When is the best time to visit Thailand?

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The latest post on one of our favorite Thailand Blogs Tieland to Thailand answers a question that we get asked often "When is the best time to visit Thailand?" The short answer is anytime. But Thailand has 3 seasons and several different regions and amazing festivals to take into account.

Check out Their helpful advice for getting the most out of your travels in Thailand. 

"Everyone wants clear skies and mild temperatures while they’re on vacation. So, let’s begin by looking at Thailand’s weather, which varies based on the country’s region and the time of year."  Read more here...

Karen Hilltribe Homestay FAQ

Many of our guests visit Karen hilltribe villages during their stay, either for a day or for an overnight trip.  We always recommend a homestay as it’s a beautiful, peaceful and truly special experience that gives you a real insight into village life in rural Chjang Mai, Thailand. Most guests don’t necessarily know what to expect, though.  Here are some actual questions we’ve been asked about what it’s going to be like.

Will I walk to the village?

It depends!  If you’d rather not walk, we can take you to a village with a road that leads straight there - just ask.  Many guests prefer to trek through the jungle to a more isolated village, though.  It’s beautiful, and it’s amazing to experience life in a village that’s so remote.  Treks to the village are usually about two hours or so, with stops to learn Karen household uses for jungle plants, swim in waterfalls and take in views along the way.

 

Karen hilltribe thailand

Do the villagers speak English?

Some villagers might speak some English, but most don’t speak it extensively.  But opportunities for education, particularly English language learning, are sparse.  See if you can teach your hosts some new words, and have a go at learning some of theirs.  Or, you can bring a pack of cards and teach your hosts a new game.  Language barriers actually provide an opportunity to connect with people on a human level without the complexity of speech.  We think that’s part of the fun of homestays!  Karen people are very warm and friendly - we think you’ll be surprised how easy it is to communicate, and find it quite enjoyable!  

 

Will there be lots of people in the village?

Homestays do involve interaction with locals.  However, it’s important to keep in mind that villagers also need to go about their daily lives.  If you arrived in the afternoon, in all likelihood most of the villagers will still be out working in their rice fields.  Hilltribe villages are usually so remote they have to be quite self-sufficient, so they farm all their own rice and other crops.  A village near us called Mor Wah Kee, for instance, grows a large passion fruit crop.  Some is kept for the village, some is sold further afield.  Weaving and crafts are also taken to the city to sell.  So if you arrive and there are only a few children and grandparents around, just take the opportunity to settle in and relax.  Perhaps you can use the time to begin to get to know your host.

 

Will the villagers put on a show for us?

Part of having an ‘authentic’ experience is seeing people’s lives as they are, not being the recipient of a curated cultural performance.  If someone visited your house for dinner, would you presume to think that they would want to hear you singing to them?  Karen people love to sing, and many of them can play guitar.  Bring a guitar, and then you can play them your favourite songs, and respectfully ask them to share some of their traditional music with you.  That way, you’ve got a fair exchange.  A reciprocal enjoyment of each other’s cultures, and a chance to learn on both sides.

 

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Is the village dirty?

Infrastructure in Western countries is highly developed.  Tap water is clean and virtually free, and public services keep your towns and cities pretty spotless without you having to lift a finger.  Here in rural Thailand it’s really difficult to get clean water.  Remember, too, that in hilltribe villages animals live alongside villagers.  Pigs, for example, are a vital resource for their meat and for reselling, but they can be smelly!  If you were staying on a farm, you’d expect some interesting sights and smells.  Exposure to nature and the elements is part of the jungle experience.  Try to be understanding if things aren’t quite as immaculate as you’re used to, and bear in mind that your hosts will go to every effort to make sure that your food is safe and your sleeping quarters are clean.

Will we eat together with the family who are hosting us?

It totally depends on the family. In Karen culture it’s common for hosts to give visitors food and wait for them to finish eating and then eat whatever is left over. They take pride in being kind hosts and offering the best for the guests.  In the villages, meat is a real luxury.  So while you’ll be eating pork or chicken, your hosts might be eating something slightly less appealing to a Western palate, like squirrel and chili.  By cooking you a separate meal, your hosts are going out of their way to show you respect and consideration.  They might prefer you to eat separately because they are worried their table manners might not meet your expectations. They are used to eating with their hands and may feel shy using utensils. (kind of like you learning to use chopsticks ;)  If this is the case, please take this for what it is: your host trying to make you as comfortable as possible.  

Karen Hilltribe homestays are an excellent way to enjoy the slower pace of life in Northern Thailand and to interact with a new culture while immersed in nature.  To make the most of your stay, just keep an open mind, relax and enjoy!

 

Soe's farmstay 

Soe's farmstay 

Women Travelers in Thailand

How safe is travel in Thailand? It depends on where you go, what you plan to do when you get there and the kinds of precautions you’re willing to take while you travel.

