Chiang Mai Has My Heart!

Day 1 in Chiang Mai

The morning after we arrived at Mojito Garden Guesthouse in Chiang Mai, Boom (who seemed to be the owner of the place) sat down with us and helped us plan what we will be doing during our stay here in this wonderful city! Then he showed us on the map where we could find some markets and where to get good Thai massages! So helpful!

After a really late breakfast, we headed out for a walk making our way towards the train station to buy our tickets to Bangkok in a couple days. We eventually came upon this huge indoor market! It was a bit overwhelming, because there was so much stuff everywhere you looked! And a little difficult to restrain from buying everything in sight! We eventually pulled ourselves away to keep heading towards the train station (which was quite a hike from our guesthouse!). Closer to the train station, we found a thrift store and perused that for a bit, but gave ourselves a time limit. (Good idea!) Finally we made it to the train station and purchased our tickets to head out to Bangkok in a few days.

Then we took a little tuk-tuk taxi to the night market! We showed him on the map where we wanted to go, and of course, he brought us to the wrong place. But no worries!! We found a little store and I found some BEAUTIFUL paintings!!

Then we walked over to where we originally wanted to go. We tried our first smoothies from the famous Mrs. Pa!! Let me tell you, this woman can make a smoothie!! Fantastically delicious! I tried a strawberry mango smoothie. So yummy!

Mrs. Pa doing what she does best!

Mrs. Pa doing what she does best!

We also had dinner from the little food stands scattered everywhere. I tried Pad Thai for the first time! Oh my goodness!! A plateful of noodles and such jam-packed full of flavor!! And for only 30 Baht!! (About $1 USD!) I had never had Thai food before and very much dislike peanuts (which is one of the ingredients of Pad Thai), but the flavor was so rich that it covered up the peanut flavor and it was so good! I think it’s so amazing how far I’ve come with the different foods I eat! It’s definitely one of the things that has made traveling so much fun!

Day 2 in Chiang Mai

Baan Chang Elephant Park

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EARLY morning!! Our guide for the day, Woody, picked us up for the Baan Chang Elephant Park at about 6:30 am. When we got to the elephant park, we got to change into these really sexy get-ups!! Woody told us a little bit about the park. All the elephants they have there were rescued from whatever horrible conditions they were in. All the trainers have a special relationship with their elephant and it can be a little difficult for them to have healthy relationships with people just because they spend so much time with the elephant. After that, it was time to feed the elephants some breakfast! We were given some huge baskets full of bananas and sugar cane and free to go! So funny! As you’re walking towards the elephant you want to feed, all the other elephants you pass try to grab the bananas out of your hand with their trunk. And just the way they eat is quite fun to watch… One of the sugar cane sticks that would’ve taken me a little effort to break, was easily broken in half by an elephants tongue!

Our group ready to feed the hungry beasts!

Our group ready to feed the hungry beasts!

Mmmm breakfast!

Mmmm breakfast! (Photo taken by Karima)

Then we moved on to training. Woody taught us how to get on and off an elephant. ( I think us short people had a disadvantage here!) We also learned some commands before we took the elephants for a little test drive: “how” means stop, “kway” means turn and you kick the opposite ear of the way you want to go, “pai-pai” means straight, and “no-long” means sit down. Then we each had our turn to make a little circle to practice the commands.

Woody showing us how it's done!

Woody showing us how it’s done!

Then we were off for our little jungle trek! The trainers had to walk with us just in case the elephants got out of hand. They are MASSIVE so it would have been really bad if things didn’t go well. The elephant that Karima and I rode was named Kam-klula and we rode her (I believe it was a her…?) bareback. (Many other elephant parks will have you ride on seats that are attached to the elephants back, which is very bad for them! So when looking for elephant parks to go to on your next visit to Thailand, look for one that has your ride the elephants bareback.) I rode up front first, basically on the elephants head. It wasn’t what I expected, though I don’t really know what I was expecting, but the hair on the elephant’s head was really course and pokey. It wasn’t the most comfortable place to sit. Haha and also, the elephants move their head a lot, so it’s not really a smooth ride, but what an experience! We took a little break overlooking a banana tree grove to let the elephants snack and relax for a little bit. Then Karima rode in the front and I rode on the elephant’s back. A much smoother ride, but you have to be careful when passing close to trees… Elephants use trees to help them scratch and if your leg is in the way when he feels the need to scratch, you won’t be feeling too great.

What the top of an elephant's head looks like...

What the top of an elephant’s head looks like…

At the end of our jungle trek, we came to a little lake where we got to bathe the elephants. So much fun! We got to scrub all the dirt that was caked on their bodies and pour water all over them as they laid in the water. Sometimes they would put their whole head under and just keep their trunk above water. Haha a few of them liked to spray a little water out of their trunk, so I got a little bit of that. Then one of the trainers dumped a whole bucket of water on Karima! Haha she tried to get him back, but no luck.

Scrubbing away!

Scrubbing away!

Probably the best part of the day!

Probably the best part of the day!

One of the trainers just threw a bucket of water on Karima!

One of the trainers just threw a bucket of water on Karima!

Plotting some sweet revenge...?

Plotting some sweet revenge…?

And this is what your bum will look like after riding elephants for a day...

And this is what your bum will look like after riding elephants for a day…

Then we were given towels so we could shower before lunch. The provided us with a lovely meal and then we chilled in the hammocks before they brought us back to our guesthouse. What a day! Spending the whole morning with the elephants was such an experience that I will not soon forget! They are massive, but move so gracefully. Gentle giants! I was just in awe of them.

