Tag Archives: Adventure

When in Chiang Mai: Exploring the city

Chiang Mai is located in the north of Thailand, near the borders of Laos and Myanmar. With far less wild Australian tourists than the more southern beachy parts, Chiang Mai was a perfect location for a Culinary Adventure.

Wat Chiang Man | When in Chiang Mai: Exploring the city | lizniland.com

Full of temples – called a “wat” in Thai – Chiang Mai is a fairly conservative city so you’ll need to have your shoulders and knees covered if you wish to venture inside a temple. If you forget to pack your emergency sarong, simply walking around these opulent buildings is worth it – that’s mostly all we did!

Temples everywhere | When in Chiang Mai: Exploring the city | lizniland.com

Temples really are everywhere so try not to peak too early – you don’t want wat fatigue! While Wat Chiang Man (that first photo) was a really impressive structure with stunning grounds, a temple we stumbled across in the Old City was by far the most interesting. The temple itself wasn’t much on its own but it was a beehive of activity with orange-robed monks everywhere completing set up for Yi Peng Lantern Festival celebrations.

Buddhist monks at work | When in Chiang Mai: Exploring the city | lizniland.com

Tree filled with lanterns | When in Chiang Mai: Exploring the city | lizniland.com

Something I found incredibly fascinating in Chiang Mai was the amount of advertising. Juxtaposed against the poorer areas, the gold-flecked temples and cold stained cement buildings, giant billboards looked completely out of place.

When in Chiang Mai: Exploring the city | lizniland.com

In addition to those ads, utes like the one in the top right picture above, drive around blaring advertisements through speakers – I’d hate to be the driver! I think I’d prefer to have a tuk tuk!

Waiting tuk tuk driver| When in Chiang Mai: Exploring the city | lizniland.com

We didn’t find out a whole lot about the history of Chiang Mai – too busy learning how to ride elephants & how to cook authentic Thai food! It’s obvious though when you look around, especially in the Old City, how long this place has been around for.

The old city moat | When in Chiang Mai: Exploring the city | lizniland.com

From what my good friend Wikipedia told me, Chiang Mai was founded in 1296. The capital of its region at the time, it was prone to attacks by neighbouring countries which triggered the creation of huge city walls and a moat. While the moat looks like it would be lucky to stop even a puppy these days, it makes a scenic addition to the city.

The old city walls | When in Chiang Mai: Exploring the city | lizniland.com

There’s a lot of tourist-y things to do in Thailand but I’m glad we got to spend some quality time walking around and seeing how people live everyday. It’s always one of my favourite things to do in a new place.


What’s the most fascinating, mind-opening thing you’ve seen on a holiday?

When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining

As part of my Chiang Mai adventure with Paleo Nick, Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo and a whole gang of culinary ninjas, I had the opportunity to not only meet the gentlest giants of the animal world, but also to fly through the trees suspended by little more than unwavering faith in steel.

Bonding with my elephant at Baanchang Elephant Park | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

For an incredible elephant encounter, we did the 1-day Mahout training program at Baanchang Elephant Park. The park is a not-for-profit organisation all about elephant rescue and rehabilitation and is situated in the pretty jungle-y hills a fair way outside downtown Chiang Mai.

Elephant kisses at Baanchang Park | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

While I was warned by friends back home not to wear short shorts (apparently touching a hairy elephant with one’s upper thigh is not so pleasant) we got to wear these darling 100% polyester suits instead (which I swear just about hit melting point in full sun).

All jokes aside though, this was a great experience which went above and beyond what I was expecting. Once we’d learned the commands and gestures to work with the elephant (including what to do if it bolted. Tip: hold on tight!) we went for a bareback jaunt around the expansive park. Each elephant’s real mahout (they stay together for life!) was never far behind us and my elephant’s mahout even made me this delightful hat out of a teak leaf while we meandered along.

