Sonia Says: #TravelSSBD: What To Do In Chiang Rai

Sonia discovers an ice temple, a giraffe park, ziplining and more

I have to admit – before this trip, I didn’t even know that Chiang Rai existed. I thought it was a spelling error. Like maybe the #TravelSSBD producers meant Chiang Mai? Ha ha. But no, it was correct. And guess what? Chiang Rai is awesome!

We flew to Bangkok first; from there it was only an hour’s flight. Yet, even though Chiang Rai is so close to the Thai capital, it has a completely different feel – i.e. it’s not all about shopping and eating. There’s a ton of nature and it’s very tranquil, but there are also a LOT of things to do, whether you just want to relax in a photogenic and romantic resort, or try some extreme sports.

Of course, as with almost everywhere in Thailand, the food is fantastic. So I made sure I tucked my super light Canon EOS M10 in my bag so I could snap photos of my meals wherever I went. The awesome thing about this camera is that even though it’s such a small handheld, you get DSLR quality thanks to the APS-C CMOS 18-megapixel sensor – the same one in DSLR cameras!

TravelSSBD - Chiang Rai
APS-C CMOS18-megapixel sensor helps me get DSLR quality in such a small camera!  

The first place I visited was the Don Mae Salong tea plantation in the highlands. It took a two-hour ride crawling up a mountain, but when I got there it was gorgeous. You step out and it’s so quiet, the only thing you hear is the rustling of the trees. The air is thick with the scent of leaves and then you see all these aunties dressed in cute traditional outfits and carrying baskets, ready to go handpick the tea leaf by leaf. It was the perfect opportunity to bust out the M10’s built-in photo enhancement features, which can help beautify landscape shots and smoothen facial features even before you hit the shutter button.

TravelSSBD - Chiang Rai
Tea picking at Don Mae Solong tea plantation

The aunties don’t speak a word of English, but they smile and laugh a lot. Or maybe they were laughing at my inability to pick the leaves, I don’t know. Still, I learnt so much from them, like how much effort it takes to get that tea from the plantation to your table. Many of them work solid nine-hour days, from 8am to 5pm, just bending and picking. That’s really hard work! It made me view tea not as an ordinary beverage any more. Everyone should realise how much work goes into a cup when they drink it!

Next, I went to a long-neck tribal village, where the women villagers wear metal rings around certain parts of their bodies. As the story goes, this is to protect them from being savaged by wild animals when they’re out working in the fields and forests. Apparently when tigers and other animals attack, they go for key points like your neck, your wrist and the back of your knees. That’s why the women have these bands that circle around those parts as a sort of armour!

TravelSSBD - Chiang Rai
Experiencing what it’s like to have metal rings around my neck

It was my first time in a legitimate village and the villagers were so friendly. It’s like they don’t need anything to be happy – they’re just doing what they do and being who they are. And I truly believe that’s something we should learn from them because, you know, we’re never happy with ourselves. I took lots of photos with them, which was really easy with the M10. You just switch it quickly to selfie mode and snap. I could even upload pics to my social media right away using the WiFi connection via the Canon app! There’s also a Remote Shutter feature which is really handy when you want to take wide-angle shots instead.

Another meaningful experience was visiting Wat Rong Khun, a fantastical-looking temple that seems like it’s carved out of ice. 

TravelSSBD - Chiang Rai
Wat Rong Khun, beautiful! Looks as white as snow!

It’s incredible and I totally related to it – it’s all about vices in today’s world, and the interior of the temple is beautifully painted with pop culture icons like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Michael Jackson. They signify that things created in modern life can make us greedy and harm us. Being there was a really grounding experience. But make sure that you wear proper covered clothes when you visit, otherwise they won’t let you in!

If you’ve always wanted to visit Africa but dreaded the looooong flight there, you need to check out Singha Park. There’s an area in this eco-friendly park where giraffes roam and you feel like you’re on a safari. The best part is that you can feed the giraffes – with your mouth, if you want! Don’t worry, they take the food from you very politely…they’re very gentle. Plus you’ll be able to get lots of photos that your friends will be totally envious of! It helped that the M10 has an ultra fast auto focus system so I never missed a moment with the unpredictable animals.

TravelSSBD - Chiang Rai
Thanks to Canon EOS M10 ultra fast auto focus, I no longer miss a moment with unpredictable animals. 

You can also go ziplining in the park. I’ve tried it before, but this was the longest and highest one I’ve ever been on. It was exhilarating and I had the best time.

TravelSSBD - Chiang Rai
Zip-lining!

To think I never knew Chiang Rai existed before! I tried so many things here that I’ve never done, and I had so much fun. The next time you visit Bangkok, you should hop over too. It’s worth it! I’ll definitely be back, Chiang Rai.

To find out more about the Canon M10, visit http://shop.canon.com.sg/m10

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