Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Chilling in Chiang Mai

Leaving the city of Bangkok we made our way to Chang Mai via the night train. Leaving at 1800 and arriving at 0900 the next day we booked ourselves a first class cabin so we could lock the door at night and avoid others going through our bags. First class... Not exactly backpacker style but at £22 per cabin for two we managed to not break the bank too much!

As we discovered, Chiang Mai is a great place to kick back and relax, a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. Early mornings in Chiang Mai are swamped in an orange haze. The rising sun mixing with the mist and the bright orange colour of the monks simple dress give the city a strange calmness and serenity. Here book shops and laid back cafes outnumber glitzy shopping centres, while the local temples invite you in to study meditation.

We spent most of our time in this city in the 'old city' which is a neat square bounded by a moat. The remnants of a medieval-style wall, built over 700 years ago, still stand to defend against Burmese invaders.

While exploring the city we discovered many of the 'wet' markets we had been taught about in our cooking class in Bangkok. These markets consist of local farmers selling their produce, mostly fruit and veg but the odd meat stall pops up every now and again.

The night markets too, were a nice change from Bangkok as the venders were less pushy and aggressive. Alec purchased some Thai boxing shorts for himself and for Harry (they looked everywhere for some in Bangkok, but were not prepared to pay the extortionate amount asked by the Bangkok vendors)! I on the other hand found hair clips, that reminded me of my first visit to Chiang Mai, made from cola bottle caps and sweets. I bought 6 for a pound!

After reading several blogs on adventurous things to do in Chiang Mai we decided on the 100km track of the Samoeng loop. So we hired some mopeds and set of into the mountains. The track took us up steep hills, around hairpin corners and overtaking elephants along the way. The whole trip took us around 4-5 hours including stops for drinks, food and pictures.

One thing that we did blow our budget on (but not without haggling first) was a full day of mahout training. Mahout is Thai for elephant trainer!

We learnt how to get on (climbing and struggling) and off (jump and hope for the best) the elephant. We learnt the Thai words to control the elephant including; go, stop, reverse, left and right! After our lesson and armed with our new knowledge (plus our Thai elephant phrase list) we set off atop our elephant and out into the jungle!

It's safe to say that our elephant did about 10% of what we told it to, and even then we think that it was down to luck! We washed the elephants in the local river and were lucky enough to have the added company of the newest elephant to the heard, baby Lychee.

After all our washing and brushing we were told the next stop was to the mud pit... The what?? That's right folks we had a mud fight with with two and a half elephants! Needless to say they won, by a long way, and made our hours of washing them down to be a fruitless act.

The whole day was so much fun and we had the added bonus of getting seconds at lunch, which was a plus due to the fact that we blew the budget for the next three days so weren't going to be eating for a while!

Our trip to Chiang Mai sadly came to an end but as we took the bus to the Thai- Laos border we were excited to experience yet another new country with its different culture and of course... A new Cuisine!