It was my first visit, and I surely hope it won't be my last.
We started our trip at the Niman Hotel, which is located in the rather hip and cool university district. Cute and quirky coffee shops line the streets, along with a variety of bars and eateries, a friend says it reminds her of Sminyak in Bali, which probably isn't too far off.
The Niman Hotel is heart achingly beautiful, white walls a canvas to a glittering array of colours, somewhat moroccan themed, with each room decorated slightly differently.
That night we tucked into an array of local Northern Thai food, before settling in relatively early, as a 3 hour hike awaited us the next day...
Before we hiked, we made a pit stop at the local market to pick up lunch, where we overstayed the 10 minutes we were supposed to spend! But how can you blame us with all the beautiful exotic fruit (rose apples are my favourite), all sorts of condiments and spices tied up to look like bubbles in plastic bags and the ever intoxicating aroma of fried meats of all kinds. We picked up a bag of fried pork strips, one with fat and one without the fat...well you can guess what tasted better!
Our guide was much older, super cool 70 year old man who was like the Donald Trump of the village we stayed at that night, owning 3 of the 5 or 6 shacks that the group were using.
We hiked for three hours through some of the most beautiful nature I've seen in a while, feeling like I had stepped into the real life of set of The Land Before Time. It was hot, sweaty work, but incredibly rewarding.
We shared basic shacks as groups, washing ourselves with water bottles as the running water decided to conk out while we were there, with some marvellous sunset views.
After dinner, where we had delicious pad thai and skewers, amongst many other goodies, the hill tribe donned their best garb and danced around the campfire, inviting us to join in, which was a lot more effort than it looked at first!
Sweet sticky rice cooked in bamboo over an open fire made for such a comforting dessert in the cool mountainous evening air.
Sunrises out in the country are as beautiful as the sunsets.
And hot porridge with friends nourishing and comforting.
There's nothing like buying a magnum ice-cream, post-hike, and also turning up at Dhara Dhevi which is the most amazing hotel I've ever seen in my life.
Set over 60 acres of land, Dhara Dhevi marries the spirit of Thai tradition and beauty with luxury, comfort and extraordinary service in the most gorgeous settings ever.
With buggies around, after all that hiking, I didn't walk between my room and the lobby once. Spoilt. I know, allow me one indulgence hey?
We slipped out to check out the walking street in Chiang Mai, which on Sunday nights turns into an open air market, with all sorts of crafts, typical tourist knick knacks and all sorts of food on offer. I regretted not buying more silver (which was amazingly priced), forgetting to pick up rice soap for my mum, and that I had dinner afterwards and didn't have more space to eat all the things I wanted to try!
We dressed up that night in traditional Thai clothing, the girls decked out in all colours and the boys looking a little bit like waiters (it was cute), and we gathered at the old amphitheatre, lit up like a dream with lanterns and lights, and a giant spread of beautiful food.
It was simply a gloriously fun night.
Although we did so much in just a short few days, I still feel there is still yet so much to see, and can't wait to get up to the north side of Thailand again where the air is cooler, and the wonder of Thai culture still has so much more to give.