First-time in a Fam Trip
It has been months since I’ve been to a familiarization trip or a fam trip. I was chosen as one of the 12 finalists of the Medical Tourism Blog Contest organized by the Tourism Authority of Thailand. But I got busy with the competition that I missed posting my experience here on my site.
The fam trips were done in five destinations, and I randomly picked Chiang Mai. I have been there before but only spent about eight hours in this northern Thai city.
We were to taste sumptuous meals in local restaurants, stay in five-star hotels, visit historic landmarks and tourism spots, and experience health and medical centers to familiarize ourselves with what Chiang Mai could offer. So in one early Tuesday morning, I and another finalist, together with our guide, braved Bangkok’s alleys and major thoroughfares trying to avoid the rush hour traffic, as we headed to the airport to catch our one-hour flight to Chiang Mai.
We arrived at our destination a little bit earlier than expected. But our rented van, sponsored by Thai Rent-A-Car, was already outside waiting. I excitedly got into the van browsing through the tourism brochures I picked at the airport. I looked out the car window and instantly recognized the central part of Chiang Mai as I saw the moat that set as the boundary of the square of the old city.
Instead of proceeding to our dental appointment, we made a stop at one of the gates that still stood at the heart of the city. It was the Tha Pae Gate. The adobe wall on that side of the city was still intact. Colorful lanterns were hanging at the whole length on one part of the wall. I automatically got out my camera and worked my way in capturing the birds near the moat. A bookstore was just across the street where we stayed a little while to pass on time and browse through their collection.
When the time came for us to head to the dental clinic, we got into the van which seated us comfortably. Next stop was the Dental 4 U clinic. It was a small clinic along Thapae Road, but when I went inside, I was surprised at how homey the ambiance was. The decors were welcoming and the pastel colors were soothing. More so the mini-garden located at the side of the clinic, which patients can view from the treatment rooms. The dentist, Dr Warut Muttaruk, is very young. In fact, the staff and the other doctors were young, but they looked competent to do the job. My dentist, a young lady, was very gracious and careful when she did my treatment.
Right after the treatment, we had a very sumptuous lunch at Rachamankha, which is the only Relais and Chateaux in northern Thailand. The place was very tranquil and it was a perfect getaway from all the hustle and bustle of city life.
Recharged from the delectable meal, we headed to the temples – Wat Pra Singh, Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Chiang Mun, and Wat Lok Molee -and to the Chiang Mai Arts & Culture Center. The last stop of the day was the Warorot Market which was filled with goods, especially flowers and fruits. I’ve seen some interesting dried fruits that I have never seen before. Some of the flower shops were still making krathongs for the recent Yi Peng Festival.
Finally, we settled in our hotel, and I thought it was a palace! We stayed at the Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai. It was the most beautiful non-beach resort I have ever been. And when you think our day was over, not quite. We still had a khantoke dinner at the Old Chiang Mail Cultural Center where we were treated to a fabulous cultural show.
We woke up earlier than the breakfast time at the hotel and had to have our meals brought tour our suites so we can make it in time for the elephant bathing time.
We arrived early at the Mae Sa Elephant Camp while the elephants were taking a dip in the water. The first elephant gamely submerged its huge body acting as if it was making its audience envious. The elephant show was very popular among the crowd. Of course, the elephant was a different altogether. I held on to my seat as we see-sawed from left to right at every step our elephant took.
After having our fill at the elephant camp, we headed to the Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden. We went through the many greenhouses looking at the various plant species and enjoying the greens. The orchids were my favorite. Engrossed with all the plants, flowers, and trees, we forgot that it was almost lunchtime.
Though we were famished, we didn’t want to miss the 10-tier Mae Sa Falls. We climbed each falls but as I reached the 8th falls, my knees seemed to fail me. I stopped there and enjoyed the view and sound of the cascading water. I took off my shoes and dipped my toes on the cold water. It was such bliss.
Finally, lunch was next on our agenda. Our guide took us to Sai Nam Phung Orchid, which was both a garden and a restaurant. We ordered food and fresh coconuts. We had a complete meal with soup, chicken, rice, and dessert — all authentic Thai cuisine. After we gorged on our food, we roamed the garden and enjoyed the beauty of the various orchid species found in the vast garden.
As soon as we were done with all the sightseeing, we proceeded to our next dental assignment at the CM Dental Clinic housed on the ground floor of the Lertkitti Building along Charoenmuang Road. Dr Laddawan Kittirungsi has the experience and some accolades under her wing. Since we also had a dental check-up the day before, our appointment with her was very quick.
We rushed back to our hotel for our Dheva Spa treatment, but not before a quick trip to Mandarin Oriental Chiang Mai’s rice paddies. The spa treatment was pretty comprehensive, giving us a survey and some tips on how to take care holistically our bodies. I learned a lot of things during my session, not just on how to control my cravings but also my emotions and thoughts.
But with dinner following our session, we couldn’t help but be guilty about enjoying the food served before us. The pomelo salad at the Le Grand Lanna, the Thai restaurant within the Mandarin Oriental compound, was amazing. And so were the other dishes. On top of these, there were cultural presentations that entertained as well. I was loving this hotel by the minute.
It was the last day of our familiarization trip but we had a full day and night ahead. Bags packed, I bid adieu to my lovely Mandarin Oriental Colonial Suite. The breakfast buffet was great but we had to catch up with our schedule. And we still had to take some quick morning shots of the rice paddies, which the resort hotel was known for.
Chiang Mai Ram hospital was our first stop and we had our vital stats checked there. As part of our fam trip, we were toured in the hospital and its facilities. I was already in their database so it would be easy for me to return to this hospital in the future.
It was a day of treatments because next to our list was a sunburn treatment at Ratika. The treatment was so relaxing that I dozed off to sleep while they were massaging my face.
Lunch was an extension of all the healthy procedures because we had it at Khun Churn, a vegetarian restaurant. We ordered a mushroom dish and other vegetable dishes. Typical of Thai food, spice was always present in our meals.
In the afternoon, we visited Sarinya Clinic for some skin tightening treatment. The dermatologist, Dr Sarinya Watcharachan, truly had wonderful skin, and so did her sister, who acted as her clinic’s PR person. Since it was after lunch, it was another sleepy session. But I wasn’t complaining because I felt I needed it.
For a short break from our health tour, we went back to the mountainous part of Chiang Mai to visit the popular Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The place was both majestic and sacred. It also offered the best aerial view of the whole city.
As the sun was setting, we settled at Rarinjinda Wellness Spa Resort where I got a room that was a step away from the swimming pool (which I never got to enjoy anyway because of our full schedule). We had a wonderful spa and massage treatment at this resort in the heart of the city. Dinner was at their deck across the street, which gave us a great view of the river.
If you think that was a great way to cap the night, think again. Chiang Mai is also known for its night market. Despite our weariness, we still headed to the market to buy some souvenir items and enjoy one of Chiang Mai’s nocturnal attractions.
I really felt I was a VIP throughout the entire familiarization trip. I would love to do another one. As we took our flight back to Bangkok, I looked down at Chiang Mai and whispered, “Till we meet again.”