Category Archives: Chiang Mai

Rolling Down The Ping River

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For our final full day in Chaing Mai we booked an elephant trek outside the city in same area we were the day before, Doi Inthanon.  Our guide picked us up from our guesthouse bright and early, and we hit the windy Northern Thailand roads.  The ride wasn’t exactly the most enjoyable as we were in the back of a songthaews (think small truck with a canopy on it) for about an hour and a half.  The stop for coffee and a quick bowl of noodles helped break it up!  When we arrived at the elephant camp a group of elephants was just leaving the camp to go on their trek and one ventured over to us in the back of the truck.  The pesky elephant could smell the bags of banana’s in the back of the truck with us.  So this big trunk was poking through the windows in the back trying to find these banana’s!  One of the trainers quickly came over, got that elephant’s trunk out and back with the group of elephants leaving for the trek. It was this moment that we realized just what we had gotten ourselves into, these fellas were big! Really big, playing with an elephant all day sounds really fun, but in reality the earth shakes with every step these big guy take. Were supposed to boss them around? Yikes!

The Elephant is More Scared

Once that big group of elephants left all that was left was us, our guide, and this elephant eating in the distance.  Overall the elephant didn’t look that big, until he brought her over and all 4000kg towered over us!  We spent the next hour or so just feeding her the banana’s from the back of the truck and getting to know her, we like to think of this as bribing our new friend to like us.  After all the banana’s were gone we sat down to learn the khmer commands to control the elephants, about elephants in general (ladyboy elephants even exists, males without tusks), and about this particular elephants history.  Our elephant, Aryana, was 65 years old and worked in the Burma lumber industry dragging logs down the mountain before she was saved and brought to Thailand.  She sometimes can be stubborn and not listen, but usually the 3rd time she will! The guides like to call  her The Rock, because she seems stoned all the time. She doesn’t listen on the first command like she is too baked to hear you, unless food is involved aka she has the munchies!

Up We Go Song Sung Style.

Soon after we were schooled on elephant commands, the trainer did a little monkey-see, monkey-do on the different ways to get on the elephant.  First up was the head down method, so you’d say ‘jalong!’ and the elephant would put it’s head down so you can leap frog up.  The next was he showed us was leg up, where the elephant lifts and bends his front leg like a stair so you can climb up (song-sung was the command for that one).  The last and hardest one for the elephant was Malong, lay down.  Where they actually get down on their stomach, this one took the trainer 4 times to say before Aryana  would do it!  After the trainer did all three it was Aaron’s turn to do monkey-do (as Jessica was still pondering whether or not she was going to run home).  Both head down and leg up went off without a flaw!  The lay down method wasn’t done because it’s tough on the old girl.  After getting on/off down pat, it was time to ‘Huh!’ aka ‘Let’s Go!’ in Khmer.  Off Aaron went around the camp getting the hang of turning (say peh and put the bull-hook on the opposite side), stopping (say how and grip her with your legs a bit) and backwards (say toi and put the bull-hook on her forehead).  Aside from the small detour to a pumpkin patch a little off in the bushes, controlling the elephant went well. We will also mention to our animal lover friends that we never used our bull hook to hurt Aranya, and neither do the trainers at the camp. This hook was blunt and not pointed and does not break or scratch her skin, it only alerts her which way we would like to go.

Playing With The Water

Now it was Jessica’s turn, but she wasn’t exactly fond of the idea at this moment still.  Instead it was off to the water hole to cool off Aryana and get her a drink.  Jessica and the traininer brought out the hose and bucket to cool and hydrate all 4000kg of her.  About 30 minutes later, the trainer asked if Jess was now ready and she gave a head shake.  It took a lot of hyping up and cheering Jess on the elephant too but she did get on!  With her knee not being a 100% yet from surgery, Jessica got on from one of the trainers hut just to be careful and the trainer rode with her to make her feel safe.  After Jessica rode Aryana around the camp for a bit without a hiccup, she got off and we went back into town for lunch.

 

We had a quick bite to eat, then met back up with Aryana and another elephant to go on our trek.  Jessica got the new elephant and Aaron got old tested and true Aryana.  Up the mountain we started to go walking through mud, over logs and stopping at camps once and a while.  Aryana showed her veteran prowess taking side paths to avoid logs while Jessica’s young buck took them all on.  After our trek we took the elephants back to where we picked them up, dropped off Jess’s and took Aryana swimming with us in the river to get cleaned up!  Rolling around, spraying water, relaxing, Aryana was sure enjoying the water and the scrubbing and we were enjoying the cool waters break from the heat!  It was pretty amazing when she layed down in the river it turned from quick moving to standstill.  Once Aryana was squeaky clean we got out of the river, kissed our new friend goodbye and headed back to Chiang Mai.

