After hot and sweaty Bangkok and spending a few nights in a brothel (unknown to us until we put all of the pieces together), we landed in Chiang Mai and immediately loved the weather. It was cool and dry in the mountainous north of Thailand…. Okay, mountainous seems like an exaggeration, after going to the Himalayas in Nepal my standards for “mountainous” have been elevated a bit. But it was still really nice.
We booked the hostel next door to Alvin and Jennifer’s hotel, which turned out to be quite nice (especially compared to the brothel in Bangkok! … “hmm, why is there this random green light bulb over our door?”)
Our first day we rented bicycles to explore the city. And of course the four of us managed to find a bar with beer pong! Rick and I got sounded beat in both matches.
The next day we decided to expand our exploration and rent a motorbike. We came across Tiger Kingdom, and were skeptical about actually going to play with tigers… were they drugged? Mistreated? We did an elephant trekking activity in Chitwan Park, Nepal and were so saddened by how the animals were treated that we couldn’t even finish it. We did not want to support something like that again. But we went by the Tiger place, and they invited us in to just look around and see if we liked it before we bought tickets or anything. We were really relieved to see that the cats were actually playing and running around. I’m not going to say it was the best conditions ever, or an ideal thing, but they looked a heck of a lot happier than most tigers you see in a zoo. So we decided to go in and play with the tigers and it was pretty cool!! Yeah, so we played with tigers – what else can you say about that?!
After the tigers, we went on to explore the countryside around Chiang Mai. It was so fun to drive the curvy roads through the mountains. We visited a hill tribe village, where there were no westerns tourists. Beautiful views and the best strawberries we’ve ever had! They had really cool terraced gardens all around.
We wound our way back with our jackets on – it got quite cold on the bike!
Our next day was even better, thanks to Alvin and Jennifer for booking a whitewater rafting trip for us! But first Alvin cashed in on a bet he won against Rick… Rick’s lack of accuracy in the carnival shooting game cost him – Alvin got to pick one thing that Rick had to eat. Alvin was pretty kind, all things considered that he had to choose from at the roadside market. That’s a deep fried chicken head. Rick said it was surprisingly delicious.
We had so much fun. And how often is it that you get to raft by elephants in the river?! We also got a special surprise at the end of the trip. As we were pulling up to the side of the river to get out, a random guy was there bathing… well, we’ll say bathing, but really it seemed like he was just hanging out naked on the shore of the river right where the rafts were coming in. We named him Steve. And inviting “Steve” to our activity for the day became a running joke.
While in Chiang Mai we explored some of the many waterfalls. We found one river that had 10 “levels” of waterfalls over the course of a couple of kilometers.
We spent or last day in Chiang Mai hiking the trail up the back way to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Which also passes another smaller Buddhist temple. It was a fun little hike that ends in the little neighborhood the monks live in. Both temples had a bunch of awesome statues.