Chiang Mai and Friends
Getting to Thailand was an epic journey of two eight hour boat trip days, and then one final bus day to get to Chiang Mai. Knowing that we’d be meeting our friends on the other side kept us optimistic when we wanted to throw our kindles/iPod’s off the boat after playing hours of Word games. And the thought of showing our friends the joys and challenges we’d experienced traveling SE Asia, and getting to live through their fresh, excited traveler eyes was just what we needed to finish out the last two months of our trip.
Upon arriving in Chiang Mai after our odyssey, we proceeded to kill time until we could eagerly await our friends on the hostel porch like it was Christmas morning. When their taxi pulled up it was such a relief to see familiar faces after feeling foreign for so long. The rest of the day we all enjoyed each other’s company and started planning our future escapades.
The highlights of our stay in Chiang Mai consisted of a few different trips and outings: Flight of the Gibbon, the Elephant Nature Park, and a cooking class at Siam Rice.
Our first stop was the Flight of the Gibbon ziplining trip. We were somehow convinced into signing up for the 6am group, and it turned out to be a fantastic choice. We were the very first batch out for the day, so we had no one to wait behind, and the forest was cool and clear. The thrilling blasts through the forest got our adrenaline pumping, leading up to the longest zipline in the world at 120m. Our guides were both charming and hilarious and led us through the canopy confidently. To top it all off, they led us to a family of gibbons calling out to us through the forest. We watched as a mother and baby gibbon swung through the branches, warning us not to get too close, as the father gibbon sat nonchalantly in the distance. Truly a breathtaking day.
The Elephant Nature Park is a conservation reserve for rescued elephants that used to work in logging, trekking or any other spirit-breaking labor. For 2 days we lived on the preserve and had the chance to watch the elephants just live happily and interact with other elephants in their natural environment. Visitors could fed and bathe the elephants, but no riding is allowed due to the abusive nature that goes into elephant training and since the park believes elephants should be allowed to live wildly. This park is an inspirational and peaceful oasis away from the overwhelming, crazed cities of Thailand.
We decided to sign up for another cooking class in Chiang Mai so our friends could get a taste of cooking the local cuisine. During our time at Siam Rice, we learned how to cook about 5 dishes, including curry, pad thai, and spring rolls. Our instructors were knowledgeable and entertaining, and taught us how to cook delicious Thai food. It was a fun day, and we couldn’t finish nearly everything we had cooked.
Amidst all the day trips we took from Chiang Mai, probably the most popular, outrageous holiday of the year was taking place. Songkran – or Thai New Year. This holiday consists of a week long celebration where people try to get each other as soaking wet as possible. The streets are packed with merry-goers dragging up buckets from the moat to douse passer-bys, people shooting water guns, and – the most unfair – people sitting in the back of trucks with barrels of ice water that they throw on their freezing victims. We knew this holiday would be occurring and had greatly looked forward to it, but didn’t expect it to last that long. For the whole week, you couldn’t leave your hostel before 7pm at night, without having to dodge water, and there was barely anywhere you’d be safe. We spent one whole day running from restaurant to restaurant trying to stay dry, but watch the festivities from a safe place. Thankfully, we were successful for the most part.
The nine days we spent in Chiang Mai were probably the most action-packed of the trip, and we had a great time sharing the experiences with our friends. But since we neared the end of our travels, we couldn’t help starting to think, only one more city to go and then we’ll be HOME!