The sad truth is that most people who visit Thailand rush down south to enjoy the full moon / half moon parties, but miss out on this gorgeous location. Especially once you spend time with the elephants, you realise how blessed you truly are to experience Chiang Mai. If you do go to an elephant location, make sure it is a sanctuary and they treat them well, you can read reviews for guidance. Also, don’t ride their backs, as this can cause them severe pain and arthritis. You can most certainly find yourself a good bargain on a hostel or hotel, however I would recommend spending slightly more than the VERY cheap ones. We made this mistake of thinking we could save money and stayed in a hellhole, while just down the road there was a gorgeous hotel with a swimming pool at a really decent price, it killed us to know this, we should have checked out and moved down the road, but I want this to be a warning to you. The city is the 2nd largest in Thailand and has 1.5 million residents, however 70% is still made up of vegetation and mountains, which is why it offers a very different experience to down South. In fact, you can trek up the highest mountain in Thailand here, Doi Inthanon. If you’re heading on down south afterwards, I’d recommend having a read of my list of things to do in Thailand.