Thailand Part 1 – Chiang Mai

Day 208: October 6, 2018

We arrived by plane to Guangzhou, China quite late and had to walk to the international terminal. There, we looked around for somewhere to sleep. All of the seats had arm rests making it impossible to lay down. We found some lounging chairs and tried sleeping there. Danny ended up on the floor. I stayed on the chair, but didn’t sleep long as the cleaning ladies came around with mops. Eventually we decided to move to a hallway behind some stores and just lay on the ground. It ended up being more comfortable and we got a couple of hours sleep.

For breakfast we had Egg McMuffins then boarded our 2.5 hour flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand. We arrived in customs and couldn’t remember if we needed a visa. We figured if we couldn’t recall we likely didn’t. We got through customs easily although the line was long.

On the other side we purchased a SIM card and Danny exchanged our Chinese yuan for Thai baht. He also tried changing some of our remaining bills. He brought out a Mongolian bill and asked if he could exchange it. The lady shook her head no. Then he brought out an Egyptian bill and the lady shook her head no and smiled. Then he brought out a Georgian bill and the lady shook her head no and smiled some more. If only we had remembered to try to change the money in Beijing we might have gotten something for them.

We used the Grab app (similar to Uber) to get a ride to our Airbnb. It was a nice, new apartment with everything we need. Up the street we found a grocery store. Someone on our North Korea tour had told us that Thai people go out to eat and rarely cook at home. The grocery store had limited items and we paid only a little less than what we would pay in Canada. The grocery store seemed set up for foreigners whereas locals would buy from the markets.

Back at the Airbnb Danny made pasta for supper and I called my parents before we went to bed.

Day 209: October 7, 2018

Danny called his parents in the morning while I caught up on my journaling. We decided to go check out the gym in our Airbnb and had a good workout. We had leftover pasta for lunch and booked some things for the next couple of months.

Around 6:00 pm we headed to the Tha Phae Gate. We passed a Buddhist temple on the way that looked beautiful all lit up. Inside the Tha Phae Gate was the Sunday market. It was packed with people!

We found a food area and got some chicken pad Thai and spring rolls. I had a Thai iced tea which was amazing. We walked to another food area and had shrimp gyoza and a Nutella banana pancake for dessert.

Banana pancake at the Sunday night market

We walked up a bit further in the massive crowd then decided to head out. Then back to our Airbnb and got ready for bed.

Day 210: October 8, 2018

We slept in a bit this morning, had breakfast then went to the gym. After we went to the rooftop pool for a swim then lounged around reading our books for a bit. Danny made taco salad for supper and I finished up three loads of laundry. It was a nice relaxing day.

Day 211: October 9, 2018

I woke up a bit early and FaceTimed Kaleen. Danny and I had breakfast then went for a walk to see some temples around town.

We started at Wat Si Don Chai which we had passed numerous times on our walks. Then we visited Wat Upakhut. Both were fairly small, but along our walk anyways. Next was Wat Buppharam which was a bit larger and more interesting. It was established in 1497, but most buildings inside were from the late 1800s.

Wat Buppharam

We continued our walk to a massage parlour, Lila Thai, which employs ex-inmates. Our feet were washed and we were given a face cloth which we really needed because we were already sweating like crazy. We changed into some Thai pants and a t-shirt then went into a room similar to a physio place.

Danny had a head, shoulder and back massage and I had a Thai body massage. It was different than any other massage I’ve had. The lady sat up on the table with me and moved my legs into positions similar to yoga poses. Both of us felt really good afterwards.

We had lunch at a place just up the street then continued our temple visits with Wat Umong Mahathera Chan. Next was Wat Chedi Luang which was a nice surprise. There was a building called Inthakhin Pillar Uihara which said women were prohibited to enter because they “menstruate which is believed to humiliate and ruin the sanctity of the city pillar”. While I am very for respecting other cultures, there are certain things I have trouble handling…

Inthakhin Pillar Uihara

Next to it was Wat Chedi Luang constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries. During that time, it was 82 m tall. The upper 30 m fell down due to an earthquake in 1545. The structure was very interesting and reminded me a bit of the pyramids in Egypt.