Teak leaf hat at Baanchang Park | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

Our other exposure to the rainforests of Chiang Mai came in the form of a trip out to the Flight of the Gibbon ziplining park. Similarly to the elephant park, it’s quite a way out of town and – warning to anyone with motion sickness – is located at the top of a very windy road. Here we are (looking like the new cast of Survivor!) hanging out on a made-for-group-photos ledge over a waterfall in the wilderness surrounding the park.

Thailand Culinary Adventure team 2014 | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

After we strapped into our harnesses and helmets, it was time to take on the course of 33 platforms, 18 ziplines and 3 Indiana Jones-inspired bridges. The idea of putting all your trust in a steel hook certainly had some of the team quaking in their sneakers but once we’d nailed the first few, it was an exhilarating way to experience the tranquil (other than the occasional squeal or Tarzan bellow!) surrounds.

Just hanging out | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

I’m sure some, probably my mother included, may be a little suss on the safety and quality of something like this but I didn’t feel unsafe at any point. Our “Sky Rangers” looked after everyone and were great at supporting even the most fearful ninjas to step outside their comfort zone enough to make it a memorable challenge (rather than a memory to be repressed!)

Mick on the staircase | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

Me hanging out with Steph | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

The bloke on the left in the shot below was one of our Sky Rangers, Woody. He works at the park 6 days a week, lives onsite and told us that other than cooking, he has no real hobbies beyond zipping around the rainforest. It doesn’t get much closer to lives-and-breathes-the-job dedication than that!

Flight of the Gibbon - Sky Ranger Woody | When in Chiang Mai: Elephants & Ziplining | lizniland.com

Other than the photo of me with the teak leaf hat & the one where I’m copping a big neck smooch from a little elephant, photographer extraordinaire Anderson York captured these moments. The above shot was even taken while he was flying along, mid-zipline!

Have you ever got up close & personal with an elephant? They’re such incredible creatures!

Chiang Mai: Culinary Adventures

A well-timed post on Stupid Easy Paleo while I was in a grumpy I-haven’t-been-overseas-for-years mood, saw me, along with Michael and my mate Jess, join Paleo Nick, Steph from Stupid Easy Paleo & a bunch of other new friends, on a Culinary Adventure in Chiang Mai.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a particularly spontaneous type but alas, around 6 weeks after I read that post, we had our bags packed and were en route to the airport. Sometimes things just feel right & you just gotta roll with it, however wild it might seem!

On the plane | Chiang Mai: Culinary Adventures | lizniland.com

Getting to Chiang Mai took around 10 hours flying time from Sydney: we flew to Bangkok (9 hours) and then hung out in the airport briefly before continuing on with a short flight (1 hour) into Chiang Mai. I picked up #GIRLBOSS to read on the plane, as well as The News by Alain de Botton & Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg.

Eco Resort Chiang Mai pool | Chiang Mai: Culinary Adventures | lizniland.com

We stayed at Eco Resort Chiang Mai which was delightful. It was a little way out of the main city but it had a really leafy setting, a deluxe pool and a pretty tasty breakfast buffet!

Eco Resort Chiang Mai | Chiang Mai: Culinary Adventures | lizniland.com

Each morning we had the option of waking up for a workout at Crossfit Chiang Mai. I only skipped one day & loved having my first taste of Crossfit, especially with athletes like Nick & Steph on hand for tips on lifts & activities I hadn’t really done before. I tried not to fan-girl out too hard when it came to meeting Steph… and I hope think I succeeded! Her blog has been a staple resource since I first tried my hand at paleo – more than a year ago – so it was cool putting an actual person to the name & face.

After posting last month during my macro-focused challenge about being ready to get back in the paleo saddle via Steph’s ebook, The Paleo Athlete, this trip was perfectly timed too – the 12 weeks finished last week. Hello again #paleolife!

Crossfit Chiang Mai | Chiang Mai: Culinary Adventures | lizniland.com

Of course being a paleo-focused group, food was never far from our minds! I’ve got a bunch of photos to show off my favourite Chiang Mai eats, the Thai cooking classes we did and all the delights from the markets. I’ll also be posting about the streets of Chiang Mai, the conveniently timed Yi Peng Lantern Festival and our elephant park and ziplining adventures.

