Wild Card: Chiang Mai Time!

My trip to Thailand was AMAZING! Everything that I expected and everything that I didn't expect. We were there for a total of 7 nights and spent an extra 2-3 days in traveling, including the 11/12 hour time difference. The travel/jet lag was crazy but I adjusted quickly in Chiang Mai when compared to the week to readjust back home (especially because I started a new job the following Monday - fun). 

We left Thursday morning, March 10th, and arrived Friday evening, March 11th, to a beautiful family-owned boutique hotel called the Oriental Siam Resort, which was about 15-20 from downtown Chiang Mai. The resort was such a nice a retreat and solace filled with much greenery and nature as compared to the busy city. Pongsri, the owner, was very sweet and helpful during our stay, as well as the staff. She made our stay very delightful and offered many tours, activities, and a personal driver to take as opposed to flagging down taxis. Life saver! And the complimentary breakfast offered was SO GOOD lol. If you're ever in Chiang Mai, be sure to check out this resort!

Saturday, March 12th, was filled with much fun and adventure. After a trip to the local mall to kill time, we headed to the main attractions with the help of a tour operator called Travel Hub Chiang Mai (affordable and locally driven = best of both worlds). We drove up the mountain to visit the Doi Suthep Temple that overlooked Chiang Mai city. Afterwards, we went to the Kantoke venue for dinner and a traditional Thai Dance show. The food was delicious and the show was a sight to see. I couldn't stop asking for more fried bananas lol. And of course I had a tasty drink (I believe it was a Mai Tai)! I must say, I wasn't as flexible as I once thought. Sitting indian style while eating was a little uncomfortable. I felt like I had arthritis in my knees lol. 

Sunday, March 13th. We traveled about three hours to Chiang Rai to visit the hot springs, Wat Rong Khum (the White Temple), and the Golden Triangle. Leaving at 7:30am and not getting to Chiang Rai until around 11am was an experience. The ride was daunting, I can’t lie lol. We stopped to the hot spring then headed to Wat Rong Khun, the White temple. AMAZING! The temple and surrounding art were beautiful and completely overcompensated for being nearly 105 degrees outside (lol). After the temple and lunch, we headed to the Golden Triangle, the point where Thailand, Myanmar, and Laos intersects across the river. It was pretty cool standing in one location and being able to see three different countries all on the same horizon. I wish we could’ve taken the boat ride to Laos and Myanmar to see what they had to offer, but time didn’t permit. The 4 hour drive back to our hotel in Chiang Mai during a slight storm cut the day short. But even still, the sights that we did get to see were pretty nice.

Monday March 14th. We decided to get a driver to take us to a couple places instead of doing an organized tour on this day. We got a driver and went to the Tiger Kingdom, Monkey Center, Bai-Orchid and Butterfly Farm, and the Chiang Mai Night Safari. Honestly, the orchid/butterfly farm was the highlight of the day, especially considering I’ve never been the kind of woman that loves flowers. The orchids were so beautiful and vibrant and the butterfly farm section was fun. I spent close to an hour taking in everything and trying to sneak close up pictures of the butterflies. I was a total paparazzi and fan girl lol. Unexpectedly, seeing the other animals and taking pictures were very conflicting for me. I felt pretty iffy about them. I heard about the Tiger Kingdom and did some research of my own about claims of drugged tigers. I got mixed reviews so I still decided to go and check it out for myself. The tigers didn’t seem drugged but then again they weren’t in their natural habitat so I don't know. It was odd, but not more odd than the Monkey Center. OMG. The driver told us about it and we were like, “hey, we like monkeys, why not.” It wasn’t until after we took pictures that we realized that not only were all of the monkeys (macaques) on leashes, they were also tied to trees on short leashes. Then there was a “show.” Deep sigh. It was clearly a circus show where the macaques did tricks for donations. One of the tricks was where the macaque was put on a long leash (the rest were on short leashes about 3 feet long) and was sent to climbed a tree to retrieve a coconut to bring back down to the owner. The macaques couldn’t even climb trees on their free will. I wanted to leave after 10 minutes. Lastly, I thought the night safari was going to be so much fun! It was ok… I guess. The animals were caged in small enclosures and some were the only of their species. I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t want to see a large zoo. I already knew how I felt about elephants (I’ll touch on that further down this post) but from this day, I gathered that I love seeing nature and flowers, much more than I thought before, and the only way I’d be satisfied by seeing wild animals is in their respective natural habitats or in a sanctuary.    