Thank you Kam-klula and the Baan Chang Elephant Park for a wonderful day!!

Thank you Kam-klula and the Baan Chang Elephant Park for a wonderful day!!

When we got back to the guesthouse, Karima and I went off to find the place to get Thai massages. My first Thai massage experience was so great! I felt amazing afterwards, but my masseuse was really concerned about my back. Through hand gestures, we realized that she was trying to tell me that my back is a bit uneven from carrying my bag and she said, “You have time come back?” For $5 USD, most definitely I will be making a trip back!

Later on, Karima and I were heading down to the night market for more smoothies and pad thai, but ran into a HUGE street market! We didn’t know this before, but Chiang Mai holds the Walking Street Market every Sunday evening. Wow! I wished I hadn’t bought so many souvenirs the day before because there were so much more to choose from here and much cheaper! Dang! Oh well, that didn’t stop me from buying more. I got so many earrings for soooo cheap! And I bought some cute new shoes, scarves, necklaces, etc. We of course indulged in the delicious food… Fried spring rolls, fresh strawberries, and popcorn! Buttery, salty popcorn! And of course, smoothies! What a fantastic change of plans for the night!

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Day 3 in Chiang Mai

After breakfast, Boom called a tuk-tuk to bring me to Tiger Kingdom to hang out with some tigers for the morning! On the way, the driver pulled into a gas station to fill up. As we were pulling out, the driver told me that the men at the gas station wanted him to tell me they thought I was very beautiful and wanted to give me a free bottle of water. Haha well thanks.

Tiger Kingdom

When I got to Tiger Kingdom, I had to choose whether I wanted to hang out with the newborns, the baby tigers, the medium tigers, or the big tigers… Go big or go home, right? Well I’m not ready to go home yet, so the big one it is!

I was hoping Tiger Kingdom would be a great place to learn about tigers, like you’d be able to walk through a little museum and read about them, their habits, diet, habitat, etc. On the other hand, I suspected that Tiger Kingdom would be one of those places where they take your money, let you in the cage for 10 minutes to take pictures with the tigers, and then leave. Unfortunately, it was what I had expected. When I got up to the big tigers’ cage to wait for my turn, I was reading the rules posted near the cage entrance. Some of the rules that stood out to me were this: #1 You are not allowed to take your own picture of you and the tiger. (In other words, you can’t be holding the camera and taking a picture of you AND the tiger in the same picture… Someone else has to do it for you.) #2 You are not allowed to ask the trainers to take pictures for you. Well that’s just great… I’m by myself and didn’t want to hire a photographer to take my pictures. So I probably won’t get any pictures with these cats. And on top of that, probably not going to learn anything about them. As luck would have it, the trainer that I went in with spoke English VERY well!! So we were able to talk about the tigers the whole 15 minutes I was in there! AND he swiped my camera from me so he could take tons of pictures of me and the tigers. WIN!! Hope you enjoy my trainer’s photography skills…

Hanging out with the big cats!

Hanging out with the big cats!

Roy is clearly very frightened by me...

Roy is clearly very frightened by me…

Oh, hey Joey!

Oh, hey Joey!

Hanging out with the only female tiger in the cage... Rabbit!

Hanging out with the only female tiger in the cage… Rabbit!

They also had a lion sleeping in his own cage. At first I thought he might be a liger, but no. Just a regular old, lazy lion basking in the sun and taking his morning nap.

Nap time!

Nap time!

After I was done with the big cats, I walked over to look at the little rascals! So cute! One of them must have been pretty naughty because no one was playing with him and he was pacing back and forth trying to get someone’s attention.

When I got back to the guesthouse, Karima and I headed out to get another massage! I just got a back and shoulder massage instead of the full body massage… So great! After that, we rented bicycles from our guesthouse and went out for a little stroll. It was a little strange at first because people in Thailand drive on the left side of the road, but we were fine. We went down to the night market for some of Mrs. Pa’s smoothies and some Pad Thai! I got a strawberry banana smoothie, and seriously, it was the most amazing thing in the world!! And then top that off with some Pad Thai… Heavenly!! A delicious fresh fruit smoothie and a plate full of Pad Thai all for under $2 USD, you can’t possibly go wrong!

I wish we would've done more of this!

I wish we would’ve done more of this!

Later on, we decided that we wanted to have a little night out. Karima wanted to go to a place with live music. We ventured over to the area where we got our massages to check things out. There was a little band playing some reggae music at Zoe Garden, so we popped in there for a spell! After the band was done playing, there was a DJ. A lovely night of drinks, dancing, and checking out the really cute bartender… Thank you Zoe Garden!!

On our walk back, we stopped at a convenience store for some snacks and I found some Cheetoes!! Victory!!

Day 4 in Chiang Mai

Our last day here… I don’t want to leave! It was a pretty relaxing day. Just relaxing at the guesthouse before we head out later today. While I was sitting having breakfast, I heard a big crash out on the street. Across the road from the guesthouse is a really long line up of scooters where the high schoolers park in the morning. A car in the lot next to the guesthouse raced out of the driveway (maybe accidentally slamming on the gas instead of the brake…?) and smashed into a bunch of the scooters. Imagine getting done with school walking to your scooter, only to find it all smashed up and not drive-able. Bad day. It attracted quite the crowd, not unlike any other car accident on this planet.

After that, we packed and checked out. I walked over to the post office to send out some cards and we just hung out at the guesthouse for the rest of the day until we went to the train station.

Good-bye Chiang Mai! It’s been a fabulous time and I hope to see you again someday!!

 

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