September 11, 2017
So…remember how I said I was on my way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai via sleeper train? Well, I got no sleep…like absolutely ZERO. I’m a pretty picky sleeper and I’d gotten a good amount of sleep the night before so I wasn’t exhausted. I also need like silence and stillness when I sleep and that just wasn’t happening in a rickety ass train. It doesn’t help that the lights in the cabin didn’t dim or darken at all, it was light the whole time. The sun started to come up around 6am and the train attendant lady started to wake everyone up yelling “orange juice, orange juice”. I finally stopped trying to sleep around 6:30am and instead checked out the view outside. It was so beautiful, the Thailand landscape. So green, so lush, so amazing.
The lady again asked me if I wanted anything. I said “no” because I’d brought a cup-of-noodle and the train food was overpriced. Last night she asked me and Josh if we wanted coffee or tea, I said tea thinking that it was at least included. Well it wasn’t. She also asked if I wanted hot water. She told Josh it was 50 bhat. When she came back with Josh & me’s cup-of-noodle with hot water in it, she demanded 60 bhat. It’s so annoying because these people try to squeeze every little cent from you. I didn’t argue and just gave her the damn 60 bhat for hot water & tea. When I wanted a refill, I asked her if it cost and she said “free” with an annoyed face. I think she was annoyed because Josh & I didn’t want to buy anything from her, unlike the other backpackers/foreigners on the train so she scammed us.
Anyways, we (me, Liv, & Josh) finally go to Chiang Mai around 9am and got a red truck (their form of cab) to our hostel, Stamps Backpackers. We heard a lot of good things about this place from a few people from the hostel we stayed at previously. After dropping our bags off, we wandered around the town to kinda get our bearings. Plus, we didn’t really have a plan of attack for our first day. There are a lot of temples in the town of Chiang Mai, so we checked out a few of them, ate some lunch, and Josh & Liv booked the same elephant tour as me. We got authentic Thai massages from a community at a temple (Wat) for pretty cheap and really took it easy for the rest of the day.
A cool thing about our hostel, Stamps Backpackers, is that they have an activities board filled with everything from Elephant parks, to cooking classes, and day trips. It’s a really awesome way to get things booked and find other people who want to go with you. We signed up for the 9pm LadyBoy cabaret show, something that the staff raved about. When it was time to leave there were a huge group of people, like around 20-30, mobbing to this LadyBoy show. I can see why everyone loved it–it was pretty fucking awesome. You could tell that the LadyBoys were really enjoying themselves, they were hitting all the moves in their 9 inch heels, their lip singing (to songs by Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Madonna) was not the best because obviously they’re not fluent in English but it added to the hilariousness of it.
After the cabaret show we all headed out as a hostel to Zoe in the Yellow, a local bar where most of the backpackers party. It was really fun, but Liv, Josh and I didn’t drink that much since we knew we had to wake up early for the elephants and we learned the first time at the Floating Markets not to drink if we had to wake up early in the morning. So after a little we headed back to prepare for the next morning.
Sept 12, 2017
It was an early morning for the 3 of us. We were told our bus would be here anywhere from 6:30-7am so we got down in the lobby at 6:30, but naturally they got there at little passed 7. The transportation here is pretty cool, it’s basically a pick up truck converted into a van, with seats on the bed and a cover up top and on the sides. I sat in the back with these 4 girls from Washington. After about an hour we arrived at the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (Camp 6). We had to change into these shirts, which were authentic, traditional Karen garb. Apparently, it’s better for the elephants, who meet new people every day, to feel some familiarity and comfortable.
The first activity was feeding them. We took some bananas, elephant’s equivalent of chocolate, and were taught how to feed them properly. The best part was that they had a 5 month old baby elephant, who was so tiny and so cuuuuute! After about an hour of feeding them bananas and sugar cane, we changed into our swimsuits to give the elephants a mud bath. There was this huge mud pit that the elephants just immediately laid down in. Our job was to get them as muddy as possible. So we threw a whole bunch of mud on them and the guys doing the tour started throwing mud on us….sooo…basically…MUDDDD FIGHT!! After we were muddy and dirty, we made our way to the stream where we were given buckets to throw water on the elephants to wash them off. Again, the elephants immediately submerged their whole body in the water. It was a cool thing to watch and a great experience.