Being a solo female traveler in Asia can be one of the best and most empowering experience in a girl's life. But it can be scary too.  Overall, Thailand is a safe nation in which to travel.  Physical attacks and other crimes are less likely than in many other developed nations. But learning to protect yourself can go a long way and keep you safe on your travels anywhere in the world. Learn how to stay alert, assess potentially dangerous situations, and what to do in an emergency.  Join us on Thursdays at Core Combat in Chiang Mai for a fun and empowering 2 hour workout. And at only 250 THB it's a deal.

We love this class so much we made it a part of or training program for all the women and girls we serve. So if you are a guest at our ecolodge on a Thursday just let the reception know that you would like to join them in Chiang Mai.

Chai Lai team at Core Combat is Chiang Mai

Chai Lai team at Core Combat is Chiang Mai

5 Ways to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint While Traveling

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By Angelica Fenton

Daughters Rising and Chai Lai Orchid are all about social impact, especially when it comes to promoting sustainable, environmentally friendly travel. It’s important to remember that it’s all of our jobs to protect the earth’s environment and keep it clean, whether you’re at home, travelling soon or on the road already. Different countries have different policies when it comes to trash, recycling, or environmental protection, and many times it’s going to differ than what you’re used to at home. Plan ahead and make a conscious decision to reduce your carbon footprint while traveling. Here are our suggestions to help you out along the way.  

1. Carry a reusable water bottle- preferably a metal one.

Don’t contribute to plastic waste, especially when you’re traveling. Many countries (especially in Southeast Asia) don’t have recycling options or environmental sustainability infrastructure in place to dispose of plastics. If they do, they may be few and far between. Avoid this by bringing your own reusable water bottle on the road, or reuse a store-bought plastic bottle multiple times. Metal water bottles are easy to clean and great insulators for hot and cold liquids- you can even use them for tea, smoothies, soup or broth. Better yet, invest in a good portable water filter along with your reusable bottle so that you don’t have to buy bottled water wherever you go. Buy a stainless steel water bottle at Chai Lai that gets you free clean water refills all around Thailand.

2. Use solar lanterns and battery packs.

You’ll inevitably need electricity at some point while you’re traveling, whether you need to recharge your phone or find your way to your hostel bunk bed. Conserve energy and reap the power of the sun with solar lanterns and recharge banks for your electronics. These are great options for bus rides, rural areas and long travel stretches where you have to go wireless or might not have an outlet nearby. Solar products ensure that you always have the ability to have light or a charge no matter where you are, while saving electricity. It’s a win-win. 

3. Buy from fresh local markets to reduce food packaging waste.

If you plan to cook or buy food from anywhere other than a restaurant while traveling, opt for a local market or veggie and fruit stall over the nearest grocery store. You’ll get a cultural experience, support local business and save food packaging from the trash. Most foods and produce you’ll pick up at the local market won’t be wrapped in consumer-friendly packaging like plastic or styrofoam. Just make sure you give everything you buy a rinse off when you get home!

4. Pack a reusable shopping bag or tote.

Plastic bags are everywhere, especially in Southeast Asia. Vendors are quick to bag purchases for you, sometimes using multiple plastic bags for one item. Don’t contribute to plastic bag waste. Beat the trend by bringing your own reusable bag, tote or small backpack. Take it with you when you shop for food or souvenirs and turn down plastic bags whenever you can. As a bonus, a tote or backpack will hold more than a plastic bag will- so shop away!

5. ...But always have a trash bag handy.

We all find ourselves in situations where we have trash to toss but no trashcan in sight. Similarly, you’ve probably seen tourist areas- beaches, parks and trails- scattered with trash. Littering or not cleaning up after yourself should never be an option, especially when you’re away from home in a new culture. Respect the environment you’re in by having a trash bag in your pack just in case. You’ll never be tempted to leave trash or litter, and you can ensure your waste goes into a proper trash bin the next time you find one. Keeping the environment clean is everyone’s responsibility and isn’t optional in the absence of a trash can.

Sustainable Community Based Tourism

Chai Lai Sisters: Sustainable Tourism and Authentic Thailand Experience

Chai Lai Orchid and Daughters Rising are incredibly proud to announce the launch of the Chai Lai Sisters Trekking and Tour Company—the first indigenous women run tour company in Thailand. The project is run by graduates from our job training program, and interest free loan program.

Chai Lai Sisters offers travelers an authentic Thailand experience by providing the most personalized and private tours. With the tours adventurous, mountainous hikes, incredible waterfalls and real homestays you will not get a more genuine experience, away from the typical tourist track.

