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Early Retirement Travels - Week 11 Thailand

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

It’s been a quieter week, but not just because I’m a bit lazy. We'd always planned to make part of our time in Thailand into a relaxing break.

In Chiang Mai during the first part of the week, we took a trip to an elephant sanctuary, a cooking class, and played at being digital nomads.

The elephant sanctuary was more for Sally - she loves anything animal related. We had some concerns about the ethics of elephant tourism in Thailand, and tried hard to pick one that was designed to benefit the elephants rather than the tourists.

Our choice was a sanctuary and rescue centre called Elephant Nature Park, which rescues elephants from the circus, trekking camps and illegal logging. We read that returning them to the wild is not possible, so the Elephant Nature Park aims to give them the next best thing.

The elephants roam free during the day, and visitors aren't allowed to ride or bathe the elephants (not the case in all parks). However, you can feed them, get very close to them, and there are a few that you can touch on the shoulder when advised by your guide.

I enjoyed that we got to see the countryside of Northern Thailand, I’m glad I saw the elephants, and I think our trip fee will support the park’s work. It was a good experience, but not the same as witnessing wild animals truly in the wild where they belong (even though I appreciate that's not an option for these rescued elephants).

My favourite trip was our half day cooking class which truly exceeded expectations. We started at 5pm, and cooked our evening meal. Even if I say it myself, it was delicious!

We started in the school garden before heading to the market to learn about the ingredients, Then it was back to the kitchen to cook our chosen dishes.

Our teacher at Asia Scenic Thai Cooking School, Kat, was informative and amusing, and our group of nine students really got on well. If you’re in Thailand, take a cooking glass, you won't regret it.

Chiang Mai has made a name for itself as a hub for digital nomads due to its high speed internet, low cost of living and, now, plenty of coffee shops to do your digital nomading stuff from. I had to try it out.

We found a nice coffee shop, set up our laptops and ordered our lattes. I quickly felt comfortable sitting amongst the "nomads" all doing the exact same thing. So comfortable in fact that I did this on two days. I’m not sure if I should say that I could get used to it or that I'm already used to it – it’s not so different from what I did while living in Dubai, just much cheaper in Chiang Mai!

On Friday, we flew from Chiang Mai to Phuket in the South of Thailand on a flight that cost a bit more than I expected, but still wasn't too much for a two hour flight. This route wasn’t on our initial plan, but that’s the joy of making it up as you go along. We were heading to meet Andrew, another early retiree, whose story appeared previously on my blog.

We did two things in Phuket. The first was nothing other than laze around, dip in the pool when it got too hot, and then laze around some more. I did say that we had relaxation in our plan for Thailand.

The second thing was to meet up with Andrew for dinner. I’d e-met Andrew via my blog when he told me his early retirement story, but we hadn’t previously met in person. The actual Andrew was just as nice as the e-Andrew, and we had a wonderful evening in a very nice restaurant with a fantastic view over Karon Beach.

I’ve now met up with people via my blog in Dubai, America, Australia and Thailand. I didn’t expect that when I started my blog and I think it’s pretty cool (even if I dislike the word “cool”!). If you're interested in starting a blog, why not read Joe's, at Retire by 40, post about starting a blog, which is what I did.

Daily diary and costs

I'm including a list of what we did during our week and the approximate costs - I'm using this part of my blog as a mini diary for myself, but feel free to read if you're interested.

Week 11 - what we've done:

Monday – Chiang Mai. Played at being a digital nomad in a Chiang Mai coffee shop.

Tuesday – Chiang Mai. Half day Thai Cooking class.

Wednesday – Chiang Mai. Trip to the Elephant Nature Park. Thursday – Chiang Mai.

Friday – Flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket. Walked on the beach and explored the streets.

Saturday – Phuket. We lazed by the pool. Dinner with Andrew in the evening.

Sunday – Phuket. Another lazy pool day.

Week 11 - we spent a total of £804 / $1,134 for 2 people on:

Accommodation £183 / $258

Meals/Coffee/Snacks £282 / $398

Transport £149 / $210 Flight from Chiang Mai to Phuket, plus taxi transfer

Attractions/Fees £162 / $228 Elephant sanctuary trip and cooking class

Spa £18 / $25 Massage for both Sally and me

Laundry £4 / $6

Toiletries £6 / $9


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