Chiang Mai has proven to be more beautiful, less smelly and less pushy than Bangkok (according to myself and Katie). There is also so much to do here. Our hostel has a pool, which we have spent time relaxing next to, there are lots of tours, and the city has so many nice shops and restaurants.
Our first tour was awesome, and well worth the $30 that it cost. We got picked up first thing in the morning by a taxi (more like a bus), and we met 7 other travellers who we would spend the day with. First stop: elephant rides! After over an hour of driving, we arrived in a forest of winding roads, and we could spot the elephants in the distance. They didn’t even look like they were being kept there, it looked more like they were in their natural setting, just hanging out. Katie and I shared an elephant, and sat in a bench-like seat on top of the elephant. The mahout sat directly on the elephants neck and seemed to be talking to the elephant in Thai the entire ride. Our elephant was quite lazy and often needed to rest for a minute or two before climbing a hill. He also didn’t seem to partake in the regular elephant activity, like spraying water or mud on his passengers or eating leaves along the way. We decided maybe he was maladjusted and was in training to learn the ways of the elephant. Near the end of the ride, our mahout asked me if I wanted to switch places with him so of course I said yes! My legs were wrapped around his head and when he wasn’t using his ears to fan himself, they were firmly pressing against my legs. So I felt pretty secure.
After our elephant ride, we were driven a little ways to our trek. We walked for an hour through the jungle towards a water fall. I said to Katie several times that it felt like we were in a movie… we were surrounded by bamboo that shot up into the sky, Tarzan-like vines hanging from trees, a stream below us and foliage that was greener than anything I have seen (the photos don’t do it justice). Our tour guide was also quite hilarious since he was constantly telling jokes in his broken English and then would say ‘I’m just joking, I’m just joking.’ We finally arrived at the waterfall and had half an hour to swim and cool off.
Sadly there are not any photos for the last activities we did… we went white water rafting (not too extreme but still fun). For most of it, it was more of a lazy river, where we were able to jump in the water and float alongside the raft. We did go down several sets of rapids and got caught on many rocks along the way. My favourite part of it was floating by a village, where the shore was lined with bamboo huts, where lots of children and families were relaxing or playing in the water. Lots of people waved as we went by, and the kids seemed to like to come up to us, splash us, and laugh. They seemed excited to see us coming through and it was awesome to see how the people spent their down down, relaxing by the river. After the raft, we got onto a bamboo raft, and the ‘leader’ swam behind and pushed us along. We both agreed this was the best day we have had so far and will be looking for more day long tours!