Thailand: 7/23 – 7/28

(Thailand) Chiang Mai >>> Elephant Nature Park >>> Chiang Mai

7/23- Day 1 of Elephant Nature Camp Excursion
7/24- Day 2 of Hanging out with Silly Elephants!
7/25- Chillin’ Out Relaxing Fun Time
7/26- Exploring the Old City of Chiang Mai and Touring Lots of Wats!
7/27- Research and Planning Day with a Cheeseburger Reward
7/28- White-Water Kayaking and a Mexican Feast!
7/29- A Massage from a Prisoner, Ultimate Frisbee,  a Craft Beer Bar Party!

7/23
Day 1 of Elephant Nature Camp Excursion
+ We were super excited that the elephant tour we’d booked a full 2 months ago was finally here! We almost never plan anything this far out in advance but in this case it was necessary since these dates were the first ones that Elephant Nature Park had available when we checked back in May. Crazy!
+ After checking out of our room at Grace House, storing our bags, and eating breakfast, we waited around downstairs for our shuttle bus to pick us up. Only 15 minutes later or so, it showed up and we began our 90 minute journey to the site.
+ Even though we could smell them before we could see them, everyone in the minivan was excited to get to the camp and see the elephants roaming around!
+ We all gathered at a table in their big dining area and after a brief explanation from our driver/guide and completing some paperwork, we set out on foot to go see an elephant!
+ We met a couple of different elephants including 2 blind elephants. And we even got to pet one while she ate. All of the elphants roaming around the park were females unless they were baby elephants. They kept the male elephants in the back seperated so they didn’t impregnate the females!
+ The elephants were not alone as they wandered about, they each had a dedicated “Mahout” that was right next to them and responsible for their safety, feeding them and keeping them happy throughout the day. This was a position generally passed down within the family throughout generations.
+ The elephant tour was huge contrast to our other tour groups in SEA. Everyone here was a native english speaker! We had 2 other Americans, 2 Kiwis, one Aussie, and one Brit! Zero Dutch people, crazy! What a difference!
+ Lunch was a huge buffet spread with about 30 different items you could choose from to fill your plate. Everything on the buffet was vegetarian food which is not usually Corey’s favorite but everything was super delicious!
Everyone had their fill and then about 45 minutes to just digest and hang out after that.
+ Although we were supposed to bathe elephants in the river today, we were informed that the river was too high and so we couldn’t do that. This was super disappointing because it was the #1 thing we were most excited about. Not to mention we had paid a lot of money to do so. It was even more perplexing due to the fact that we could see other elephant camps along the river taking their elephants in to bathe (some with the tourists riding them!). So that was a bit of a bummer.
+ In the afternoon our guide seemed to not know exactly what to do with us since the usual activity had been cancelled and instead of getting to see other elephants, he took us back to the same one we had seen earlier. Probably just so he could talk with his mahout buddy. He was not a very good guide.
+ After that he informed us his job was done for the day and we would meet up with another guide for our room assignments and agenda for the rest of the day.
+ We were both pretty disappointed with our experience, especially for the fact we had paid soooo much to get a 2 day experience that was supposed to be better than the day trips anyone could get at another elephant camp by just showing up and booking a day ahead of time. The difference was we knew our elephants were rescued from bad camps and owners who tortured their elephants. So our money was at least going to a good cause.
+ Luckily the day was not ruined because the new guide, Thor, seemed much more enthusiastic and cared about ensuring his group was happy. He was able to tell the two of us were displeased and went out of his way to take us on to a separate viewing platform where we were able to observe a baby elephant and it’s “nanny” eat grass and then play around in the water together. He also answered a ton of our questions. So that was a very nice and private experience.
+ When we’d finished checking into our surprisingly spacious room, Corey went and got an oil massage from the onsite masseuse for only about $7 for the hour. He wanted Liz to come but she was content to just hang out back in the room and relax. What a cheap date!
+ Dinner that night was just as plentiful as lunch and we both stuffed ourselves. Then we hung out chatting with the other members of our group until around 10 when we all went back to our rooms.
+ Before bed, we read through all the biking, kayaking, and cooking school pamphlets we’d brought with us so we could make some decisions about what companies we wanted to use when we we were back in Chiang Mai.

