After the overnight train to Chiang Mai, we quickly checked into the hotel and got ready for a really busy and packed day. Chiang Mai is in the northern part of Thailand and is known for its wats and for some of the unusual activities you can do in that area.
The first activity we had planned for the day was an elephant trek through the jungle. Before i get into this, i will quickly explain the crazy transportation method of a tuk-tuk. A tuk-tuk is a small 3 wheel motorcycle that has a bench that can squeeze 3 people in the back. We always try to fit 6. They are cheeper then cabs but are more of a risk since they are small and the drivers are always crazy. They are loud, smelly and pollute big time. The slightly bigger version of a tuk-tuk is the songthaew, which is a small pickup truck with two rows of benches on the side, driven by drivers just as crazy. This has been the main transportation around Thailand and elsewhere. Always an adventure.
So we jumped into our songtheaw and headed to Mae Tang Elephant Park. I bought
the hour long elephant ride through the jungle and while I waited for it to start, I bought some bananas and fed some of the elephants that we just standing nearby. I was really looking forward to the elephant ride despite the controversies surrounding these types of parks. Some people are against them because many of the elephants are separated from their mothers at an early age and are harshly trained the first year to learn the commands of their trainers. While i was there I didn't see any signs of real abuse and they did have several baby elephants with their mothers. Either way, I loved my elephant ride, which the guide sits on the elephants head and 1 or 2 people sit on a bench harness behind him. I was actually lucky enough to have a ride by myself which allowed me to bribe my guide roughly $4 to let me sit on the elephants head and ride by myself up a hill when not many other people were around (since nobody else was allowed to do this, i did give him some more tip money then most). I loved this experience!
Right from the elephant
park we drove another hour to Tiger Kingdom where we first ate a good lunch buffet and then were allowed to enter cages and pet tigers of different sizes. I didnt really care to pet the baby ones and it was rather expensive if you wanted to, i went straight to the big girls. After a few terrifying seconds when the biggest one was sleeping and fell off the table and stood up and looked at me, i threw on the “where’s waldo” costume for some pictures. I also spent 15 minutes arguing with an American guy that works there that swears they do not give the tigers any drugs or sedatives, i still don’t believe it.
We then had to drive most of the next day to a city in northern Thailand called Chiang Khong. This city is known because it is a common crossing point to get from Thailand into Laos. On the way to this city, we stopped at an amazing Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai called Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple. Unlike other temples we visited, this temple did not have a long history as constructed started in 1998. However, this was
the most unusual temple I have seen, thus one of my favorites. Instead of using the flashy gold, green, and reds, this temple is almost completely white. The whole flow of the temple represents the cycle of life and rebirth. You start by walking on this bridge with thousands of hands coming up reaching for you, like straight out of Lord of the Rings. There many references to modern movies here too, there is a huge Predator figure, Spiderman, Batman references, and much more. The city of Chiang Khong was very small, only one main street and everything closes early. But we had to be up early the next day anyways to head to Laos!
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