A Travellerspoint blog

The next chapter of "3 Weeks in Thailand"

Chiangmai: Elephant trekking, Tigers and Death Mountain!

sunny 32 °C

We arrived in Chiangmai at about 6am, and naturally, what with us being westerners, it being breakfast time, and us being in Thailand, we went to McDonalds..!
It just doesn't taste the same - which is probably a good thing!
We got a taxi to our hostel [Deejay's Hostel - Excellent!] from the bus station for 200 baht - not too bad, but it was cheaper in the red bus-taxi rather than a regular taxi.
I'll explain later if I remember!
When we arrived at our hostel, we knew we were in Northern Thailand - greenery everywhere, backdrop of a huge mountain and clear blue skies!

DSC_2123.jpg DSC_2121.jpg

Our hostel looked like the Secret Garden; hanging vines, trees and plants, secluded little seating areas, orchids and other flowers - beautiful!

We followed suit when we got to the front doors and took off our shoes before entering. The hippy in me rejoiced at the chilled, Zen atmosphere of this hostel, of this place - everyone relaxing and conversing with one another on beanbags in baggy pants with ankle bracelets and wooden jewellery.
We arrived far too early to check in but within 20 minutes we were in our room and Mish and Ricky were asleep! I'd slept on the bus so I ventured outside into the early morning sun.
It was about 30 degrees when I eventually left the hostel at 8am ish but it wasn't humid like Bangkok so it was a pleasant walk.
I found some cute boutiques, decent cafes and coffee houses including this little beauty plenty of street vendors and dogs in abundance.
As I ventured further out, I discovered the moat that encased the old city within Chiangmai and a beautiful park. I bought a bag of what appeared to be carp pellets for 5 baht and dutifully fed the birds and the koi carp in the park until there was none left and only the memory of fishing with my father lingered on my hands as I rubbed the smell of carp pellets into my already heavily worn pants.

SDC11008.jpg SDC11010.jpg
SDC11011.jpg SDC11016.jpg
SDC11013.jpg IMG_3181.jpg

I headed back to the hostel past a smorgasbord of fresh, heavenly smelling fruits so I decided to take a mango which was promptly sliced, bagged and pierced with a stick ready for my consumption.
The sweetest, juiciest fruit dissolved effortlessly in my mouth - there is nothing like a thirst-quenching ripe fruit off of the street in the sun!
This life I could adopt immediately.
I have never felt so at peace in a place in such a shot amount of time. I eventually floated my way back to the hostel to find those two still sleeping away so I hopped in the shower which proved to be even more refreshing than the fruit!
When I got out of the shower, they were awake and ready for the world - we headed out. We went to one of the cafes I'd found previously on my solo excursion, the owner of which was a retired English man - he was nice, and clearly a genius - what a fantastic place to retire!
Tanya and Kylie (Mish's friends from NYC) met us and indulged in a smoothie and some yummy food and then we went to book a 2 day trek through the jungle and elephant riding!
We tried to meet the girls later at a Reggae bar but we lost them. After a worrying night of trying to solve some personal issues happening in China, we eventually went to sleep around 2am.
When the alarm went off in the morning, I wanted to die - little did I know that would be the theme of the next 2 days!
We got our bags, hopped in a tuk tuk and made our way to the girls hotel where we discovered we couldn't be doing the trek together and they promptly left.
Therefore, we took the most obvious option of stealing their complimentary breakfast... Winning!
Our truck eventually turned up to take us to the jungle, but was already full, so we got the VIP treatment and sat in the cabin with the driver!
We stopped at a random Orchid and Butterfly farm and I bought some more fresh mango! More than addicted now!

DSC_2137.jpg DSC_2142.jpg

We set off again and arrived in an open thicket of trees with bamboo towers and then there they were: Elephants!
We approached with caution - Elephants are really big and feel like a wire brush - they're so hairy!!
A woman sold us a bag of bananas and sugar canes and a mini frenzy began! I think that elephant's trunk explored every part of me looking for those bananas!

DSC_2165.jpg DSC_2177.jpg
DSC_2171.jpg DSC_2172.jpg

We had some lunch - egg and chicken fried rice wrapped in a banana leaf!

DSC_2186.jpg

Then it was elephant riding time! :D
We climbed the bamboo towers and boarded our mighty beasts!
I had an unmanned elephant for a little while so demonstrably he buggered off at considerable speed with me bobbing around on his back!
All of a sudden, my elephant dipped his head down and there was a cute Thai man sat on his head; then we were off through the jungle!

DSC_2191.jpg DSC_2193.jpg

Holy hell that was toasty, but you couldn't get too hot as the elephants sprayed you with water fro their trunk every 5 minutes!
We trekked for about an hour before arriving at a different elephant camp.
We dismounted and began walking down some steps towards a river - then I saw it!
A zip-line across the river and a rusty, metal cage attached to it.
I was first to go!
After clambering into the cage, I was swiftly shoved to the other side of the river!
I'm just glad I made it to the other side in one piece!

