I wanted to visit some waterfalls but I was given some interesting insight on that. For starters you have to pay $100 baht or more to get into them (ridiculous!) and I was told they are nothing compared to what we have in the states and that the water isn't as clean as what we have in the states, sadly. I couldn't wrap my head around the idea of having to pay to see a waterfall. It kind of took the beauty out of it and made it feel like more of a man made sight. Can the Oregonians out there imagine paying to see Multnomah falls!? Or any of the other less visited waterfalls in our area? Unless I'm paying to go into a state park or national park I'm not okay with paying to just see a waterfall.
There turned out to be several things I ended up experiencing in this fun city. More attractions then I imagined myself visiting.
* I went swimming in a salt water pool across the highway from Ralph's house on a Sunday morning after breakfast. It was $130 baht to get in and the pool was surrounded by a botanical garden. Much to my surprise the place was empty. I thought that was strange for a weekend. It was nice to swim laps in a large empty pool with a the gardens surrounding me.
* There is a popular Sunday artisan market from 4pm to midnight in the old city on the walking street. It's best to get there early to avoid the large crowds later. It was the best market I've seen in all of Thailand. Even better then Bangkok's largest market. I only bought a tank top and a pair of earrings spending a total of $5 usd. I bought some food to try as well and met up with Shelly (the friend I met in krabi who is from Australia) and another traveler, Joy (from L.A). We walked the market and didn't even have a chance to complete it before rain hit the city.
While most everyone took shelter and a lot of vendors quickly packed up or just covered their goods, we continued to walk the streets. I am an Oregonian and that's what we are supposed to do, right? Tough out the rain!?
* Cooking school was an experience I wish I had done in Bali too. I know better now. When in low cost countries with good cuisine, take a cooking school! They are fun, you usually get a cookbook with what you made in it as well as eating all the great food you make. Thai Farm cooking school picked Shelly, Joy and I up along with some other students who signed up and were staying at other locations. We went to a local market where they showed us curry powders and the process of making coconut creams. We walked around on our own for 10 min and then headed to the organic farm. We walked thru their gardens and picked some ingredients for our recipes.
The class ended at 3 or 3:30 and we cooked and ate off and on right up to the end. I even brought food home with me because I couldn't finish eating what I made. The instructor we had was very bubbly and the entire course was just very organized and impressive. I hear there are lots of great cooking schools in this small city but I'm happy I selected this one.
* Open mic night at boys blues club down the road from Shelly's hostel was that same night. I knew someone who was going to sing that night as he does once a week. He offered to give me a ride home after, if I wanted to stay in the city longer. I took him up on it but Shelly, Joy and I wanted to support him so we went to watch. He showed up around 9:30/10pm with a bottle of rum to help us all enjoy the night better. I didn't have any and he had most of it but shared with some of his other friends. The girls and I were there from 9pm tell 12:30am when the bands finally warped it up. By this time he was pretty drunk and I was exhausted.
I didn't know how to drive home without direction to the house I was staying at but he did. I was feeling to tired to drive but was on the fence to drive because of his drunken state. He told me he was fine to drive but if I felt un easy at any time he'd pull over and let me drive. I was okay with that. I felt I was making a bad choice and looking back on it, I did. I should have drove from the start. I thought several times on the drive home that anything could happen and a bad accident was HIGHLY possible that night.
I kept my hand on his shoulder talking to him and trying to keep him awake as he swerved into other lanes. I'd tell him what he was doing and his response was that he was in fact changing lanes.
When he had changed lanes earlier he was using the blinker.
He'd drive down the white line in the middle of the road and I'd make him aware of this. His response was, he had the entire road to do as he pleased as there was no one in front of him and no one behind him. He would drive over 100mph at times and then slow it way down.
It was scary!
I asked him several times to pull over and let me drive, I was awake now without question. He wouldn't pull over he obviously didn't remember telling me he would when we left the music venue. He told me while he was driving that he was really drunk and he also told me how he was actually quite good at driving drunk.
We somehow made it home where he had some water and passed out. I was really upset with him but felt like I was in a very bad situation to say anything as he had been so nice generous towards me up until this point.
