Off To See The Elephants, the Wonderful Elephants of Chiang Mai
19.03.2013 - 23.03.2013 34 °C
Arriving in Chiang Mai it is a massive relief to find that the air is less humid than Malaysia. We check in at the swish De Naga Hotel – a modernised traditional Thai boutique hotel perfectly located right by Tapae Gate - Chiang Mai's main entrance to the old walled city. The welcome is warm and the charming staff clad in gorgeous traditional Thai Chakri dress really do represent `The Land of Smiles.’ We relax first by the pool in the elaborate courtyard just in time for Happy Hour Margaritas. As is the done thing we exchange travel stories with a few other Aussies.
Dinner is stroll down to the Riverside where we board the romantic River Dinner Cruise which to be fair, would have been more romantic – if we hadn’t fallen asleep! Thinking we could do it all, we'd forgotten that we’d had a 3am wake-up call in Kuching and no sleep since.
We try again a day later with the Mae Ping River Cruise – ah much better! The boat offers a bird’s-eye view of the bustling Riverfront life from the restaurants and bars to the fruit and flower stalls and markets. We stop at a Farmer’s Market for fresh herb juice and platters of freshly sliced fruit. While we’re there we learn some behind-the-scenes secrets of the local people. What a great way to kick-start our time in picture perfect Chiang Mai.
Aloha kakou Christie and Ralph!
The next day we head up into the hills to see the elephants and do some bamboo rafting. We feed the elephant family from endless bags of bananas and perch upon on a wooden seat on their back as the trainer rides up the river. Then we will watch the famous ‘Artist’ elephant Suda paint a portrait.
We fall in love with the elephants and two days later we head back into the mountains again. This time we are not mucking around. We are booked in at the world renowned Chiang Mai Elephant Camp for a half-day Mahout Training session. Today we will learn how to ‘talk’ to the elephants, ride them bareback and then wash them down in the lake.
We start by getting to know the elephants: feeding them and even playing with the babies. They love it. Once we have learned how to mount and direct them, it's time to go for a ride along the river. I volunteer to drive, but after nearly running us into the creek, Ed gets hysterical and takes over. I prefer being the passenger anyway, it’s so relaxing just sitting up there enjoying the view. When it comes to the washing part of it, the elephants just love it. Closing their eyes and practically sighing as we fling buckets of water over them. We name the area Poo-Poo Lake because the elephants don’t stop pooping just because we are in the lake. Ed is coping remarkably well despite being in a mild state of shock. We take our Training Course Certificates and official photos away in the end and marvel at what we just did. What an utterly incredible experience!
Thanks for the elephants, Ange & Mel, Carol & Gavin!
Hours later our very patient Tuk Tuk driver drops us off in the heart of the jungle where we swash-buckle our way through bush with the local wildlife and other thrill seekers. We are at Chiang Mai’s longest Flying Fox Zip Line. There are 29 different platforms ranging from 10 to 400 metre zip-lines, as well as rope bridge walks, abseiling and much trekking through the jungle. Watching the jungle action unfold below from way above the treetops in this gigantic green playground is simply amazing. Ed may have started out with a fear of heights but by the end he was miraculously cured!! What a way to see the jungle! Aaaiiieee!!!
Thanks for the Flying Fox Rosie, Jane and Jocke!
Back in the Old City of Chiang Mai we do a local walking tour of the Temples, called 'wat' in Thai, even more stunning when the gold arched roofs are lit up by the sensational sunset. Chiang Mai has over 300 Buddhist temples and we pass around 290 of them! Along the way we see many Monks going happily about their business. One even gives me a cheeky wink!
Later on we eat sensational curry at Chiang Mai’s Best Curry House and visit the Night Safari where we feed giraffe, zebras and deer.
On the final night we wander down to the Night Bazaar to find some treats for dinner Papaya Salad and Phad Thai. Afterwards we wander around the market and get ourselves a place at the ubiquitous Cabaret Show – free to get in, but watch those soaring drink prices!! The show is fabulously entertaining - young and fresh and surprisingly moving with many of the performers telling their real-life stories through their performance....
Afterwards we chill out in the Open Air market bar where a series of musos get up and do their thang. Winding our way back through the crowded streets to Ed’s favorite Rock Bar, we encounter Ben’s Bar - surely the world’s tiniest bar. A simple trolley on wheels, fully decked with every imaginable ingredient - think of any cocktail and this lady can make it. We sit ourselves next to Adelaide’s friendliest traveler to share Chiang Mai tales and killer cocktails. Pretty soon she leads us back to her part of town where she promises there will be some serious party action. She is right.
Several hours and one hard rocking metal band later, we drag ourselves home. Waking the next morning we both have the worst hangover of our trip so far. “Ah but it was fun!” says Ed with a sparkly eyed grin. He is right!
On the final day we visit picturesque grounds of The Bhubing Palace (which we childishly call Pooping Palace in a tribute to Poo-Poo Lake.) Afterwards we travel a short distance further to visit Wat Prathat in Doi Suthep, Chiang Mai’s largest temple which sits perched above Chiang Mai some 30 minutes outside of the city. Here we encounter the maddening crowds that we’ve managed to avoid everywhere else. We shudder and nurse our hangovers, taking a couple of hours to laze by the pool before we brace ourselves for Bangkok.
All too soon our time in Chiang Mai draws to an end. What a place: exciting, eventful and exotic. We promise ourselves we will be back. We board our overnight train to Bangkok where we have a day before heading onto Ko Samui. Our first-Class private double bunk sleepers ensure that not only will the train trip be fun but we will also get some good sleep. Hopefully!