We left Kanchanburi bright & early to catch a bus heading North. After 2 hours we transferred to another bus & 2 hours after that, we arrived in Ayuthaya - which up until approx 220 years ago used to be the capital of Thailand. This was just a flying visit so while some of the group went to visit the Buddhas, we chilled at the guesthouse where we'd had lunch (it was too hot & if you've seen a couple of Buddhas - you've seen them all!)
We left Ayuthaya a couple of hours later & caught the 16:00 overnight train to Chang Mai. Despite being in 'First Class' - the standard left a great deal to be desired. The toilets stank to high heaven & we wanted to cry at the thought of 14 hours in our upright & not very comfortable seats. Luckily Lisa put us out of our misery & pointed out that the seats pulled out into beds & there were top bunks folded away! It's true what they say - train travel is by far the best way to really see a country. If you can stand the smell coming from the toilet direction, you will be rewarded with some great photos of absolutely beautiful countryside scenery (check out my sunset pic above) that you would completely miss by flying.
A very chirpy Sila woke us up at 06:00 announcing 'Chang Mai'. A groggy group thankfully got off the train where open buses picked us up & took us to the Rama Guesthouse. After a few more hours sleep, we ventured out with Lisa, Lee, Abby, Nat & Carly to visit the very famous temple 'Doi Suthep'. We wandered around admiring the colourful orchids & ornate, jewel-encrusted Buddha images everywhere & received another blessing from a Buddhist monk who gave us each a 'lucky bracelet'.
That afternoon, we took a horse carriage ride around Wiang Kum Kam 'The Underground Empire', which is the ruin sites of 9 ancient temples (some dating back as early as 1833 B.E). In the evening, we had to visit a trekking equipment hire store to get kitted out for the jungle adventure starting the next day. We had dinner at the Chang Mai Night Bazaar & then couldn't help but check out a couple of the stalls en-route back to the guesthouse (once again, I splashed out on some 100% essential items). We got a bit lost walking back so decided to flag down a tuk-tuk, which proved quite an eventful experience as our driver also managed to get lost & as a result, we got a detour tour of most of Chang Mai city with a mad driver who seemed not to have ever heard of London/England before?!!
Back in Chang Mai after our 3 day trek & I have never been so happy to be amongst civilization & see the golden arches of MacDonalds! After our night out at the Irish Pub over the road, I woke up with a bit of a headache, but still managed to drag myself out of bed for the cookery course that I'd signed up to do with Lee, Nat & Carly. For 600 baht you could do a half-day course & learn how to make Tom Yum soup, Thai green curry, spring rolls & pad thai, using meat substitute (similar to Quorn but not as dry).
Started off visiting the local market where we were told how to select the best ingredients & how to choose the right curry paste (they showed us brands that are exported to countries all over the world so he assured me that I'd be able to find them in Tesco!)
I thoroughly enjoyed making the dishes & was amazed at how easy they were. We were given a recipe book to keep so I furiously scribbled notes as we went along so as not to forget all the handy tips - like how to reduce the spicyness of your curry sauce & how to test the temperature of the oil so that's it's exactly right when you're deep-frying your spring rolls (this prevents them being of the variety where grease dribbles down youre chin when you bite into them!) After we'd made all the dishes, we got to sit down & eat them all for lunch. I was very pleased with myself & couldn't believe how good my spring rolls & pad thai were! Will have to cook for the girls when we get to Oz so I don't forget it all.
That afternoon, still aching from the trekking, we decided to treat ourselves to an hour full-body oil massage. Quite a bizarre experience as you have to fully strip & they massge practically every inch of your body (Lin & I had laughing fits while they were doing our backs - it really tickled!) And we were all most surprised & maybe a little uncomfortable when they went for our boobs!) Still a very relaxing & entertaining experience to say the least.