Chai Lai Sisters is a model of sustainable tourism with ethical and eco-friendly practices. They create jobs for Karen women which serve to empower them and their communities. For every traveler they host, Chai Lai Sisters will plant 3 trees in the jungle. The proceeds from tours create scholarships for Karen girls and an elephant rescue/ retirement home. The entire experience is designed to support hill tribe communities, the environment and the empowerment of indigenous women.

Do good while you travel—and experience the real Northern Thailand, with locals.

Hike the Monks Trail in Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai is largest and most culturally significant city in Northern Thailand and has over 300 Buddhist temples.  Hiking up to Wat Doi Suthep is a fun way to experience Thai culture and get a birds eye view of Chiang Mai. Wat Doi Suthep is the most famous temple in Chiang Mai, it is beautiful golden temple at the top of the mountain that over looks the entire city. The two hour hike takes you through a jungle to a forest temple, Wat Phra Lat Temple before a strenuous hike uphill to Wat Phra Doi Suthep.

Here is a great blog post with some tips on making the most of this excursion (and lots of other things in Thailand) Happy Hiking!

Hiking the Monk’s Trail Up Doi Suthep

 

Contact up to book a day trip filled will some of the most beautiful and obscure temples Chiang Mai has to offer.

Eco Travel Resolutions

We love ecosalon’s travel resolutions especially #3 and #4

Travel New Year’s Resolution #1: Leave Your Comfort Zone

I’ve always been curious about travel to Asia, but always changed course when it finally came time to plan a trip. Three key excuses—the language barrier, the long flights, and the costs—deterred me in the past, but not so for 2015: I’m hoping to have a grand Asia adventure this year, and am taking old friends along for the ride as well. I’m excited and fully expect an exhilarating, eye-opening experience. So where’s your destination that’s always been just out of reach? What could you do there this year, if you didn’t let your sense of comfort and familiarity dictate your choices? Plan a trip to wherever the heart-pumping, I-hope-to-go-there-someday destination is for you. It’s a new year, a fresh start: Now really is the time.

Travel New Year’s Resolution #2: Make—and Stick to—a Realistic Budget

Of course, even with a lofty travel resolution, there are the very real issues of expenses. That’s why the new year is a perfect time to start budgeting. Determine the cost of your trip well before your departure—everything from transportation to in-country daily expenses—and start prepping now so you don’t have sticker shock later. Research flights,hotels, and other travel costs in advance. For spending money once you’re on vacation, take the long view approach, too: Months beforehand, set aside a portion of your paycheck, enroll in a vacation club savings plan at your local bank, compile all your loose change and your $1 or $5 bills each week—whatever it takes to make your travel goal happen.

Travel New Year’s Resolution #3: Commit to Unplugging While Away

Remember that stat about Americans not using their vacation time? Well, in another depressing statistic, a TripAdvisor survey showed that when we do take trips, 77 percent of us still check in with the office. This stems from the “work martyr complex”, according to the U.S. Travel Association, and can contribute to excess burnout and guilt – exactly the opposite of the benefits one gets from getting away from work on vacation (rest, relaxation, and recharging in a stress-free environment). So when you’re planning your 2015 trips, resolve to really get away – no checking work email, no texting with your colleagues during your time off. If you’re concerned this may be frowned upon, start communications with your supervisors and colleagues early and reinforce that you will not be available during your vacation time. Be clear, consistent, and transparent – and if you get push back, show them the data.

Travel Resolution #4: Support the Local Economy Wherever You Go

A great benefit of travel is seeing what’s local all around the world. Whether you choose small inns and pensiones, mom-and-pop restaurants, handmade goods from local markets, and/or local tour guides, your tourism dollars go toward directly supporting the economy of the region you’re visiting. You’ll also learn a lot about local customs, traditions, and culture, too. So resolve to go local on your 2015 travels and see how much your horizons expand—and how far your dollars truly can go.

Travel Resolution #5: Choose the Right Travel Companions

As I’ve discussed earlier, nothing kills a trip quicker tha

Top 10 Things to do in Chiang Mai

Swim with the elephants at Chai Lai eco lodge

 

There are a number of elephant camps that call themselves “sanctuaries” in Chiang Mai, but only a few that practice responsible tourism. Chai Lai works with a neighboring elephant camp to provide their guests with bareback elephant rides. Their purpose is to show the elephant camp that profits can still be generated without the use of a chair or circus performance.

Stay above the clouds at Doi Suthep

 

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of Thailand’s most sacred temples. The temple is perfectly nestled on one of the peaks at Doi Suthep Mountain overlooking the city. To get there, you can either rent a scooter for 250 baht, or take a red truck (about 100 baht). You will see a long staircase that will lead you to the temple. There is a small entry fee to enter this magnificent temple, and I encourage you to do so. Remember to dress conservatively while roaming inside the temple! On the terrace, there are beautiful trees and breathtaking views of the city. Whether you are here during rainy season, or dry season this place is a must-see.

