Well, the sleeper train to Chiang Mai was cool - we had our own little pods on either side of a corridor - though we think it took 13 hours to only go 250 miles - ha ha! When we arrived in Chiang Mai, the temperature was pleasantly a little bit cooler, and we have been very lucky with our choice of accomodation this time, as it has a pool and is really like a nice hotel, so that is lovely. Thailand is known as "the land of smiles" and the longer we are here it is becoming more apparent why - because Thai people are soooo sweet!
We then spent the rest of the day going to the flowermarket, which was beautiful, and visiting a temple which was cool, before basically sitting with a few Singha beers (the national Thai beer) for a few hours. We also went to the Night Bazaar which was really awesome - I (Nat) made a few purchases of jewellery and a cotton top before we ended up with a cheeky chesseburger in MacDonalds - as we needed some air con and a bit of plain grub.
Then today was adventure day! We booked an all in one combo adventure tour on our first evening after looking through what seemed like hundreds of tours! we set of at about half 8 in a well worn minibus and headed for our first stop, the Butterfly and Orchid Farm. The butterflies were beautiful - but the orchids were like nothing we had ever seen before - they grow in huge vines in mid air with loads of flowers and the colours were spectacular. This was definitely the most colourful part of the trip - and it was a lovely start.
Next, we headed north into the hills surrounding Chiang Mai where we hit our next stop of the day - a random one at that - an ox cart ride. We had to wait for a while for the first group to have their turn but in the meantime our guide for the day "Yo" gave us a quick tour of the edible plants in the area - some sweet, some herby and some that make your teeth turn black!!! The ride itself was amusing as the ox's seemed to be more interested in stopping and eating! After the ride, we headed further into the jungle and started our trek. It took about 50 minutes and on the way we saw many more edible plants, a waterfall, and a tarantula (which nat found scary but cool). Towards the end we caught a glipse of some elephants in the distance!!
This smoothly led us into the next activity - we went for a ride on an elephant! This time it was really fantastic as we were going through the jungle, you realise how agile they are even though they are so big. We walked in and through rivers, and went up and down quite steep banks but the elephants were always calm and graceful. We had a mahout guiding our elephant (he is the man who sits on the elephant's head and "steers"). Though of course, the "steering" doesn't always go entirely to plan when there are yummy plants around providing delicious distraction.
We went on a one-hour round trip and at the end when we got back to the ranch we fed our elephant sticks of sugar cane, which was really cool - as they unfurl their trunk and take it out of your hand it is really funny and beautiful. Then we climbed up yet another hill to have lunch which was actually really delicious - we had a great vegetable curry, with loads of crazy veggies in which was the perfect amount of spicy, with rice, though we also got given a ridiculously spicy soup which nobody ate ha ha!
We then headed on to one of the best parts of the day - white water rafting, which was sooo much fun! We basically got kitted out and jumped in the raft and went. The rapids were really cool - some of the best we have seen before and there were a few teeteringly close moments to capsizing, but we had a great time. Two thirds of the way through we switched from our rubber raft to a bamboo raft which was hilarious as it started sinking as soon as we got on it, but we had fun and it was a nice finish to the day! And now.....bed time before a chilled out do-nothing-day tomorrow.
Check out the photo album for more photos of us in Chiang Mai!