Our first day in Bangkok was right off, although we were lucky enough to be able to check in straight away, but we are always shattered after an overnight flight, so even though we tried to stay awake, we slept most of the afternoon. Woke up and had room service then straight back to sleep.
We picked up by a driver who did the 2 hour drive to the museum about the railway line. When i was here 23 years ago, the museum was a bamboo hut, and although primitive, was still emotional. Fortunately they have a new building and the museum is much more comprehensive. We were then driven to the Bridge over the River Kwai, it hadn't changed at all as I remember it, and unfortunately Marty had the same reaction I did all those years ago, it had been b******ized by so much touristy stuff, that it felt wrong. But anyway, it was something Marty had wanted to do and he at least did it.
We were having trouble finding decent food in Bangkok, and once again the meal we had for dinner was almost inedible, we were looking forward to going to Chiang Mia, to helpfully have some better tucker. We did however manage to fit in a massage which was enjoyable.
We had a short flight to Chiang Mia, and checked in to our lovely hotel, Rimping Village as soon as we arrived. The 2 that met us at reception we so obviously lady boys and so cute. They gave us directions of where to go and what to do etc. We went down to the restaurant for a late lunch, early dinner and met a guy our age from the USA although he was English (Alex) and his partner (Jeanette) from Chile. We spent most of the evening chatting to them about ours and their travels and his experience of being out of work for 5 months.
We were collected by tuk tuk at 9.30 am and driven to the Segway Office where we had our 2 hour Segway tour of Chiang Mia, we saw ALL the temples and pagodas, as well as the markets, the famous gate into the old city, with 2 lovely young local men. They advised us to try the local food which is different to Thai food, and we both thought we might give it a go, as the food we had eaten so far had left a lot to be desired as well as a lot in the toilet.
That evening we found the Gekko Bar, which Pete Toohey had recommended as a good bar, we thought maybe they would be watching the State of Origin, but there was hardly anyone there, so we perched ourselves up at the bar, ordered a drink and asked if we could change the TV channel. As there was no one watching anything in particular nobody minded that we watched the entire game. I found it enjoyable that we weren't in a bar packed with Aussies screaming and cheering, it was quite pleasant.
After the game we wandered down to the night market and had a banana Roti, Marty's new favorite dessert, then i had my feet eaten by some fish for 15 mins, then back to the motel for an earlyish night.
We had booked a breakfast box so went to reception at 6am and enjoyed our sangers and fruit and juice. We were collected at 6.30am as promised in a big a/c luxury van, there were 3 others also, a couple our age from Qld and a younger woman from NSW. We had a lovely drive up the mountains to the reception area where we were set up with our harnesses and safety gear, then driven to the beginning of the zip lining tour.
For the next 2 1/2 hours we zip lined through 5kms of lines, 39 stations and bridges, at speeds of up to 90kms an hour, the longest being 800m long. We also had to abseil down two stations. Throughout it we were entertained by Mr Cash, the sky ranger, who was the funniest Thai guy you could meet, he made it so much more fun. We also got to see a family of Gibbons, which was a real bonus as they don't always come out when tourists are around.
I will have to add here that Marty was actually not looking forward to this adventure (like most I suggest), but as usual he comes along to keep me happy, but once again he absolutely loved it, possibly more so than me.
On return they then drove us up to a waterfall, where I and most of the others did the mammoth trek up to the top, I forgot to ask how far up it was, but it was a ***^+€~ long way up.
We then had a lovely Thai lunch (included in the price), given free TShirts and driven back to our hotel in luxury again. When we got back to our room, there was a beautiful little birthday cake, complete with candles waiting in my room for me, neither of us expected it, Marty hadn't even asked them, he had just told them the day before that it was my birthday.
After a bit of a relax we headed out for a massage, I had a 2 hour Thai massage that hurt for the entire 2 hours but I am sure did me some good? Marty had an oil massage that was obviously a lot less painful than mine. We then took some time to find the night market, got lost, went right instead of left, but eventually found it, including the fish restaurant. We picked our mud crab and asked for it to be cooked chilli style, which it was, but unfortunately they had cut off and supposedly discarded all the legs, at least they left us the claws. Marty was most upset about this and let them know. I tried to explain that in Australia we keep the legs and eat the meat out of them, but I don't think they got it. Anyway it had been a long wonderful birthday, certainly one of many to remember.
On Pete & Jane Tooheys recommendations we booked Paul Collins tuk tuk tour for today. He is a Chiang Mai born American who speaks perfect northern Thai and is the only Jalang (Caucasian) licensed tuk tuk driver and guide in the Chaing Mai Province, however there are only 2 local tuk tuk drivers that are also licensed guides, so we didn't feel we were ripping off the local talent. So, he picked us up in his comfy tuk tuk (most of them aren't) and drove us up to the Maesa Elephant Camp, where we played with the elephants, watched them bath in the river, watched a fantastic show of them playing soccer, basketball, dancing, playing the harmonica, then painting.
I realize there are lots of skeptics about this elephant Camp, but we have seen quite a few throughout the world and there was nothing wrong with this one. The elephants are happy, healthy and obviously loved by their Mahouts.
How do people expect them to sustain this beautiful species without tourist money in a country that has to concentrate on feeding its people, not saving its dwindling elephant population. It may be unnatural for elephants to kick a football or throw a basketball in front of an audience, but in their natural environment they play with anything they can get their trunks, legs on. They have successfully rescued and bred 80 elephants and continue to breed at least 2 a year.
And yes we bought a painting. It was a wonderful experience.
Next we went to the tiger farm, we got to mingle with a litter of 4 month old babies, a couple of 7 month old tigers and 2 year olds, after they reach 3 they become too aggressive to mingle with the public.
Same issues here, they are breeding them because they were becoming too low in numbers because their natural habitat has been destroyed. They send them to a large facility in northern Thailand where they can keep the numbers safe.
Paul had explained that if we loved animals we may not enjoy the monkey village as they have chains around the monkeys necks to control them, so as you can imagine we opted not to go there. So we had lunch at Paul's favorite local restaurant back in Chiang Mai, had Khao Soi on his recommendation and the best Thai food we had eaten yet, but unfortunately a specialty of northern Thailand only, just have to find the recipe.
He then took us through the museum of Chiang Mai which gave the full history of its existence, but what was most interesting was the information about the mountain people that still live in the mountains and maintain their cultures.
We were too tired tonight to go out do had dinner at the hotel restaurant which was as usual very good.