Unwind at the North Gate Jazz Café

After a long day of exploring, let your hair down and join your friends at the North Gate Jazz Café. Listen to live music while sipping on some cold drinks. You will find that this is the place to be on any given night; small but cozy. Catch-up with old friends, and make some new ones.

Zip through Chiang Mai on a motorbike

 

Chiang Mai is home to many first-time riders. The traffic is not chaotic, and easy to navigate through. The cost to rent a scooter or a motorbike is around 250 -1000 baht if you are looking for something simple. I recommend starting off with a scooter so you can get a feel for it. However, if you still feel uneasy then get on the back of someone that has had experience in riding and enjoy the ride!

Find something special at a night bazaar

This is truly a shopper’s paradise! There is something for everyone; whether you are in search for the perfect crepe, or handmade trinkets to bring back home, the night bazaar is fun for the whole family. The markets open in the evening and close at midnight every day, rain or shine. Make sure to do your shopping at the night bazaar, and not on the islands. Yes, you can find some of the same items on the islands, but prices will be much higher! Take your time at the markets, and brush up on your bartering skills. Local Tip- The Saturday and Sunday night markets sell all handmade items and the prices are marked.

Trek through the jungle, and stay overnight at a hill tribe village

Go on a beautiful journey through the jungle, and then chat with the locals at the Karen Village. You will be able to get a glimpse of what it truly means to live a simple life. Accommodations are basic, but the homestay family will do their best to make you feel comfortable. During your stay you will learn how the Karen hill tribes live off the land, and how kids can have fun without cable-television. This is for the true adventurers. Tip- Some of the villages have elephants living there too!

The “Grand Canyon” of Thailand

Photo: theyoungwildandfree.com

A truly picturesque sight that you should not miss! If you like swimming or jumping off cliffs, this is definitely the place for you. If you are looking for a relaxing place to read your book, this is also the place for you. Just rent a tube from one of the vendors, and get lost in a book. Getting there is quite simple, you can join a tour, or you can rent a motorbike and go on your own. The drive from Chiang Mai is nothing special, but canyon sure is. If you are planning on bringing your camera make sure that it has some kind of floatation device attached to it. I have seen, and heard of many unfortunate souls who have lost their gopro to the deep, dark water.

Release a sky lantern

 

Chai Lai Orchid, in Mae Wang is one of the few places that you can release a lantern outside of the normal celebration times. It is truly a magical experience, and can be shared with your entire family, or friends. They say that when you release a lantern you should make a wish, and if you watch it disappear in the sky your wish will come true.

Chiang Mai massage center by ex-prisoners

By far, one of the best massages I have ever had in my life! Many of the women were sent to jail after fighting back during a domestic violence dispute. During their time in prison, they learned skills such as nail art, and massaging. There are several Women’s massage centers in Thailand, but all of them employ ex-prisoners. Support the cause while getting one of the best massages of your life.

Doi Inthanon waterfalls

Visit waterfalls in Chiang Mai’s beautiful cloud forest.  This is not for swimming, but for lots of awesome instagram pictures. The waterfall is huge, and has multiple little falls surrounding it. The gushing water sends refreshing droplets to viewers. It is truly a magnificent sight that should not be missed. While there, take some time to view the other impressive sights at the national park.

Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai

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Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is one of Thailand’s most sacred temples. The temple is perfectly nestled on one of the peaks at Doi Suthep Mountain overlooking the city. To get there, you can either rent a scooter for 250 baht, or take a red truck (about 100 baht). You will see a long staircase that will lead you to the temple. There is a small entry fee to enter this magnificent temple, and I encourage you to do so. Remember to dress conservatively while roaming inside the temple! On the terrace, there are beautiful trees and breathtaking views of the city. Whether you are here during rainy season, or dry season this place is a must-see.

Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai

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No trip to Chiang Mai is complete without a trip to the Doi Inthanon national park. Part of the Himalayan mountain range, Doi Inthanon is Thailand’s tallest peak at 2,565 metres above the sea level.  You will see gorgeous skylines and an amazing cloud forest. The park is quite big (482.4 km²) so if you really like hiking plan 2 days there instead of trying to fit it all in to one. The climate is typically tropical and fairly cool on the summit of Doi Inthanon. In winter the average temperature is 6 °C (43 °F) in January and temperatures can sometimes drop below 0 °C (32 °F).  Most of the waterfalls within the park have relatively good flow of water all year round but the best season for water flow is during the rainy season. One of seasonal highlights of the park is the blossoms of Siamese sakura flowers covering trees in pink during late January and February.  The park is also one of top destinations in the country for bird watching.

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