Independent filmmaker, Tony ‘Photo Voyager’ Ukpo loves travelling for both work and leisure and is passionate about photography. These things help him understand and appreciate people and their culture, as well as his own place in the world. He recently spent four days in Chiang Mai, Thailand and is sharing his experience curated by Suffy Travels.
The Arrival, Coffee and Beautiful Architecture
After 24 hours of flying, I finally arrived Chiang Mai to officially begin enjoying my trip, courtesy of Suffy Travels. On getting to the airport, my tour guide for the next four days, Chula, a driver, was waiting to pick me. The tour started with a personalised tour of the city centre and the old town. We walked through one of the colourful street markets filled with local Thai delicacies and made our first lunch stop at Graph Table Café.
Coffee has only been recently introduced into the Thai culture and lifestyle but they have already taken to it in the classiest of ways, with various unique approaches to iced and regular coffee made from locally grown beans. After lunch, we visited some of the many beautiful temples in the city before finally heading to where I was to stay for the trip, The Dhara Dhevi Resort.
The resort was conceptualised and constructed to resemble an old palace from ancient Thai history, right down to the wooden bridges and old cobble stones leading up to the main palace lobby and reception building. It was like stepping back in time, into a cultural oasis deeply imbedded with the history of the region.
The villa I stayed in was based on traditional Thai style architecture and included a personal planche pool on the back terrace, with a view of the rice fields which were preserved from the land originally surrounding the present day resort grounds, and of my personal butler who offered me his services for the duration of my stay.
Nature and Thai Cuisine
The day started out with a trip to the breakfast lounge of the resort, where I got to try their very varied buffet offering and then it was off to the Elephant Nature Park. The Elephant Nature Park is a breath of fresh air. It is a safe sanctuary and rescue centre that nurtures animals back to good health in a natural environment as opposed to others in the region that allegedly treat their animals very unethically. It was amazing to see real elephants as I got the opportunity to actually closely approach, watch and feed them.
The amazing landscape that surrounds the park, the mix of mountain views, vast fields and greenery make a breathtakingly beautiful scenery. After being helped by Chula to join a walking tour of the reserve, we had lunch in the main food hall area that serves only vegetarian style food because of the elephants. The meals were all freshly made and a good mix of vegetables cooked in different ways, with rice, noodles and potatoes as healthy and very tasty side dishes.
Once lunch was over, we took a long ride back to the hotel for a quick break and to freshen up before heading for an amazing fine dining experience in one of the best restaurants in Chiang Mai, The David’s Kitchen.
Breathtaking Parks and Waterfalls
We made a trip up the mountains to the Doi Inthanon National Park. Amazing natural scenery that has it all; from rice fields, locally grown, dried, roasted and brewed coffee beans from a small tribe of mountain inhabitants, to the jaw dropping Wachiratan Waterfall which has to be seen to be believed. Images do not do it justice and nothing beats the feel of the spray of water that hits you at the base of the waterfall itself. It is nature at its most primal and most beautiful.
We started at the very top at a science observatory and embarked on a forest walk then we made our way to the Temple Pagodas made in honour of the former King and Queen and located at a point, which boasts a panoramic view of the entire countryside around it. As it was the monsoon season, we got a different vibe, moodier but also very beautiful. We made our way down once more and stopped at the Royal Project, which is a kind of plant observatory and flower garden that spans the mountains as well as the small plateau on which the main buildings are situated. Lunch was a delicious meal of local delicacies – locally grown vegetables and traditional Thai delicacies specific to the mountain region.
After the long day out, we headed back to the resort to rest before going out to dinner at one of the city’s local restaurants – Dash, for a good Thai-Western fusion meal. I ended the day with a Mai Tai and city views.
Enjoying Final Moments and Souvenir Shopping
Day 4 was a relaxing day. I had breakfast in my villa and I was taken by buggy to the spa area for a special 3-hour treatment including a body scrub, sauna and a Thai massage.
Following this, we went for lunch at the amazing Woo Café and gallery space. After lunch, we had a few impromptu stopovers, during which we enjoyed Thai craftsmanship as well as a little shopping experience to buy souvenirs and gifts. The first stop was at the silk house, Jolie Femme, where we got to witness silk larvae being prepared and the silk itself being treated in preparation for weaving and tailoring into various styles of fabric, all in-house next to the main shopping floor where the finished products were sold.
The second stop was the famous Gems Gallery, which sells, repairs and prepares precious stones found in and around the country, such as rubies, emeralds and jade. After the stopovers, we slowly made our way back to the hotel for a final meal at the resort’s fine dining French restaurant, Farang Ses.
My trip to Chiang Mai was an amazing,wonderful, refreshing and educational experience, carefully handled every step of the way by a capable and friendly team as you will see in the video below.
Holiday Curator: Marie-Therese Ukpo
Holiday Operator: Piyawan Thongbai
Visual Storyteller: TSU @photovoyager