Nelly the Elephant.....North Thailnd

Trip Start Jul 06, 2011
Trip End Aug 03, 2011

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

We had to spend just over a week in Bangkok as we were waiting for our Indian visa's to be processed and were worried we were going to be desperate to get away from such a mad busy city but we were wrong! We loved it.  We were busy the whole time and could easily have stayed a couple more days with more things to see.

Our journey back to Bangkok concluded in a rather packed mini bus from the border of Cambodia, which wasn’t great as there were one too many people and the bags were piled in with us.  We were expecting a big basic bus for the last 6 hours of the journey!  Luckily the mini bus was quicker so it meant only 4 hours being squashed on the back row with our heads bent up round the sides that folded in at the top, the one time the back seats were not the best!  However we did end up meeting a lovely English couple, Lisa and Jon, hard not to chat considering we were kind of all sitting on top of each other, still it’s all part of travelling.

We were not however saying this when 2 hours later we had managed to get from where the bus dropped us to the area we were staying via the sky train but then spent 2 hours in a tuk-tuk in rush hour trying to find the hotel with a driver that could not speak English and we could not speak Thai!  Turns out the hotel address was written wrong online – so helpful!  Moto of this storey – ALWAYS write down the hotel phone number!

A best friend’s brother was in town so we spent a couple of evenings hanging out in his huge suite and played some golf with him at the local driving range which was great fun as we had the top floor to ourselves.  It was great to see yet another face from home.

On the weekend we got a bus about 60km from the city to see one of the floating markets.  We wanted to beat the tourist buses which turn up at about 10am so we stayed the Friday night local to the market so we could see the market at about 7am without trucks of tourists.  By the time we were leaving the market it was busy with people but this did give a real buzz to the place.  The market was amazing; everything is sold on tiny floating boats, everything from curry to peacock fans, great seeing such an old tradition.  We went on a little boat so as to get amongst all the stands and people, and, got to taste and see sugar palm being made, quite yummy.

After the market and missing 3 buses on the hour, thanks to the hotel, we eventually arranged our own minibus and headed back to the Pantip Suites in Bangkok which is where Rick had been staying.  We fancied having some space – 97 square meters to be exact!  We didn’t really know what to do with it all, plus our own kitchen, although we did cook once.  They have Tesco here so we went for a look round to get bits to cook, although they are a bit different to home with stacks of raw meat laying out, not quite nose peg stuff though like the markets in Cambodia.  The hotel pool was amazing, a nice break from the humidity and storms of Bangkok.  We were on the 11th floor so got to see some pretty wicked storms over the city.

We visited another weekend market with 15,000 stands and about 200,000 visitors, sounds horrendous but it was actually amazing as we got there early.  The best market we have been to by far and it really did sell everything, even poor little fluffy things like gerbils and flying foxes which look exhausted in the stuffy avenues.  There were some cute puppies and kittens in air conned stalls which we wanted to take home.

We managed to meet with Lisa and Jon to watch some kick boxing one evening which was great fun.  The place flooded with locals as we sat in the stands near the back where they all pile in and go nuts shouting, screaming and constantly betting.  We would have loved to have had a go but had no idea what was going on.  We ended our evening in the seedy red light distract for a few drinks which was great in a seedy kind of way. In fact it all seemed rather calm after seeing the Khao San Road where they were staying which is a world renowned backpacker haunt.  Full of local prostitutes, 18 plus year old travellers, bar after bar after club where you can get anything from fake ID, random souvenirs and piercings and tattoos all night long however drunk you are, as our friends found out by getting their ears pierced.  Lisa and Jon’s fake young person’s rail cards did look quite good though. I feel old saying it but an area we were glad to avoid, not being part of a group to party with.

Time for the north and a 12 hour trip awaited us – still the bus was a lush one which we hadn’t experienced in a while so we made the most of it!  We stayed in a cute boutique style hotel with a nice pool and garden in Chiang Mai in the North but unfortunately had a few downpours during our 3 days there, but it’s what sexy rain poncho’s are made for out there!

We undertook some Thai cooking lessons one evening which were so much fun, made so by the teacher who was hilarious!  He was tiny and so camp and had to shout so loud over 12 of us scrapping woks like we were on speed whilst burning enough spice to choke us all up which saw the teacher in fits of laughter along with us as he constantly ran out the kitchen to avoid the fumes, continuing to shout out instructions from the other side of the window.  We cooked 5 dishes each, making curry paste from scratch and then got to eat them all – yummy!  We have a special cook book with us now to help us recreate the food at home so watch out everyone.

An afternoon was spent game fishing on a lake, where after the initial slow 45 minutes each of us seemed to be reeling them in one after the other.  Claire caught 7, Andy 5, Claire’s biggest was 40lb, Andy’s was 52lb.  I however was left with bruises from the rod pushing into me as it took some reeling to get them in.  They were all Mekong Cat Fish.  Fishing is fun when you are guaranteed a catch that big and that often, I don’t think therefore I will be taking it up in the UK!

Our last day in Northern Thailand was spent mahout training.  We chose to do this as we wanted to sit on the elephants without a cage type bench.  It was great fun and the elephants are well looked after with lots of freedom, although our one had gone to work logging in the winter due to their not being enough tourists to feed him and he had come back a bit bony – poor thing, so our bottoms and legs actually shook when sitting on his back due to how uncomfy it was!  Sitting on his head was great, although he took no notice of our instructions to go left, right, forward, back etc and basically continued to eat non-stop all the way on the walk, we therefore called him Loading Bay (for Hannah!).   We had the largest male elephant and he was HUGE!  We fed the elephants stacks of fruit and then rode them down to the river to wash them where we all got soaked, although most of this was due to the trainers, not the elephants.

When we arrived a tiny baby was running riot quite literally but then had to be penned up with the mum because the mum was very protective, having lost her last baby.  Therefore she sticks to the baby like glue so it is fine if the baby runs at you and swipes all the lunch off the table but not so much with the mother right in toe!  It seemed a shame not to have the baby running around whilst we were there, especially as safety never seems to be an issue anywhere else in these countries!

So that was Thailand seen, what with spending time in the south before Cambodia, then it was back to Bangkok and off to North Vietnam to meet my sister, Sophie and Adam for their holiday……….
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