Day 2 in Chiang Mai. Day 1 was iffy; starting with a night train from Bangkok, which was absolutely fine until about 5am when I contracted seemingly the same bug Elliot had had (I guess it wasn’t food poisoning). We couldn’t check in to our hut until 3pm, so after arriving at 9am we sat in a lovely air-conditioned cafe for hours whilst I tried to not chunder in public.
Anyway, we are now a day on and both our stomachs are feeling stronger, if a little empty. We’ve been to some Wat’s (temples), and had some lovely fresh French toast, fruit and veggie burgers (it’s probably just association but we’ve both been repulsed by Thai food smells since we’ve been ill).
Chiang Mai is absolutely wonderful. The air is clear, it’s so chilled and lovely, and everything is within walking distance. I saw a HUGE moth that looked like a leaf (and I’m annoyed I didn’t take a photo of it), there’s a lizard that lives in our bathroom, and there are so many beautiful birds which we can hear in the mornings from our hut. It seems there’s also a resident wood pigeon which sits on our roof at 5am and kindly acts as our alarm clock.
Our “travelling” so far seems to resemble a food tour of Southeast Asia, which I’m absolutely fine with. We had bagels for breakfast at Bagel House (not very Thai, but still slowly getting back into it after being ill); and an incredible grill spread for lunch at Lert Ros, with sweet crispy fried pork, a whole grilled Tilapia (fish), stir fried veggies and steamed rice.
Of course, in between eating we wonder the streets and markets of Chiang Mai (shade hopping). It’s absolutely fascinating to see how the locals live their lives; they’re so creative, and sociable, and so grateful for life. For a population living off what we (as westerners) see as so little, their resourcefulness, selflessness and complete lack of material greed is one to be admired. I feel I can learn a lot from this culture.
Today is without doubt going to resonate with me as one of the best days of my life. I spent the day feeding, washing and touching elephants. Elephant Jungle Sanctuary is a sustainable eco-tourism project; against the common tourism practices of riding and trekking, and home to 30 formerly mistreated elephants. They aim for a future where elephants are not ridden, poached, overworked or abused, and are treated with care, love and respect. The elephants are owned by the Karen people, so we wore traditional Karen clothing, which was familiar to them. Feeding them was fun, but I actually think I could just watch them close up for days and not get bored. It was genuinely magical. I learnt a few interesting facts about elephants too: they can hold up to 4 litres of water in their trunk; they replace their teeth 6 times in their lifetime, they’re very good swimmers, and can live to 80-100 years, but significantly less when they’re overworked.
I’ve loved every moment of being in Chiang Mai (after the wobbly start obviously). We’re off to Pai tomorrow, then back to Chiang Mai for two more nights before heading up to Chiang Rai.