Chiang Mai: bathing with elephants, white water rafting and sliding off a waterfall!

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Asia » Thailand » North-West Thailand » Chiang Mai
October 27th 2017
Published: October 29th 2017
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After more than 6 hours in a far too air-conditioned bus, we finally make it to Chiang Mai. As soon as we get off the bus, tuk-tuk drivers start shouting at us and I kindly ignore them until Shaun joins me outside. There are quite a few backpackers around and a kind tourist (or expat?) arranges a cheap 'bus' to the centre of Chiang Mai for us (a bus is more of a truck here!). We have lunch with Silvio and a young German couple and then start to try finding an accommodation as we haven't booked anything. Our stomachs feel a bit unsettled after our lunch so it is not fun! We visit a few accommodations but everything is full or far too expensive. We go to a McDonald's to get WiFi and find the location of some hostels. It is night when we arrive at a nice hostel and we are glad that it's over!
There is a market on the corner and Shaun and get a vegetarian Pad Thai in a street restaurant (which also upsets our tummies...).
On the next day, we decide to rest. We go for a walk and see a few temples. Temples here look amazing - the issue is, because they are all so beautiful, we got "blasé" (or "templed out") very quickly.
On the next day, we are very excited to go on a day excursion!
We feed elephants and then make soap from vines (yes, it works!) and go in the river with the elephants to wash them. The baby is very playful and splashes us with his trunk. It's a magical moment!
There are 5 elephants with us, aged 4 to 50. Apparently, they have been rescued from elephant shows, riding or logging and although they could probably be treated better and it is still a tourist attraction, we have the feeling they are better off here! Shaun says he didn't really enjoy washing the elephants because they probably don't need to be washed - but here again, it probably didn't hurt them to be washed (some of them seem to really enjoy it!).
After that, we learn how to make some sort of medication for the elephants to help with their digestive systems (the beasts eat 10 to 15% of their weight per day!). We make balls with tamarind, salt and sticky rice (elephants are smart and once they understand tamarind and salt cleans their stomach, they refuse to eat so keepers use sticky rice to hide the smell but also because elephants like rice!). We feed them the balls and then have lunch ourselves. We talk with the people around us, we are all around the same age and it's really nice to share our experiences! We chat to Joti (from Canada) and James (from Ireland) who have been traveling for a bit longer than us and have visited many of the places we want to visit.
After lunch, we go white water rafting. We're in a boat with Shana and Gustavo from Brazil and Manu from Germany. We have a lot of fun!!
It is very short though (less than 20 minutes). Towards the end, Shaun, Gustavo and Manu are allowed to jump in the river while Shana and I have to stay on the boat - we were a bit disappointed we couldn't go in the water, especially because we weren't given a reason and everyone else from the other boats were in the water.
Once the rafting experience is over, we walk to a waterfall and people start climbing to slide down it. Being afraid of water, this doesn't seem like much fun to me but I decide to do it anyway. Once I get down the waterfall, I am in rapids and quickly panic as I cannot find the exit!! Shaun grabs me and two other guys help me up and I calm down after a few minutes. Shaun slides down the waterfall twice and seems to enjoy it!
Our day ends there. Once we get back to our hostel, adrenaline wears off and we realise how tired we are so we get dinner and I go to bed while Shaun drinks a beer downstairs. On the next morning, we get a bus to go to Pai...


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