City of Monks and Elephants
Trip Start Aug 27, 2011
99Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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The 14 hour journey finished after 16 hours and we were grateful to be in Chiang Mai train station. A tuk tuk ride to our guesthouse weaved around traffic for a couple of kilometers, already, the stark difference from the capital is evident. The city is relaxed, more laid back and not as dirty.
Our guesthouse was pretty cool, simple set up and Dave found the shower/toilet combination very amusing! Can you do both at once? Our first night involved eating at a local food market where you buy food tokens first then walk around the thirty odd stalls selecting your nourishment of choice. After, we had tickets for Thai boxing. Another first for me, but slowly, you worked out there was less boxing and more kicking! As the fights progressed, the weight of the fighters became heavier and therefore the tactics were to hug each other and try score a knee in the mid section! I'm just glad I didn't see two knees clash! The interesting part, similar to Sumo wrestling, was the praying and dancing before each match. We endured five fights then wandered back to our guesthouse.
Our next day involved a day trip. Dave kindly paid for my ticket as well, I was happy to skip the trip in favour of the budget. We mainly wanted to see and ride an elephant, but if you've been reading my blogs, you know that a simple day trip is padded out with other touristy destinations. Luckily on our tour were two New Zealand couples! Very funny people, great company and great rugby conversation for Dave boy.
Our first stop was a butterfly farm. We saw one butterfly. The next stop was the elephant park. We parked a few hundred meters away and I spotted my first glimpse of some pigs in a very long time. This is not my first time riding an elephant but still nonetheless, I was very excited! There was a choice if saddle or 'bareback'. One NZ couple went for bareback where the girl sat on the elephants neck and the lad spread his legs on the large waist. He is a semi pro rugby union player, so his legs were definitely strong enough! We sat on the elephant, our 'driver' jumped off and took some pictures and then we spent the next 30 minutes walking through a river while watching all the elephants ripping branches off trees, tearing our large shrubs and generally eating as much as they could see and reach! That was pretty amusing!
At the end of the ride you could buy bananas and feed the elephants! They must know the score as they all happily lined up and got treated to bunches of bananas. It was fun seeing them use their trunk to grip the banana but a bit gross feeding the banana directly into their mouth. I couldn't help think of Jabba the Hut from Star Wars, just the gross large tongue sticking out desperate for a tasty banana. We then ate lunch there.
The plan was to drive is somewhere so we could start an hour hike to a waterfall. After a few minutes of driving, we hear air escaping from one of the back tyres. So we all get out and watch the two lads (guide and driver) take a while to change the tyre. I commented to my brother that I bet the spare would be flat as well! And guess what, it was! Typically spares are flat because they sit there for years untouched.
So, the guide took us off on a hike while the driver had to go find a new tyre. The hike was only an hour through northern Thailand jungle but most of the hike was uphill. Poor Dave boy found this a little tough but after my Chinese hikes, it seemed like a breeze! After an hour or so we hit a tiny waterfall! The water was freezing but I still jumped in with my swimming shorts. I think everyone was busy watching me and didnt see my brother go butt naked to put his trunks on. The pool reminded me of the natural swimming pool at the Angel falls, I tried to swim into the fall but looked like a crazy dog paddling.
We hiked to find our truck with four wheels and ended the tour on a long boat down a river. When I say long boat, I mean 6 poles tied together and thrown on the river. There were four Asians on the tour and they couldn't swim but still brought their fancy cameras. We all sat on the unbalanced structure in threes and set off. Two guys pushed the long boat, similar to punting on Oxford. One guy pushed at the back, the other at the front. After only a few seconds, the front guy stick his pole into the riverbed and couldn't pull it out. He hung on, left the boat with the pole dramatically bent. He let go and fell in and the pole swung and struck one NZ guy just above his forehead!! We floated down river and the guy in the water nearly tipped us over trying to get back on. The back guy steadied the raft, and pushed us to the riverbank where he left us and ran off! We were holding into branches trying to keep the boat in one place!
They ran off to get another raft and to retrieve his pole. This meant a mid river transfer to another raft, carrying the benches and trying not to fall in with your camera. The rest of the river floating was uneventful and peaceful. Passing local villages and mote groups if elephants.
When the trip finished, we were exhausted and grateful to be back at the guesthouse. We watched from premiership football and had a good night sleep.
We must have been tired as we slept through to 2pm next day! The afternoon consisted of finding some tasty lunch and exploring the sights of Chiang Mai. It was Sunday so the main st Th Ratchadamnoen was full of market stalls and chilled out tourists and travellers. We followed a lonely planet walking tour taking in the sights of Wat Phra Singh, Wat Phan Tao, Wat Pan Ping and the women's prison. Chiang Mai is a cool place to kick back, relax and soak up the culture. The streets are alive with monks and motor-cycle driving housewives. There are more bookshops than shopping centers and there is ample opportunity to study Thai language, cooking, meditation and massage.
I finally got my haircut again bargain at two quid. We caught some more football in the evening but not before sampling some tasty treats on the densely packed Sunday night market! You can only dream of walking more than ten steps in a minute, the place was packed but we found some tasty food.
Next day, we set off to the bus station for our next destination of Chiang Rai, we grabbed a random breakfast and I uploaded some pictures while Dave was befriended by a very sweet and cool young German girl. We'd soon be travelling with our new younger sister.
Next stop, Chiang Rai.