Last stop in South East Asia – Chiang Mai, Thailand
After our long journey from Luang Prabang we were really happy to be back in Thailand. We had a lot to look forward to in Chiang Mai! My Mom and her wonderful friend Vicky were going to be meeting us for a whirlwind week long trip to the city followed by our flight back to Canada via Hong Kong.
Once we checked into our hotel and dropped off our bags we headed straight out to see the uber- famous Chiang Mai night market. Although at this point in our trip we are pretty sick of Asian markets we felt that this one might still have something new for us to discover. We had a really nice time walking around and seeing the slightly different goods for sale. When we got hungry we sat down for a meal at a large, well priced Western/Thai restaurant and ordered some Thai noodle dishes. We were in great spirits after our meal and were having a generally great day. We were celebrating having completed our last long distance overland trip, our last overland border crossing and our last few days of being true backpackers. I remember saying to Luke, “Things feel a little too great right now it’s almost suspicious”. As it turns out I might be somewhat of a prophet.
A few hours later I woke up in the middle of the night feeling super nauseous. I spent the rest of the night being sick. Luke followed early the next morning. We had obviously come down with food poisoning from our meal the night before. We were feeling absolutely horrible that afternoon when we heard a knock on our door. It was my Mom! She and Vicky had caught an earlier flight from Hong Kong and had arrived several hours earlier than we had expected. It was AWESOME to see them but we were both feeling so, so terrible. Because Luke and I weren’t really able to leave the hotel, we spent that day catching up with the ladies. It was SO nice to be reunited with my Mom. Although it sucks that they came on one of the only days we have been sick in this whole 2.5 year trip, it’s always nice to have your Mom around when you feel crappy. Too bad she didn’t bring any Lipton’s noodle soup .
I continued to feel horrible for the next four days but Luke steadily improved. We didn’t let our sickness hold us back after that first day though. On the day after Mom and Vicky arrived we got down to business and figured out a Chiang Mai game plan. That day we walked around checking out several of the wat’s and temples around our neighbourhood (the old town) before getting bored of the monotony of it all and booking a cooking class and elephant excursion for the next two days.
Our cooking class the next day was a lot of fun. It was just the four of us and two Kiwi’s from Auckland so it was a nice, small group. We learned how to make red and green Thai curry, Pad Thai, mango sticky rice, spring rolls, and chicken cashew rice. Luke, Mom and Vicky did a great job with their foods and I think learned a lot from the class. I however, made ‘Kendall versions’ of all of the above food and they were well, interesting. When it was time to eat all of what we had made there was way too much to go around and nobody even made a significant dent in their meals. Overall we had a fun time at the class but it was nothing compared to our incredible elephant day!
Elephant tourism is a huge deal in Thailand, particularly so in Chiang Mai. Elephant abuse and exploitation however is rampant and the number of these animals are rapidly dwindling because of it. We wanted to make sure to choose the most ethical operation out there for our elephant experience. My friend Jen sent me a great video about the Elephant Nature Park and the wonderful work they do rehabilitating and rescuing abused elephants and we instantly knew we wanted to go there. Even though we knew we wouldn’t have a chance to ride the elephants we still knew we were making the right decision.
We had a wonderful full day out at the Elephant Nature Park including a yummy buffet lunch. We had the chance to feed the elephants their lunch and dinner which was so funny. They eat big baskets full of melons, pumpkins, cucumbers, and bunches of bananas. We had to pick the fruit out of the basket to hand to the elephants. They would take them out of our hands with their trunks. While we were feeding them our guide told us most of their back stories. Almost every elephant had come from a truly terrible place before they arrived at the park. It is so devastating to learn how awful life in Thailand is for elephants. For an animal so revered by the people they are treated despicably. Thankfully they are resilient animals and have the ability to love even after being tortured for years. It was so beautiful to learn that the most of the elephants at the park have formed into family groups or have their respective best friends that they now spend their days with. They have love at the park from their own kind and from the wonderful people who run the reserve. Beautiful.
In addition to feeding them we also had the opportunity to “bathe” them in the river that lines the park. Bathing here means throwing buckets of river water at the elephants. They loved it and so did we! You can really tell when an elephant is happy. They seem to be very emotive creatures. After the bathing we had the chance to take some great photos with two of the elephants and to get up close to touch some of the gentler ladies. There were two in particular who were just so sweet; one was a ‘granny elephant’ as our guide called her. She was over 60 years old! Another was this poor soul called Meadow who had been forcibly mounted by an adult male elephant when she was still too small to handle it because her owner had wanted to force early breeding. She was crushed as a result and is now severely disfigured. Despite her past ordeal she was sweet as pie and seemed to love being pet by our group.
All four of us had an amazing time at the elephant nature park. I would not hesitate for a minute to recommend a visit to anybody. You may not get to ride an elephant but you get to contribute to a fantastic organization that puts the needs of the elephant first. In Thailand in particular it’s extremely important to choose an ethical organization when venturing into elephant tourism. If you don’t you are very likely contributing to the terrible abuse and exploitation of a very sensitive and aware animal.
Our last days in Chiang Mai have been spent having Luke a beautiful custom tailored suit made and wandering the markets, including the completely claustrophobic Sunday market – yuck! We also spent a wonderful day around a pool that we found just outside of town. It has been hellishly hot over here so it was very much a necessity to get some swimming in.
It’s been a wonderful week and we are SO SO SO happy that Mom and Vicky made the trip over here to share it with us. I think all four us of have had a really fun and relaxing time albeit sweaty time. I don’t think we’re going to miss the extreme heat at all. That said it’s still snowing in Winnipeg isn’t it?? Nooooooooooo!! I am going to regret saying I will miss the heat in a few days I am sure.
Today we are off to Hong Kong for the final stop in our trip. I don’t know whether to be devastated or excited beyond belief that our journey is almost at its end. How about a little bit of both?