We caught a taxi into town the next morning, sad but with a bunch of awesome memories of our time in Chiang Rai. We got to the bus station about half an hour early ( That would be my fault… !) so we decided to get some beers from the little bus station store, and sat drinking them in the morning sun while we waited which was pretty nice!
We got the VIP bus which took 3 hours, and cost 288 baht ( about $10). The bus was super comfortable, with huge seats and snacks and water served to us throughout the journey.
When we arrived in Chiang Mai we were actually surprised that the air quality was a lot worse. Very noticeable! We got a taxi to out hotel – Le Meridien Chiang Mai. The hotel is situated in perfect position, right in the middle of all the action Chiang Mai is famous for- the Night Bazaar.
We got upgraded to a one bedroom suite which was gorgeous!
AND with a killer bathtub-
BUT was a smoking room- with the smoke outside and the stink of smoke inside, we were grateful to be able to change rooms the next day to the same room but in a non-smoking floor.
The hotel itself had a very impressive, cavournous lobby, a great restaurant where we had the brilliant buffet breakfast, and a really nice, rooftop pool. They have a club lounge, which would have had great views if not for the smoke! But a great range of canapés at night, and a pretty good range of beers, wine, spirits and cocktails served. Yay cocktails!
The first night there after the club we went out to the Sunday walking markets, which were great and abuzz and strangely enough, at night, you couldn’t notice the smoke. I picked up a beautiful hill tribe made bracelet, before catching a taxi to the Night bBazaar.
Here, I got an amaaazing foot massage for half an hour while Ryan- still pretty turned off the whole massage thing- started playing a dart balloon game which turned out to be super frustratingly addictive! Let’s just say that it was not the last time we played ( and lost) the game during our stay!
The next morning when we woke up we swapped rooms, had some breakfast, looked outside and decided to have an inside day until the darkness came to disguise the smoke. Our lungs were feeling it even from the few hours we had spent outside the night before.
The afternoon and evening was pretty much modeled on the day before- afternoon tea, which turned into evening canapés and drinks in the club, before we headed out into the night Bazaar, drinking some beers, playing that damn dart game, scouring the stalls and generally soaking up the atmosphere. I also managed to have Ryan get another massage which he loved! HALLELUJAH!
We also bought tickets in the market for an all day tour for the next day which we were pretty excited about. The tour was all-inclusive, a little on the expensive side, but included seeing an elephant show and riding an elephant, with lots more promised.
We were picked up pretty early, and to be perfectly honest, we were not feeling so great after a certain level of alcohol intake the night before, so the hour long bus ride out of Chiang Mai with a particularly loud cell phone talker right behind us was not enjoyed to its full capacity.
We felt a lot better once we got to Maesa Elephant camp. We got there just in time to snag prime seats for the show, where we saw the elephants dance, play soccor and best of all – Paint. It was amazing.
As an animal lover I must say that I was a little nervous about going to the camp. I had heard different things about how well the animals are treated, but I loved it. The animals looked super healthy, and seemed for all intents and purposes to be treated really well.
The Mahouts did carry sticks with some kind of spike on the end, but I didn’t see one actually used on an animal once. This might sound naïve, but it really looked like the animals were enjoying themselves, showing off and playing for us. And the painting. Just astounding. This is one of the elephants painting:
And this is one of the results, of which we are not the proud owners!
After the show, we went for a ride on a cart pulled by oxes, which was pretty much the least impressive and least fun part of the day.
BUT! Then we got to ride an elephant through the forest and through the river which was pretty great.
After the ride, we all got on several rustic looking rafts, and floated down the river for about 40 minutes. It wasn’t exciting, or extraordinarily beautifl, but It was super relaxing and peaceful.
When we got back to the main part of the camp, we had some lunch which was a pretty big buffet spread of stews and meats etc, before our guide asked us what we wanted to do for the rest of the day.
Now, the tour we had paid for had us going straight from the elephant camp to the nearby Orchid and Butterfly Farm, but our guide was a dude, so he gave us an alternative.
He told the group that they could split up, and if you still wanted to go the the orchid farm, that was cool, but if you wanted to go to the Tiger Kingdom instead, that was also an option. Everyone said Tiger Kingdom, except one couple, who after sight hesitation, the husband said, yes, Tiger Kingdom.
At this point, the Guide paused, looked at the man’s wife and said, “Are you sure? Because I know you really love orchids and you were looking forward to it!”
The husband said “No, we want to go to the Tiger Kingdom” and the wife just looked down. Pretty sad.
So we all went to the Tiger Kingdom, where we had the choice of getting a photo with a baby tiger, a medium or a big ol tiger. We chose the baby, and we were led into this little compound where lots of little baby tigers were, well, sleeping. We got our photos, slightly uncomfortably because our ‘guide’ kept on telling us to hold up the sleeping tiger’s paws and make rawr faces.
There was one baby tiger that was wide awake and playing, and we asked to go over to it, but we were denied. Hmph.
The other tigers were waking up as we walked around ( apparently they sleep all day in the heat and wake up around late afternoon) and some of them were very big, and very scary behind not much fencing.
We saw some tiny little babies as well!
Later on, we read online that there have been some kind of attacks there, so even though we felt relatively safe, I’d say go at your own risk!
Next up, thanks to our dude of a guide, we took a quick 20 minute visit to the Orchid farm. Thank god, because we all felt so badly for that lady! So, the Orchid Farm. It was pretty. Some of the orchids looked like they had faces. That’s pretty much all I can say.
Finally, back to the hotel, exhausted but really happy. The tour was definitely a highlight of the trip so far, and we had collected our first piece of art together! Drawn by Suda the elephant.
We ended our Chiang Mai stint by going for a swim in the romantic smokey evening, which apart from the obvious, I loved, because the pool had fountains and spa bits and dips and all the silly things pools don’t really need!
Afterward we had some drinks and some food in the club, and had one last go at that damn darts game. We lost. Again.
Next stop: Bangkok Round 2!