Last week, I found myself on a vacation within my summer vacation. While I had already visited Bangkok from my seasonal home in Myanmar, I ended up in another part of Thailand, albeit a place a little less explored. In an effort for to discover a new part of the world, my mom and I decided to take a trip to Chiang Mai.

While there is a lush and untouched aura about it, Chiang Mai is also a large tourist magnet. Many of the locals in the city have businesses that are based on providing some sort of service to visitors, ranging from spas to local goods. Our group took advantage of all of those things.

From the beginning, this trip was earmarked as a ladies-only retreat. The trip party consisted of my mother, her best friend and me. Without any boys, we completely indulged in all the shopping and pampering Chiang Mai had to offer.

The luxury began the moment we entered our hotel. We had splurged on a beautiful five-star hotel only five minutes from the famous night market. As soon as we exited the taxi, bellmen took away our luggage and a receptionist whisked us into extremely comfy chairs while she took care of our check-in. In addition to this relaxing treatment, she served us complimentary iced lemongrass drinks that were so good I was dying to ask for a second.

Each day upon returning to the room, we were greeted with a lovely present that was bestowed to us in a bright orange box to take home as well as individual chocolate or green tea fortune cookies. In addition to these already generous freebies, the hotel staff gave us a complimentary plate of fresh and local fruit. With all of these luxurious little touches, I was in heaven.

Once we actually left the hotel after the mouth-watering complimentary breakfast, there was much to explore. During the day, we visited many tourist and local attractions. Although there were multiple elephant camps and parks that had shows for tourists, we tried to find one that was more of a sanctuary for the elephants. There, I was able to spend lots of time feeding bananas to the majestic elephants and touching their coarse hair and skin. Our group even made a stop at the Tiger Kingdom, an attraction where tourists pose for pictures with surprisingly docile tigers of all sizes, including rare baby tigers.

Although the exotic animals were almost irresistibly adorable, I also appreciated a bit of history. Despite the fact that there are multiple Starbucks locations downtown, Chiang Mai has still retained its character, especially through its temples. Some of the temples are hundreds of years old, yet are still well preserved. We visited a 900-year-old temple as well as the highest one in Chiang Mai, both of which I was glad to see had flocks of visitors and were very well maintained.

In the end, however, my favorite part about the trip had to be the abundant shopping we did. The night market, which starts at 6 p.m. and goes on until midnight, spans such a large area that we weren’t able to explore all of it in three nights. Despite this, we still were able to indulge in much of what the market had to offer. I discovered beautifully patterned pants that are popular in Chiang Mai and are really comfortable to wear. I was also able to find six beautiful (and cheap!) scarves to feed my scarf addiction.

The fun continued until the last day. As a reward to ourselves for all the walking we had done earlier in the trip, we had relaxing oil massages at the hotel on our last day in Chiang Mai. The rejuvenating massage was the cherry on top of the sundae of the amazing vacation, and I can’t wait to go back to this beautiful paradise.

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