Getting into Thailand was really easy, we went over the new friendship bridge that links Thailand to Laos and had no problems. Although Jeff got a 30 day visa and San only got 14 days but luckily we won't be here more than 2 weeks anyway.
When we arrived in Chaing Mai there was a huge weekly market on so we explored, had some street food and watched some bands and musicians. Chaing Mai is a really calm city, not at all like Bangkok, it's easy to just wonder around and explore.
We spent an afternoon walking around some of the temples in the old town, there are loads so we only went to five of them but they were all really different and worth seeing. After wondering around we went to get a massage at the woman's prison. They have a day release program to teach prisoners a new skill so we went along for a traditional Thai massage. It was really good although they did really wrap themselves around us and at points it felt more like we were wrestling than getting a massage.
The next day we went elephant trekking. There's loads of companies in Chaing Mai that do trekking but it's hard to choose because some don't treat their elephants very well and can be cruel but we found a good company and went for it. We spent the morning learning instructions for the elephants; stop, forward, left, right etc. and then got to know the elephants by feeding them and playing with them. After lunch it was time to go trekking. We rode them bareback, some companies put a platform on top of the elephants but that can be really heavy so it was just the two of us on the elephant and as a bonus we were on a mother with a two year old baby that walked with us as well. The baby one was so uncoordinated and kept falling over and sliding up and down hills. When we went through the stream it just dived straight in the water and all but disappeared completely! After trekking we had a chance to wash the elephants so went in to a lake with them and gave them a scrub and they squirted us with water. It was really funny trying to move through the lake with 5 elephants in it, there were trunks and feet sticking out everywhere! After this we went swimming with the elephants, we got back on top of them and they went into some deeper water with us and we swam around for a while. It was an amazing experience and it was great being so close to elephants, they seemed really happy well looked after.
We wanted to hire a bike and ride to Pai for a few days but since neither of us had ridden a scooter before we had a practice day and went for a drive out of the city. We visited an orchid garden with some amazing flowers and then went on to see a waterfall. The drive to the car park at the waterfall was pretty bumpy and rough but somehow we managed it. On the way back we stopped at a place that makes things out of elephant poo. They made books, wallets and t-shirts which was interesting! Elephants can't digest fibre so their poo is full of it so really good for making things.
We decided to ride to Pai the next day but after a night of Thai beers and buckets we pushed it back a day!
We rented a scooter the next morning and drove 130km through beautiful hills and mountains. The road was quite windy and buses cut the corners so we decided to leave early in the morning before the buses started coming. It was a very peaceful drive, especially up on top of the mountain when all you could hear was crickets. We arrived at our bungalow and biked to the hot springs which also had a swimming pool, it was so quiet there and very relaxing. We ate food on the night market and watched the sunset on the way. In the morning when San woke up there was a huge crab outside the toilet which was peculiar. We did a cooking course in the morning and learned to cook some of our favourite Thai dishes. The woman spoke very good English and gave us advice on what spices and herbs to use in the UK. We got to chop cook and enjoy eating it all afterwards. We took a drive out to some of the quirky cafes in Pai including a strawberry café where everything had strawberries in it, they even had strawberry fried rice! We bought a few things on the night market and enjoyed some more street food. There was a conundrum on the street when some tourists came running out of a shop and a giant cockroach with wings was jumping around the street. During the night Jeff saw a huge snail in the toilet! We're not sure why everything is so huge here!
We left early in the morning after the rain stopped to head back to Chiang Mai and the drive through the mountains was freezing and we were right up in the clouds as the sun was coming up, which was beautiful. Jeff had to dodge some obstacles like cows and dogs and even elephants on the roads, then the sun came out and we arrived back in Chiang Mai to spend our 2nd last night in Thailand.