So much to do in Chang Mai, so little time. We left the island of Koh Tao and took a 2 hour ferry to the mainland and then an overnight train to Bangkok. Thinking that things probably wouldn’t run perfectly smooth, we gave ourselves a 5 hour window from when we arrived in Bangkok to when our plane departed to Chang Mai. As luck would have it, the train arrived a few minutes early and we had to spend 5 hours at the airport killing time. And of course, the plane got delayed so that added another hour. The joys of traveling never cease.
Chang Mai is the 2nd largest city in Thailand and is much more laid back than crazy Bangkok. Our time here would be spent doing all kinds of activites. We started our first day off with an all day cooking school which was a blast. I can’t say we’re ready to open a Thai restaurant back home but I can cook up a pretty mean Tom Kha Gai soup (coconut soup for you uneducated). Christy’s stomach wasnt up to par that day so every meal she cooked she gave to me to eat as well. I thought they were going to have to roll me out of the class.
The following day we decided to get on some mountain bikes and head for the hills. The tour group we signed up with decided to put us with the ”expert” downhill group and boy did we pay the price for that. These guys were nuts and the single track we went down was some of the toughest that I have ever ridden. Luckily we wore full-body armour as both Christy and I went over the handle bars a couple of times.
The big tourist thing to do when you come to Chang Mai is to go on a forest trek, an elephant ride and visit/stay over night with different mountain tribes, one being the famous long neck tribe. These people have been featured in National Geographic many times. This is the tribe where the woman wear the gold coils wrapped around their necks, which makes their necks appear longer than normal. They never take it off and it essentially crushes down on their collar bones and shoulders making there necks look very long. The elephant ride isn’t much to speak of. In fact everyone in our group was in agreement that it seemed a bit cruel to the animals, not to mention uncomfortable to ride. It didn’t seem the elephants were having a grand ol’ time either. On our hike, we had a great crew of people and spent many hours on the hike talking about the many adventures we have all had on our travels. One couple had been gone as long as Christy and I have and had traveled almost the exact same route as us, so we had plenty to talk about. We hiked to some beautiful mountain overlooks and waterfalls, one we could actually swim in. Thais don’t seem too worried about lawsuits so they take a few more risks than tour groups would in the U.S. Our guide showed us a spot that we could run and jump off of the top of the waterfall into a pool about 6 meters (18 feet, I think) below. This wasn’t any ordinary jump because you had to clear the rocks below. Christy is always good for encourging me to do very moronic things all in the name of “A good photo opp” and this was one os those times. Luckily I did make the jump and she got a great shot so all’s well that ends well.
Our nights were spent at the different villages with all of us sleeping in one big room in a very large hut. Our guide would cook for us and we would eat out on the bamboo terrace overlooking the village and the hills. On our second night all the children in the village came over to sing songs and dance for us. Sitting on a bamboo floor, with candle light as your only source of light, watching kids in costumes dancing and singing was one of those special moments of traveling.
We finished our third day with some white water rafting which was mainly bouncing off of rocks as the river was way too shallow since it was the dry season. It still made for a fun adventure. Another highlight was me jumping into the river with my new (3rd pair of the trip) sunglasses and watching them sink to the bottom. At least they were fake Oakleys that I had only paid 3 dollars for at the market in Chang Mai.
We’re now back from our trek and in the town of Chang Mai spending a couple of days chilling out and running some errands. We’ve been going non-stop since getting to southeast Asia so we felt it was time for a little R & R before taking off to Laos on the 26th. It was a weird feeling today as we talked of making travel plans for our flight back home in a couple of months. I guess all good things must slowly come to an end.