Wat Chedi Luang

After the temple we decided to head back to our Airbnb. On the way, a guy on the street started talking to us. Our immediate response was to walk away thinking he was trying to sell us something. He ended up just being a tourist from Australia waiting for his wife and looking to chat. He told us there was going to be a parade that night of boys becoming monks. Then he discussed how his wife was there to pick out fabric for her clothing store. We probably could have chatted for a bit more, but we had to get home to get ready for our cooking class.

The company we booked our cooking class through picked us up at our Airbnb and took us to a local market to check out Thai spices and vegetables. We then went to the kitchen. We were able to chose a stir fry, a soup and a curry to make. For stir fries, Danny made gai pad med mamuang (stir fried chicken with cashews) and I made pad Thai (Thai style fried noodles).

Ingredients and finished products (pad Thai on the left and gai pad med mamuang on the right)

For soups, Danny made tom som (sour and spicy soup) and I made tom yum kung (hot and sour prawn soup). They were all soooo delicious. The food had so much flavour. We ate those then made Thai tea which is Ceylon tea with star anise and cinnamon. You mix the hot tea with condensed milk and some regular milk then drink it over ice.

Tom yum kung soup on the left and gang keow wan kai on the right

While we drank our tea we made gang keow wan kai (green curry). We had to mash all the ingredients up by hand for 10 minutes. We ate it with rice and were so full by the end. We received a ride back to our Airbnb and went to sleep.

Day 212: October 10, 2018

We woke up early, had breakfast then walked to the Elephant Nature Park office which was about 20 minutes away. We arrived, but then had to wait an hour for the van to pick us up. Everyone else on our tour was already inside. It was a 1.5 hour drive to the location of our Elephant Wellness tour.

The location of our program used to be used for riding elephants, but they now have a program overseen by the Elephant Nature Park which looks to treat the animals more humanely.

On the drive we were shown a documentary about how elephants are broken for riding and doing tricks. It was awful to watch. We rode elephants on our trip to Nepal a couple of years before, but never looked further into their treatment. Most elephant places in Chiang Mai advertise, “No Riding,” but on our drive we still passed some tourists riding elephants.

We were transferred from the van to the back of a truck which drove us the rest of the way. There were three elephants waiting with each of their mahouts (trainers).

Elephants that we took care of for the day

An elephant costs 2.3 million baht ($92,000 CAD) to buy. The program we were with buys the elephants to stop the riding and supports families to help them take care of the elephants.

The elephants main food sources are grass and leaves, but we prepared them a treat. We separated bananas, cut sugar cane and then fed it to the elephants. They ate the bananas super quickly and would ask for four or more in their trunks at once. The sugar cane took them much longer to chew.

Danny feeding the elephant a banana

Next we took the elephants for a walk. We walked up a hill and there was a muddy spot where the elephants scratched themselves against the hillside. We walked back down and were fed lunch.

Walking with the elephants

Bath time was next! We were given clothes to change into. Nearby was a small pond that the elephants entered first. We followed with buckets and a tree bark which is naturally soapy. The elephants rolled over and we rubbed them down. They seemed to enjoy it. When they were done they stood up and walked out.

Bath time

In the wild, elephants live to be 65-70 years old. In captivity they live to be 80-90 years old because they can be fed softer food when they no longer have teeth.

Back at camp we prepared balls of rice, tamarind and bananas that are typically fed to older elephants. The elephants we visited were between 30-50 years old so they didn’t have to eat the softer food, but it was a nice treat for them. We put the balls right into their mouths and you could feel their strong tongues.

Elephant’s tongue

We changed back into our clothes and fed the elephants some more bananas and sugar cane then said our goodbyes. The van returned us to our Airbnb in Chiang Mai.

Danny and I chilled until 6:00 pm when we met Craig who we had met on our trip to North Korea. He was also in Chiang Mai for a couple of days and staying in the same condo. He had some friends that lived in town and we went to their restaurant for supper. It was a vegan restaurant and the food was so tasty.

We ate and chatted then took the long way back to the condo through a market then over two bridges. We returned to the condo and said our goodbyes before bed.

Chiang Mai was a nice town that was easy to walk around. It was very touristy, but we were glad for the quaintness. There was lots to do nearby, but sadly we didn’t have quite enough time to relax and see everything. Tomorrow we catch a flight on to Bangkok.


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