Chiang Mai is about a one hour flight north of Bangkok.
All-in-one. We elected to stay at the Spicy Thai Backpackers Hostel, which is run by Noom. The hostel was cute and located in a house in a residential area. In addition to affordable accommodations, he also offers customizable private tours, which we chose to sign our group up for.
Elephant Farm. One of the first places Noom took us was an Elephant farm where we got to see an Elephant show and take an hour ride atop of an elephant. It started raining at one point, but the elephants apparently come equipped with an umbrella in back and everything, haha. The trail the elephants take is pretty scenic, as well, so it’s a bit better than doing a 5-minute elephant ride at your local County fair.
Noom bought us some sugar cane and bananas to feed the elephants 🙂 That’s another nice thing about his tours – he charges a totally reasonable price for the tour and doesn’t ask you to pay for a single thing more.
Hmong. In the rural parts where no police are roaming, Noom let us ride on top of the van! Quite dangerous but one of the highlights of my trip was riding roof top with the wind in my face through the agricultural areas of Northern Thailand (“Chia,” I believe). We visited a Hmong village and were able to meet some locals and learn a bit about their history. Noom bought us some snacks to give to the school children! They’re so cute 🙂
The town itself is pretty rural looking. Houses are simple and bamboo, single rooms that a number of families share. Noom told us that they show their wealth in the form of cars, so one of the richest men in the village actually just had rows of cars behind his house. The people there practice a system of polygamy where a husband may have multiple wives. He said it’s up to the first wife whether or not she wants to approve additional wives. When I asked why any first wife would approve of such a thing, he said that it lightens her labor load and she can just boss the second wife around.