7/24
Day 2 of Hanging out with Silly Elephants!
+ In the morning we enjoyed a nice big breakfast and then got to experience touring around the camp before all the day-trip crowds arrived.
+ Our guide “Thor” took us around to a bunch of different elephants and we got to feed and pet a number of them. Our other lady guide’s name was Dao. Thor liked the Jungle Book and laughed a lot when we brought up the scene with the elephants marching through the forest chanting together.
+ Our favorite elephants were Pookhun and Dee Po for Liz and Naughty Boy for Corey. Pookun made growls and roars just like a lion! Naughty boy was an adolescent male that was in a seperated area in the back because he liked to play too rough for his mahout. Now that Naughty Boy had his tusks growing in, it was too dangerous!
+ We then went and saw some of the biggest male elephants and tossed them bananas. One of the males would make a large toot noise with his trunk that made us laugh!
+ We also watched a very playful baby elephant and his sister. The baby made roars like jurassic park! So much noise from such a little elephant! He also chased around the dogs that roamed around the camp since they would bark at him a lot and be mean sometimes.
+ This Nature park was also a reserve for rescued dogs and cats. They even had a “Cat Kingdom” that we visited to see all the funny cats running around playing with each other.
+ One of the funny things we saw today was when a group of elephants was gathered around a fig tree. The guides were getting a bunch of figs down for the elephants to eat and sometimes they would drop right on the elephants’ heads! At one point, one of the adolescent elephants climbed up onto the lip of the cement drinking square even though it was completely unnecessary! So silly!
+ We also got a chance to ride around in the food delivery truck as they drove around the park from mahout to mahout to drop off the food. At one point some elephants almost charged us because they knew the truck meant food! That was really fun!
+ After another delicious lunch, we finally got to experience what it was like to bathe a elephant! We all waded out into the river (which wasn’t any lower than yesterday) and the elephant, Pookhun, came out there with us! She let out a big roar when she headed our way! Once she was in the water she turned around so she could eat out of a fruit basket while we splashed water all over her.
+ It was really fun taking our buckets and throwing water all over her (and when it went over the elephant, the people on the other side!) Everyone in our group was laughing and laughing while Thor and Dao took pictures with everyone’s cameras. It was definitely a highlight of the trip!
+ From there we went to the elephant kitchen and all got to work together to make rice balls for the elephants. Then we went back out into the fields and hand fed the older elephants while we petted them! Fun!
+ That was the last experience we were to do at the park and then we all piled back into the van and rode back to our hotels in Chiang Mai.
+ We were the last 2 to load into the minivan so we sat in 2 separate seats. On the way back Corey chatted with people from our group but Liz met an American couple who was on a “mega-moon”. The newly married couple was taking a 9 month honeymoon! Awesome! We swapped travel stories and friended each other on instagram.
+ Exhausted from the oppressive heat and beginning to smell like the elephants, we checked into our new room back at The Grace House and took some showers.
+ Not wanting to venture too far that night, we got some food from the night market nearby since it was quick and cheap.
+ Then it was back to the air conditioning to let our minor sunburns relax in the cool air.

7/25
Chillin’ Out Relaxing Fun Time
+ This would be our first relaxing day in quite a while since we had been pretty much go-go-go since leaving Kuala Lumpur a few weeks ago.
+ Thus, we spent most of the day hanging out in our room talking with family and friends, playing around online, watching YouTube and movies, and even ordering food delivery so we didn’t have to leave the wonderful A/C. It was glorious!
+ Our Pizza Hut pizzas were cheap and delicious and we really enjoyed a full day spent with zero travel planning, activities, or traveling.
+ Liz googled more about the Thai King. He passed away in October 2016. It was declared that the entire country would enter into a year of mourning. This explains why many buildings, large intersections, and exterior fences of many wats are lined with black and silver ribbons and photographs of the king. and also explains why all those people where wearing black to see the King’s remains when we visited the Grand Palace back in Bangkok. The King was so beloved by the people here!
+ At night we tried some different Thai beers from the mini market down the road and watched the newest Game of Thones episode before going to sleep.

