Chiang Mai is a culturally and historically fascinating city. Its located at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains 700 km north of Bangkok, and until the 1920's could only be reached by elephant trek or river boat helping to preserve its distinctive charm!
Chiang Mai's historical centre was once completely surrounded by a wall and moat, some of which is remains today.....
Inside Chiang Mai's remaining city walls are more than 30 temples.... but the most famous is Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, which overlooks the city from a mountainside 13 km away:
So we set off on foot to explore the walls and city of Chiang Mai.... We knew the others were staying close by and just as we were wondering if we might bump into them again... we spotted them walking up the road ahead of us.....
So reunited again, the 6 of us hired scooters and went for a drive up to the lake.
Huai Tueng Thao Chiang Mai lake
The lake was like a local resort with lots of people eating and drinking in little huts around the lake. We decided to join them so we bundled into out little hut and order some food and beverages!!
Jay and Max got a little excited about the swan pedalo and run over like little kids.... as Terry and I approached Max (who is nearly as small as Becs) was being told he was too heavy to rent a Swan!! Like disappointed children we headed back to the city!
Next day the guys left us and headed up to Pai... so we were 2 again! The lady at our hostel (Duen) was lovely... we had given her a list of things we wanted to do and she had pretty much booked us up for 4 days of activities!
First day - cooking course at Sammy's Oganic Farm
At the Market buying rice and seeing how the coconut juice is refined..
The Farm was pretty cool.... every herb, vegetable and fruit that we used Sammy just popped into the garden and cut it down!
We made about 5 different dishes each... with a nap in the middle to make some room for the next course!
Jungle and Green Curry
Pad Thai and Chicken and Cashew Nuts (photo)
Hot and Sour Prawn soup and Vegetable Soup (photo)
Feast for 2..
After a sleep in the hammocks.. and a visit to the famous Sammy's toilet:
Mango and sticky rice (photo) and Pumpkin custard
Spring rolls (photo) and Chicken wrapped in leaves.... Wow we were stuffed!!
Have the recipe book to keep so maybe can try it out for you guys when we get home!!
Next day we spent at an Elephant Training Camp - Woodys.
We were both a bit dubious about this as didn't want to contribute to bad treatment of animals- but Duen had recommended Woody and told us he had created a home for rescued Asian Elephants and looked after them with love and compassion!
So we were picked up in the morning and driven out to the countryside to the elephant camp..
First we got into our overalls and Woody gave us some information about the camp and the elephants etc.
Next we had to practice our Thai words in the 'classroom' - how to command the elephants to lift a leg to help you climb on their backs, turn left and right, forwards and backwards, open their mouths so you could feed them and most importantly slow down and STOP!!
Then we got to meet the elephants. The first thing that struck me was that instead of being enclosed by a fence, they were chained by their ankles..... This we really didn't like... and we questioned Woody at length...... he explained that if the elephants were left to their own devises in the wild they would be killed by chemicals or poachers or captured and used for circus tricks etc. If he let them run wild at night, they would get into the surrounding farmlands and eat the farmers crops, not only causing the farmers mass damage but more importantly eating crops with pesticides would kill them. He also explained that some of the 14 elephants fought each other and so he needed to be able to keep them apart. Woody told us that he had 14 elephants and only 10 were used for tourists a day, giving the other 4 a rest day. He's reasons seemed genuine - but surely fences would be better?1?!
Anyway, first of all we met the elephants and were giving bananas and candy shoots to practice our 'open mouth' command.
Apparently elephants need to eat every half an hour and so feeding them is very expensive. Woody grows crops and plants on his land but he explained that this was not enough - they also have to buy food in for them.
Obviously if they eat regularly - they must poo too!!! Every half an hour. Our next job as elephant Mahouts was to clean up their poo.....
Becs got to work - cleaning up elephant poo...
Then we were given a elephant between 2 and practiced climbing up on their backs...
and time to bond...
