiking the Monks Trail, spotting monkeys and gibbons in a wild life preserve, swimming on an enchanted island, a cooking class, amazing food, people and more.
In spite of the coronavirus threat we had a great time. Thailand is committed to keeping everyone safe. Many hotels checked guest’s temperature upon arrival. At the time of our trip only 6 cases had been reported.
Our trip began in Chiang Mai, an old city in mountainous northern Thailand. It’s the home to hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples, including 14th-century Wat Phra Singh and 15th-century Wat Chedi Luang (photo below).
We stayed at the charming BED Boutique Hotel which was around the corner from Wat Phra Singh. Since they opened the temple at 6AM we were able to go meditate there as the monks were heading out. This ancient temple inspired deep meditation.
In one of the temples they had wax figure of famous monks, as good as any of Madame Tussauds.
While in Chiang Mai we hiked the monk’s trail which brought us to Wat Pha Lat then on up to Doi Suthep. Overlooking the city from its mountain throne, Doi Suthep is one of northern Thailand’s most sacred temples. It is reached via a 306-step staircase flanked by naga, the climb is intended to help devotees accrue Buddhist merit. You can see me on the stairs in first photo.
The steps lead up to the inner terrace, where a walkway circumnavigates the gleaming golden chedi enshrining a piece of bone said to be from the shoulder of the historical Buddha.
My favorite restaurant in Chiang Mai is The Ginger Farm Kitchen. It’s a warm casual restaurant serving humanely raised animal products and sustainably raised vegetables. It embraces a farm-to-table concept with most produce coming from its own farm.
On the menu, northern Thai cuisine takes centre stage with classics like pomelo salad, stir-fried organic Pako fern, and steamed white snapper with Thai herbs and chili lime sauce. The food was incredibly delicious. I loved this restaurant so much I ate there twice. I was so happy to know the food was pure.
Next stop was Chiang Rai. This city is near the borders of Laos and Myanmar. We went to Wat Phra Kaew, the place where the famous jade Emerald Buddha was found.
The story is, Wat Phra Kaew was originally named Wat Pa Yiah for the species of bamboo native to Chiang Rai. In 1434 AD lightning struck the temple pagoda (Phra Chedi) causing the reliquary to crack open and reveal the Emerald Buddha. This auspicious event caused the people of Chiang Rai to rename the Temple “Wat Phra Kaew” the temple of the Emerald Buddha.
This royal temple once housed the jade Emerald Buddha and now displays a replica. (photo below) The original Emerald Buddha now resides in the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Another fun sight in Chiang Rai is the White Temple, a unique, and somewhat bizarre modern temple. It’s the brainchild of Chiang Rai-born visual artist and painter Chalermchai Kositpipat. He brings an unconventional approach to temple architecture, fusing elements from his own imagination (white, not gold, as a pure color to embody the sacredness of temples) with orthodox Buddhist teachings about heaven, hell, karma and earthly sins.
We stayed at the Mora Boutique Hotel where they served an incredible Thai soup for breakfast. It’s a sweet, spicy sour soup of vegetables and rice noodles called Guoy Teow Tom Yum. I’m working on a recipe to post on the blog.
Next stop was Khao Yai National Park for hiking. The park hosts a variety of wildlife such as bears, gibbons, elephants and hornbills. We had some fabulous hikes and were lucky to have an amazing guide with a monocular telescope enabling us to see the hornbill and gibbons up close.
The macaque monkeys were hanging out on the road, oh so cute.
And a viper up close on a tree!
The park had a wonderful place for lunch serving traditional Thai food. I enjoyed papaya salad and sautéed Thai kale. What a treat for the middle of the park.
After all this touring we were ready to head to the beach for relaxation and swimming. We went to Koh Mak a lush tropical island with white sands and stunning clear blue water. We stayed at the Seavana Resort in a beautiful bungalow right on the beach surrounded by breathtaking nature and soothing sounds of the ocean.
The truth is Koh Mak is paradise. They have cerulean blue waters as far as the eye can see. The water is the perfect temperature.
It was so soothing to stand in the water up to our chin and hang out for hours and then walk on the beach in the evening as the sun went down.
I had the pleasure of taking a cooking class at the Smile Cooking School while in Koh Mak. Leng is a professional chef that learned cooking from her father. As a child she spent most of her time with him going to the market, selecting the best and freshest ingredients, preparing them carefully with love and attention. I had fun with Leng discovering “tricks “ which make Thai food amazing.
We made lots of delicious dishes; green curry with fish, yellow curry with vegetables, crispy squid with black pepper sauce, massaman curry, coconut soup, tom yum. I love that all the dishes were naturally gluten free.
There are many beautiful ingredients in Thai cooking.
One of my favorite dishes is Pad Thai. The ingredients are easy to find here in America. It’s versatile and can be made vegan or with eggs and shrimp like they do in Thailand. I look forward to sharing it with you.
We ended our journey with a few days in Bangkok. It’s an exciting, busy city with delicious food and lots to see.
While we were walking around we saw these beautiful young girls enjoying a hot pot snack after school. They were excited to have their photo taken.
Usually we visit lots of markets but we were avoiding crowds this time to minimize our chances of getting sick. We came across this small market on one of the side streets.
We enjoyed a ride through the canals of Bangkok.
One of my favorite restaurants was Baan Khanitha. They have a holistic philosophy toward well being leading them to use only the highest quality ingredients with no MSG. Most of their vegetables come from their own organic farm Baan Panali in the plateau area of the Kao Yai National Park region. One of the dishes I enjoyed was beautiful Banana Flower Salad.
And that’s all! I hope you enjoyed our journey together. There will be many more!
I am soaking up all the inspiration and I am still basking in the energy from the trip. I will be sharing some recipes.
I will see you back here soon.
Lots of love, and thank you again for journeying with me! Travel is so good for the soul :).