7/26
Exploring the Old City of Chiang Mai and Touring Lots of Wats!
+ This was to be our big day exploring all of the Old City including many of it’s famous Temples and Wats. First though, we enjoyed a nice free breakfast of French Toast and Mueseli with Yogurt downstairs at the Grace House Cafe.
+ Once we’d gone into the city past the big brick walls and river moat that surrounded it, we eventually found ourselves at a Khao Soi restaurant. This was one of the “Must Try” foods of North Thailand and we were happy we finally had a chance to try it for ourselves. As it turned out, it was our favorite Thai food yet! Spicy enough for Corey, but not too spicy for Liz. Plus it was only about $2/bowl and filled us up. So delicioussssss!
+ Next up we visited 3 Wats in a row: Wat Phan Tao, Wat Chedi Luang, and the Phra Singh Temple. All 3 were nice and different enough from one another to still be fascinating and grab our attention. Before we entered into each of the different Temples or rooms we had to take our shoes off. Then we would venture inside and snap a few pictures of the very pretty and ornate decorations.
+ Our favorite of the 3 was probably the Phra Singh Temple with it’s huge Golden structures and animal shrines. Plus it was less crowded than the others which gave us a few spots to enjoy the experience without 20 other people standing in front of our photo.
+ It wasn’t too far of a walk from there over to the Chiang Mai Mountain Biking and Kayaking Center. Inside their office, we watched videos of the different kayaking and mountain biking trips that they offered and eventually picked Corey’s favorite in each category.
+ Liz was content not to go on either and although Corey would’ve liked to do both, it wasn’t in the budget. So he opted for only the white-water kayaking excursion 2 days from then since it was supposed to have challenging rapids and also a few other people signed up so it wouldn’t be boring with just him and the guide.
+ When that was finished, we started heading back East and continued exploring the Old City. We saw lots of interesting shops and restaurants and even popped into a Muay Thai fight training center to watch the tourists practice their punching and kicking skills. Corey was interested in maybe going to a training session at some point, so it was good we got to see what it would entail. We also glanced at a few more Wats. They were everywhere!
+ Eventually we worked our way over to a night food market where we split up to check out everything the different stalls had to offer. They had all sorts of stuff, including crocodile, ostrich, and squid on the menu! We each tried some different food and then decided to get a really yummy looking ice cream dessert to finish off our meal with.
+ The dessert was made with condensed milk which was put onto a freezing stone slab and then mixed with all the different chocolate treats and syrup we’d requested. Then it was scraped off, rolled up into little rolls and put into a cup where they topped it with a bunch of whipped cream, chocolate syrup, and chocolate chips. Yummmmy!

7/27
Research and Planning Day with a Cheeseburger Reward
+ Today was an uneventful day for the most part. We took all of our electronic devices with us to breakfast in the morning and then hung out downstairs in the very nice and quiet cafe for the majority of the day.
+ We booked some events for the next few days and also booked our accomodation for the last 3 nights in Chiang Mai and then the next 4 nights in Pai. In addition to that, we figured out our onward transportation to Laos for after Thailand and also ticked a bunch of items off of our to-do list.
+ For lunch, we ate at the cafe and had a surprisingly delicious Thai-style spagghetti with the famous Northern Thailand Sausage. Very yummy!
+ In the evening, we walked into the Old City and went to a restaurant called Rock Me Burger. The Burgers were big and tasty and satisfied the craving we’d had recently for a quality cheeseburger.
+ From there we walked through the city again taking a different route back to the hotel and stopping at interesting shops and street stalls along the way.
+ Back in our room that night, we watched The Darjeeling Limited which was pretty entertaining. Then Corey packed up and prepared for his kayaking excurison the next day.

