Bangkok was fun. But Chiang Mai is better.
Although I was sick and needed to take a trip to the hospital – i’ll explain that in another post! – it was a great place. So, what did we get up to in Chiang Mai?
Elephant Nature Park
Thai Cooking Class – Baan Thai
Temple on top of the Mountain – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
We went to the Temple first. Although I enjoyed this, I did love The Grand Palace in Bangkok with our personal tour guide who inspired us with the culture and serenity that surround Buddhism. We learnt so much, however this time we were quite oblivious to spiritual meanings and practices.
But, it was still a beautiful place. Heading up to the viewpoint looking over the city was amazing. We took a tuk-tuk red truck style which fit around 8 people comfortably, so it was perfect for our spacious 5 group. Realising that taxi’s aren’t really a thing in Chiang Mai, it’s more these large trucks.
With the temple, you walk up the steps to reach this. A huge Buddha and gong is sitting at the bottom, it’s hard to miss. I bought my first pair of floaty pants there for 150baht – but i’d suggest shopping elsewhere as you’re only paying for location.
Next up is the Thai Cooking Class and Thai Boxing day. We went with a company named Baan Thai, however there are so many to choose from. We paid 1000baht – this included a full day course, transportation to and from the hotel, 5 meals to prepare with ingredients from the market collected by ourselves, a cook book, and valuable advice. It was a fun, chilled experience which I am excited to take home with me and show off.
Danny (boyfriend fella) and I went on this course, while the lads done their own thing. We’re quite an old fashioned couple I’d say, so we really enjoyed it. Mixing with other couples, we worked separately to create our own dishes and then would sit together and eat. Taking home our own cook books, I’ll be recreating some dishes in the UK.
Thai boxing is one I was sceptical about. I hate fighting, and see no point in a fist fight, but somehow this was different. Don’t get me wrong, when they were in the ring and the bell had gone – they were scrappers. Before this, they show their respect to the sport, the crowd, the opponent, and their faith.
This I found gave the sport less of a seedy nature, but instead added meaning and depth to something that is truly respected in their culture. We bought tickets through the hostel for 400baht which included ticket and transport. It was not a stadium, but it was an offical ring with what seemed like an established base. French fighters had flew in especially for this fight, so it was legit.
What was so shocking was that the main fight literally lasted about 10 seconds, with the French fighter knocking out the Thai guy. Who’d of thought it! The warm up fights were great, and it seems like a great privilege to be able to train as a boxer.
Lastly, our trip to Elephant Nature Park topped it yesterday. For a cost of 2500 baht for the full day, transport, food, water and an amazing experience. I’m not an animal lover, but after seeing these creatures I could see how much they had been mistreated and how peaceful they are in nature. It is only when we get involved and step into their territory, they don’t like it. Which would be the same for us, no? If someone was in your space, annoying you, making you do things you didn’t like – then I’d kick off as well.
The place was breathtaking, with the setting taken from a scene in Jurassic Park. Elephants roamed around as free as they could, with a Mahout. A Mahout is the person dedicated to each of the elephants to make that special bond that tops all others. Spending each and everyday with the animal, they establish a connection beyond all others.
I enjoyed how the grounds were huge and the day revolved around the elephants’s schedule. Not on whether we wanted to do something, which I respected. The people seemed to be organised and understand the needs of each elephant. This was shown by the groups not holding more than 12 people, so the elephants wouldn’t feel closed in or threatened.
One thing I wasn’t a fan of towards the end was when they combined groups. This to me, made me feel uncomfortable. It was a spectacle, and the elephants could easily have been felt intimidated by the noise and our prescence. With a lot more cameras out, it felt unnatural to me. With the small groups, it seemed as though we were getting a glimpse into their world without intruding.
These elephants are much better treated inside this sanctuary than outside, or other elephant companies. They have saved these creatures, and obviously some form of barrier is needed to keep them within the grounds or they would end up dead, or worse – back in the city. I understand that tourism and money spent by us is what keeps these places running, but it was just that end section that I didn’t really enjoy. I just wanted to put the elephants in a little bubble and roll them away into the forest.
The animals are peaceful, but when spooked, they’re protective and will disobey any order if they feel threatened. Their eyes tell a sad story, and I think the smaller groups allowed us to see this, without the bad memories for an ex-circus performer or land mine surviver.
Other parts of Chiang Mai included Hug Hostel that I’ve mentioned in my accommodation post. What a great place. Pool table, awesome staff, bar, location, simple rooms with a cold air con to chill us out. It’s a hostel that I would recommend.
Not just that, but Chiang Mai provided the best pizza. By Hand Pizza Café – a big open stove to cook the most amazing pizza. Granted, no other choice of food, no sides, only one pizza cooking at a time and small. It sounds awful, but it’s worth it for that pizza. Honestly, we loved it.
Bring on Koh Phi Phi!