There were so many options of places to visit in Thailand it was hard to decide on what we wanted to do. We finally decided on visiting Chiang Mai for 6 days during our trip. We picked Chiang Mai because of the location, the proximity to excursions we wanted to do and also because of the history and culture. We took a short flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on Bangkok Air, which was extremely accommodating, and arrived at our first hotel, The Rim Resort.
The first hotel we stayed in was super cute. They had a beautiful pool in the center courtyard with amazing flowers and vegetation surrounding it. We decided to venture out the first night to see the city. What surprised me most about Chiang Mai was how busy and populated it was. My impression was it would be a smaller, more rural area. Chiang Mai is a mini bustling city. The streets are lined with restaurants, coffee shops, retail stores and massage parlors. There are also a good number of temples mixed in throughout the city. We found a super cute vegetarian restaurant that night for dinner and took a little walk around.
Our first full day was the excursion I was most excited about, the elephant camp. The place we went to was called BaanChang Elephant Camp. All of the elephants there had been rescued from log pulling, circuses and private owners. The first thing I noticed when we got to interact with the elephants by feeding them was how intelligent they are. I had bundles of bananas that I was feeding to different elephants and if I was hiding some the elephant I was feeding would not put them into his mouth until I had given them all to him. He just stood there looking at me like “I know you have more and I want them.” I know there are tons of people who are against elephant riding and think it is unfair treatment. The place we went to did allow us to ride them. At first I wasn’t sure about this but after spending the morning getting to know the animals and seeing them interact I was excited. These elephants were extremely happy and living in great conditions. People ride horses every day. They don’t just ride horses; they push them to their limits. Elephants are SO much bigger than horses, ours didn’t even seem to notice us sitting on top of him. The handlers were not aggressive with the elephants; they didn’t control them with a whip or a chain. We learned a few commands and the elephants responded to us as we rode them. They are such intelligent animals, if they were uncomfortable in any way we would have known. After a short ride, we took them to a small lake and gave them a bath. This was my favorite part. The elephants were so happy to be playing in the water and loved being washed. My elephant thought it was funny to suck up water into his trunk and shoot it all over me, I was not as amused. Overall, it was such an incredible experience and I am so happy we did it.
The next day we had a trekking and river rafting excursion. We drove up into the mountains and arrived at a base camp where we met our guide. We set out on a beautiful hike up to a waterfall. Our guide was so knowledgeable about the surrounding area and the nature of the jungle. He would randomly stop, grab a piece of bamboo and his machete and make something with it. He made me a ring and also a coffee mug. He taught us all about the different plants and insects, our own discovery channel adventure. After our trek, we went back to the camp for lunch and then set off for rafting. After a safety chat and demo we were split into groups and assigned rafting leaders. Derek and I ended up having our raft guide to ourselves. The rapids weren’t super big and crazy but there were definitely parts that got me a little nervous. We made it down the river in about 2 hours with no wipeouts. Our guide was awesome and made me feel very comfortable the whole time.
It is at this point in our journey when things took a little downward spiral. On our ride back, I was feeling really nauseous. I thought maybe I was just tired and dehydrated and once we got back I would be okay. When we arrived back into our hotel I laid down in bed and must have fallen asleep. The next thing I knew I was sprinting to the bathroom, you all can imagine why. I seemed to have come down with food poisoning. The experience was not pleasant. Being in a strange place and not in your own bed makes sickness feel worse. The next morning, I was still feeling bad and could tell I had a fever and was super dehydrated. My loving husband took me to a local hospital down the street. Our experience there was wonderful. I was in and out in 40 minutes which is unheard of in the US. I was sent home with antibiotics, fluids and some other medicines for my symptoms. The whole visit only cost $60
This day was a transition day to a new hotel which ended up being a good thing because shortly after we arrived at our new hotel, Derek started experiencing symptoms as well. We spent the next 24 hours in bed trying to keep ourselves hydrated and as fed as possible. This hotel was a little bit outside the city in a less busy area. It was called Sibsan Resort and it was also lovely. The only problem we had there were all the mosquitos at night. We would spray our door area with bug spray before opening it, trying to prevent them from getting into our room.
Despite the minor sickness setback, couple bonding is what I like to think of it as, we continued to enjoy our time in Chiang Mai. We explored the city, saw the many temples, tried to eat some of the food and also enjoyed the very inexpensive Thai massages. We took a private tour to Chiang Rai where we saw the White Temple, one of the coolest things I have ever seen. On this tour, we also took a boat ride to the Golden Triangle where there used to be a huge opium drug trade. Our guide told us all kinds of stories about the history of Thailand and what daily life is like for many different people there. What I found so interesting was that he practiced his English by watching American movies with Thai subtitles. He had quite the movie collection. After this adventurous part of our trip we were certainly ready for the island life. Our next stop was Koh Samui and that is coming up next week!