In my previous post I began telling of my time in Thailand; I wanted to begin by laying the groundwork and telling more of the personal aspects and rewards from my trip. In this post I want to share the exciting tourist activities I engaged in during my week. Food, elephants, and mountains in abundance!
My first adventure was an all day Thai cooking class I booked online through Thai Farm Cooking School. I met them on their office early Monday morning and drove to the market with the rest of the group. We had a great mix of people from Belguim, Norway, Hong Kong, India, and France and they were so fun to be around. At the market we were shown different ingredients we were to use that day and why we use them, such as the various kinds of rice. Afterwards we were driven out to their organic farm where we got to select the recipes we wanted to cook and began receiving our first instructions in making our own curry from scratch.
During the day I was taught to make green curry with chicken, pad thai with tofu, chicken and coconut soup, chicken and cashews, and mango sticky rice for dessert. The amount of food I consumed was truly immense, but oh so delicious! Everything was presented well, and even though I messed up the pad thai recipe a little all the other recipes turned out great (the lesson from this was to keep on eye on all the ingredients I have used and not put double of anything, oops). At the end of the day we received a short tour of the farm where 70% of the ingredients had come from that day. It was great fun getting to know people from different countries, joking with them, and ultimately cooking with them. I highly recommend taking a cooking class if you are ever in Chiang Mai because it is a wonderful experience that allows you to learn, eat, and chat the entire time – my kind of experience.
The next day I was taken to the office of Elephant Nature Park where I met my new tour group and was driven to an elephant sanctuary outside of Chiang Mai! During the bus ride we were shown two videos telling of the park and the elephants we would be meeting. The park is a sanctuary for elephants who have been rescued from illegal logging practices, street begging, and land mines. The elephants come to the park having experienced abuse, violence, and fear and are given a new home where they can roam around in freedom. Physical signs of violence can be seen in some of the elephants who have stepped on land mines and have legs horribly misshapen and struggle to walk. Though the stories are sad the park is doing wonderful things in seeing them restored. The group I was with this time was much different from the cooking experience because I was with four couples who really were not very interested in mingling but I made friends with a young British couple who were friendly and willing to let me into their small group – plus I really needed someone to take photos of me and the magnificent elephants.
The day started with the opportunity to feed the elephants fruit as they approached the pavilion where we were stationed for the beginning. They had baskets of watermelon and other fruits and all we had to do was place the fruit near the elephant’s trunk and they would grasp it from your hand and transfer the fruit to its mouth. It was an easy but fun way to interact with the enormous animals. The rest of the day was spent outside walking around to various elephant families, hearing their stories, and having the chance to pet them and wash them in the river. Elephants are very dirty creatures because they coat themselves in mud and dirt to help cool them off and protect themselves from the sun. It is fun to see them up close because you can see the mound of dirt on their backs and sometimes with grass and greenery still attached – it resembles a mobile garden. Just the simple act of petting the elephants was exciting for me, their skin is a soft, leathery texture and you feel so small next to the awesome giants. Apparently African elephants are larger than Asian elephants, but they still seemed pretty large to me so I didn’t feel thwarted. I basically just watched the incredible beasts for hours and loved every moment.
The day after I was supposed to go on a bicycle tour of Chiang Mai but was too tired to even think about it. Instead I spend the morning with the lovely couple I was staying with there, we had breakfast in the morning, went to the mall to get my nosed pierced, and traveled to a variety of stores to get some tea and spices for me to use once I got home. It was a fun and relaxing day which provided a nice break.
By Thursday I was rested and ready for my next adventure. I joined yet another group for a tour of the Doi Inthanon National Park. This time I went through a group called Travel Hub and had the pleasure of being picked up from where I was staying. I was pretty excited about this trip because it was going to up in the mountains and promised scenery and nature to feed my soul, and it did not disappoint. We again drove for a while outside of the city and our first stop was the Karen hill-tribe, a nomadic group of people who still hold on to their culture and history. We were able to visit a small community where a few women weave beautiful scarves and the people keep large rice fields.
After a short tour we headed to two gorgeous waterfalls, the first could only be seen from a platform, but the second was my favorite. It was massive and illustrious with three different viewpoints near the falls, each one being just as magical as the last. I got soaked from the powerful mist and it was phenomenal, truly beautiful. This is also the location where we ate a delicious Thai lunch before heading to the Chedi’s of the King and Queen, which are giant pagodas dedicated to the rulers with beautiful gardens surroundings each one. It was extremely rainy and cold here so I do not have any great photos.
Doi Inthanon is home to the hightest peak in Thailand and this was the next stop on our tour. I was extrememly thankful I had borrowed a rain jacket from my host because the temperature at the top dropped down to 12 celcius and was raining, just to intesify the cold weather I am sure. Though we did not have an awesome view from the top, the natural forest was beautiful and they have created a short nature walk to explore the fauna of the area. Our last stop on the excursion was to the Royal Project research station, which is a fancy way of saying “crazy awesome gardens.” There are Royal Projects throughout Thailand and they were first established in 1969 by the king to create sustainable crops in different regions. The Project we went to was incredible with an entire area dedicated to ferns, a massive greenhouse for orchids and exotic flowers, walking paths fulls of various plants, and ponds surrounded with lush greenery (and this is just what I could cover in 30 minutes!). I really can’t describe how beautiful it was, I wanted to pitch a tent and stay forever, encompassed by the natural majesty. Unfortunately, they made us leave so we could head back to the city. Such a wonderful tour!
My last day in Thailand was a sad affair for I really wanted to stay longer and further explore; however, despite the sad feelings I had a really great day with my host. We spent the entire day cooking and baking, because she knows I cannot bake at home in the Philippines, making cookies, a carrot cake, a mango pudding dessert, and two different kinds of teas. We only took a break to have a two hour massage near their home; we each laid on a mat placed on the floor and these two little Thai women used their whole bodies to massage and ease every muscle in our bodies. There were some painful moments but overall it was a very rewarding experience as you can imagine. Baking and pampering – the best way to end any vacation!