After a quick stop in Hanoi, Vietnam to catch a flight, we found ourselves in Thailand again. Our path never made much sense, but we didn't care, since we were able to meet Ms. Jessica Lee and Kanami Otani in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai.
Chaing Mai may, at this point, be the best place we've visited, especially since I could see myself moving there one day. Chiang Mai has a huge expat scene, mostly cyber nomads and yogis, but the presence of westerners hasn't destroyed it's charm. Chiang Mai still has all the delicious and cheap street food, as well as a scattering of local coffee shops and bars for the western palette. It has a temperate climate, at least in the winter, and it is surrounded by beautiful mountains that reminded us of being home in California. In the end, we spent three weeks there, way longer than anywhere else, and I wish we could have stayed longer.
Right away, Chiang Mai started off with excitement and energy. Day 1 we met up with Jessica and two friends, and after trying not to fall from flying hugs, we immediately started moving. Classic Jessica traveling. I love it.
First we went to Tiger Kingdom. We arrived and found the tigers playing and wandering around in a few adequate exhibits, but it was still a bit sad to see the caged animals. They were napping a lot of time, but the young ones were also chasing each other and playing with their toys. After paying the front desk, we were able to spend twenty minutes each with a group of babies (the size of a collie), teenagers (the size I expected them to be: big), and adults (freaking huge). After watching for a couple hours, everyone realized that they acted exactly like oversized house-cats. They played with huge strings, snuck around to scare each other, and slept most of the time. The company never let's small children in the exhibit, and after seeing a hungry tiger watching a toddler intently, I understood why.
That night we went to a Muay Thai fight with mixed results. The fights were really good, but three of the 7 fights were between local Muay Thai kids (
The next day included a trip to a elephant rescue. This place was truly amazing. They bought and rented elephants from their abusive owners who used them for circuses, basket tourist rides, and farming. Many of the elephants had scars from the abuse. Once in their new home however, they lived a simple life of bathing in the river, eating sugar cane, and playing with humans. This company, Happy Elephant Home, let the elephants decide the schedule, and if they didn't want to go in the river that day for example, too bad for us. Fortunately when we were there they did want to play, including the 1 year old elephant, and it was a ton of fun. We got to tease and feed them sugar cane (their favorite), jump in the mud with them, walk them around the preserve, and bathe in the river. A great experience, worth breaking the budget for.
That night we got a massage from Lila Massage, a company that helps licence and employ female convicts in and out of prison. Best massage so far. After that, it was time to Chang and chill.
The next day was spent on a day tour of the jungle, including a short raft through small rapids, hiking, bareback elephant rides, etc… A classic tourist day in Chiang Mai. That night we finally, after so much time in Thailand, went to a cabaret (“lady-boy”) show. It's was surprisingly classy and entertaining.
The next days slowed down after Jessica had shipped of to Pattayya, but that didn't stop us from visiting the “Grand Canyon of Chiang Mai”, which is basically an abandoned mine that had been filled with ground water. At first, it's about as exciting as it sounds, but after meeting Jo, the local lifeguard, we were quickly convinced to take the 25 – 40 ft leap into the water. It turned into a great day in the sun with our two new friends: Lenny and Michelle.
Such a long post…
Soon, we were able to meet Kanami and enjoy a day touring the city of Chiang Mai and it's dozens of temples. That night we walked through the Sunday Market, a typical outdoor market with loads of people and good food. There were so many great souvenirs here for cheap; too bad I wasn't leaving yet.
After this, we went to the North Gate Jazz Co-op for the first of many times. The first night, this place had a classic rock cover band, best I've seen (besides the Caverns in SB). The last night we were there, it was an Open Mic Night at the co-op, and they had local expats and locals with all different instruments jamming out with impressive skills. Hanging over the stage they had a great image of the King playing trumpet with the same angle as the iconic Luis Armstrong photo, and this brought the whole decor and feel of the bar together.
The final thing I can remember (besides the loads of food) is our awesome cooking class we took to learn the northern Thai style. To start, we cooked Khao Soi, the greatest soup ever. Ever. We also learned chicken chashew stri fry, pad see ew, different soups and curries, fried spring rolls, and fried bananas. I can't wait to utilize these skills in the kitchen back home.
Sorry for the long post, I hope you'll enjoy all the info and photos here and on Dropbox.
Grant and Danielle