Chiang Mai, Thailand

March 20
We took an 8 am bus from Pai to Chiang Mai. The ride was three hours and was once again very curvy for the first half but I think only one or two people got sick and threw up. Once in Chiang Mai, we took a tuk tuk to a hostel that we booked online. Once we arrived, they said that they were booked up and that they had to send us to their other location. We read online that the other location sucked so we declined and walked out. We walked down the street for about a mile until we got to another place on hostelworld. It was dead and we were the only people there, so we walked out of there too. We then went to a place called the Green Tulip that was rated decent on hostelworld. It had more people at it and was a real hostel. We booked three nights there in a 6-person dorm. We dropped our stuff off and booked an elephant tour for two days from now through the very pushy owner of our hostel. We then walked the street to the main area. Chiang Mai is pretty big and the main area is also big. It is the entire city center which is also the old town. It is a huge square fort with walls and a moat on all sides. There are a ton of temples in this area and two kind of main streets with restaurants. There isn’t really a main area here though like in most other cities so it made it difficult to find out where the best location is to stay beforehand, which is why we had so much trouble once we arrived. We ate lunch at this place on a busier road and then walked around. We saw a few temples and wandered the streets. We made our way outside of the old town walls and into the new town. We drank hot chocolate and smoothies at a cafe until the night market opened. The night market was neat here. It was pretty big and was made up of various parts. There were legit indoor shops, an outdoor area with shops under a roof, street tents set up on both sides of the road, and a food area with street food and restaurants and bars. It was pretty cool and easy to be occupied all night. We ate dinner at this really good Indian food place. I love Indian food and I got Matt into it on this trip so now when we see good Indian places, we usually go. We walked around a little bit more and then took a taxi home. The city shuts down around 10:00 pm except for one area. Our hostel locks at 10:00 pm so we wanted to be back in time tonight. Everyone who comes home after that had to ring in and wake the owner up to come let them in. I blame the hostel though. If you have a huge hostel in a major city, you have to expect people to stay out late at bars and come back a little later. For some reason, they don’t understand that here.

March 21
We slept in and then went to eat on the busier kind of main road in the old town. We then took a truck with seats in the back, called a songthaw, to a temple on top of a mountain. It was a very curvy ride up, which tends to be the trend in Southeast Asia. We walked up stairs to the temple and passed these little local kids in costumes who let tourists take pictures with them and then asked for money. We kept refusing to take pictures on our walk up. They were cute though. Once in the temple, a monk blessed us and tied a bracelet to each of our wrists for good luck. It was nice because he wasn’t asking for money or anything, he just wanted to do good in this world. Some nice guy offered to talk our picture, so we got in front of the camera and then a huge group of about 20 Chinese people walked right in front of. They were clueless and didn’t even notice we were trying to take a picture, even though we kept saying excuse me. It took about a solid minute before they realized. Why are they so confused? We took the songthaw back to our hostel and rested for a while. We met two kids in our hostel, one from Canada and one from Germany. We all went to eat at a cheap local restaurant and then walked around. There isn’t much to do in the early evening here besides the night market, so we ended up there again. I got milk tea for like $.25 multiple times. I love milk tea now. But still, nothing compares to the incredible Teh Tarik milk tea in Malaysia. Mmmmm. I got a vanilla waffle with chocolate sauce as a snack later in the night as we walked around the streets. We would have been down to go to a bar, but everyone else was tired so we called it a night. It was probably for the best though because Matt and I had to wake up early for the elephant camp tomorrow.

March 22
We woke up and got some snacks from 7-Eleven as we waited for a van to pick us up for the elephant camp tour today. The van came and took us along with 7 other people to the elephant camp. Every elephant camp here claimed to be all about Eco Tourism and says that they treat the elephants with respect and care, but in all honesty, probably only 5%-10% are telling the truth. They just tell tourists what they want to hear here, regardless of the truth. We are walking dollar signs to them. But nonetheless, it was a cool day. There was one family of 8 elephants at our camp, including one little baby. He was only 8 months old and was so cute. He was always so happy and running around being all cute. He kept wanting to hang out with his mom and drink her milk. We each learned how to ride the elephants and give it commands, although I doubt we did anything. I feel like these elephants don’t really need commands at this point because they do the same path with tourists every single day. The people just wanted us to feel like we were telling the elephants when to go straight, turn, or stop. One big elephant picked Matt and I up around our waists with his nose. That was fun. We ate lunch and met the people in our group. There was a nice older woman from New Zealand who comes to thailand for two weekes each year for dental care because it’s cheaper for her to fly here, take two weeks vacation, and get dental care than it is to get it in New Zealand. There was also a Chinese couple. The guy was nice and easy to talk to and his wife with hairier legs than me seemed like she had no idea what the hell was going on all day. She looked clueless the entire tour. After lunch, we each rode elephants up a hill and around the area. Our elephant was known as the “crazy one” to the people who worked there. He was definitely impossible to control for us. He did what ever the hell he wanted and didn’t give a shit about commands. At one point, he walked over to a barrel of water and kept spraying Matt and I with water out of his nose. He knew what he was doing, that rebel. I rode on his head and Matt rode on his back the whole time. It wasn’t too hard to stay on but sometimes he would freak out when the family split up and we were very nervous that he would shake us off or something. But then, the baby and rest of the family would all walk over to him, and everything would be fine. We took our elephants down to a river and bathed them with buckets if water and brushes. They all kept taking poops so we had to avoid the floating poop, too. The guide kept picking up the poop and throwing it and we were just laughing with him but thinking, please don’t throw it at us. We rode our elephant back to the camp and then took the van back to town. Matt and I showered and rested for a little bit. We ate dinner at a healthy place and then walked to some bars. Unfortunately, it was Election Day tomorrow and that means that every single place in thailand isn’t allowed to serve alcohol from 6:00 pm tonight until midnight of Election Day tomorrow. This meant that all bars were closed tonight and we had nothing to do. We found a sports bar that was playing march madness but then some guy had the owner switch it to soccer. We ate some chicken wings and then walked to the night market again. We found a place that served alcohol anything even though they weren’t allowed to, so we had a couple of beers there. We then took a tuk tuk back to our hostel and went to bed. We had a good time in Chiang Mai overall, but it wasn’t one of our favorite cities of the trip.

mikepsilve'sChiang Mai album on Photobucket