Sunday, July 08, 2007

Thailand - Chiang Mai

We arrived in Chiang Mai after a long and uncomfortable 12 hour bus journey. We checked into a cheap hotel near the city centre and checked out what we could do here. There were many options for tourists but we decided that it was time to learn something. We enroled on a Thai cookery course and a Thai massage course. In the afternoon we catch up on some well needed sleep and then make our way to the Night Bazaar. The night market is really interesting and huge. with people selling all sorts of stuff. However tempted we opt not buy anything, thinking on the weight of our bags and having to cart the items the whole way home overland... At least that theory works the first day...let's see if it lasts.

The cookery course starts early in the morning at a location just outside the city. During the day we cook 6 different dishes (soups, curries, spring rolls, salads, desserts). I also learnt to carve vegetables! When we are not cooking, we are stuffing our faces... The whole day is a real success and very enjoyable with the teachers and the other people in the course.

The next day was also an early start as we made our way to the Jera massage school. We had booked to do 2 different massage courses. Nuria took one to learn the art of Thai massage while I spent the day learning about reflexology and massaging feet. It was a long day and a lot to take in but well worth it. Apparently it just takes practice, so it looks like Nuria's feet will benefit for the restof the trip!

Chiang Mai is far from the hecticness of Bangkok and we are enjoying the more laid back attitude here. There are many tour operators offering jungle tours into the surrounding hills, so we opt to do a one day adventure. We leave the city around 8am and head 1.5h north where we reach an elephant camp. From there we climb on top of these huge elephants and ride 1 hour through the jungle. Progress was slow however, as these creatures eat almost constantly. I was sitting on the neck, so was constanlty being hit by the huge ears and it's trunk sprayed me with mud as it searched for the bananas we had. A fun ride though. After disembarking from the elephants, we hiked a short distance and then made a river crossing via a cage attached to an aerial runway. The van collected us on the other side and we were driven to the start of the short trek. We hiked for about 2hours through the dense jungle in extreme heat and humidity. I don't remember sweating that much in a long time. We stopped at a hut for a traditional dish of Pad Thai noodles and then plodded on. After walking through some difficult terrain over boulders and across streams we finally made it to a large waterfall and rock pool. Desperatly longing to cool off we all jumped in and splashed around. After thism refreshing break we heading back down the path we had come up. After 5 minutes it was tempting to just turn around and go back to the waterfall again. We then drove down to a white water rafting station and donned life vests and helmets and took a crash course on how to navigate a class 4 rapid. It was a rough ride down the river for about 1h, but exhilarating. After pulling in we exchanged the rubber dingys for the old style Thai bamboo rafts. We then continued the journey another 20 minutes downstream on these, almost ha;f submerged in the water. That night we returned to Chiang Mai utterly exhausted, but happy with our action packed day.

The following day is to be our last day in Chiang Mai, so we decide to take it easy and sort out a few things. Then we hire a moped and cruise the city for the remainder of the day. Of course we get lost but have a great time and see places we would otherwise have missed. That evening we make a final visit to the Night Markets and buy some stuff. Afterwards we meet up with a few German girls from the jungle tour, have a few beers and watch a live band in the Heaven Beach bar.