7/28
White-Water Kayaking and a Mexican Feast!
+ Corey woke up early and went down to enjoy a quick breakfast. He got what Liz usually ordered: the muesli cereal and yogurt. Then he got picked up for his white-water kayaking tour.
+ Liz got up just in time to make it to breakfast before it ended and ate the french toast that Corey normally had! It was flip-flop day!
+ Corey’s white-water kayaking tour was pretty fun and he was joined by 5 other guys. 3 from Germany and 2 from the UK. Despite Corey specifically doing research to find a river trip that was more advanced and difficult, he was the only one who had ever kayaked before! So Corey was put in a sit-in kayak with the kayak skirt to keep water out while the other guys got normal kayaks or no skirts.
+ The river itself was nice with a few challenging rapids but not as difficult as Corey had been prepared for. He didn’t even almost flip so there was no reason to try and roll in the kayak like he had learned about 8 years ago! It was very, very hote outside though and he hadn’t put on any sunscreen so by he end of the day his arms were really red and burned. Woops!
+ Liz’s day by herself flew by very quickly and she spent the time talking to family and friends, uploading all the pictures and sorting through Youtube. She also checked out of the room and took an Uber to our new hotel in Chiang Mai called Roseate.
+ She barely had time to check in and settle into the room before Corey arrived back from his tour, grabbed his bag at Grace House, and then took his own Uber to Roseate to be reunited once again!
+ After some showers and internet time, we headed out to go get dinner. We had to walk East along the wall for 10 minutes or so until we came to the Mexican restaurant we had seen and since been craving. Our burritos were big and tasty and the whole meal definitely hit the spot!
+ From there we walked South to check out a few other restaurants and ended up at a craft beer bar called My Beer Friend. We found out there are no craft breweries in Thailand because the law is set up to only benefit huge beer-making corporations and so all craft beer is either brewed illegally or in this case, made in Malaysia and Japan and then imported! Crazy!
+ The beer was delicious and way better than all the cheap crappy beer we’d had for the last few months. When we finished paying way too much, we caught an Uber back to the hotel. Then we spent the rest of the evening catching up on stuff online and then watching a new show called Master of None.

7/29
A Massage from a Prisoner, Ultimate Frisbee, and a Craft Beer Bar Party!
+ Hung out at the hotel in the morning.
+ Walked to a new area of the Old City, had lunch at a Thai place. We each got some new types of Thai food we’d never tried before.
+ Checked out another Wat across the street called Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang. Really pretty and stunning features. In our opinion it was better than the other more popular ones you have to pay to visit! Definitely Liz’s favorite!
+ Liz went back to the hotel and Corey went to the Chiang Mai Womens Correctional Institute to get a massage! The prison had already sold out of their alotted time slots for the day, so he went to their place right next door that was run by former inmates. He got a massage there from a lady to had been in prison for over 2 years!
+ It was the second traditional Thai massage he’d gotten and still involved all the weird stretching and bending and bone-cracking as the other one! It was in a room full of other people getting massages and some of the other tourists laughed as they watched the tiny Thai lady struggle to contort and maneuver Corey’s body to get it to crack.
+ From there Corey went back to the hotel and changed and then said goodbye to Liz again as he caught an Uber to Chiang Mai University, a few km’s NE of town. He had read about an Ultimate Frisbee group that would be playing today and decided it would be fun to join.
+ Ultimate was fun for the first 2/3 of the game but then some weird Australian girl that was half trying to boss everyone around (despite kinda sucking herself) ruined the good time. Overall he was still glad he went, even though the games in Australia and New Zealand were much more fun.
+ After the long Uber ride back (due to sitting in traffic the whole time), he took a shower and then we both headed out to grab some dinner.
+ We ate more Thai food from a local restaurant we’d passed the night before and it was ok, but not our favorite. At least we saved money though!
+ Next we caught another Uber (we must have been their favorite customers this week!) to a bar SE of town called Namton’s House Bar. We had heard about a party from the bartender last night and decided to check it out.
+ We’re not usually too keen on going to bars at night and spending 4x what we could’ve spent to just drink back at the hotel, but decided to give this event a shot. It was the craft beer bar’s 3rd anniversary and they had live music and a ticketed entrance which gave you a free beer glass and 2 free craft beers. The beers were pretty decent and we had fun listening to the music, but our $30 price tag for the night (excluding the 2 Uber rides) was definitely more steep than it should’ve been. Too bad we couldn’t take the glass with us.
+ Back at the hotel we enjoyed a couple more cheap beers from the 7-11 next door and then watched some Master of None before going to sleep.

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