Elephant’s are so gentle, majestic, and amazing creatures to experience up close. It’s important that, when in Thailand, you visit an elephant sanctuary. Most often tourists are suckered in to going to a place where elephants are forced to give you rides. This isn’t the best for them, since they’re almost always tortured, mistreated, and forced into giving tourists rides. The elephants in the sanctuary are rescued from these unfortunate circumstances and instead are used to educate people and give them a different experience.
After we finished washing the elephants, they prepared us a delicious Thai meal. Then we were taken back home. Instead of riding in the bed of the truck, I instead rode in the front seat. The driver was really talkative and chatted with me the whole time about Thailand and Chiang Mai. It was a nice conversation, although the language barrier made it a little hard to understand him.
Once back at the hostel, I was fiending for a workout. I asked the staff at the hostel if there was a gym, they pointed me to the best one. I walked about a mile to it and worked out for about an hour and a half to 2 hours. A guy that was staying at the hostel ended up there as well, and we took a red truck back to the hostel together. It felt good to workout, I feel like I need to stick with my routine as long as possible. After a nice shower, I met up with Liv and Josh again. We headed to the Night Bazaar where we ate some good street food, picked up some souvenirs, and wandered around aimlessly among the thousands of stalls. We had to rush back to the hostel because it said on the activities board that there was a bar crawling event at 8:30 and we made it at 8:45 and they hadn’t left yet. In fact, we wouldn’t leave for 45 more minutes, until 9:30. This was a hostel tactic to get you to drink more alcohol at their bar. This hostel was different than NapPark, in that, you were not allowed to bring/buy your own alcohol outside of the hostel. You could only drink the alcohol that was provided at the bar. So, me being a cheap/efficient drinker, decided to take shots of the cheapest thing on their menu, this thing they call a “Black Cock”. This is actually the name of the drink, a rice type whisky that has a banana after taste. I think I had about 3 or 4 shots of that before we headed out.
The first stop was this Oasis bar, a rooftop bar. We were the only people here, which was pretty cool. It was a different bar, which I appreciated and I had good conversation with some of the people from our hostel. After this bar we headed to Zoe in the Yellow again, and this time I could fully enjoy myself. After a few shots of tequilla and lots of dancing, the bar ended up closing at 12am. Apparently, its the curfew in Thailand and most places aren’t supposed to stay open passed 12. Well, we ended up going to this place called Spicy, an illegal, underground club that costs entry to get in (but I guess you get a free drink so it evens out). Liv and I had a fun time, but the music wasn’t all that great. I also cut up my feet because people broke some beer bottles and we were wearing flip flops. When we’d finally had our fill, Liv and I headed home around 2:30am.
Sept 13, 2017
Our dorm room was very quiet this morning. No one woke up until like 10-11am, arguably hungover from the night before. I woke up hungover, but I was able to sleep in. Hearing horror stories from Liv and others from the hostel, it seems like a few people had a long night, puking in the bathroom for 2 hours or woken up from the insanely loud puking happening in their dorm room. Liv was really craving pizza and Josh and I weren’t opposed to that idea, it’d be a good hangover food. We wandered around the streets until we found a cafe that had western food. This food is obviously more expensive than the food we’ve been eating, but it was definitely worth it. Usually, the Thai food we can get on the streets range from 35-60 bhat or $1-$2. At this restaurant we paid 280 bhat each or 8ish dollars.
We went back to the hostel to relax and find others that wanted to go to the Temple on the Mountain or Doi Sumphet with us. It’s better to get a group to go to split the cost of the red truck round trip. We found this couple from the UK, Ben & Rebecca to join us. After about a 40 min drive up the mountain, we finally made it to the temple. We had to walk up TONS of stairs to get to it. Slowly but surely we made it up and were rewarded with an amazing view. This temple is apparently a pretty important temple to the people of Chiang Mai. We hung out here for about an hour before heading back.
On the way back down the daunting stairway there were a few Hmong children dressed in traditional clothing, probably taking pictures with tourists then asking for money. Before I came to Thailand I bought a bunch of erasers from Daiso that were in the shapes of animals and food to give out to kids out here. It was recommended by one of my Tita’s friends who traveled to South America and said she did that for the kids down there. I put a few in my bag and gave them to the kids, a much better gift than money their parent’s probably make them get. Even after giving them one, they slyly asked for me more, as if one wasn’t enough. I only had one eraser left that I gave one of the girls, thinking she wanted it for her brother or something, but she ended up just keeping it.
