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Published: January 16th 2006
On the morning of the 26th (mind you, morning as in 4:30 AM) I realized that my Bangkok escapades the night before were not the wisest. The flight that Jeff, Jason and I took from Bangkok to Chiang Mai coudl have possibly been the worst flight of my life. To begin with, the flight was late. To get to the plan we had to get on a bus and drive to it. We literally drove in a whole circle and ended up 50 yards from the original terminal...for some reason we drove an addtional 10 minutes what could have taken less than a minute. Then on the airplane the intercom was loud and scratchy and gave you that feeling of when nails scraped on a blackboard. All this plus a little drunk/hungover....makes you think about things the next time you have an early flight! Regardless we made it to beautiful Chiang Mai.
Out of all the places I visited in Thailand I would probably say Chiang Mai (tied with Koh Tao) is one of my favorites. It is this total Bohemian/hippy feel. I did not make it to Pai but heard good things about that place too. We checked into
Up in the hills closest to Chiang Mai...so pretty!
our really cute hotel called the Riverview Lodge. It was right next to the river and had this family feel. I would highly reccomend it to anyone (kudos leah!). After that we did not waste a moment. We hired a driver and were on our way to an elephant camp to watch the elephant show and ride them. Originally we thought about doing some type of trek, but through our guide Ketsara and our handy travel book, often those elephants are mistreated and the treks are much too touristy. Ketsara reccommended the camp we went to because the elephants were treated better. I forgot how much I love elephants. The are the greatest things in the world. The are HUGE!!! I could not stop smiling the moment we got there. The trainers of the elephants (forget their official name) rode them around, although it did not seem so much of like master vs elephant. They acted like friends. Leah and I wandered to an area with a bunch of elephants prior to the show. I motioned to the trainers and asked if it would be okay to take a photo with the elephants. They said of course and I got
relatively close to the elephants. The trainers motioned me to come even closer. As leah lines up the photo, all of a sudden I have two elephant trunks wrapped around my body! It was fabulous! After that we watched the elephant show where they played soccer, danced and painted. I thought these elephant paintings would be very "abstract" i guess you would say without any direction...just paint on paper. I was surprised when the final products were actual pictures of flowers and trees. So cool. Afterward we got to ride the elephants!!!! Since there were 5 of us I opted to go solo. It was so neat to ride an elephant! It reminded of me of when I was riding a camel through the Sahara in Tunisia...it just felt really cool. The elephant tracks left in the mud were HUGE!!!! One foot/hoof print was probably the height of half my leg, if not higher. After the elephant trek our driver took us up to Doi Suthep, a very famous temple on the hill. As we got out of our car we see this familiar face. It was KEVIN BACON!!! Liz and I kinda just stared at him for a second,
Doesn't get much fresher than this
and then after he passed us I worked up the courage to yell out his name. He did not respond, but oh well. They always talk about the 7 degrees of separation of Kevin Bacon. Well folks, that just became 0 degrees. I must say, he looked awful! Go back to your Footloose days Kevin! That night we wandered through the night bazaar where they sold everything from silk pillowcases, screen prints, dvds....all for very cheap. I was a little disappointed as I expected it to be more like a flea market with local artisans. Apparently that is on Sundays and we were there on a Monday. For dinner we feasted at the night bazaar, completely surrounded by locals. The food was fabulous and some of the best I had in Thailand. I was in love with Chiang Mai.
Due to foul weather we were not able to go on a day trek like planned. We had the option of seeing hilltribes, yet I honestly felt like I had better things to be doing that exploiting hill tribes closest to Chiang Mai. I read in my travel book that the "Long Neck" women of the Karen tribe do not
even like to have the rings around their necks anymore because it basically paralyzes them, yet they will do it in order to receive money through tour companies. Indeed I would love to see some real hill tribes, yet that would have been like a 3 day trek...which I would have LOVED to do...but our "Experience all of Thailand" trip did not give us enough time....gotta leave something to come back to. I did learn an interesting fact. Chico has a huge Hmong population and I never knew exactly where Hmong people were from. Mystery solved- Northern Thailand into Myanmar and Laos! Silly I know, but it made my day. Instead of trekking we wandered the many temples and old part of Chiang Mai. Thailand has the most amazing architecture with vibrant colors. At one of them we went to the "monk chats" next to the temple. They encourage people to talk to the monks and hear about their lives, as they eagerly ask us about our lives. We sat down with this monk named Thiwa. He was the same age as us and was studying for a test he was going to have that afternoon. Coolest part about this
monk....he spoke Japanese! He had studied Japanese for 4 years! He even game me his meishi! So random and so cool. I also learned (do not worry i did not ask him, i found out through other sources) that monks do NOT wear underwear! Tonight we went to this really cheesy and I would call it very Asian "Simons Famous" drag queen show. The ladyboys are all over Thailand...beware if you pick up someone off the street, you will never know if its a boy or girl! I was definitely amazed that some of them were guys.
The next day we went to a Thai cooking class. I am obsessed with Thai food and learning to cook it was so much fun. First we went to the market, then we cooked coconut soup, red curry, long rice noodles with pork, stir fried veggies, papaya salad, and a banana cake. It was HEAVEN! They gave us a cookbook and substitutes for foods we could not find at home- and an email to contact them with questions which I am not afraid to use. It was sooo much fun and can't wait to try the recipes here in Japan and at
home. Afterwards the boys and I went to get a drink with some of the cooks. I could barely move from the table afterward i was sooo full!
So I am in love with Chiang Mai. I have always been a mountain person over the beach, and on top of that I just loved it there. It seemed big enough that there were plenty of things to do and easy ways to get away from the city, but not the congestion of Bangkok nor overly touristy like parts of Phuket and Koh Samui. Can't wait to come back someday and explore more of Northern Thailand. Next stop...Phuket.
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