Our second flight of four over the course of this week took us to Chiang Mai, and for once we managed to get from the airport to our hotel without any fuss. The taxi drivers milling around outside decided to call me "Mr. Arsenal" because of my shirt, and one of them sang "You'll always be alone and never win the league" or whatever that neverpool song is called in a strange mix of Thai and English. I would argue his version was better than the original. Moving swiftly on, Raming Lodge was one of the best hotels we've stayed at so far (not quite up to Samui standards but not far off). The room and bathroom were huge, and the concierge was very willing to help us with such complicated tasks as turning on the television, changing the channel and volume, and opening the door. He had obviously also invested himself in our education, because I can't think of another reason why a man we didn't know would want to read us almost an entire magazine about Chiang Mai.
On our first night all we really did was eat at the hotel restaurant, watch the wonderful entertainment provided by a small gentleman with a keyboard singing Elvis and Beatles classics, and wander around the night bazaar. The restaurant performer-man was truly special as you could see that he thought he was playing Wembley Stadium or something. I'm sure once or twice he even tried to "get the crowd going" even though there was only us and a family in there! The night bazaar was slightly interesting, but generally sold all the same knock off tourist crap that we've seen at every one of the seven hundred and fourteen thousand other markets we've been to during our travels. Sadly, there was also a scared looking baby elephant there that people were paying to feed.
The next day we spent most of our time wandering from temple to temple, of which there are hundreds. It was much easier finding our way around than it was in Bangkok as the city centre was tiny, and most of the main temples are dotted around there. It would take much too long to describe every temple we went to, but we took plenty of photos of all of them as they were all visually impressive, although you might notice that we don't have much in the way of photos of the rest of the city, because that isn't.
The following day we had a day trip booked and it turned out to be one of the best ones we've done so far. We started things off by going on an elephant trek through some actual jungle, as opposed to around a road next to a quad bike course like the one we did in Samui. Jacqui bought a big bunch of bananas to feed him/her (I'm not allowed to write 'it'), but while we thought we were providing a light snack as a reward for carrying us, the elephant seemed to view it as payment for each two steps he/she took, as he/she kept stopping and blowing at us through it's trunk until the smell compelled us to give him/her a banana. Next we drove to a village for no apparent reason as no one was even there, stayed for a bit and then walked through the jungle to a waterfall where people were swimming. It would have been a picturesque, tranquil place had it not been so crowded, but was still worth a visit as it was. Our group somehow befriended a dog that was hanging around there, and she followed us all the way to the next village we visited. To get there we had to cross this sorry looking bridge made of twiglets that had half collapsed (the dog just jumped into the river and swam across). This was a more worthwhile visit than the last village as it was actually inhabited, and the people were making crafts to sell and looked different to the people in the town. The tour leader disappeared for a bit and reappeared later with a baby boy who belonged to one of the girls in the village. His mum was only 17, but we were told that is was perfectly normal for girls in the village to marry at 15 and have babies around that age! After lunch we went bamboo rafting which I thought was great, but Jacqui didn't enjoy quite so much due to the fact that the boatman (or whatever they call themselves) was a bit of an idiot. The rafts are literally seven bamboo trunks held together by... other stuff from trees, so the whole thing stays under the surface of the water. I was fine as the blokes had to stand on the back and steer, but the girls had to sit in the middle and so got soaked straight away. The boatmen found it hilarious to tip the whole thing into the water so the girls would get soaked, which was funny the first two times, but after the fourteenth they started getting a bit of abuse and some choice insults were thrown their way by some of the lady folk. I didn't understand it, as if they deliberately ruin that for people, then people will stop going and they won't make any money, surely? Must be part of the "fun loving" side of Thailand! Anyway, we ate a really good french restaurant (NO MORE CURRIES YESSS), which was probably only good because the chef was actually french and spent most of his time screaming at his staff, which must have been scary for them but was funny for us as spectators.
The next morning we got a tuk-tuk to a temple in the forest (WAT U MONG THERA JAN as Jacqui has just informed me) and wandered around there for an hour or so. This one was different to the others we'd visited as a lot of it was underground tunnels and it was next to a big lake full of turtles and catfish. Jacqui thought that "it was very peaceful there and that there was lots to see and (she) enjoyed the environment very much". The tuk-tuk driver had spied the opportunity for an easy buck or two and kindly waited for us to come back without being asked. He reckoned that to take us to one more place and then back to the hotel would cost us 500 baht, but we got him down to 300 which we thought was still a huge rip off. However, it turned out the place we wanted to go to was about 40 minutes away, and to be fair he was whinging that if he took us there for that much he'd have no money to buy petrol, which was a slightly selfish thing to say seeing as at the moment no one has any money to buy petrol. Anyway, we got something like 4 1/2 hours out of him so maybe we didn't do so badly after all. He grudgingly took us to a place called Tiger Kingdom where Jacqui had enormous fun spending all our money on a twenty minute meet'n'greet with some doped up baby tigers. After that we ate at the restaurant there which surrounds the main tiger pen, so we could watch them prowling about while we ate. It should have been more fun than it was as the waitress was one of the thickest people ever (and that is saying something considering some of the people we've met so far), as she kept wandering off mid sentence, only took half our order and just generally had a face as interesting as a baked bean. Maybe they were just keeping her sweet until the tigers were hungry as she wasn't good for much else besides staring at and judging. Anyway, it wasn't as bad as I think I've made it sound, and it wasn't too long before our trusty tuk-tuk comrade was once again performing dual-roles as both driver and salesman, trying to sell us tickets to a snake farm whilst driving us back to the hotel. Great work.
We flew back to Bangkok the next day and didn't really do much except eat kebabs from the food stalls on Khaosan Road and go to see Hellboy at the cinema, which we both agree was an error.