Since I last posted we have, as normal, been quite busy! We briefly journeyed to Krabi and Ao Nang and other than stay in a cute rural bungalow, nothing else we got up to is worth sharing! Apart from feeling under the weather for a few days there, the place just didn’t capture us in the same way previous destinations have. It was very touristy, and more like Blackpool or Benidorm but on Thai soil. I’m sure for a holiday or a brief party stint it’s great, but having come from Songkhla – far off the tourist map – we didn’t enjoy being immersed into almost Western culture and finding ourselves surrounded by Farang (Westerners!) and English accents. This increased the price of everything too; so we swiftly moved on and caught a flight to Chiang Mai.
The city of Chiang Mai was certainly beautiful. The Old town is surrounded by the ruins of its old fortress, and within these walls stand many temples; each as beautiful and eleaborately decorated as the next. We spent an entire day wandering the streets and exploring the temples that were woven into the pleasant mixture of aged buildings and modern developments.
We spent a second day exploring Wat Phra That Doi Suthep which sits on a hill overlooking the city. Rather than pay for a tuk tuk trip, we opted to rent a scooter for the day to give us a little freedom. I say scooter, because this is the discussion we had had – what James actually returned with was a Honda Sport motorbike. It’s safe to say I didn’t give this one a whirl, but it’s also safe to say that somebody had an absolute blast on the roads. Literally.
Our primary goal for our visit to the North was to visit one of the elephant rescue sanctuaries dotted in the nearby jungle. Organising this task was somewhat challenging however. Having been recommended a genuine rescue to visit, and after looking into it myself before we left England and since we had been away, we were pretty disappointed to find that Elephant Nature Park was fully booked for the next 6 weeks! This left us to spend a morning avidly researching and getting opinions on other rescues in the area, and eliminating ones that weren’t at all ethical or had reviews of being mean to the elephants, and of course we didn’t want to go anywhere near a tourist trap that allowed you to ride them. In the end we opted for a small rescue that had two elephants taken from a camp where they were used for tricks and riding and we were more than happy with our choice of Chiang Mai Elephant Land.
Not only did we have an incredible day, but we couldn’t have hoped for better care and attention to have been shown towards the elephants. They weren’t chained or tied, but free to roam as they pleased and they stayed wild in the jungle overnight. They were fed pretty much constantly, had unlimited access to water and mud to roll around in, and their Mahoods were so obviously dedicated to them.
We were ridiculously fortunate to be the only two visiting that day, so we had free reign to just hang out with the elephants all day. I can quite easily say it was one of the best experiences we have had yet. They’re so gentle but also a bit cheeky and fun loving, especially when it comes to food! We trekked through the jungle for a couple of hours whilst they mowed down plants in search of something they wanted to eat, we got in for a dip with them in the mud bath to cool them off and although one ele took herself to the waterfall, the other rolled over and almost fell asleep whilst we gave her a scrub. We took a dip in the water ourselves afterwards in a non successful attempt to clean up!
It seems many of my favourite moments have been ones that involve animals, but it’s not everyday you can go to bed smiling because you took a bath with an elephant. A day I won’t forget.
Another little thing we got up to was to get some little permanent memories of our time away. We each got a teeny tattoo on our ankle in the traditional Thai style of essentially having ink hammered into your skin by a needle attached to a stick of bamboo. Whilst I didn’t think it hurt, especially in comparison to a machine tattoo, James didn’t enjoy his experience at all so I don’t think he will be having another!