After an epic and somewhat messy 48 hours in the Thai jungle, getting back to civilisation, showers, western toilets – and of course WIFI – was a much-needed luxury! Upon our arrival in the city of Chiang Mai, it wasn’t long before I jumped into the pool in the lovely Lai-Thai guest house and spent the rest of the day lounging in the sun.
After a western style dinner – which our hungover arses were all craving – some more temple exploring was the first thing on the agenda the next day.
The 45 minute taxi journey to the Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep temple was another example of a literal uphill struggle, 1676 metres above sea level! I’m not usually one to get travel sick, but even I felt nauseous; the mixture of rain and seeing a few vehicles not make it to the top of the hill didn’t exactly help my nerves. My legs were uncontrollably shaking, I thought there was something wrong with me, but I believe it was just my body adjusting to being so high up! Thankfully, the beauty of this Buddhist temple was absolutely breathtaking, although it would’ve been made better by being able to see the rest of the city from such a high altitude – but it was too foggy! It was a lovely place though, the temple was like another little community; with a market selling lots of little gifts and trinkets – t-shirts, scarves, ornaments, postcards – you name it.
The next activity of the day required many hours of ethical debate – and against the wishes of my mum – myself and a few others in the group decided to visit Tiger Kingdom. Some of my friends back home seemed quite mad at me for doing this, and I was a little mad at myself because the ethics are extremely questionable. However I don’t regret it, as I’ve wanted to get up close and personal with tigers for years; and every experience you have, whether it’s good or bad, is an experience never the less. So in I went, into an enclosed space with humungous tigers who were just laying down and didn’t really have the faintest idea what was going on. I admit that was quite an uncomfortable experience, which is why I enjoyed seeing the tiger cubs so much more! The babies were fully aware and engaging, they played with you, crawled over you like puppies and kittens; they were the best snuggle buddies you could possibly ask for. All the tigers, big and small were absolutely stunning; I knew there was a reason why these beautiful creatures are my favourites.
Playing with the baby tigers was such a wonderful experience; they were just so adorable! I can’t explain how it made me feel – but I felt all fuzzy and warm inside for days afterwards. I don’t think I would visit a place like this again, but I’m pleased I got to do it once – and despite the harsh words of people who didn’t agree with my choice, I’m glad I made the choice without being swayed by what others would think and stood up for myself.
After such an excitable day, a drink (or several) was definitely in order. A trip to the salon for a pedicure with a few of the girls was followed by a lovely meal with the group, and a trip to the famous Chiang Mai Night Bazaar. By now, I felt like I was an absolute pro at haggling, however it seemed that asking for 2 pairs of elephant pants for 250 baht when the original price was 350 was probably a little steep (oops). Anyway, after we’d had enough of shopping, ended up getting lost, giving up and getting a tuk tuk instead, we headed out to paint the town red. The club we went to, which I believe was called Spice or Spicy club (?), was ABSOLUTELY BANGING! The music and vibe was just amazing, I had the best time; danced the night away with my pals, watched as my lad friends attempted to pull lady boys, saw a ladyboy fight, and I attempted to down half a bucket of what can only be described as 25% mixer and 75% alcohol. I did quite well with my attempted downage but I had to give up in the end as it tasted SO grim. In typical British fashion, we ended the night in McDonalds, and rolled into the hotel at 6am. It was such a funny night, even writing this post two months on I’m still giggling at the things that went on that night.
As you can imagine, I was extremely hungover the next morning; but when you’re traveling on an organised group tour, you can’t just spend a hungover day in bed watching endless episodes of your fave TV show, there’s always something else to do. That day, it was White Water Rafting. If you’re anything like I was and don’t really know what White Water Rafting is, I can only describe it as being similar to the water rapid rides in Thorpe Park, Universal or any similar theme park; except you’re controlling the boats yourselves and you’re in a real rapid river!
I literally did not know what to expect, but like every activity I blindly signed up for on this trip, I fricking LOVED it! It was absolutely unreal! In simple terms, you’re in what is basically an inflatable boat, with about 4 or 5 other people, each with a rowing paddle. You have to follow the commands of your instructor, such as “stop”, “paddle forward”, “paddle backwards”, “over left”, “over right”, “down” and “up”. For example, when you’re about to go down a slope where the river rapids were fast, you’d have to get down, keeping your arms and legs inside the boat. Those moments were so epic, it really felt like I was on a theme park ride!
Unfortunately, not everyone in the group had as much fun as I did; one of the boats turned over, causing a few of the gang to get stuck under water – including one of the girls who doesn’t know how to swim! I really felt for them, it must have been so frightening. I’m really proud of them though, they were so brave and didn’t let that experience stop them from doing other adrenaline full activities over the course of the trip.
The rafting took every last bit of energy out of me, which made me appreciate the Thai massage I had that evening even more. I’d never had a massage before, so being in Thailand where an hour massage costs the equivalent of £4 seemed like a great time to start. I have to say, that massage was absolutely phenomenal! Being pulled, cracked and stretched in all sorts of positions, as well as being gently rubbed all over felt like being in heaven! (I didn’t mean for that sentence to sound as dirty and innuendo-filled as it came out)
The following morning saw our time in Chiang Mai draw to a close. Including the time we spent in the jungle, the week spent in Chiang Mai felt more like several – as there was SO much packed into such a short space of time. I felt like I did more in a week than I’ve done in 6 months. I felt sad saying goodbye to this vibrant & cultural city, which felt like a more chilled out version of Bangkok, I loved it so much!
Thank you Chiang Mai, you taught me;
- that you can do as much or as little as you please in the time you have
- how to immerse myself into new cultures
- that seat belts (or even seats) are not required in all vehicles, and speed limits are to be ignored
- how to use a squat toilet
- to always have hand sanitizer and tissues in your possession
- failing on the previous point; drip drying is okay
Bye bye Chiang Mai, until next time…next stop, Ayutthaya!