I was really bummed to leave the beach (as usual) but I was excited to see what Chiang Mai was like. I was expecting a mini Bangkok, but it turned out I was wrong. Chiang Mai is much smaller and calmer and more like a large town than a small city, and I enjoyed it more than I had expected too. We stayed at the Tamarind Village, which was a peaceful and luxurious boutique hotel. It’s famous for the 200 year old Tamarind tree in the courtyard. Our room was super cute and I got a great night sleep after we did a 3 hour spa package (total cost for 2 people: 30 euros for a one hour Thai massage, 30 minute foot massage and one hour facial—AMAZING) the first day upon arrival at Khunka Massage.
The next day was elephant day, something Jorge and I have been excited for for months. We spend many hours researching a spot, because we really wanted to make sure we picked a place that treated the animals humanely and we finally settled on Ran-Tong Nature Park. Turns out we made a great decision. We arrived at the park and after learning how to command the elephants, we went down to meet them. My immediate thoughts: these animals are adorable, very intelligent, and SO BIG. They are so, so much bigger than I had never imagined, but gentle and funny animals. And boy do they love to eat. We fed them bananas and sugar cane, which they gobbled up. I’d never been that close to an elephant before, and at first it was a little scary but once you see how sweet they are, the fear melts away and you just want to hug them (well, if I could get my arms around one!).
Then came the time to ride them. You command the elephant to sit down (MELONG) and then you kinda swing your leg over them, and they stand up. I am so short I kinda crawled, not classy at all haha but really mounting an elephant is just not conducive to being ladylike. When the elephant stands up, it’s suddenly like WHOA…you fly up into the air and then you get accustomed to being up there. You don’t really realized how high up you are until the elephant sits back down again.
After the ride, (Jorge and I took turns going in front of the elephant) we had lunch, and chatted with the other members of the group. Then we got back on the elephants for a longer ride and headed to the lake to bathe them. This was absolutely amazing. The elephants LOVE the water, they lay down and roll around, and splash and play. It was so cute to see them just enjoying it. You just have to be careful they don’t kick or roll on you! I spent a little time with the baby elephant, it was adorable. It just sat there swinging its trunk all day “playing”. I was nervous to get close time more so for the mother—I was afraid she’d get possessive but it turns out she doesn’t—however the mischievous baby is another story. Watch him give me a playful shove in the video below![youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPLgaD_ggBw?rel=0]
At the end of the day I was honestly sad to leave, it was such an incredible experience. I really don’t know how people can harm or kill these magnificent animals, and if there is anything I can do to contribute to worthwhile organizations that are dedicated to rescuing and helping preserve this grand race of pachyderms, I will be doing so. These are just some of the million of photos, so enjoy the montage below!
The rest of our time in Chiang Mai was fun, but nothing could really top the high of riding a huge elephant through the muddy jungle. The following day we visited the Tiger Kingdom and while it was pretty awesome to hold the baby tigers and scary to be next to the big ones, I found it over touristy and not nearly as exhilarating at the elephants. That being said, I still want a baby tiger (finally, a cat I love).
We then visited the Wat Chiang Man Temple, which had a cool elephant shrine I really liked.
That evening, we walked through the night market and bought some stuff, and then met up with a friend of Jorge’s from high school. Ironically enough, Jorge hadn’t seen his friend in about 10-15 years, and they reconnected in Thailand! Him and his girlfriend were really nice and we had a great time getting street food with them and drinks at the (rundown but cool) THC rooftop bar.
Our last day, we visited the Wat Chedi Luang temple and the insect museum, which was super creepy and weird but I enjoyed it and so did Jorge. It was really ghetto, just frames with dried insects everywhere. I have never in my life seen so many disgusting bugs. An interesting way to end out the trip.
As I sit on the plane and write this, we are headed home, and I feel genuine sadness. After 5 weeks in Asia, I realized that I adore that continent! I fear that no good can come of this, knowing myself. I have a sneaking suspicion that this will be just one of many, many visits to Southeast Asia.
I suppose this means the Life and Style Madrid will now return to it’s regular “Madrid” posts…but I do hope you’ve enjoyed following me through my unforgettable trip!
Ahora…la vuelta a Madrid! Un beso a todos.