Chiang mai, the infamous jewel of Northern Thailand, the place where my trip felt more of a holiday, as our hostel Deejays had a swimming pool and hammock clad garden area, which hosted regular BBQs and live bands. The swimming pool was the first port of call after checking in, diving into cold salty water never felt so good, I attempted to begin the process of getting a tan, which so far I was failing miserably.
Here was the place where Johnny and I met Sammy, a cute lad from Leeds, and Tina a cool Aussie chick. After the usual introductions I learnt that Sammy had come from his year long stint in Australia and Tina had recently begun her 6 year worldwide trip. I spent a lot of time over the next few weeks with these guys.
First off, it is very easy to spend money here, the large night bazaar saw to that, offering cheap jewels, clothes and fried ice-cream, covered by a ceiling of brightly coloured lanterns.
unluckily a forgotten travel card PIN number prevented me from spending too much money..at least for a few hours until I was handing over 2400 baht (about £38) for a fun filled day ziplining through the jungle with Tina and her friend Simon.
After a hearty breakfast of scrambled egg on toast, followed by fresh mango, pineapple and melon covered in yoghurt we began our bus journey speeding up a mountain surrounded by jungle, eventually arriving at the top for a very brief health and safety talk and to be fitted Into our harnesses. The view was breathtaking, standing on a large decked area looking down on the jungle, spotting the zip-lining landings in the distance. After a short walk, passing a house-sized golden temple (in the jungle?!) we were ready to zipline! All the way back down and round the mountain we sped, as the playful guides swung us, made the line bounce and occasionally zip lined with us, the views were amazing as was the feeling of speeding through the jungle, swatting giant bugs out the way and attempting to get an action shot selfie as I whipped through the trees. The scariest part was the 40 foot abseil that we did face down. You just had to trust the rope, harness and guide as you leapt off the platform, facing the jungle floor which seemed so far away, where a Chinese family stood at the bottom laughing as I screamed for my life. Actually, reflecting back, the scariest part of my day was finding a giant wasp crawling it’s way out of my shorts..it’s a good job I was harnessed onto the tree, else I would have jumped off the platform for screaming and flapping around.
Biking was also on the cards for Chiang Mai, we attempted to follow the Lonely Planet bicycle guide but ended up going our own way, visiting several beautiful temples, which by the end of the day had all blurred into one big giant temple. We spent several minutes deciding whether or not to go into one temple due to the 4 monks sitting and seemingly praying, we noted that they hadn’t moved once during the duration of our decision making, at first we were impressed by their ability in sitting so still, but then we started to question if they were actually real. I took the plunge and slowly walked into the temple, which resulted in me bursting out with laughter as I realised the monks were just lifelike statues. FYI they were very lifelike. Tina did not believe me at first and remained at the door to the temple, after a few minutes of me prancing around in front of the ‘monks’ she realised it was safe to enter.
We also found a small school, where the young children were on lunch break watching cartoons and dancing around, we were able to walk straight in and chat with the kids, who were all very keen to practice their English and introduce themselves. It was hard to leave, but the next stop was a massage by a blind man.. This was a strange experience. The Thai massage itself was quite painful, and not the most relaxing as my guy seemed to loudly clear his throat every few minutes. Johnny was on the bed next to me, similarly feeling slightly awkward and in pain, we were pushed and pulled into a variety of positions and left feeling bruised, deciding we needed a cold beer and a shower.
Whilst in Chiang Mai I did not go out to the ‘proper’ bars, instead wanting a relaxing few evenings, this did not always go to plan. The hostel bar awarded free tequila shots to the first 5 people dancing, Johnny was first up, and I quickly followed, the rest is a blur. From rocking out to the band, who were SO good, seemingly playing covers of all my favourite songs, dancing with the local bar staff, being asked to do the bar maids hair for her up into bunches like mine, and rocking the infamous salmon dance move; it was a great night, which led to requiring a lazy day by the pool with constant bottles of ice cold water.
Doi Inthanom was the final adventure for me, a national park outside of Chiang Mai, there are a few tours to this park however Johnny, Tina and I hired a car to drive there. Tina took to the wheel and immediately adjusted to the Thai style of driving, which is generally ignoring every rule regarding driving ettiquite and using your horn a lot. The day was packed, involving lots of hiking, climbing waterfalls and mosquitoes. The park is home to the highest point in Thailand, the views unfortunately were not great, due to the smoke from burning season, however it was still pretty incredible being in the clouds, and for the first time in Thailand wearing a thick shirt to keep warm. One temple at the top was under construction, but the other surrounded by hundreds of brightly coloured flowers, a small lake and wooden bridge, it was all very pretty, and smelled beautiful. The waterfalls were flowing, and we were able to climb a dirt path up the side of one, which led us to sitting on the rocks at the top, contemplating the long walk back down. I especially loved the hundreds of purple butterflies which flew round and round in a hurricane like fashion, these were much more favourable than the thousands of ants and spiders also seen that day.
It was a long day, as once back we booked and prepared for our journey to Pai the next day. A place I had only heard good things about, it was time to go get my piece of the Pai, as Johnny, Tina and I hopped onto the dreaded bus speeding back up the windy mountain, a journey where you are advised to bring a sick bag by everyone you meet.