I was in Chiang Mai nearly two months ago but I finally found myself with four days of doing absolutely nothing in Kuala Lumpur, so what better time to catch up on a little writing than the present? Plus, I have a comfy little box all to myself at the Reggae Mansion, where the wifi is strong and the air conditioning is even stronger so I don’t feel too guilty for being a little hermit crab. In any case, this is my 87th million time coming to KL and there’s only so much to see… But enough of about Malaysia and onwards to Thailand!
As this was my second time in Chiang Mai, it was a trip sprinkled with new and old; I was able to revisit some of my favorite places, meet up with old friends and venture into unknown territory as well. To my delight, Thailand gave us a very mango-y welcome. On our flight with Thai Smile we were given mango ice cream, mango juice and mango sticky rice in none other than a mango decorated bag. I thought I was heading to Thailand, but it turns out that I had booked a one-way ticket straight to the mango heaven of my dreams.
WHEN I SAY CHIANG MAI, YOU SAY…
Elephants! Everyone who goes to Chiang Mai will come face to face with an elephant at some point on their trip, that’s just the way it goes. It’s the must-do activity, the big kahuna, the place to do it, the trip highlight, the cool thing to do and everyone is doing it. Well, everyone except me circa July 2016… I put off seeing the incredible mammoth pachyderms because I didn’t feel I was well-informed enough to know which organizations were respectable and not in the business of exploitation. This time around I was armed with a bit more research and felt confident in going with Elephant Jungle Sanctuary (฿1700/$50). A close runner-up was Elephant Nature Park but it was a bit out of my not-so mammoth wallet’s capabilities.
The half day tour to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary Camp 6 was a solid choice and I think the half day was the best option for us. Not only did we get to do all the fun things, but it gives the elephants a break from the excitable and likely irksome humans drooling over them, too. Upon arriving, we settled in for a little elephant 101, and today is your lucky day because I’m about to bestow on you some fun facts (you’re welcome):
1. Elephants are pregnant for two (!!!) years, and thankfully have only one baby cooking in there at a time
2. Newborns weigh 250 pounds
3. They live an average of 60 years
4. Elephants mourn for their loved ones
5. Their trunks are 400 pounds alone
6. Elephants are the only mammals that can’t jump (this is shocking, I know)
Later, we fed the gentle giants a ridiculously large amount of bananas and for your enjoyment I present another fun fact: elephant tongues are very, very strange. After that we headed to the mud pit where they laid down as if receiving a luxurious 5-star massage. We ferociously lathered them in brown mushy goodness that I sincerely hope was purely dirt-based seeing as I was sludging my way through it with reckless abandon.
From there we went to the watering hole where we washed them off. I found this to be a fun but very unnecessary task since elephants are far more efficient at spraying themselves with their 40,000 muscle-packed trunks than a bunch of tiny ant-sized tourists splashing them with 10-ounce buckets of water. But hey, let’s be real, elephants don’t really need help to mass-consume bananas and roll around in mud either, but it was still amazing to be up close to these gentle giants for a few hours.
SANTISOOK ANIMAL SHELTER
While I spent the day with a couple of giant mammoths this time around, my previous trip to Chiang Mai was spent with animals of the much smaller variety. Last summer I spent a month working at Santisook Dog & Cat Shelter and knew that my trip wouldn’t quite be complete without a visit back. The organization is undergoing a few changes at the moment so it was pretty quiet, though I got to see many familiar fuzzy faces. I helped out for a few hours and assisted with a kitty surgery, and by “assist” I mean I watched and handed over the appropriate equipment when asked. Still counts. Turns out I make a much better cuddler and sometimes it’s best to stick to what we know, so of course I happily spread love like wildfire to about 60 cats and dogs.
FAMILIAR PLACES, FAMILIAR FACES
It is said over and over by travelers everywhere that meeting people is the best part of traveling. Even for a self-proclaimed hermit crab such as myself, I couldn’t agree more. Although the world is filled with incredibly beautiful places, in the end places are just places. It’s people that make the places special. It’s going on random adventures with your best friend or getting to know a stranger that you’ll never meet again; It’s days spent with people who feel like old friends after only a few hours of meeting and simple chats with locals while you stumble over the walls of language barriers yet still understand each other enough to laugh together; It’s being awestruck by the immense beauty of the world with that special person by your side.
Travel has a lot of perks and the people aspect almost always comes in as numero uno on the Why Travel Is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread list. After a few years of moseying this mighty fine globe of ours, I’m lucky to now have friends all over the world and sometimes it works out where we can meet up, such as with Ray in Chiang Mai. Ray and I met at a going away shindig when we volunteered in Costa Rica in 2015. We chatted loudly over booming bar music, threw back insanely cheap chiliguaros and realized we were equally awesome. Unfortunately, I was just starting my work and her and her boyfriend were the ones leaving, so a two-hour friend was made, Facebook and Instagram’s exchanged and we parted to go on our merry ways.
Fast-forward to 2017 when she messages me after seeing a picture I posted while in Chiang Mai and what do you know, they’re in Chiang Mai too! We were able to meet at a bar where we danced poorly to music that was equally as bad and caught up over beers. Maybe one day we can hangout in more than two-hour increments in random bars across the globe, though I’m not complaining.
A LITTLE HERE, A LITTLE THERE
The rest of our time was spent bopping around Chiang Mai, finding the best air-conditioned cafes, surviving the terrifying world of markets, admiring my 789,235th temple, eating my 957th bowl of gelato, and happily wandering about the city with no real agenda to speak of. It sure wasn’t a bad way to spend round two in Thailand
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