I'm not a supporter of drunk driving at all. My cousin was killed by a drunk driver, leaving her 1yr old daughter (at the time) without a mother. I have never been a passenger in the car of a drink driver but after this experience I'm a firm believe in no drunk driving. The obvious should be stated, he could have killed myself and himself or anyone on or near the road that night.
I worry about him doing it again in the future.
I never said anything to him. I didn't know what to say even though I was furious for the behavior but I was at fault as well for getting in the car with him.
There's more to the end of this story, obviously but out of respect for others I'm going to end it here. I felt it was good to mention part of it in the blog to bring some awareness to drunk driving.
* Joy and a few others from the hostel went to Tiger Kingdom with me. I looked into reviews to make sure I wasn't going to a place that took poor care of their animals. I didn't want one of the rumored, "drugged tigers" places either.
This was a far shot from being anything close to a drugged tiger place. The trainers were so nice and playful with the tigers. The tigers were playful back and seemed to be in a very happy place, not drugged but well taken care of. I paid to have 15 minutes with the large tigers and another 15 with the small (not smallest) tigers. The time seemed perfect. It actually seemed to be longer then that. We each had some cuddle time with the tigers and before I left I walked around the other animal habitats and found that they have an albino tiger, lion and a itty bitty baby tigers that can't be out with the public yet. It was so cheap to see these guys and be close to them! I paid $25 for this adventure, Cheap I thought for what the US would probably charge for this.
* The 3D art museum or Art in Paradise as they call it here was SO much fun! Not only was the art fascinating but the photo opportunities were endless! Shelly and I went to this together and spent 2 to 3 hours taking photos of each other and having lots of good laughs. I was asked silently by a monk to sit with him for a photo.
And I took my clothes off for the first and probably the only time in a museum I order to better pose for a photo!
Shelly and I also worked together with two non English speaking couples to make a few of these photos possible.
It was fun and challenging working with non English speakers as a team to complete these photos.
* I knew I wanted to play with elephants while in Thailand and in the Chiang Mai area there are a lot of elephant camps. Some are just about making a profit and others are focused on caring for the animals. The elephants in Thailand used to be used for logging but it's not allowed anymore. Again this was another tour I needed to put some research into. I found a few company's I liked and ended up going with Ran-Tong Elephant save & rescue center. Shelly, Joy, and 3 other guys from the hostel joined me.
When we pulled into the elephant park the morning of our tour 2 of the large magnificent creatures walked right up to our van door to check us out. They were very curious and not afraid. It was a greeting that I wasn't expecting! I got out and pet them while they sniffed me.the moohoots (spelling is wrong but that's how it's pronounced) gave us clothes to change into. These guys are the elephant trainers and they work with the animals so much that they are often considered the owners of the elephants.
The change of clothes was an excellent idea, especially since one of the 4 elephants we had for the day was into throwing dirt onto himself. They do this to cool them selves down but also as sun screen for their skin.
He was the only 1 who needed his moohoot to lead him so that he wouldn't take off on his own.
The day started out with 2 of us pairing up with an elephant getting on it and walking to the water hole. To get on the elephant we waited for the moohoot to say a command to the elephant so it would kneel down. Then we climbed aboard, bare back. Dave, a guy from Canada was my elephant ridding partner.
We walked a ways arriving to the watering hole where the elephant again kneeled down for us to get off. The water seemed to be the place where their personalities really showed thru. A few of them tipped us off into the water and then they submerged them selves in it by laying on their sides. At one point a snout suddenly appeared at my side and I had NO idea there was even an elephant underwater near me! We had bowls to splash the elephants with (bathe them) and that quickly turned into a giant water fight between the moohoot's, elephants and us. A water fight can quickly become the best water fight ever when elephants are involved.
We rode them out of the water after an hour or so up to their shelter on a hillside. Ridding the elephants in a pack of 4 was funny! They each had a mind if their own and with their slow walk it was like racing on turtles! Some elephants would muscle each other off the path so others could pass. One elephant kept stopping with his people still on him and he'd squat down and run his butt on the dirt to relive an itch. The passengers holding on as they felt themselves slipping off! It was funny!
