We caught the overnight bus up to Chiang Mai and arrived around 6am in the morning. Chiang Mai is the largest and most culturally significant city in northern Thailand. Its a dynamic and modern city and we loved every bit of it. We stayed in a guest house very close to the main street so we were able to walk to the markets and eat/drink locally.
For both of us, Thailand has arguably been our favourite country in South East Asia and our time in Chiang Mai only confirmed these thoughts further. We began our week in an impressive style with a elephant trek through the mountains of Chiang Mai! These elephant, apart from their obvious beauty, were amazingly clever. Their brains are smaller than their hearts yet their memories and skill were incredible.
We then had a few hours to play with the elephants, watch them being bathed and feed them after going on our 2 hour trek. For those who haven't been on an elephant but plan on it, a word of warning, it isn't a smooth ride haha! We had a great time and the experience was incredible but boy did we ache the next morning!
On our way home we went to a river for some white water rafting and bamboo rafting. Both were pretty PG but we enjoyed the cold water anyway.
This week we also visited the Karen Longneck Hilltop tribe. This tribe is famous in Chiang Mai (and around the world) as the women of the tribe have permanent metal rings around their necks in order to lengthen them. Our tour guide told us that, back in the day, the men in the tribe started dressing their women with these rings to ensure they are recognisable to other tribes. They weren't very big on inter-tribal marriage apparently so this way males from other tribes were deterred from approaching them.
Today, the women still do it but purely out of tradition. All the girls are asked if they want to wear them (and some don't thus weren't) and if they say yes they begin wearing the rings at about 4-6 years old. An additional ring is added to their necks every 3-5 years so many of the older women have 15+ rings on. They are permanent features so the women wear them continuous, even at night.
Back in Chiang Mai we found a huge Sunday night market where the streets are blocked off to traffic for local craft vendors to layout their handmade wares. They were absolutely packed and had the biggest variety we have seen at any market. Everything was so cheap but we always have the same excuse of not enough room in our backpacks to buy anything. This helps us to save money I guess.
The next day we did a Thai cookery course taking in 6 different Thai dishes each. At the start of the course, we visited the local market to learn more about the different sauces, exotic vegetables and rice. Over the course of the day we cooked hot and sour chicken soup, Veg spring rolls, Chicken Red Curry, Chicken and sticky rice with Mango, hot and sour prawn soup, Thai spicy beef salad, Massaman Chicken Curry, Chicken Fried Rice and Banana Fritters. The lesson we learnt was that every single dish was easy and quick to make and that they were all absolutely delish. (We will be hosting Thai nights for the lucky ones, when we return home eventually to show off our culinary skills!). Needless to say we were absolutely stuffed at the end and had to return to our guesthouse to have a lie down!
Another little adventure we had was watching Thailands national sport "Muay Thai" - Kickboxing. We were placed in the front row as we bought VIP tickets. At first I was a little scared to be so close and I think I did manage to catch a few drops of sweat amd blood. We watched boys of all ages fight up until the final which was Thailan vs Canada. Canada kicked Thailands butt ad their own sport but Canada was HUGE. Overall it was really cool to see. xx