I fell off my elephant!
14.06.2010 - 20.06.2010 38 °C
Well, I'm not quite sure what all the fuss is about concerning Chiang Mai!
After an uneventful 12-hour train journey from Bangkok, I arrived at this 'mecca' of tourist travel. While waiting at the station in Bangkok, I saw a man steal money from a Buddhist monk who was saying prayers for people who were stopping to give him food and money - he won't get to heaven now will he. On the train, the 'stewardess' served us a lunch of spicy chicken rice - the stuff that makes your lips go numb. That's the most action my lips have had in a while.
The mountains around Chiang Mai are quite spectacular. On Wednesday, I spent a whole day at the Thai Elephant Home which is a rescue place for mistreated elephants - much more ethical than some of the other 'farms' where the elephants put on shows - eeugh. Kimi, a young Japanese girl, and I were given our own elephant and taught how to ride them bareback. We each had our own Mahout who was really giving the orders. We climbed into the jungle and had lunch at the top of a mountain, looking down into a beautiful valley. It was as I was getting off my beast, ready for lunch, that I fell off! Not very far, but I hurt my wrist and we all had a good laugh. After lunch, the elephants had a play in black mud and then we walked slowly back down to the river. We then swam with the elephants which was fantastic and they seemed to have a great time too. A wonderful day and a fantastic place to support in its efforts to save these abused animals.
I've spent a lot of time walking around the city, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Just about every nation seems to be represented here and it's a great place to be if you want a massage (of any sort), tacky souvenirs or a route out to all points of the compass. I got copies made of the CD of photos given to me at the Elephant Home yesterday and then booked a day at a Cookery School for Friday. Bought some contact lenses for a mere ten pounds and carried on walking, fending off the tuk-tuk drivers who are very persistent. Business is pretty bad at present as the tourists do seem to have stayed out of Thailand to a certain degree.
Had a great day with Andy and Caroline, Julia and two other young Germans at the Cookery School. After walking to the local (REAL) market, we started our wok adventures and managed to cook seven different dishes during the day. None of us could manage the last one, so we took it home for supper. We were all presented with a Recipe Book which I will surely use when I get back. Did you know that rubbing whole tumeric on a mosquito bite stops it itching?
After all my walking over the past few days, I treated myself to an hour's foot massage - bliss. I've decided that I am now all templed out until I get to Laos. There is not enough water in the rivers so I have also postponed my white-water rafting experience!
My last Chiang Mai adventure was to spend four hours on a quad bike, trailing off-road to the top of yet another mountain (1500m) at Mae Rim. Singh, our leader was great - so supportive of the Korean girl who was pretty scared and her boyfriend was a pain. So, the four of us had a fantastic ride up through local tribal villages until we reached the viewpoint with absolutely fabulous views down into the valleys around Chiang Mai. The village people don't look too happy, perhaps because the economy is in a pretty bad state - petrol has tripled in price but the price for their goods hasn't increaded. A little while ago, the King dictated that they stop growing opium and grow cabbages instead - not so much money I'm guessing! On our way up the mountain, we stopped at a roadside cafe and tried rice whiskey - my driving seemed to improve after that.
When we finally got back to base, Singh took up for lunch to Tiger Kingdom - not my idea but it was fantastic to see the tigers up close and personal. When we were there, the Prime Minister was visiting and the place was swarming with police and special agents, some with riot shields and all the gear. As we left the restaurant, a huge Mercedes was parked out front and I joked to Singh that this was our car as it had VIP on the screen. The driver laughed and asked if I wanted to get in - Singh blanched!! The PM is certainly not a popular guy, especially around Chiang Mai which is Taksin's home town. People are worried about what's going to happen when the King dies as the Prince is apparently a waster. Got back to hotel to find that bus to Chiang Khong had mistakenly been booked for the wrong day - never mind - off to Laos tomorrow for my trip down the Mekong.