At the end if our day we had lunch provided for us. A delicious northern Thai dish called khao Soi and some watermelon.
We fed the elephants our left over watermelon and took some pictures with them now that we were off their backs and changed back into our clothes. It was a really fun day! They have 2 day and even a week long experience with the elephants where you can stay in a cabin on the property. If I ever get the chance to do this again I'll consider the 2 day to a week option. It was that good of a tour.
OH! And guess what, we got a flat tire on our way back to the hostel! It wasn't as bad as the flat tire in Australia but it sure reminded me of it. Luckily we were near a 7/11 so while the driver fixed it we all went in to enjoy the AC of the mini mart and have some magnum ice cream bars!
* A girl (Charlotte) from the hostel had heard about a Prisoners Thai massage and good reviews on it! She had been trying to talk me into doing it with her for a few days. I finally said yes and so did 7 others! So 9 of us set off on foot in search of the prisoners massage facility inside the old city. It was behind the 3 kings statue and museum. It was a nice place, not a prison at all but they were already booked for the day. Clearly this place was popular.
We were told we could go down the street a block to the ex prisoners massage building (women on parole) for the same price.
So we did. When all 9 of us walked in at once the ladies were surprised and counted us off as entered thru the door.
It was a traditional Thai massage for $5.53. We were each given outfits, similar to scrubs but a but heavier and brought into a room with 10 beds, floor fans and dim lights overhead. It was like a slumber party when we all entered in our pajama like outfits. And when we all arrived together at the hitting/ karate chop portion of the massage the room was filled with our giggles. We felt bad for the person in 10th bed who wasn't with our group.
After the massage we were given tea in the lobby, took a group photo and headed back to the hostel.
* I ended up moving to a different couch surfing host home with 4 days left in my Chiang Mai visit. Carol, the sugar glider lady had emailed me. She wanted to get together to visit and suggested I just come stay with her the rest of my time in town. I thought that was a brilliant idea so off I went. The best choice I could have made. I felt like she was an old friend or even a family member, right away. I was very comfortable with her and when she picked me up she had one of the sugar gliders in a pouch hanging around her neck. I inquired about the pouch and she gave it to me to hang around my neck. She said it's be good for it to get to know my smell and get used to me.
Russell, Sandrine & their daughter Lilly were already staying with carol as couch surfers from Europe and had claimed the spare bed room. I was fine with the couch though, it looked much cooler to sleep on at night.
Sandrine had dental appointments every evening so I went into town a few times with them. Carol and I went to a costco/ cash and carry like store called Makro one day. When we were about to check out a couple approached us to ask how this store worked. If it was a membership place or what it was. This turned into a longer conversation and ended in friends for life! They are a couple from Utah in their 50's who took early retirement, sold everything and now travel the world. I new I liked them before I even knew this about them. We exchanged contact info before partying ways.
Dee & James are the two from
Utah. They are house sitting for a lady they found on the internet. She lives in Chiang Mai and needed a house sitter for 4 months. After this they may be in San Diego house sitting for another party.
They offered to pick me up the day after we met and let me explore the city with them for the day. They had only been in Chiang Mai for two days. I took their offer. We went to a temple with a great view of the city and into the old city from there.
I showed them the prison massage place and they took me to lunch and we found a pub that they see going to the next morning to watch a MMA fight on tv. James is a professional MMA fighter and jujutsu athlete. Dee showed me a video of James training a girl in Utah. He's impressive. They are a really fun couple!
*Chiang Mai was a beautiful place. A smaller city then Bangkok with slightly cooler temperatures. Lots of activities to keep me busy and places to explore for days. Museums and the old city to see as well as great markets during all hours and days of the week.
From all the places I have been so far in Thailand, Riley beach (the beach with the penis shrines, behind Riley was even better!), Ko Tao, and Chiang Mai have been my favorite places.
Thailand, I'll come explore you again when the weather is cooler. I should have listened to those who warned me. Nov. - feb. is the right time to come to SE Asia, not late spring early sumner.