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As expected the night train was late and sadly the Air con sleeper we booked was broken so we were in a fan (non ac) one with a promised refund on arrival. Last time with a failed AC unit we baked, but this time the temperature was just about right and we managed to sleep with some comfort. We opted for train as the morning views are supposed to be great, and indeed they were. Hills, villages, open plains – very pretty indeed.
The first day or two we’ve just been chilling and planning activities as CM is one of the main activity centres for tourists and there is loads to do. Still a very friendly and reasonable place though and the markets are popular with locals as well as tourists. The Saturday night market was huge and very busy, and also provided more random edible things for our tea. So much choice. And such a shame the parents aren’t here – they’d have loved it and the climate is that little bit cooler. Still, better alive at home……
After seeing the main Wats we ventured out into the Sunday market, grabbed some food and planned to go and see some Thai boxing – but were a bit knackered and gave it a miss and saved our energy for one of the trip highlights – 2 days at Elephant Nature Park….
That was the plan, but sadly Mel was ill overnight and we had to cancel just before pickup – really annoying it’d been booked for months. No idea where Mel picked the bug up from as she is Ms Pedantic and we only eat at places where food is cooked fresh and its steaming out. Our tea was just that. As this trip included accommodation we then had to find something, but as mentioned Chiang Mai is very booked up and we had to go to #100+ on Trip Advisor (eek) which was opposite from where we were so convenient if nothing else. Bit of a dump but better than nothing (just)
So, a wasted day reading or napping.
Mel seemed to recover, so the next day we moved to a prebooked guesthouse – funky monkey – and instantly obvious why #2 on trip advisor. Lovely place, small, but super helpful and friendly owners. We booked another elephant trip the following day. For the evening we went to the quietish and impressive night bizarre which had good entertainment and good food eateries. We opted for a treat – a western grill/pizza house for a non-thai meal – a bit pricey (£8 each compared to £1-2 at the local places) but Mel fancied a Pizza!
The elephant day was rather good and delivered as expected, which was to spend a day up close with the elephants, not ride, just feed, wash and enjoy their company. There does seem to be a trend in places doing this now, seat riding is dwindling quickly and bareback is also going out of favour. Where we went there were 4 elephants, baby, mother, grandmother (ish) and friend “rescued” from circus and seat riding. Of course, these are domesticated and will never be wild, but for certain they have a better life now than they had. From what we saw the elephants did their own thing and were not forced at all, though like any domestic animal, they had a routine.
Anyway, we chopped up pumpkins, sugar cane and bananas and hand fed them, spend time with them and bathed them in the river.
The following day we had booked in for a cookery course, but overnight it was my turn to be ill – and finding our large studio had a design flaw – the loo was 10m from the bed – so it was very lucky I made it without vomiting over the floor. Oh joy. So with the cooking postponed we settled down for another wasted couple of day. Oh joy.
As with Mel, the bug was short lived, so after a wasted day we did the cookery course – 6 courses – and so were stuffed not taking into account our appetites are not yet back to normal. The choice was huge so we cooked things we hadn’t cooked before and all turned out well. A full day for around £16. And we passed our examinations too – apparently – at least that is what our certificate says!
Having seen enough of Chiang Mai for now, and wasting around 4 days with one of us unwell, our next stop is escaping to Pai – a small town NW of here along a hilly and twisty road named by the internet as a puke-fest. We’ll get some travel pills but at least we’ve had practice!
From here for the next month most thing are new and unplanned and that more challenging and exciting. Up to this point things had been planned in detail and “safe” for my parents benefit, and sadly we both think its made the trip so far less exciting and awesome as previous – especially as we’ve been lacking their company for the last couple of weeks. Still been great and a lot of fun, but lacking the ultimate thrill of the unknown. But going unplanned and bumbling around again feels exciting again!
Though time will tell!