Chiang Mai-Take 1

I left you all after my delicious breakfast of chicken asses in Sukhothai. Later that day we once again piled into tuk-tuks and went to get a bus to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand and the hub for most travelling in the North of Thailand. It was supposed to be a 5 hour bus trip to get there so we all climbed aboard and settled down for another long trip. In the end it turned out to be more like 6 and a half hours and we didn’t stop for food so I was starving by the time we got there.

We were unlucky as the north of Thailand is covered in a thick cloud of smoke at this time of year. The farmers are burning the dry rice fields to prepare for the rainy season and the next crop. As a consequence visibility was reduced to around 500 meters which really sucked. It also didn’t make for the most pleasant breathing experience.

Once we got into Chiang Mai and after the unavoidable haggling with the taxi drivers we headed over to the hostel that my Italian friends had picked. It seemed nice but was slightly above my price range so I went in search of more affordable lodgings. I ended up staying in a great guest-house called Smile House 1 which had a nice vibe and a pool. I met up with my friends after we had settled in and we went in search of the riverside bar to have a few drinks.

Banana pancakes!
Banana pancakes!

The city seemed a bit dead and we later found out that it was an election weekend so sale of alcohol was restricted. My quest for a party was once again foiled and it was a pity to be in town on a day like that but at least we got some sleep! We finally found the riverside bar after a few missteps and had a nice beer watching the river and listening to yet another Thai cover band.

The plan for the next day was to rent some scooters and go do some exploring around the city. Though we had planned to leave early, we were somewhat delayed by my search for a place to do laundry. Once the smelly clothes were dealt with, I rented a scooter at Tony’s Big Bikes and met up with my Italian posse and we headed in search of the Mae Sa Elephant Camps.

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The drive over was uneventful and I ended up leading the group successfully to the elephants. Elephants are very impressive creatures when seen up close. there was a baby elephant that was a few weeks old and already weighed about as much as I do. We took some pictures and I got hugged by one of the animals. They have really rough skin on their trunks but can be really delicate, it was comforting and terrifying at the same time! We also saw a show in which elephants played football, danced, played harmonicas and did other activities which I’m sure they also do in the wild. 🙂

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After getting our fill of pachyderms we went to see the nearby waterfalls. As this is the dry season, all the waterfalls I’ve seen in Thailand were underwhelming. This was no exception but it was a decent hike up to the top. I was sweating as if I had jumped into the waterfall by the end and my twisted ankle was starting to give me hell so we stopped briefly to dip our feet in a pool. Ok, I admit it, I was the only one that dipped my feet but I really needed it!

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We then got on our scooters and rode back to town. The evening was uneventful and consisted of more drinks by the river. There was a big market in town as it was a Sunday but I didn’t really feel like being stuck in a mass of people for hours so I just stayed in my room and blogged. It was still election time so there wasn’t much to do.

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I had decided to rent a bigger bike on the next day and head out to Pai and possibly do a bit of the Mae Hong Son loop. This is a 1000 km circuit that has over 3800 curves and is supposed to be heavenly for bikers. As my Italian friends were carrying suitcases they couldn’t do the same plan so they decided to rent a car and we would meet up there in Pai. Check in next time for my adventures getting lost in flaming forests and how I almost emigrated to Myanmar by mistake!