Commanding them left (Si) and right (Qua), Forwards (Bye) and Backwards (Toi)
After lunch we went for a little walk with our Elephants, who wanted to eat everything in sight!!... first Terry rode at the front. and then Becs!
To reward our elephants we bathed and washed them in the river..... As Becs sat on our elephants back to wash her, she used her trunk to wash Becs down too!!! The elephants seemed to enjoy the water.
Some of the elephants got a little too excited by bathtime!
After another rest we got back on the elephants and they took us for another small walk - this time through the water...!
Before some more photos and feeding!
Our beautiful little Asian Elephant
Woody did seem to care about the elephants and they seemed well cared for (apart from the chaining at night). But I dont know what the answer is..... it cost money to look after elephants and money comes from tourists who obviosuly wnat something in return for their money....
Despite our concerns we did have an amazing day, the elephants are beautiful creatures and I just hope their conditions continue to improve as the money comes in!
Next day we did a tour which involved a bit of everything.... trekking, elephants, rafting and bamboo rafting (well bamboo raft sinking) as well as some trips through small villages. As tours go this was very average actually!!
The waterfall trek...
Elephant riding (not a patch on the Woody's elephant farm)..
Day 4 in Chiang Mai our pals were back but we had plans to meet some tigers.... we arranged to meet the guys for dinner and off to Tiger Kingdom we went. We had heard stories that tigers were drugged etc so that tourists could get up and personal - but Terry just wanted to play with a baby tiger - at whatever the cost!
The smallest tigers were 3-4 months... they were so cute and adorable. The were playful with each other but not really interested in us humans at all! I guess they have been hand reared and so treat humans as adults.
The cubs playing.. so cute...
Although Becs did get lucky enough to play with one....
Terry spent a lot of time walking after them trying to get a stroke... but eventually this little one sat still for him...!
Next was our turn with the largest tigers... these bad boys were 17 months old... and hand reared at the park also. There were 5 tigers in our pen Although 3 of these were up and walking about, they did appear more sleepy / dosile than the youngsters. I asked our guide whether they were given medication to calm them down.. obviosuly he told me no... he said they sleep a lot in the day, especially after meal times and were more active before feeding time about 5pm. He said they are so used to humans because the see them every day! Again we will never know the truth... but the tigers did look in good shape. Their coats were beautiful and their claws and teeth looked in good shape!
Tigers in the pen...
Becs and the BIg Boy!!
Terry's Tiger was wide awake thats for sure!!
We were not allowed to stroke the babies at 2-3weeks... too high risk and chance of infections. There were about 12 cubs in 2 pens... taken from their mother tigers to be hand raised.
Also at the park a Male Lion and Siberian Tigers which were not for stroking...... but just as sleepy if not moreso than the others... maybe boredom??
That evening we had a goodbye dinner with Max and Anna before they headed for Bangkok to begin their route home
And then there were 4!! Jay wanted to do 'something active'.. so after weighing up the options - the boys decided on NO GRAVITY - Aka Indoor Rock climbing!!!
The girls and boys teamed up so the weight was more even!!
The girls were definately more elegant climber than the boys - though the boys managed the harder walls....
That evening was our last with Jay and Kimmie... we didn't intentionally plan a heavy night... but one drink just led to another!! A good night.. dinner, darts, pool, beer and wine and sore heads in the morning!!!
Now Terry says no more drinking - time to get fit... we'll see!!! After a goodbye breakfast our friends headed to Bangkok on route for home
Chiang Mai has some brilliant shopping and markets if your looking for fake brands and souvenirs... there is a night bizarre, saturday market and sunday market.... pretty much markets on all week.... lining the streets (called walking streets). Hundreds of street food venders with lots of choice or cheap food too.... yum! Even if your not shopping or eating the markets are a good form of free night entertainment.... you get the buskers, beggers, talented blind musicians, not so talented kids dancing with a tip box and of course' Massage Anyone?'
After all that walking in the markets we took some time out to relax in the gardens..
After a week in the charming city of Chiang Mai we decided to head north to Pai....