We were so hot and tired from walking we got a fruit shake to cool us down. The fruit shakes here are so good. They’re fresh, made with real fruit and ice, and only 30-50bhat or $1-2 dollars. The lady who took us up there was waiting for us at 4pm, the time we said we’d meet her back at the car. Once we got back home, I took another shower, a must out here since it’s always hot, humid and you’re constantly sweating. At 6pm at the hostel, they were having a customer appreciation night, which meant free buffalo wings & hot dogs. Since we had such an expensive lunch, we wanted to take advantage of this free food. Unknowingly, I met the owner and told him how hungry I was while waiting for our food. So, when he started to hand out the food he would either tell me first about the food or come back to me to give me seconds LOL! Only after was when I realized he was the owner.
The hostel wanted to go out again as a group but Liv, Josh and I were so hungover from the night before and too tired to go out again. We hung out with them until they headed out and once they did we went upstairs to sleep early.
Sept 14, 2017
After sleeping for a good 10 hours, I finally decided to wake up. Anna, one of the girls in my dorm, recommended this delicious “western” food place called The Hideout, where they serve gourmet sandwiches and salads. We wanted to check it out so me, Liv, and Josh and our two ski bum friends from Jackson Hole ate here. I had this really good, super hot (Thai Spicy) sandwich that was Thai inspired. I wanted this sandwich because it was something I couldn’t get back at home, but it was a mistake since it was so hot I couldn’t eat the second half.
We went back to the hostel to try to see if anyone wanted to go with us to the Grand Canyon. However, we also wanted to do a cooking class and didn’t realize that they picked us up at 3:30. So it was either that or the cooking class and I had heard so many good things about the cooking class we decided to do that. Plus, Josh couldn’t come with us to the Grand Canyon because of his knee, so it was a good thing we picked the cooking class.
Liv, Josh and I and our new friend Fred, who’s actually from the same town as Liv, decided to check out a local market. The Wararot Market was a local market and we were the only foreigners walking around. It was cool to see but very intimidating to try and buy anything. We did it just to try and kill some time before the cooking class people picked us up.
Once back at the hostel, we realized a lot of people from the hostel actually signed up to also attend the cooking class. There was a total of 10 of us. 7 of us squeezed into the back of the truck. Siam Garden Cooking School let us pick from 6 courses what we wanted to cook. They then took us to a local market, where they explained the different ingredients and what courses they would be used in. Then we went back in the truck and drove to the school, this beautiful house with a great garden and TWO THREE MONTH OLD PUPPIES!! I know it’s so bad, but I was more interested in the puppies than learning how to cook. But, how can you not be distracted by a Golden Retreiver puppy and a Beagle puppy?!?? (Don’t judge me, I love puppies).
The first thing we cooked was the soup. I picked boiled rice soup. They showed us how to cook it, then let us eat in it in a nice, air-conditioned room while they prepared the next course. The next course was creating curry paste for the curry of choice. I picked Khao Soi, a dish Chiang Mai was known for. After creating the paste, we prepared the stir fry dish, which I chose Chicken Stir Fry or Gra Pow Gai (being a Thai-food enthusiast, I know the names of the dishes I love most). We cooked our chicken stir fry and curry and ate it in the AC room. The next dish we cooked was the appetizer, I picked chicken salad or Larb Gai. By this time I was getting sooooo fulll!! Of course the portions were really small but it was still a lot of food. Lastly, was the dessert. I of course picked mango sticky rice. The staff was so amazing and funny. Art, a bakla younger guy, shaped the rice into a penis and a vagina, it was so funny! We had a really great time and were so full by the time we got back to the hostel.
We got back later from the cooking class, around 9:30 the time that the bar closes at the hostel. So we all downed a couple of beers/shots (me, Liv, Josh and a few guys from the cooking class plus our Jackson Hole friends) and we headed out for the night. Our first stop was this Fat Elvis place. There were tons of girls from the UK there in their sluttiest outfits, I think thats why the boys wanted to stop. But after a bit I started to get annoyed, mostly because I didn’t know any of the UK songs they were playing and I wanted to go to Zoe before it closed at 12. We finally made our way to Zoe and danced for a bit. We met up with the hostel who ended up going to the LadyBoy show again. Once it hit 12, Liv and I didn’t want to go to Spicy so we ended up going home and sleeping early!
Chiang Mai was amazing and I’m really glad I went to Stamps Hostel. Everyone was so friendly and there were always things to do with people. Right now I’m in Pai, and this freaking blog post took me 2 hours to write. I’ll try my best to keep these up! Stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!!