Chiang Mai, Thailand
After an 8 hour trip, I finally got off the bus in Bangkok near the ever so famous Khaosan Road and immediately get hounded by so called taxi drivers. “Taxi? where you go? what you want? You like massage? Suits? Sexy time?” Anyone that has been to Bangkok knows what I’m talking about. My response was, chill bro! First of all that’s weird. Second of all, right now all I need is a water and my hostel.
I got in late so I arrived at my hostel and called it a night. Thanks to the introduction by the world traveler Carey Youmans, I met up with a few of her friends that happened to be in Bangkok as well. The next morning the four of us took a bus three hours north of Bangkok to Khao Yai National park for a two day jungle trek. We got to our jungle guide’s house and packed a hiking bag full of gear (hammock, mosquito net, rope, some snacks and eating utensils). Once we got to the jungle we met our park ranger who would be taking the journey with us. His name was Tiger (yes like the animal). This man literally fought a tiger, and won, so I felt pretty safe (ask me about the story sometime, it’s pretty wild). Our crew consisted of the three girls, myself, our tour guide Roo, and Tiger.
We trekked through the jungle for about four hours up to a point high on the rocks that overlooked the surrounding area. Keep in mind, when I say jungle I’m talking about 1,200 square miles of pure trees, hills, streams and wildlife. It is not quite the high season so we didn’t get to see any animals on the way up. But, once we got to the top we saw a flock of toucans flying from one side of the jungle to their tree on the other. We got to the top when it was starting to get dark out so we set up camp while Roo and Tiger got the campfire going for dinner.
Tiger on the left, Roo on the right
tied the hammocks up to some trees for our bed
Luckily we had no rain that night but I still woke up several times each hour – maybe due to the fact we were in hammocks in trees in the middle of the jungle- who knows. We got an early start the next morning and headed back down the mountain in hopes of seeing some wildlife. Some of the animals that are in the jungle are bear, deer, gibbons, elephants, wild pigs, civet cats and tigers. Along the way Tiger was stopping and what seemed to be sniffing out our next path. He knew the jungle like the back of his hand, it really was amazing. Despite the heat we got lucky and saw a handful of gibbons on the way down! Although we didn’t see much wildlife, seeing the gibbons in their natural habitat was 10 times cooler than seeing every single animal in a controlled location at a zoo. We also stopped by the Haew Suwat Waterfall before heading back to Bangkok. Fun fact of the day- the water fall that we went to was used in the film The Beach. It is the waterfall that Leonardo DiCaprio jumps into.
Chiang Mai is similar to the city of Bangkok, but much less crazy and crowded. It is known for its night markets where you could buy pretty much anything you can think of from food to clothes to souvenirs. It’s also home to more than 100 temples, of which we only made it to a handful. All of them were gorgeous and unique in their own way.
The highlight of Chiang Mai for me and I was spending a day at the elephant park. Thailand is full of thousands of elephants, and unfortunately many of them are abused and treated terribly. We found an awesome place that takes really good care of the elephants there. They do not breed any on site, they are all rescued elephants that they take in and train from day 1. They are also a non profit organization which you don’t find too often out here.
We spent an entire day with the elephants, and split it up into four sessions: feeding, training, riding, and bathing. Some of the elephants were a little bit better behaved than others, which is why we spent time getting to know them in the morning. When elephants eat they are happy, and when you are the ones that are giving them that food, they remember you.