Chiang Mai

After our transition time at the beach in Hua Hin we flew to the town of Chiang Mai which is in the north of Thailand. We have both really enjoyed our time here. There are many things to see and do. Although there are lots of other tourists it is a big enough city to absorb them and still be Thai. On our second day in town we went on day trip. It was actually billed as “a 4×4 Muddy Day Adventure”. I’ll give you three guesses as to who wanted to book this trip. His name starts with an A. We drove for about 40 minutes outside of Chiang Mai where we turned onto the dirt “road”. For about another 30 minutes we slammed and banged along this little dirt path through the jungle. Our itinerary was to go up and over a mountain and come out at an elephant camp on the other side. As we started to climb we passed through a tiny village that was picturesque but clearly very poor. The driver had put the car into 4 wheel drive and we started doing some serious driving. I was holding onto the “oh shit” grip for dear life and i was still getting thrown all over. We drove through another little village and started up a steep stretch of road. It had rained the night before so everything was muddy and slippery. The road had a sharp drop off on the right side and a steep hill side on the left. The road itself had several deep gullies in it. As we tried to make our way up the hill the jeep slid into a deep gully and lodged tipped on it’s right side. The driver managed to back us up a little bit and gunned the engine. We moved forward a little bit but then slid even further into the channel. Both tires on the right side were completely stuck and we were only a couple of feet from the drop off on the right side of the road. At this point I said “I want out of this car right now”. Andy and I both got out and surrounded by three village women we watched the driver almost flip the jeep over at least twice. With the help of an old man from the village they were finally able to get the jeep out of the gully and backed down the hill to a fairly flat spot in the village. It was good fun for all involved. We then had to drive for three hours back the way we came and around the mountain to get to the elephant camp to ride the elephant! Thankfully riding the elephant turned out to be much more enjoyable than riding a camel. The ride went through the jungle. We were able to feed the elephant bananas and the mahout had the elephant pull a tree out of the ground with his trunk! To get back to the camp we had to cross a river. On the opposite bank one of the other elephants was tethered. As we started to cross the other elephant decided it was not happy. It started growling, trumpeting, and screaming. It was immediately clear to me why they used to use elephants as weapons of war. I was terrified and the mahout didn’t seem completely at ease either. Thankfully we passed by and finished the ride without incident. Our next adventure was a bamboo raft ride. The rafts are made out of ten, thirty foot long bamboo poles lashed together at both ends and in the middle by pieces of cut up bicycle tires. This was surprisingly more sturdy than it sounds but not in anyway watertight. Our feet and our bottoms were soon wet. It was a pleasant ride, somewhat like the jungle cruise only real. There were a couple of spots where it was a little choppy but our boatman was good (like a gondola these boats are propelled by a person standing on one end using a pole to push off the bottom). At one point there is an actual cataract in the river where passengers are requested to get get off the boat momentarily while the boatman runs the rapid alone and then you get back on afterwards. Our boatman was young and it was clearly a slow day so he suggested that we could stay on and run the rapid with him. Of course as I said “no way” Andy said “yes”. I am not ashamed to say that I screamed like a girl as we went shooting through and the water covered the boat but it was fun!

More up my alley we have been to see several Buddhist temples. There many, many Wats (temples) in Chiang Mai. The most impressive one is called Wat Doi Suthep. It is on a hill outside of town, on a location where an elephant carrying some of Buddha’s relics stopped. We were shown by our guide how to perform Buddhist prayers and make an offering. Then we went into another area of the temple where a monk blessed us with holy water. We also went to Wat Suan Dok to participate in “Monk Chat“. We were paired with a young monk who is studying English at the university located at the Wat. It was an enlightening experience to talk with someone so different from ourselves.

We have also gone to the night bazaar several times. This consists of multiple streets and freestanding markets full of anything you could ever want to buy, from hill tribe crafts to “real Tiffany” jewelry. It is fun and completely overwhelming.

Tomorrow we go to a new hotel outside of town where we will be taking cooking classes for the next several days. Wish me luck.

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  • Thanks for spending so much time describing your experiences….all I can say is WOW!!! I’m sure all the guys will be envious of the 4×4 trip and the rafting (I would like that, too) but the elephant trip seems best to me! It all sounds beyond fantastic!

  • I must say that you have disabused me of the notion that I am any sort of traveler, in the adventurous sense of the word. I would never even think of going to these places or of trying some of the things you’ve done so far, and if they were suggested to me I can’t see myself complying willingly. But hearing about it is fun.

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