DSC_2199.jpg

On the other side there was an elephant being washed in the river, so I headed on down and bathed the elephant. As soon as Ricky and Mish had come across in the metal cage, they too were in the river bathing the elephant with me!

DSC_2205.jpg

That's when we got told off by our guide because washing the elephants wasn't part of our tour! whoops!
Then the 4 hour trek up the mountain began...

I have never done anything as hard as that in my entire life. The amount of sweat pouring out of me was tantamount to the waterfall we eventually got to go in to cool off! Insanely hard work and it was only going to get harder.
The hour and a half we just practically marched was the easy bit according to our guide!
After a quick dip in a pleasantly freezing waterfall, we continued on our epic uphill climb!

DSC_2215.jpg DSC_2220.jpg

There are no steps in the jungle, only elephant footprints and rocks. Luckily our guide had cut down some bamboo for us to use as walking sticks.
That stick saved my life!
The climb was so steep at times I had to hoist myself up on a nearby tree and my bamboo cane!

DSC01813.jpg DSC01814.jpg
DSC_2222.jpg DSC01821.jpg
DSC_2224.jpg DSC01829.jpg

Then it happened - I started to fall behind as my legs had never had such a workout, and cardio? More like cardiac arrest!

DSC01820.jpg DSC01818.jpg

I was dying but I had no where to go but up, as I sure as hell wasn't spending the night in the middle of the jungle alone!
so on I trekked, the words "You can go hard, or you can go home" ringing in my ears... (that may also have been the rush of blood I was forcibly pumping around my body!)
Every time I eventually joined the rest of the group who thankfully stopped and waited for me!
Some of those women hadn't even broken a sweat! Bitches!
After what felt like days, not hours, we could see the top of the mountain laced with bamboo huts - our home for the evening.

DSC_2233.jpg DSC_2230.jpg

Exulted doesn't even cover the level of joy I felt at that moment, but we weren't there yet!
Onwards and upwards we climbed until finally it levelled out.
Flat ground!
Huzzah!
With only a last few minutes of walking to push through, we arrived at our bamboo hut, threw our stuff down and selected a cold beverage from the awaiting cool-box!
I have never truly understood what quenching one's thirst felt like until the moment that icy cool liquid drenched my mouth. I was so appeased by it that I inadvertently drenched my chest too, but it didn't matter, I think I even heard my skin yelp with joy at the unexpected refreshment!
We chose our beds for the night and got change and within no time at all, our guide had whipped up an incredible dinner for all 13 of us using nothing but a clay pot over an open fire pit and a torch in the nook of his neck for light.
Our fire pit was lit after we the watched the sun set over the mountains and played with some of the local children - exquisite.

DSC_2251.jpg DSC_2254.jpg
DSC_2255.jpg DSC_2258.jpg
DSC_2250.jpg DSC_2252.jpg

Drinks in hand and night ascended, we engaged in Chinese drinking games that attracted the attention of the least offensive French person who gratefully joined in.
After being serenaded by small tribes children for well over 6 minutes, we were then engaged in brain teaser games by our guide.
I was happy as I figured out a few of them when others couldn't - genius child!
The night sky on top of that mountain is by far the most beautiful I have ever and probably will ever see. 360 degrees of an uninterrupted navy blanket showing every constellation available, each one clearer than a telescope could hope for.
Incredible.
I will never forget that sky or how I got to see it.
We climbed into our beds, pulled our mosquito nets over ourselves and settled in for the night.

~ / ~ \ ~

The sun came streaming through the gaps in the bamboo walls and palm tree branches roof as the multitude of cockerels announced that morning had indeed arrived.

DSC_2234.jpg IMG_3117.jpg
IMG_3119.jpg IMG_3118.jpg

I was the first of our group to get up. I had a shower, popped in the jungle and got my stuff together.
Our guide was already up making scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, we paid for our drinks from the night before, finished our breakfast and were on the move again.
We split into 2 group as some were doing a 3 day trek whereas we were only doing 2 days.
We got a new guide, a young boy, not older than 14, traipsing off ahead of us.
"It's very steep" he said, "so no crying; only happy faces!"
Down was easier than up for me, but was harder to get your footing - once again, my bamboo cane swung into action and prevented me from falling on my ass down a mountain at great speeds!
About 30 minutes in we had a few minutes rest and I felt much better than the day before. On we trekked down steeper and steeper parts of the jungle until giant rocks and boulders began protruding from the earth
- [ Now please don't misconstrue what I'm saying here; it wasn't an earthquake or anything, there were just suddenly rocks and boulder when there had been none before! ] -
My leg decided to try and make a break for it and got badly scraped down the left side of my left leg.
Me being sensible, looked at it and though it was just dirt and carried on down the mountain until our guide stopped me and told me to wait.
It was only then that I looked down at me leg to see it as pissing out blood, until our guide returned with a few leaves, used one to wipe the blood away, then crushed the other in his hand and gently rubbed the green pulp onto my wound.
Genius.
I just got healed by the jungle!
A little slowed now on our way down, we eventually came to a huge waterfall and took off our bags and shoes ready to get in.

