Sunday, April 18, 2010

chiang mai, the adventures continue

after spending thursday totally soaked in the songkran festivities, we'd signed up for a day-long trek for friday. chiang mai is very popular for "jungle trekking" - usually tour packages of various lengths that give you the opportunity to ride elephants, white water raft, hike in the jungle, and visit an indigenous hill tribe. we decided to forgo the overnight/multi-day trek in favour of our own (guest house) beds, but still found we were able to pack a lot of adventuring into a 9-hour day.
we were picked up in the morning by a songthaew, or a red covered pickup truck with bench seating in the back - chiang mai's ubiquitous taxi. after a quick stop at a butterfly farm, we were off to experience the elephants. i was way more nervous than i expected: needless to say, elephants are huge animals. and while we purchased a small bunch of bananas to feed him (/control him?), we are more or less at his mercy. and at one point, our guy wandered off the designated path and tore down a small tree to eat mid-ride. it wasn't until the guide's belated "yah!" yells (elephant-speak for "get the eff back on the path") that he returned to where he was supposed to be. meanwhile, i was freaking out and clinging with sweaty palms to the railings on the seat! nevertheless, we obviously survived and it was an amazing experience.

after the elephants, we trekked through the jungle to a small waterfall where we swam and ate lunch - pad thai wrapped in a banana leaf, mmm delicious. then in the afternoon, we went "white water rafting", which wasn't even, since it's april and the hottest season in thailand, and the river was too low for any white water, let alone rafting. unfortunately, we spent about an hour and half cruising down river and getting stuck on rocks, much to the delight of the hundreds of local thais bathing and relaxing in the river. they didn't hesitate to splash us with some belated songkran celebratory water as we continuously beached our raft on the rocks! oh, lovely.

although the white water rafting was a bit of a failure, our trek also included bamboo rafting which was much more suitable and leisurely for the river's level. we also got to visit with the long neck karen tribe, in their village. our time at the tribal village was brief, but we did get the opportunity for pictures and purchasing some of their handicrafts.

in the evening, despite our total exhaustion (and multitude of bug bites) from the day, we wrangled energy to go see a muay thai fight. totally awesome. not only did we get to see a girl fight and a midget vs a kid fight (among others; and the midget defeated the kid, if you're curious), but the headlining fight was a thai vs a canadian. and the canadian won! we consumed many chang beers and had an excellent time.

yesterday we visited tiger kingdom, which is a tiger sanctuary just outside of chiang mai. here you can visit tigers, and pet them. it was like the cat café, but so much better! i'm not 100% convinced these animals aren't drugged, as one trainer told us they sleep for 20 hours a day ... errmm really?? but they are treated properly, so that counts for something. my favourites were definitely the baby tigers - 8 weeks old! they cuddled in our lap, and i didn't want to leave.

but, speaking of leaving, our time in chiang mai is coming to a close. tomorrow, we're catching a flight to phnom penh, cambodia for a change of scenery. i apologize for the absence of our own pictures, accompanied by the tedious length of this post! we haven't had the opportunity to upload any of our pics yet, so you'll just have to enjoy my stolen internet illustrations.

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