Tuesday, March 15th. We headed to Doi Inthanon National Park/The Royal Project research Station (the highest mountain in Chiang Mai), the Angkha Nature Trail, and the Chedi’s of the King & Queen. So I’ve never gone hiking, done nature trails, anything like that. The older I’ve gotten, the more my interest has increased. I knew I wanted to go on nature trails and waterfalls but had no idea what to expect, if I was fit enough to reach the high points or what kind of pesky insects I’d encounter lol. I was optimistic and really enjoyed myself at the Royal Project research station and the Angkha Nature Trial. Afterwards we headed to the Chedi’s of the King & Queen. Great sights and stunning gardens. My mom had a field day here, as she LOVES flowers and gardens lol. My favorite part of this day was actually ditching my parents to climb the waterfalls with Rhun (or tour guide). I made it pretty far up and back down fine, whilst my parents stayed at the bottom worrying about my well-being (haha). Pretty funny! I realized how daring and adventurous I can be on my own that day lol.

Wednesday, March 16th. We went to the Elephant Nature Park and the Night Bazaar. OMG. The best part/day of the trip! If you remember in one of my prior posts, one of the main purposes in going to Thailand, specifically Chiang Mai was because of the Elephant Nature Park (ENP). I’ve always wanted to visit an elephant sanctuary and it was well worth the time, money, trip, etc. On the bus ride to the sanctuary, we watched a 20 min video of elephant abuse involved in the performing, logging, trekking, and riding industries. Elephant riding is actually detrimental to the elephants back and is known to cause them pain and deformities. Even during the planning stage of this trip, I was sure there would be no riding so this video wasn’t a shock to me. Once we got to the ENP, everything just felt right. The elephants seemed happy and fulfilled, especially seeing that most were injured when they were 'working' (logging or performance). We fed and bathed the elephants, helping them to be at ease again but some elephants were still afraid of humans so we had to keep our distance, as recommended by our guide. The overall experience at the ENP was the favorite part of my trip. I didn’t want to leave lol. After the ENP we headed home for dinner and then went to the Night Bazaar. I heard great things and was excited to see the hype about the market. It was pretty fun, lots of vendors and street food available! Everyone was right, the street food was AWESOME! Lord lol. 

Thursday, March 17th. We went to the Asia Scenic Cooking Class and the Tazala SpaOur instructor, Juno, at the cooking class was pretty great and lively. He was very funny and informative, walking us through each of our meals from explaining the differences between the plants/ingredients, to taking us to the market for our supplies, and coaching each of us through the processes of our meals. Had a blast with the whole group! By the end, I was so full by all the food we made (6 meals!). Afterwards, we headed to a local Thai spa a few blocks from our hotel called the Tazala Spa. We each got the a combo that included a foot massage, an original Thai massage, and aroma oil massage with a herbal compress heading. Let me tell yall! It was PAINFUL!!! – in a somewhat pleasurable way, kinda like the pain you get when you work out. Of the 2 hours, the hour long Thai massage was a struggle lol. My bones were cracking throughout. It caught me off guard because I didn’t know what to expect at all lol. I’ve had fully body massages but those were nothing like the Thai Massage. I definitely had to tell my masseuse to stop a few times (haha). But I’ll admit it, I felt great afterwards, like a lot or tensions had been relieved, and I felt way more mellow and leveled-out. Everyone should try it… once in a while lol.

Friday, March 18th. Time to head out :( I wasn’t quite ready to go home but I was satisfied with the trip. I did everything I wanted except for ziplining and the ATVs (it was just way too hot on that day and I was pretty drained).

Overall, I had fun and the trip was a success. I thought I would gain a lust for traveling on this trip but that was not the case. That lust was already there, but I mostly gained a sense of individuality in traveling by myself and doing solo trips. I like the fact that I pretty much did what I wanted. Although company is always welcomed, it’s not necessarily needed. Memories can be made as long as you’re open to try new things and meet new people.  I like how I’m getting more comfortable with and perfectly capable of going places and doing activities by myself. If you open yourself to new experiences, the gains are almost always greater than expected. I met some cool people in Chiang Mai and the best part was that they looked different, spoke different languages, and had different walks of life and interests, but we were still there at the same place at the same time. Just plain ole' good vibes. Now the only question is, “Where to next?”