Update: Jesse Kahle, the strapping gent on the far left of the photo above, is a superbly talented videographer. His camera rarely left his eye and we are all so lucky to have the below video to capture the spirit of the amazing trip.

To Be Found from Jesse Kahle on Vimeo.

Thanks to all the Culinary Ninjas for a fabulous adventure. What a fantastic crew of individuals! Here we all are, as snapped by our official group photographer, Anderson York (who therefore, was unfortunately not in the photo).

Culinary Ninjas | Chiang Mai: Culinary Adventures | lizniland.com

Have you been to Thailand? Chiang Mai is the only part of the country I’ve explored (12 hours in Bangkok Airport doesn’t count as far as I’m concerned!) and I really enjoyed it.

Darwin must-do: Humpty Doo Hotel & Jumping Crocodiles

For me, no trip to Darwin was going to be complete without seeing a crocodile in as close to its natural habitat as possible. To achieve this, our local friends recommended we hit up a Jumping Crocodile Cruise and work in a stop off at the historic Humpty Doo Hotel along the way.

We left just enough time to pull into the iconic pub on the way out to the cruise. This was where we squeezed in that delicious lunch of croc, buffalo and barra burgers.

Humpty Doo Hotel Darwin | Darwin must-do | lizniland.com

Sure, the dog races were on the flatscreen TVs and they’re happy to take Eftpos for your lunch payment but you won’t leave feeling like you’ve missed out on some original 70s charm – the pub’s been standing its ground since 1971, even withstanding the destruction of Cyclone Tracy in 1974.

Water | Jumping Crocodile Cruise Darwin | Darwin must-do | lizniland.com

After scarfing our lunch and taking some photos, we got back on the Arnhem Highway and headed out to the Adelaide River to find us some crocodiles. While I’ve seen crocodiles at various zoos and the like, seeing one swimming along in the river or lazing on the bank is (thankfully) not an experience I’ve had. And wow, there were crocs aplenty here!

Teeth! Jumping Crocodile Cruise Darwin | Darwin must-do | lizniland.com

The boat we were on was a comfortable, yet still close-enough-to-the-action, size and it was easy to see the creatures sunning themselves or nosing up to the boat to peruse their lunch. The crew narrate the trip, talking about each of the crocs by name and giving some history and facts about crocodiles in the waters of the Northern Territory.

Chomp | Jumping Crocodile Cruise Darwin | Darwin must-do | lizniland.com

As the crocodiles jump to grab the steak-y offerings, you can see how enormous and powerful these animals are. According to the crew’s fun facts, the halfway point on a crocodile is its back legs. In other words, it has a whopper of a tail which helps give it power jumping up out of the water. So that means that only one quarter of the toothy guy in the above snap is visible. Hearing this, its easy to understand how farm animals, pups and even unsuspecting people get taken so easily. Note to self: never camp near croc-infested waters!

Kites | Jumping Crocodile Cruise Darwin | Darwin must-do | lizniland.com

Towards the end of the trip, one of the crew members flung a handful of diced bait into the air, summoning pretty much an entire flock of kites. This was absolutely nuts! I flicked my camera to an auto sports mode and just rapid-fire clicked as birds swooped all around to try and collect a late lunch. This picture had no zoom on; we were literally inches from copping a bird to the face! So interesting to see such a major bird up close – well, at least in the photos anyway! They were flying around so fast it was hard to see much at the time.

Darwin really is fantastic for getting back to nature – even the kind of nature you don’t really want to get too close to!

Have you seen my other Darwin must-do adventures? We loved Litchfield National Park and Mindil Beach Markets for more hearty serves of what nature in the Top End has to offer.

Darwin must-do: Mindil Beach Markets

If you’re visiting Darwin in the dry season (& from what I hear about the wet season, you definitely should visit in the dry) a trip to Mindil Beach Markets is a non-negotiable.