 

 

 

The next day we had to take the train in the afternoon back to Bangkok.  So we got all packed up but during this time we could hear an siren outside go off with some talking on a PA, we heard that sound the day before and didn’t think much of it.  At the reception desk we got to talking with the receptionist and she mentioned there was some insane flooding in the area.  We knew it rained a lot that evening, but not enough to wash houses and people away!  During this talk with the receptionist we found out the trains where cancelled and we had to head to the train station to get a refund.  Some collective thinking later and we had our plan of attack so we could catch our ride to Cambodia tomorrow at 7:30am.  We waved goodbye to our guesthouse and walked up to the road to catch a tuk-tuk to the train station.  It must have been luck of the draw, but we got a smoking good driver!  Expecting a big lineup at the train station for refunds, we forgot about traffic.  The bridges were all packed with cars and people taking pictures of the overflowing river.  Then the main roads were slow moving being under 20-30 cm of water.  However our driver got us off the main roads and down back alleys to beat the flooded streets.  Quickly we pulled up to the train station, with no lines, and got our refund then headed to the airport!  At higher ground in the airport we shopped around for the cheapest flight to Bangkok via the ticketing kiosks, found it and booked it.

Our Tuk-Tuk

Our flight was originally suppose to leave at 5:10pm, then was delayed till 6:40pm and then again till 7:40pm.  We finally got in the air sometime after 8pm and landed in Bangkok after 9pm.  Which sucked cause we booked a 5 star hotel for the night cause we figured it’s be nice for a change, too bad we only got to spend probably 8 hours in it!  The next morning we left our hotel at 6:30am and caught our ride on time to the Cambodian border then Siem Reap.

Getting to the Thai-Cambodia border went off without a hitch, getting through it was another story.  Long lines and corruption all make for a lot standing around.  In all it took us almost 5 hours to get our visa’s and back in a cab to Siem Reap.  From the Cambodian border town, Poi Pet, it was another 2 1/2 hour drive to Siem Reap.  Once we got into town we had to switch to truck cause the cab couldn’t go deep into the town cause of…flooding, oh boy.  The truck took us as far as they were willing to our hotel, cause apparently it’s Atlantis, and told us to walk the rest.  With water up to the middle of our shins we walked for a bit then said ‘we have no idea where we are lets get a tuk-tuk’.  We hopped in and off we went, the driver also offered to take us to a different place cause he also confirmed it was flooded out too.  Not too keen on the offer onward we went to the one we booked and low and behold it was high and dry.  2 cabs, 1 van, 1 bus, 1 truck and 1 tuk-tuk later we finally made to our final destination!  Here we are dry and safe in our hotel planning out our days in Cambodia, somewhat dreading that trip back to Thailand.  Stay tuned, next blogs hint, a Blockbuster hit was filmed here. Thanks for reading!

-Aarissca

Chiang My Oh My

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Well,  were sorry to say that we don’t even recall where we left off last. We have so much to tell that we might have to scrap the blog and do a novel!  On our final day in Bangkok we ventured out of the city a bit to a place where they hold a market called the Damndensaduak Floating Market, which sounds really original and cool.  At this market you hire a boat and they paddle you down this canal to all the different vendors.  You can also hire somebody in a boat with car engine transplanted on the back and the drive shafted in the water with some kind of propeller attached.  Here’s something Jess would say, only Americans would hire those boats cause they are loud and obnoxious.

The Floating Market

The market really was a massive tourist trap of the worst kind, because once a vendor got a hold of your boat (with a long hook and pulls you in whether you want to or not!) you almost had to swat at their hands to get free, and the constant “you buy, you buy” was enough to make you want to throw your wallet into the river and watch everyone dive in whilst you paddle far far away from there. The market had lots of non-interesting souvenirs at ridiculous prices, but their was  some good food here and there.  It was pretty interesting to see how they do sales when you want to buy something that is on the other side of the canal.  Jess was the initiator for that one, they pass a basket on a stick with the goods over to you then you drop your money in it and send it back.  A lot harder then it sounds, especially with all these tourists stopping to take pictures.

We braved one of these transactions for some Thai carrot pancake things, but soon had buyers remorse as all the passing started a boat to boat to boat traffic jam that Bangkok would be jealous of.  Oh yeah, and one piece of advise keep your hands in the boat at all times or the angry old lady driver will lose it.  Seriously, she made the I punch you gesture at us, and then later asked for a tip. I don’t think so lady! After the market we had boat tour of the further canals where the vendors of the market lived.

Passing of The Food & Money.

