People warned us it would happen. And oh – did it happen!
We both totally fell in love with Chiang Mai!
And how couldn’t we? Chiang Mai is incredible! Is it its amazing temples, elephants, cooking classes, city, or people? Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes! We loved it all.
As you know getting there was a complete disaster (refer to my previous posts). But the moment we stepped into our guesthouse with our full size bathroom with a tub and laid on top of our super comfy beds with comforters (… yah you heard right – COMFORTERS!) We knew 3 days was not going to be enough.
Our first day was set aside for exploring the city and getting a feel for what was around us. In reality, we were trying to find the woman’s prison to get cheap massages (yes – you also heard that right). We spent like 4 hours trying to find the prison and people looked at us like we were crazy when we asked for directions. Apparently, with good reason. The massages weren’t actually at the woman’s prison, but at a training facility where they gave massages under a rehabilitation program – next time we will read closer – and look into the directions a little more.
Anyway, we finally got Thai massages that first night from the ex-prisoners (we never did find the training facility by current prisoners) and they were excellent! The whole time, however, we kept wanting to ask what they did? I decided that mine must have been thief. Pam thought that hers was a protester (really?)
After the massage, we headed to buy Pam some new sandals. Yah that’s right – because hers were stolen while we were getting massaged.
Stop what you are thinking – it was not the ex-prisoners!
After that we met up with Steve and Danielle Jarvis from Kelowna for dinner who were on their honeymoon. I love confirmations like these that we live in such a small world!
The next day, we visited the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. Next to the active volcano I hiked in Guatemala (flash back photo below), this was one of the best experiences of my life.
This sanctuary takes in rescued elephants that were previously used for trekking. They now live on 50 acres and are looked after by a small village in the mountains. We met 7 elephants including a 5 month old and a 3 year old. We fed them, pet them, hugged them and even had a mud bath and river bath with them. The pictures can say far more about the experience than I can – it was simply incredible.
Can you spot the elephants below?
Yes, we do think we are that funny.
Mud bath time!
The next day, we strapped on our aprons and were ready for a day of cooking with Chiang Mai Thai Farm Cooking School. This was another incredible experience made even better by our instructor Ning who called everyone “Honey.”
We learned how to make curry paste from scratch, cook a Thai curry dish, Tom Kaa (our FAVOURITE soup), and Tom Yam (a little bit spicier soup), sweet and sour chicken, cashew chicken, pad thai, spring rolls, banana and coconut milk and mango with sticky rice deserts. It was challenge to eat it all – but I am proud to say that we succeeded!
Needless to say my fitness goals have not currently been met. This will be embarrassing as I told my tailor to expect an improved and slimmer Tori when I returned back to Bangkok in March for my final fitting! Based on the expression he gave – he never thought it was possible anyway. Maybe a cleanse a few days before will help…
ANYWAY, after hanging with elephants and cooking up a Thai storm, we decided that it was time to check out some temples (they are kindof a big deal in Chiang Mai).
Now because I am a Tripadvisor addict, I did a little research about what to see and had it narrowed down to one day! We found ourselves a tuk tuk driver (ours was the bomb) who said he would drive us around the temples for the afternoon.
First stop! Wat Phra That Doi Suthep!
This was an obvious stop which was clear by the elaborate temples and THOUSANDS of people. It was beautiful! In general, I just find Buddhist stuff really cool. And the monks! I don’t know what it is about those guys in orange robes but I just want to know what they are up to and what they are thinking.
In reality, they are probably just thinking “stop lookin at me.”
And man, am I intimidated by the monks! So, we got blessed by a monk at the temple (because frankly, I can use any luck I can get, particularly when it comes to guys at this point). But religious processes always freak me out. I don’t want to make a mistake and offend anyone! Especially the guy putting in the good word for me with the man – whoever he might be – upstairs!
I made Pam go first.
