After our long train ride in a sleeper train we arrived in Chiang Mai and we were greeted by our driver, a small Thai man named Jojo, holding a sign with my name on it! Little did we know, Jojo would not only be our driver but would also be our trekking guide in the days to come. We practiced our 2 newly learned Thai phrases with him: S̄wạs̄dī kạa (sa-wùt dee kàa) meaning ‘hello’, and Khab Khun Kàa (kab-kun-kàa) meaning ‘thank you’. (The only things we knew)
We arrived at our hotel and had full size beds for the first time! No more hostel beds! A nice change from the rickety train we had taken the night before that literally felt like an Indiana Jones ride. The hotel had a pool and massage parlor downstairs that served the best tea and biscuits. It was so nice having everything we needed at the hotel without even having to leave! That night we checked out the night market purchasing our first Chang Beer tanks and explored the many vendors. A common phrase used by almost every vendor we met was “Same, same but different!” A broken English way of saying they are selling practically the exact same stuff you have already seen, but different, and better! So funny. And they all know that they say it too. They even sell shirts with the phrase on it haha!
The next day we left on our hotel for a 2 day trekking adventure up in the hills with our guide, Jojo, and his two buddies who called themselves ‘Chicken’ and ‘Tarzan’. The three of them were members of one of the neighboring hill tribes we would be visiting and staying with. After an hour drive in the back of a covered truck bed on winding roads into the hills (so bad Kayley tossed her cookies) we
hopped out to start our vertical trek into the jungle. Prepped only with our bug spray and malaria pills we didn’t really know what to expect, but were excited to get out of the city and get our hands a little dirty. We hiked through rice fields and an endless sea of Palm trees and Banana trees which we were able to eat the fruit right from. We pit stopped at a waterfall swimming hole along the way for lunch and took a break eating the fried rice they had prepared for us wrapped in Banana leaves. The leaves served as plates, that way we wouldn’t leave any garbage behind, and were able to just toss them in the trees when we were done. So resourceful! After a swim and another hour of hiking we stopped at a local school (which was unfortunately closed for the day) where we played a few games of soccer on a cement court. Erica and I were the only girls that played amongst the Thai guys and other Spanish and German guys in our group. It was really fun despite how out of shape we realized we were. A while later we finally made it to our bamboo hut where we would be staying for the night. A single giant room for 10 complete with mosquito nets and all. But fortunately the view made up for it all. Just breathtaking, looking out into the hills in the distance.
While Jojo and another older Thai man began to prep for dinner Jess and I went down a steep path to this waterfall that they used to bathe. It was so quiet down there, only hearing the sounds the insects and birds were making in the trees. So peaceful. When we got back we went into the smaller hut next to us where the dinner was being made and got to watch and help Jojo cook everyone’s meals. While in there an elderly man from the hill tribe came in with tiny yarn and aluminum bracelets he had made himself asking if anyone wanted one. For 50 baht each he put bracelets on each of us chanting a blessing in Thai before he tied them on. He was such a cute old man. We asked Jojo what he said after and he told us he did a blessing wishing us luck and a safe journey on our travels. It was so sweet and just what we needed. After our homemade dinner we all headed over to another group of trekkers staying about 10 minutes away for a couple beers and some songs played on guitar by Chicken. He chose, ‘Hotel California’ and ‘In the Jungle’ and we all had a good time singing “Ah weem-a wep, Ah weem-a wep” all in unison haha. After the mini singalong was over we headed back to our campsite ready to get some sleep but come to find that one of the girls had seen a tarantula when she shined her light on the ceiling of the hut! Jojo laughed at us telling us there were worse things in that jungle like Cobras. But not to worry they only come out in rainy season… (It had rained earlier that day) haha. So needless to say we were a little uneasy knowing we had an eight legged friend sleeping with us. Jess and I got up in the middle of the night unable to sleep and went outside for a bit. By that time the clouds had cleared and the sky was covered in stars. We stood there for a while just looking up and saw the biggest shooting star we’ve ever seen. We both looked at each other like did you just see that thing! It was pretty awesome. And in that moment I felt like I had to pinch myself to make sure this was all real. I couldn’t believe where we were, in the middle of the Jungle, deep in the hills of Northern Thailand. Just unreal.
The next morning we started on another hike that would lead up to an afternoon of bamboo rafting on the river and our first of two interactions with elephants! I have loved elephants my whole life and was so excited to get to be around them!
We finished off our long day, which happened to be Halloween, back in town with burgers and beers. We needed a break after having had non stop Thai food the last few days. We also stopped by the local bar scene, which was… A sight to see. A giant open area with a Muy Thai boxing ring in the middle and bars surrounding it. Each bar with Thai women, and even some of the infamous lady boys standing in the front trying to lure the old white men into the bars. It was something we had heard about, that this was a popular destination for older white males to go who fancied young Asian girls but we didn’t realize it was so blatant. Everywhere you looked was a young girl pretending to be interested in them. So weird to see. Yet because we were neither Thai, nor a middle aged white man we felt totally safe and no one was bugging us or really paying attention to us at all haha.
The next day we spent at the Elephant sanctuary were we really got to get up close and personal with the Elephants. We stopped by the elephant paper plant on the way in where they showed us how hey made recycled paper out of elephant dung! Kind of gross yet, resourceful haha. When we got to the sanctuary we were given a list of Thai commands to assist in our elephant training. We got to hop on them bareback, ride them through the mud and water, and even bathe them! I was in heaven and in love! Especially with the little baby one! Such an amazing day that I will never forget!
Our last day in Chiang Mai we decided to take a Thai cooking course! We learned how to make curry, spring rolls, and fried bananas for dessert! So delicious! Bellies full, we hopped on another 15 hour train back to Bangkok, which was, let’s just say, a whole experience in itself haha… But more on that later. See you back in Bangkok!