Chiang Mai is the largest city in northern Thailand, with a population of over 150,000. Surrounded by mountains and quiet countryside, Chiang Mai is popularly known as the “Rose of the North.”
Many expats and locals have settled in Chiang Mai because of its beauty, relaxed atmosphere and cosmopolitan feel. As with many locations around the world, in Chiang Mai the people are extremely friendly, and you’ll have the opportunity to truly become part of the local community.
The Thai language is Thailand’s national language, written in its own alphabet. English is widely taught in schools but not widely used throughout the country.
For accommodations during the elephant volunteering program in Thailand, you would stay on-site at the elephant camp in one of the group volunteer houses.
Thai food is in large part, rather healthy, with its use of fresh vegetables and low fat meats, like pork and chicken. The common belief is that Thai food is spicy, which is true among some dishes, but not all. There is a wide variety of different dishes, ranging from fried entrees over rice, to spicy and herbal soups, noodle soups, and a variety of finger foods and snacks.
Some popular modes of transport around Chiang Mai include the songthaew (covered pick-up trucks with two benches in the back,), tuk-tuk’s and samlor vehicles. You can also take cheap taxis as well. Don’t forget about bicycling and walking too, as the city is relatively small.
Thailand is very safe in terms of personal safety as well as health. Volunteers should not drink tap water, use only bottled water and carbonated drinks. The most common ailment is an upset stomach as you adjust to the food and water. There is a small risk of malaria, so you might consider taking anti-malarial medication. There are local hospitals and clinics that can treat serious illnesses.
Thailand is a tropical country. Northern Thailand is considered tropical savanna. During the cool season the high temperature during the day can rise into the mid-80’s (F), where the evenings and mornings are rather cool (mid to upper 50’s). During the hot season (March to May) the temperatures can reach the 100’s (F) during the day and cool down to only the 90’s (F) during the evening. During the rainy season (June to October) the weather can be quite dynamic, with the norm, obviously, being rainy and muggy, with the occasional tropical storm that can last for several days.
Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist temples (called “wats” in Thai). The most famous is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep. You can also visit the Chiang Mai National Museum and the Tribal Museum. There are numerous festivals throughout the year, such as the Flower Festival and Loi Krathong Festival (3 days). Also consider taking a guided bicycle tour of the city and countryside.
Most international flights into Thailand arrive first in Bangkok then connect to Chiang Mai (Chiang Mai International Airport “IATA”).