Once we got back to Bangkok, we had a night a train to catch to Chiang Mai.  Which was interesting in it’s entirety, 4 bunks in a room and a strong lingering smell of urine.  I didn’t think it was that bad, Jess would rather walk for three days with her pack on her back.  We didn’t expect the train to be exactly on time, but by the time we actually rolled into Chiang Mai it was almost 4 hours late…sort of killed the day for us but we were told that things here run on Thai time, must be a great excuse to be late for work. After we got checked-in to our guest house, we hopped into a cab with some  delicious supper from the place next door and headed to the Tiger Kingdom outside the city.  Waiting for the dinner to go made us a bit tight on time as the place closes at 6 pm, but with some insane driving from our taxi we got there just minutes before.  Since it was so late in the evening and the tigers were becoming active they couldn’t let us play with the larger ones, we had to settle on the smaller ones, still pretty great!

Playing With The Little Tigers

In we went, to play with these little 2-3 month old Tigers and they play hard!  Biting, scratching, jumping, these guys almost had endless energy and actually were pretty gentle with people but aggressive among themselves.  When they did go a bit too hard with people all the trainers did was give them a little bonk on the nose and they’d stop!  Since it was so late in the evening we got to see the tigers get fed their nightly meal of chicken and play fight with each other. It gets super dark early here so it was hard to get good photos, but in the hour we spent watching and taking pictures of these big cats we got a few good ones.

One of The Big Cats

The following day, we walked around Chiang Mai looking into different stores and Jess trying to find a place for a pedicure.  We did go upstairs to one place, sat down and waited for the lady to do it.  However, soon left because the nail polishes she used weren’t up to Jessica’s standards, so she eventually went to a place beside our hostel. (come on those nail polishes were crappy and had no good colors!) That evening we went to a night market where Jess broke down her shopping famine and bought her first things on the entire trip, who would believe Jess had trouble shopping. Picking up some cool bulb lights, a tank-top and a panda egg holder.

Day 6 in Thailand, involved a tour of the Doi Inthanon national park where Thailands highest peak is located.  On the way up our tour guide was asking us whats the highest mountain in the world, then South-East Asia and then he started going into specific countries of where people in the tour were from.  Our guide knew Germany’s & USA’s off the top of his head but not Canada’s!  Which is mount Logan in the Yukon at 5,959 meters. Our first stop at Doi Inthanon was a waterfall called Wachirathan. We greatly enjoyed this tour as the temperature at this height was only plus 16 degrees c and gave us a break from the sticky heat that we have endured on this trip. We were hopeful of a swim in the falls but after we saw them we realized that these falls were much too fast for swimming.

The king's waterfall

At the top of the mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The tour guide on this trip was excellent and told us, that the king and queen of Thailand had been trying to help the mountain people who lived in these high northern mountains because they were clear cutting much of the forest for money and killing much of the wildlife. Causing a migration of the animals that lived there.  Apparently there even used to be tigers in these mountains, but due to the tribes all of the animals moved to deeper jungle. The king and queen in these mountains had their own waterfalls and temples as well and we were able to view both on our trip. We were also able to go to a real village, not a tourist trap one and see the king and queens idea to help the tribes people make money, to prevent them from deforesting the mountains any further. The kings waterfall was the first one we saw, as we mentioned called Wachirathan and was very large and fast moving, the queens was smaller but more remote and the more beautiful of the two by far.

Playing on elephant statues in the park.

There were also many elephant statues around the national park, as the elephant is sacred in Thailand and considered the national symbol. Everyone laughed when the tour guide asked us what Canada’s national animal is and we sheepishly replied, the beaver. So after the waterfalls we went to the village and we saw first hand the coffee plants growing beans that the king had given to the people as a way to make money, we were also able to drink a cup of it for 20Baht and it was fresh and delicious. Then we were taken to a room with a loom and were able to see a women making wool scarves, but as it was a real village there was no one there bugging us to buy things and there was a small donation box, we were told that this was the queens idea to help out the villagers in making some money.

The kings temple and a view of the gardens.

 

Lastly we were taken up to the highest mountain in Thailand and to the king and queens temples, which were built to honor them and there efforts for the mountain people. The kings temple was much like the water fall, grand in size but low in decoration. The queens was very ornate and delicate and Jessica’s personal favorite with a narrative batik made of colored clay tiles on the roof. The grounds between the two temples was also a beautiful garden with many flowers in bloom and was very well kept! The tour was then over and we headed back to Chiang Mai to rest up for the exciting adventure we had planned the next day.

 

That’s all the time we have for this installment, have a train to catch back to Bangkok and then onward to Angkor Wat.  We’ll leave you with this picture below to give you a hint on what we left for next time!  Thanks for reading!

Dun, dun, dunnnnnn

-Aarissca