So after only a couple of days in Bangkok as a resting stop I jumped on a train up to Chiang Mai. Feeling a little queasy after being sick for the first time I mostly just slept on this 12 hour ride. All was well when I arrived and it was pretty easy to get to my hostel. Still feeling a little week I skipped dinner and went straight to sleep.
As usual for my first day I decided to just walk around the place and see what it has to offer. Most things are within walking distance when it comes to the city itself and that made it pretty easy. The sun and heat however made it slightly harder! The place was pretty busy, lots of one way streets and traffic, oh and lots of 7-11s. One thing I’ve noticed about Thailand is the presence of all these other countries big names. I’ve seen Boots, Tescos (called Tescos Lotus) and even a Marks and Spencers! Very strange.
The heat was starting to get to me and as I still felt pretty fatigued I decided to head back to the hostel and plan what I was actually going to do with my 5 days.
There’s lots on offer around the area and within 50km or so of the city. Elephants, tigers, pretty temples, high peaks and a variety of classes for you to enjoy. I opted for a day with the elephants, a Muay Thai session, and a journey to the highest point in Thailand, which stood at some 2,500 meters.
So starting with the elephants we have a 2 hours journey to the mountain where the ‘spa’ is. Advertised as a sanctuary for a few elephants they have a total of 5. Two male and two female adults, of varying ages, and one baby. Oh also one of them was pregnant as well. So you start the day just by feeing them and getting to know them, they seemed pretty happy munching away. There were no harnesses or sticks or anything and it all looked pretty nice. You hear horror stories and I guess they’re hardly going to abuse the animals in front of you but from what I could gather it was a safe place. Then after some lunch you go and have a little mud bath, which was very icky, but fun nonetheless. A wash in the river later and we’re all done. I didn’t actually take any photos but the guide we were with did so here’s an obligatory elephant photo!
Let me briefly mention my roommates as we all kinda hung out together most of the time when we weren’t out doing things! So they happened to all be from the good ol’ US of A and all west coast. There was Sammie and Maddie (easy to remember!) and David. Alongside my trans-atlantic cousins I also met another Patrick from Ireland downstairs and together we formed a ferocious group that none would mess with! Especially with my 2 hours of Muay Thai training.
So speaking of Muay Thai. I decided to opt for the ultra-beginner-super-novice-don’t-kick-me-in-the-face course (actual name). I’ve always wanted to try it, as well as just take up any martial arts as a form of fitness as it seems so much more fun than just running on rubber or lifting something up and putting it back down! I went to somewhere called Por Silaphai gym and noticed when I got there that there were lots of other people from various countries, also a lot bigger than me, which lets be honest isn’t too difficult. So amongst all these beefcakes I was happy to see that the trainer was a lot more slight and in-line with my build which made me feel a little less out of place. It all started with running, more running, and to entertain myself, dancing around with a little boy and playing games pretending to chase each other. After that we split up into various groups. Previous trainers got on with their own practice while the newbies were led in a dance like way. Facing a mirror with the instructor at the front we practiced various moves including throwing some knees and elbows, jabs, hooks etc etc. After that you could just practice on your own but the instructors would come round and do some pad work. It was great fun and I really need to balance out my strength. My whole left hand side has the power of a wilting daffodil.
Moving on form this we all went into the ring and practiced clinching (combat hugging!) including how to get out, take advantage of knees to the ribs, get people on the floor etc. It was a really fun day, I was dripping with sweat, and everyone was so encouraging to each other and it just made for a great atmosphere. I’ll definitely try to keep it up once I get home! (Incoming broken promise to oneself)
My last and final choice of activity was to head to the highest point with David and Kyle (from Vietnam). So we got up early grabbed some bikes and set off on the long journey south. It was about 50km to get to the entrance to the national park and we decided to start at the bottom (well duh) with a massive waterfall.
Now here is where mild sorrow begins to give me a sour taste for a bit of the journey. Being the cautious cat that I am, in heading towards the waterfall for a photo I decided to carry things with me, high up around my neck so that they would be safe. Move forward 3 steps and I fall face first into the water with my bag that has all my stuff. Phones wet, camera wet, passport wet, everything wet. Quickly I get our and dry everything as much as I can and proceed to take the photos with my friends. I head back to my belongings and lift up my jumper, my phone falls into the water again…SO that was all great. Phones seemed to have survived and are in good working condition (Apple have secured me for my next upgrade with that one) but my camera has got water in the lens. It appears as it’s drying that it is improving but I may have to invest in a new camera. It’s a good opportunity to upgrade!
That’s not all the sorrow however. On the way down from the waterfall towards the other entrance to the peak, Kyle burst a tyre half way down. David and myself head off on a journey to find a mechanic on Sunday who will drive up the mountain. Long story short we did, he drove up with us, took us down to the foot of the mountain where his friend lived, fixed it up within 10 minutes and charged us 150 baht (about £3 something).
So crisis averted we went up towards the peak. Now the day was miserable and overcast and quite chilly, especially as we were climbing up the mountain. However once we had arrived at about 2000m suddenly we were above all the clouds and the sun just radiated down a sanctuary of warmth upon us. I usually hate the sun due to my pale complexion but it was a welcome change from the chill. Going right to the highest point you got some spectacular views, which, if it wasn’t overcast would have been impressive but not as magical. We were in this city above the clouds which spread out across the horizon like a fluffy white ocean. Honestly it felt very fairy tale like. Now as my camera had water in it I was unable to take a decent photo but here’s what I managed!
So all in all a rather fun trip, now it’s back to Bangkok for a few days to relax before my flight to Krabi and my next HelpX project on Koh Lanta!