Cold Camping and Chicken Curry in Chiang Mai

Trip Start Aug 02, 2009
Trip End Feb 18, 2010

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Saturday, February 6, 2010

Our run of smooth and easy bus journeys continued as we travelled from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai! The Tuk Tuk pick up was late as always... but by now we didn't even worry. The Tuk Tuk dropped us at the bus station and we climbed onto the bus to find our seats... only problem, there was already a lot of bags and coats on the seats. The conductor told us to move the things and sit there anyway, which we did. When the people came for their stuff we smiled innocently and said nothing. There were a lot of people in the wrong seats and we were glad we had ours as the driver placed plastic chairs down the aisle for the extra people to sit on. The journey to the Thailand border took 14 hours... mainly because of the lack of tarmac on the road and the ridiculous number of stops the bus made for all the men to go to the toilet in the bushes!

We took a Tuk Tuk to the border and then a boat across the river to enter Thailand. Because the bus has taken so long we had missed the mini bus that goes directly to Chiang Mai, so it was another taxi to the bus station. Here we boarded a very old bus which looked like a fire engine and took us to Chiang Rai. After a two hour wait at the bus station we were able to catch another bus before the final Tuk Tuk got us to a guest house... 27 hours after we set off!

Our first day in Chiang Mai was spent exploring temples, browsing the markets and researching trips for the following days. Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and the markets were really good. We finally settled on a three day trip, leaving the next day.

Trek, Day 1: We were collected by truck (late as usual) and spent the morning bouncing about in the back until we reached the National Park where our trek would begin. We walked for about 3 hours up through farm land and into the forest. As always the views were great and the hills were hard work. We arrived in a clearing high up in the hills and set up camp. Jon helped to hoe the earth and lay leaves on the floor to make a nice soft spot for our tent. Once the tent was up the guide began to prepare our dinner... chicken and potato curry cooked in bamboo on the camp fire. The curry was excellent and the sun set that followed was lovely. We spent the evening sat around the camp fire, watching the brightest stars up in the sky.

Trek, Day 2: We were meant to go walking to the very top of the hill to watch the sun rise... so at 5am, me and Jon got up, got dressed and ventured out into the cold and dark. However the guide and the other couple were still fast sleep... so we went back to bed. At 7am, after the guide admitted he was too lazy to get up, we walked to the top of the hill, where we could see Chiang Mai region on one side and Chiang Rai region on the other. The climb down was tricky and required some sliding on the bum.

After breakfast we set off trekking, again for about three hours. This time we saw little streams which we drank from, clumps of bamboo and tree houses that the locals use to hunt from. There was a lot more uphill walking to do and then some down hill... which made me happy but killed Jon's knees. Our destination was the King of Flight Camp, which we reached just in time for lunch. After lunch I tried to have a shower (outside) but got chased from the bamboo shower room by a hoard of large, angry wasps! That evening we went up into the trees to complete the zip wire course... 22 platforms connected by zip wires and abseil drops. It was lots of fun and we saw the sun set from the trees.

Trek, Day 3: We spent the night in a bamboo hut before starting another trek. This time we walked to a waterfall deep in the forest... there was loads more up hill and lots of very slippy downhill. The waterfall was small but had 5 pretty drops. We started at the bottom and (rock) climbed up to the top. Jon put his head in but the water was freezing, so I admired from the side.

After lunch and a two hour journey in the truck we arrived at an elephant camp, where we had an hours ride on a big male elephant. He seemed to have a bit of a mind of his own and kept wandering off to find juicy plants or stopping to rest. Next up was white water rafting. As it is dry season the river is pretty low, so we spent the first 15 minutes getting stuck on rocks and bouncing the raft along. After that the river got a bit deeper and we managed to pass through the rapids quite easily, over taking lots of other grounded rafts. From the raft we transferred to a bamboo raft where we tried our hand at punting the final way down the river. An excellent trip!

After all the excitement of the trek the following day was far more relaxed. We booked ourselves in for a cookery class. We spent the whole day learning how to cook 6 Thai dishes from scratch, including buying the ingredients from the market.  Of course we were rewarded by eating our dishes. The food was pretty good and we are looking forward to cooking some at home.

Our final day in Chiang Mai was very exciting! We booked a taxi for the day to explore outside the city. The first stop was Tiger Kingdom. Here we were able to go into the enclosures with the tigers and sit with them and stroke them! First up were two lion cubs, followed by the medium sized tigers (7 months but much bigger than Max and Paddy). After this we went in with three large tigers, they like to have their tummies scratched and push their back paws against you. Our final experience was with the small tigers (5 months old). Again there were three, including a very cute one called Nemo who seemed to be more awake than the others. After being in with the tigers we wandered around and caught a glimpse of three 15 day old baby tigers and also a huge male.

We enjoyed it so much we went back in and met the smallest two tigers. Having just had their bottles they were pretty sleepy but still lots of fun... we have some amazing photos.

In the afternoon the taxi took us around the craft villages, including the Thai silk farm, the largest jewellery shop in the world, the timber carving workshop and the umbrella making factory. Jon tried to buy everything at the wood place and I found a lovely umbrella.

That evening we got the bus up to Pai.
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