Michael eating sun at Mindil Beach

As you can probably gather from the above photo, the big attraction here isn’t necessarily the markets. While the sprawling collection of (mostly food) stalls is hard to beat, they’re merely there to fill your belly while you wait for the real show.

Mindil Beach Markets laksa

The markets are held on Thursday & Sunday evenings with hoards of locals and tourists alike hitting the beach from around 5pm onwards. We spread out a tarp between families building sandcastles and tucked into a ripping good laksa (which you may recall from my Week of Eats Darwin round up) and a few cheeky rice paper rolls.

Friends at Mindil Beach

It’s a reasonably long beach so as long as you get there early enough, there’s plenty of room to spend the afternoon relaxed with friends and family, regardless of how many kids are flicking sand about. Tip: Don’t forget your sunnies! Otherwise you’ll have stinging retinas until sundown.

The crowd at Mindil Beach

I took so many photos as the sun was setting – it was tough culling a handful down to put in this post! Watching the sun set over the water is probably the most magical thing about Darwin.

sunset at Mindil Beach

You don’t realise how different it is to our east coast sunsets until you’re sitting there watching the fire in the sky gradually slide into the ocean.

sunset1 at Mindil Beach

With the tide all the way out, there were some amazing photo opportunities and I certainly wasn’t the only one lining up my camera on the sand! For any DSLR camera users, the settings that I found gave the best results for the sunset were shutter speed of 1/15 (this was when it was on the tail end of the sunset), aperture of  f/16 and an ISO of 100. The only photoshopping the above image received was to shrink it down to size – things don’t really get more photogenic than that!

Michael & Liz at Mindil Beach

Darwin really gave us so many back-to-nature experiences (check out our Litchfield National Park trip) and this was definitely the most impressive sunset I’ve ever seen.

Have you witnessed a Darwin sunset? What’s you tip for best ever sunset?

Darwin must-do: Litchfield National Park

On our recent trip to Darwin, we had 5 nights (one of which involved a mate’s wedding) to see as much of the Top End as possible. I’m going to break the bite-sized must-dos down and cover them off in this series.

To kick things off, meet Litchfield National Park.


We only got to see a handful of the hotspots at the park but wow, well worth the extra kilometres on the hire car! If you, like us, only have a couple of days of sightseeing available and can’t make it to Kakadu, Litchfield is just the ticket to really feel like you’re seeing nature in all its glory.

The first tourist stop on the Litchfield run is the Magnetic Termite Mounds. I’m not going to lie to you: it’s both cool & lame at the same time. We agreed that if we were 7-year-old dinosaur enthusiasts, we’d be loving it.

Magnetic termite mounds darwin

This whole area looks eerily like a cemetery. Worth stopping to check out for a few quick snaps & a marvel at #insectlyf.

Now for the super awesome stuff that will make you feel like you’re really in NT.

Florence Falls Darwin

This photo just doesn’t do it justice. Florence Falls is a stunning waterfall which some crazy German tourist dived off the top of while we were there. Unlike most of the other bodies of water in and around Darwin, the swimming hole at the bottom of the waterfall is safe for young and old to paddle in.

Florence Falls swimming

If you want to feel like you’re in a Tourism Australia ad, swimming out towards the bottom of the falls is a must-do. Serious omg-how-good-is-life feelings to be had. Except when crazy tourists risk their lives. Then it’s unsettling. (He was fine, don’t worry!)

Michael Liz Litchfield Darwin

Hope this convinces you that a little Litchfield adventure is worth your time! We did this easily in a day (didn’t leave town til 11am and were home by 5pm) but you’ll need to BYO snacks and water. Wear your joggers & a hat but it’s not perilous terrain. A not-so-spritely Nan, those using a wheelchair or similar aid and anyone who can’t easily climb a decent set of stairs will most probably struggle to get down to the water hole but the rest of the sights we saw are fairly easily accessed via a walkway from the car park (which you won’t need a 4WD to get to).

Have you been to Litchfield? This was my favourite location on our trip – Florence Falls was magnificent.