So we dropped to our knees and shuffled on the ground towards him. I am not sure I was doing this right! One guy in front of us was shuffling by moving one leg where I was shuffling on both my knees like I had peg legs. I don’t know.
Then – when I got to the monk, I couldn’t remember the rule about women and the monks. I smiled at him and held out my hand for my blessed string bracelet, and then I shamefully, dropped my head thinking that I am not allowed to look at him. Finally, I went to put my hands together to bow when I left but I couldn’t remember how high my hands should be, so I panicked and just shuffled out as fast as I could.
Then I forgot my water bottle.
So I tried to reach it on the floor with my hand without dropping to my knees again, because you weren’t allowed to step into the temple with your feet. Oh mercy. I was exhausted.
Pam confirmed afterwards, women looking at monks is an issue in Lao not in Thailand. Then I felt like a jerk for not smiling more when I accepted my bracelet. I hope the monk didn’t take my lack of smiles out on the sincerity of his blessing.
Walking around afterwards, we saw another monk blessing where people were pouring water in to cups and the monk sprinkled water on them. I told Pam – I was definitely not ready for all that! I would probably spill the glass all over the temple, or worst yet, the monk!
Next stop – Wat Pha Lat!
So this is a secret temple that I read about on Trip Advisor. I had taken some notes in my phone about how to get to the place and what it was called. There was supposed to be a beautiful hike leaving from around the zoo to the temple. So I was trying to explain this to my driver who had no idea what I was talking about and he would not accept the idea of dropping us off at the zoo. He started walking around to other Thai people telling the name and finally a woman confirmed what and where it was! Yay!
But here’s the thing about Thai people. I am not sure if they walk any sort of distance ever. Perhaps its the availability of motorbikes? But they both started laughing at Pam and I when we explained that we wanted to hike. In fact, they wouldn’t even tell us what the distance would be in either kilometres or time. They just kept laughing and saying “far! far!” Then our driver told us he would drive us, and wait until we were finished, and drive us back. Leaving us, was not an option.
Just kept saying “if you are happy – I am happy.” Well, can’t argue with that from a man.
So the driver found the turn off to the temple and explained it should be to the left. So we wondered down a paved road hoping for something amazing. Instead, we ran into a bunch of loud barking dogs! Normally, I would be out of there like a bat out of hell but TripAdvisor did say, “walk past the barking dogs (don’t worry) and you will find it.” Well, why would someone lie on TripAdvisor? It must be safe!
Then there is was.
The most enchanting temple I will probably ever go to. It was peaceful along a stream, in the mountains, and there was only a couple other people there. It was tranquility at its finest.
Pam and I took off our shoes, wrapped up our shoulders with our scarves and headed into the temple. There we both took a couple of minutes bowing and sorting through our thoughts.
I thought about what I wanted in life and the person that I wanted to be (and a bunch of other personal stuff I won’t be sharing with the likes of all of you!)
Now I do not know if it was a coincidence – but at the exact moment I bowed to leave – the bong dinged (yet no one was around)! Seriously? I am taken that as a good sign! And I was now definitely leaving my monk bracelet on for a while for extra good measure.
We then walked around the property and admired everything around us. We found the trail markings for the hike which we were indicated by ties of orange monks cloth. The walk would have been beautiful, I am sure, if only our driver would have allowed it.
AH HAH! Not totally my fault for not reaching my fitness goals – the country was working against me!
After that, we felt we had conquered the minimum of what we wanted from Chiang Mai. We even attended a flower festival (don’t judge – these floats made out of flowers would blow your mind), and ran into Anthony Shalegan from Kelowna. Seriously, how small is this world?
We were super sad to leave because we knew there was so much more time we could have spent there. Even on our last afternoon, we found this amazing park in the middle of the city. How did we miss this earlier?
Overall, it was the first city in Thailand, I felt like I could actually live in. There is a vibe, we have not found anywhere else. But we had to move on for our next adventure!
No seriously, our VISA’s were expiring, so we had to get the hell out of the country.
Next stop. Laos!