Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Elephant Trek, Chiang Mai

Continuing on with our adventures on Chiang Mai....

This was such an amazing day I won't even apologise for the amount of photos in this post. So many good ones I couldn't choose! On our third day in Chiang Mai we booked an elephant trek with Blue Elephant Tours. It was such an amazing experience & I highly recommend the company. They have so many different tours to choose from and not just with elephants. You can truly explore the wonders of Thailand with them. I would certainly book something again with them if I ever get to go back. Our tour guide was called Mae & she was hilarious. Such good fun & full of information.

What I was most pleased about was that Mae was our photographer for the day - she took my camera & captured the whole of this incredible experience for us. I was so worried about not getting pictures of us with the elephants (since it will probably be the one & only time we get to do it!) but I could not be more in love with these pictures!

We began the day by being picked up from our hotel by Mae at 6am! She took us to the morning market so we could buy breakfast & a ton of bananas for our elephants. It was thrilling to be up early & experience the buzz of the early market.

Once we got to the sanctuary were the elephants we we ate our breakfast of sticky rice, fried chicken & fruit then changed into our Mahout outfits (you can see in the pictures).
Before we got to interact with the elephants we had to do a bit of training! Our instructor was called Mr Bobby. He taught us how to command the elephant in Thai so that once we were riding them we could lead them. This would normally be very scary to me - it was like being in school again - but everyone was having such a laugh it didn't matter how bad you were at it. You can see below Sam having to say instructions allowed to the whole class until he got it right!

This is our group learning how to get onto the elephant & yelling instructions.

Beautiful scenery for our trek!


Once we'd done a long trek around the incredible landscape, up small hills and through the river we got off ready to give them a scrub & a bath! Notice the whole time I'm barefoot. I gave up wearing my flip-flops (silly idea in the first place) but I'd 100% go barefoot every time. It felt so amazing on the elephants skin & I could easily pretend we were in some wild jungle, befriended a lovely elephant & were off on a huge adventure. SO fun!

Giving the elephant a bath in the river was brilliant. We had these natural scrubbing brushes and they seemed to love every minute of it. We all just forgot ourselves for a moment & joined these incredible animals in the water. I was totally in love.

Then it was time to get back on to ride back into camp.


But not before falling off the elephant when he wanted to get back down for another bath! (Thanks for saving me Mr Bobby!)


An unforgettable day that was so full of joy. A memory etched so clearly in my mind & a tick off my bucket list!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Our second destination was Chiang Mai and most definitely one of my favourite places. So much to do, see & we made some very special memories over the 5 days we were here. We stayed at the Ruen Come In which was another recommendation we found on trip advisor. The buildings are all completely made from teak and has been in the same family for years. It felt like a really personal space & only consisted of 3 suites and 2 deluxe rooms. They had a restaurant on site which we ate in one night. It was delicious! We would have gone again except because of our short time there we wanted to experience as much as we could.

Plenty of time was spent playing in the pool. The weather was too hot & humid to sunbathe so this water was so welcome after a long day of exploring. 
The area we stayed in was easy enough to get around. Unlike Bangkok the public transport is not as accessible. They mainly use tuk-tuks or taxis or you can hire scooters to get around. However, many of the activities we planned in Chiang Mai included 'pick up from your hotel' so we were really fortunate. Worth checking if pick up is included in any activities you do - it really made a difference. Saying that, its not too expensive to get the taxis or tuk-tuks so you'd be ok either way, it just helps when you don't need to think about how you're getting places because it's already arranged for you.

On the first night of our arrival we went to the Sunday Market. They also have one on a saturday but it was our only chance to visit since we were leaving before the next weekend. It was so amazing. It went for miles & miles. Much of the same stuff being sold but such beautiful things. Lots of food & drink on offer too. We tried lots of different little nibbles for our dinner that night. I wish I'd spent longer there and bought a few things but I guess it's just an excuse to try and get back one day. I recommended getting to the weekend market if you're visiting - it's worth it.

One of the days we went exploring we visited the Wat Phra Doi Suthep. The temple on the mountain. People say you can't tell people you've been to Chiang Mai unless you visit this temple. It was only about a 20-30 minute drive from the place we were staying so we figured why not. 
There are 300 steps to climb to get to the top & you can see it a bit in the photo above but don't let that put you off. You can take your time & it doesn't take as long as you might think. Even in the humid heat we had we did it without a struggle (and none of us are fit!) but if you're still not convinced there is a cable car that can take you up.

Around by the steps before you go up there are many vendors trying to sell you things but you can find the same sort of thing elsewhere in Thailand so I would wait; since it's such a tourist spot the prices are not as cheap. 
Once you're at the top there lots to see. You get a really experience of Thai culture and religion. Lots of gold everywhere and beautiful decor. You need to cover your legs and have something over your shoulders if you're a woman when you go into the main temple but everywhere else you'd be fine. If you forget or the weather is too hot for something long you can borrow cover ups from a stall.

We really enjoyed exploring this temple. There was a lot to look at & you can also buy drinks & snacks when you're there so don't worry about getting dehydrated or hungry. 
The temple is worth visiting just for the view of Chiang Mai that you get. We went on a foggy day but it was still great seeing how far up you had come. 

We stopped on the way home (after our waterfall swim! more on that in another post!) to grab some lunch! Good ol' Thai noodle soup! The best places to eat were the ones that didn't look that great so it's worth braving it & going somewhere that wouldn't necessarily be your first choice. We always had good experiences.

Below are pictures from the gardens in the temple.