Discovering North Thailand

Trip Start Apr 16, 2013
Trip End Dec 20, 2013

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Sawatdee Kaa,
It's been a while since our last post and so this one includes the whole of North Thailand.  From elephants and tigers to mountains and temples we have absolutely loved it. 
From the big mango (Bangkok) we boarded a bus for Sukhothai (the city not the lovely Leeds based Thai restaurant). After 7 hours of crazy Thai TV, a bread bun with pink stuff in and a whole load of reading we arrived.  New Sukhothai was just a standard Thai city nothing special but exploring the old city by bicycle for a day was magic. 
We did 25 miles visiting amazing temples, Buddha's and architecture from numerous eras in gorgeous green surroundings.  We learnt about Thai culture and ate fantastic food. Mem, our guide showed us BBQ'd rat, ant eggs, a fruit called a f*ck, live fish, frogs and all manner of madness at the local market. The only hiccup of the day was Jim getting lost in cobra riddled mountain jungle with Bernard the Swiss banker for over an hour whilst in search of a bit of downhill mountain biking that our guide had said was easy to find. They finally found their way out only to realise they were in a military compound where they were accused of being spies. They were glad when the guide appeared and rescued them. 

 The day was superb and marked by the circular rainbow halo around the sun - a rare optical phenomenon.
Chiang Mai
We hopped on another bus to Chiang Mai, a lovely place with charm, old city walls and surrounding green mountains. On our first night we went to an amazing Thai restaurant called 'Lemongrass' and ate 'meang kuam' -  self assembly leaves with dried shrimp, lime, ginger, coconut, peanut, onion and hoi sin.  Wrap them up, pop them in and BOOM, a Thai flavour sensation. 
The following day we spent training to be elephant mahouts which was brilliant! Learning about, feeding, cleaning, riding, playing, washing and respecting these beautiful, massive Chang's (elephants).  The place we went to didn't use seats as they can hurt the elephants so we rode them bare back.  This also meant climbing up and onto them using Thai (with a Yorkshire twang) commands. 
"Yo Kha": they bend their leg so you can put one leg on their ankle and one on their knee.
"Suung" they lift their leg up higher and up you go like a lift. Then you hold their ear and jump up and onto their shoulders.  
Wow it's high! 
The rest of the Dumbo driving commands were...
"Pai" = forwards
"Sai" = left
"Kwar" = right
"Toi" = backwards
"Yude" = stop 
"Banyoo" = slower
We loved riding our elephant, she was called Far. We particularly enjoyed riding through the really deep water it felt like being on a whale. What a super day!

Later that evening and the following day Laura's foot swelled up from a bite probably off a nasty bug in the water and we thought it might elephantitis but after ice, elevation and an appearance from nurse Jim it went down and she was ok.
We spent a lot of time in our favourite vegetarian cafe and bakery 'Blue Diamond' to help with the foot healing.  Such a lovely spot with freshly baked bread and cakes and incredible fresh veg-filled Thai delights. Yummy.  It's worth noting that we will probably return as fatpackers, most days seem to revolve around food.
From elephants to tigers we visited Tiger Kingdom where you can go inside the tiger enclosure and pet the tigers! We did quite a bit of research about the place checking for any animal cruelty but it all seemed fine, no chains, no drugs just captive bred beasts and small sticks as a method of control.  This meant there was nothing to stop them decapitating you if they wanted and people have been bitten in the past! Scary stuff.  To add to the excitement Laura accidentally dressed like a zebra! We signed our life away and started with the small ones which were big enough! It was scary but so amazing to be so close to such beautiful creatures.  The big ones were much more frightening and one got annoyed and started roaring and clawing at one point. Another was super huge and both our hearts were racing. We loved it though and were really glad we took this once in a lifetime opportunity.
We got a mini bus to Pai though twisty roads and lush green mountains and met a Burmese man who said he played guitar at a restaurant in Chang Mai so we made a note of it as we were heading back before going to Chiang Rai.  The twisty roads were fine until it started raining and then we saw three accidents!
We arrived safely and got picked up by motorbike and side car to get to our accommodation - Pairadise where we had a lovely little shack by a pond.
Pai is gorgeous; green valley overlooked by mountains with bamboo bridges over the river and plenty of quirky coffee shops and good food. We decided to rent a scooter and explore the surroundings. In the morning we took our little scooter to beautiful Pembok waterfalls and had a swim, did some dangerous off-roading searching for a view point and found a farmer turned refreshment stall owner who sold us some home brew. In the afternoon we visited the hot springs which were beautiful and had bubbling hot pools where people boiled eggs and cooler ones for having a dip. 

 We loved Pai and had a great time before heading back for one night at Chiang Mai.
We decided to make a visit to the Burmese guitarist we met on the bus.  We were expecting a singer/song writer or something, not a master of the classics and member of the royal academy.  Ko Thet Swe was so good and gave us our own private concert, explaining the history of each piece. We were in awe. Wow, what a great evening.
Chiang Rai
Hopping on another bus we headed further north still to Chiang Rai. Upon arrival, Nok the tiny Thai lady from our 'bamboo nest' accommodation picked us up and drove us up into the mountains.  We drove for an hour until roads ran out leaving steep dirt tracks in the rain which were quite scary. 4x4 was a must to the point that we got stuck and had to walk the last 100 metres. But it was totally worth it. Set up amongst the green mountains and hill tribe villages our bamboo hut on stilts was simple and beautiful with panoramic views.  We spent much of our time watching the changing view from dawn till dusk and relaxing in our hammock.  

 We met some great people including a lovely French couple, Pierre and Eugenie who were travelling in between the process of moving from Australia to Spain.  We all decided to go for a trek in search of the local waterfall. 'Cow' the dog from bamboo nest decided to join us but stopped just before the village as they still eat dog there!  We only got lost a couple of times saw a snake which we later found out was posionous! The waterfall was impressive and we slipped our way into the plunge pool for a dip. Later that night there was a humongous thunderstorm and it poured for about 4 hours with constant flashes and booms. We played cards and sheltered, whilst watching the tiny owner (Noi) wander around in the dark hunting frogs in his child-sized Tigger raincoat. It was great fun.  We still can't get over the beauty of bamboo nest and are so glad we went. 
We spent one night in Chiang Rai itself in preparation for the border crossing and 24 hour journey to Laos. 
North Thailand has been superb, we have loved it.  Great people, tasty food, inspiring scenery and some unforgettable adventures. Travelling seems to have got faster and our adventures exciting and spontaneous.  We have Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia coming up in the next 8 weeks.
We miss everyone and love hearing talk from the U.K.
Keep in touch.
Love Jim and Laura
The Flying Globetrotters
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Mum on

Wowser :) xf

Cath and hugh on

Looks amazing and fun! Keep on enjoying. Let's Skype soon xxx

lauraandjim on

Definitely. Just let us know when you are free! We are currently 6 hours ahead of UK time. Hope you're all well lots of love xx

Stacy & Phil on

We are lovin' the updates and seeing what you guys are up to. Keep 'em coming! Stay safe.
P.S. your stories of snakes are freaking me out and I'm safe at work in a cubicle! Ha-Ha!

lauraandjim on

Hey Stace,

Thanks for the comment. the creepies are pretty scary sometimes but it all adds to the fun.
Hope you and Phil are well and settling back in OK.


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