Meeting the locals in Chiang Mai

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hello everyone!

We hope you are all well and that 2011 has started good for you. Here is our entry from Chiang Mai.

It was a real hard jaunt to get to Chiang Mai. First we had to get a tuk tuk, then mini bus, boat, mini bus and finally a bus from Ko Lanta to Krabi. From Krabi we got an overnight bus to Bangkok. All the trains were fully booked so that is why we put my poor Mom & Dad through all that! We then had a half a day to kill in Bangkok before getting an overnight train to Chiang Mai. Karen came up with a great idea and we went to a hotel pool to chill and sleep off the bus journey. Was it worth all that effort just to come to Chiang Mai for 3 days? You best believe it!

I don't normally copy what I have wrote in my personal journal on this blog but I think on this occasion I will make an exception. Here is what I wrote:

What a day! A Day that will live with us forever. We went to the Elephant Sanctuary and spent the day with those wonderful creatures. We fed them, we bathed them and we even got a kiss from them! It was magical. They are mostly street Elephants and this wonderful woman has rescued them from a horrible life which we saw in an horrific film whilst at the sanctuary. Street Elephants have no rights in Thailand. It was so amazing to be next to them. They are so big but so gentle. Bless them. It is amazing that they let us near them at all after what they have been through from the hands of humans. My Parents & Karen were like kids as was I. It has reaffirmed my desire to either work with animals or the environment. There were teams of volunteers helping out at the sanctuary which was great to see. Just standing next to this huge Elephant in the river, stroking her and looking into her eye will live with me forever. In the evening all we could talk about were those amazing animals. What an unforgettable day, well worth the effort to get to Chiang Mai!  Over to Karen



I have to admit that I questioned whether 2 whole days of travel to get to Chiang Mai were worth it. I got my answer as I stood under one of the elephants, stroking the side of her head. I was overwhelmed by how gentle this giant was. But what got me most of all was how willing to trust us humans she was, even after what she had been through at the hands of some heartless monsters. That memory of me looking up at her and stroking her will remain with me forever.
Most visitors to Chiang Mai usually organise a trek into the mountains from here and get to visit some local tribes along the way. As we only had half a day to spare we had to do a whistle stop tour that gave us a taste of what Chiang Mai has to offer. Our day trip included a visit to a small Hmong village and one of the most famous temples in the area. 
The village itself has been totally set up for tourists. It includes a long walk past hundreds of stalls selling everything from clothes to dried fish, leading to a gorgeous garden where we could have a look at some famous flowers. A special kind of poppy that used to be the main source of income for these villagers when sold in the form of Opium. Our guide was kind enough to teach us how to extract Opium. Basically small slits are made in the head of the poppy while it’s still attached to the plant. The next day the seeds are collected from inside the flower and lo and behold, you’ve got Opium ready for the smoking. 
The name ‘Opium’ is so beguiling. It conjures up images of lush parlours, full of drapes straight out of Arabian nights. On the other hand, it’s other name, ‘Heroin’ just makes me think of someone with hollow eyes and not many teeth. Unfortunately some tourists don’t know the difference and end up going to ‘Opium dens’ thinking they’re smoking some harmless exotic drug. 
The kids at this village were very cute. They were dressed up in full Hmong costume and sat playing in the garden. Of course every time a tourist took a picture they ran after him or her shouting ‘money’. I would have much rather seen them going to school but such is life in many countries outside the western world. 


After our visit to the pretend village we went to a gorgeous temple where we even got blessed by monks. The story goes that when Buddha died, the king wanted to find a special place to bury his remains. He gave this task to a white elephant who walked all the way to the mountain where we stood, circled the place 3 times and promptly fell dead, thus signalling the burial place. Buddhist temples are always a sight to see. Adorned with intricate carvings and loads of gold, they are as Impressive as they are peaceful.  
And so with our new good luck bracelet from the monks on our arms we left the temples and headed to the train station for our night journey back to Bangkok. 
More from the capital, till then….
Lots of loveKaren and Paul
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auntyp on

Awesome guys, absolutely awesome!!!!!!!...Must have been amazing to be surrounded by such amazing creatures!!! truly jaw dropping.....Way to go xxxxxx

mom on

such an amazing day will live with us forever

Dean on

Was Joey the sleeping Buddha !! xxx

Tukkie on

What a beautiful experience to be with those elephants!!! How wonderful for you all :) Wish I was there............... XXXXXXXXX

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