DSC_2271.jpg DSC_2272.jpg

Bugger me was that cold!
We stayed there for a little while before pushing ahead with the downwards trek.
My legs felt like jelly and all I could hear in my head was my mother saying "have a banana, it will make you feel better" but I was bananaless so continued on my wobbly way!
We walked through the jungle, dodging rocks and the river as we followed the path that ran along aside it. After some strategically placed but poorly made wooden ladders to cross, we came to a tall tree that had fallen over the water and dubiously climbed across (all the while, fighting the temptation to re-enact that scene from Dirty Dancing!)
The ground flattened out after that and we eventually came to a regular road cut into the mountain.
Mish and I had a casual stroll as the others marched on ahead - we were just thankful to have made it to flat ground again!
I was particularly thankful that aside from the rock attack, I hadn't fallen down.
We took a turn and began heading down to some white water rafting boats ready to make our way down the river when it happened - less than 10 feet away and I slipped and fell on my ass!!
I was so disappointed!
I'd made it so far!!
After squeezing my boobs into a life jacket and my head into a helmet, we boarded our rafts and were off down the river - Stroke! Stroke!
The water wasn't very high as the rainy season isn't until May/June time so it wasn't particularly difficult to raft down the rapids.
We floated along for a little while until we got to some bamboo rafts that were awaiting us - we switched vessels and continued on the last leg of our journey - Frodo ain't got shit on me!
The bamboo raft was ok but it didn't float particularly well and at one point I was pretty sure we were going to re-live the sinking of the titanic!
The raft kept tipping up and Mish was clinging on for dear life!
Very amusing!
We pulled up next to a little bamboo rest stop, had some scrummy Pad Thai for dinner, got back into the truck we're come to the jungle in and headed back to our hostel.

If you're tired after reading all that, just imagine how we felt!!

~ / ~ \ ~

The next day we didn't move, not by choice anyway - our bodies were so stiff, when I woke up I feared I had become paralysed!
Getting down from that top bunk to pee may well have been harder than climbing down that mountain that day.
I could feel muscles in my legs that i didn't even know were there!
We bummed around the hostel for a bit in between copious naps and when evening fell, we ventured out into civilisation!
We went to a night market and bought some bits and pieces (mainly for ourselves!), saw some Chinese New Year dragons dancing through the street, then retreated back to the hostel to rest our legs!

IMG_3140.jpg IMG_3141.jpg
IMG_3139.jpg SDC11160.jpg

The next day we checked out of our room but left our luggage at the hostel, hopping in a red bus and went to find breakfast - falafel and hummus!
Om nom nom!
Mango smoothies been and gone, bill paid and we jumped in a tuk tuk to go to the Tiger Kingdom.
About 20 minutes later, we pulled up at the Tiger Kingdom, paid just over 1000 baht (£20ish) after selecting the biggest and smallest tigers then headed inside.
The baby tigers were first - some of them were sleepy but others they were playful and running around.
It was like trying to photograph children, they kept running away!
We'd paid extra to have a photographer some with us to get the perfect shots.
The babies were so beautiful and little, we enjoyed them a lot!
On to the big cats; we had to wait a little while as there were quite a few people waiting to get in with the big cats. About 45-60 minutes later, we were in.
Bugger me, those cats were big!
We cuddled them and played with their tails and rubbed their bellies - they seemed to like that!

_DSC0002.jpg _DSC0008.jpg
_DSC0015__2_.jpg _DSC0020.jpg
_DSC0030.jpg _DSC0038.jpg
_DSC0056.jpg _DSC0067.jpg
IMG_3182.jpg IMG_3192.jpg
_DSC0072__2_.jpg DSC_2310.jpg
IMG_3166.jpg _DSC0078.jpg

Before long, our time was up, we bid our new cat friends adieu, picked up our photo CD's and got back in our tuk tuk which was patiently waiting for us.
We headed back to town, picked up our luggage and headed to the bus station ready to catch an overnight bus back to Bangkok - if I was going to live anywhere in Thailand - it would be in the North, probably Chiangmai - I've never felt so at peace.
We boarded the coach for the evening and began our 24 hour travelling spree to the islands in the south of Thailand....

Tune in next time for chapter 3: The Islands of Thailand

Posted by Lady Mantle 20:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises mountains skylines animals sky trekking elephants adventure games chiangmai tigers pancakes dying night_market mosquitos 3_weeks_in_thailand bamboo_cane beautiful_hippies my_future_home deejay_hostel

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Comments

Can't believe how great a time you are having. It's only eight months ago we spoke about how bored you were getting in Cardiff and fancied opening another door in life . . . . XXX

by Pappa Bear

I don't think I fancy the elephant trek but my oh my I am sooooooooooooo jealous that you got cuddles with tigers xx

ps I am loving this blog- next publication?

by mum

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Login