A five hour bus trip, air conditioning and two seats and I arrive at Chiang Mai and after being in quieter less touristy places on the way here from Bangkok it is weird again to be in a big city, this is the second city to Bangkok in this country. Busy traffic, neon bars and lots of westerners, this is a big part of the tourist trail. This place has been a great stop for me, so much to do, temples, zipping through the jungle, cooking school, elephants and celebrating my birthday with new friends, it has been full on, ow and I bought myself a made to measure suit, which is on its way home to England as a birthday present to me from myself. I was so pleased to have experienced elephants at the Chiang Mai Nature park where abused, blind and mistreated elephants are given a chance to live in their natural state roaming around together making friends, the young ones being cheeky and the older ones (oldest is 80) making sure all is ok for them all, it's a bit like humans except elephants just help humans not abuse them. This country really does have a complicated relationship with elephants where they are honoured as regions symbols but treated so badly so from hundreds of thousands the Asian elephant is now an endangered species with just thousands, this park has 36 happy elephants. I think this is called Eco tourism and I certainly feel that this is the best money I have spent so far. Had a great birthday zipping alongside gibbons in the jungle with Vince and then a great evening in a bar appropriately called 'Johns Place' with friends I have met along the way who all happened to be in Chiang Mai at the same time, had a bit of a Changover the next morning which made the cooking school quite a challenge as we went to a very smelly food market first thing, I can now say with confidence that I could knock together a yummy coconut and chicken soup, chicken Phad Thai with spring rolls and then sticky rice with Mango! school was in a picturesque farm in the countryside, very nice. The other day was spent Seeing the temples and having a chat with a Monk at 'Monk Chat time' at one of the temples, the idea being to help them with their English and promote an understanding of Buddhism and their part within it. It is expected that all Thai males are monks at some stage, three weeks is the shortest time they can get away with! They meditate for at least six hours a day and eat nothing between lunch and breakfast, this chap was a novice monk who has only ten rules to live by proper monks have hundreds! He was very proud to be a monk and believed it would bring good luck to his family. My good luck will come from the birds I paid to get released out side the temple, good luck and happiness for ever which would be nice. It has been good sharing time with Vince and others this last week and special to get all together for my birthday, I hope one day we will be able to meet up again. Next stop Laos for a rest before Vietnam. Three weeks in and have done so much, it is nice to know people are liking my Facebook updates and with FaceTime home is never far away.