Our time in Chiang Mai, the Rose of Thailand, was brief, but we got the best out of it. After arriving on our overnight train, we headed to our hotel for breakfast. They had amazing waffles, omelets and vegetable spring rolls.
Then, we did what most people travel to Chiang Mai for – spend some time with elephants! We paid $70 USD, which was a bit pricey, but the place we went was an Elephant Sanctuary that is less cruel to the elephants. They do not have forced riding and try and care for the elephants in the most compassionate way possible.
We then boarded a songthaew – one of the main forms of transportation in Southeast Asia where you sit in the back of a car like a pick-up truck with a roof and sides with 5 people on either side of the flatbed. We rode it for just over an hour until we arrived at the sanctuary. The ride itself was an experience in and of itself – it was symbolic in a sense that I was, in fact, Thailand!
View out of the back of the Songthaew
Upon arriving at the sanctuary, we immediately were impressed by the beauty of the surrounding area.
The smell actually wasn’t that bad, which surprised me because I thought it would be nearly suffocating! We then were asked to make elephant food and break bunches of bananas into individual bananas for us to feed to the elephants.
Our group took turns feeding three of the elephants – it’s amazing how much they can eat! We fed them for nearly an hour and they didn’t stop eating!
We then got to walk the elephants down to the river where we went in to bathe them. By the end of the session, we were literally having water fights with elephants. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
We then put our shoes back on and had lunch before boarding our songthaew back to Chiang Mai. The time in the elephant sanctuary exceeded my expectations, but I was a bit surprised that the elephants had chains around their ankles and it looked like the caretakers were a bit rough with the animals. That being said, the animals are huge animals and definitely need to be controlled while they are around humans. I just don’t have a benchmark to compare their treatment to, so it seemed a bit rough for my liking.
After getting back to our hotel, I went for a quick dip in the pool before heading to take a shower. We then met back up at around 4:00 PM and went to a local food market to meet our instructor for a cooking class. He gave us a brief overview of some of the ingredients we would be using and demonstrated the difference between coconut water, coconut milk and coconut cream. Coconut water is the water that comes out of the coconut, coconut milk is the consistency of cows milk and has more water, and coconut cream is muck thicker than coconut milk and has less water.
We then headed into the countryside of Chiang Mai to our instructor’s house where he built an outdoor cooking school among rice paddies and other beautiful landscapes. It truly was a serene place.
We cooked chicken pad thai, tom yum soup, penang curry & cashew chicken. We also watched our tour guide cook sticky rice for mango sticky rice! As someone who can’t cook, I can honestly say that my food was not only edible, but amazing.
After dinner, we headed back into town for a quick visit to the Night Market – I bought a souvenir elephant to remember my time in this amazing city.
We then went to a Ladyboy Cabaret Show. It was so impressive and you never would know that some of the performers were actually men! There was a Rihanna look-alike that looked like her twin. Even her mannerisms were the same. She brought someone onto the stage and did a whole act with him.
There was also an act where half of a performer’s body was dressed in drag and the other was dressed in man’s clothes. They sang a duet song and switched sides each time the voice changed. It was ridiculously impressive.
After the show, a few of us grabbed a drink at a local outdoor bar before heading back to the hotel. Our time in Chiang Mai was short, but I feel like we accomplished a lot. I definitely need to come back here at some point in my life to explore the city more in depth!