Singapore/ Chiang Mai
When I arrived in Singapore I got a taxi to Jess' cousins apartment. The apartment was very modern and had a fully working hot power shower! In the evening we went for dinner and a walk around Marina Bay. It seemed like a great (clean) city so I am looking forward to returning there in a couple of months.
At midday on Friday we flew to Bangkok where we took the mrt to the big train station and got the night train up to Chiang Mai. The sleeper train was very comfy and I slept extremely well before waking in the morning to find that the train had stopped moving. The engine was eventually fixed and although we got in at 3pm, 7 hours late, we were very excited to finally be there!
We got chatting to a few people and we all went to a Korean barbecue place for dinner where we cooked our own food over a hot plate. Mum did question why on our first night in Thailand we didn't eat Thai food.
On Saturday we booked on to a day with the elephants! Nam-tong elephant sanctuary was an hour out of town and Jess and I were so excited when we pulled up and 3 year old baby greeted us. We were all given a bunch of bananas to feed the elephants that were nearby. At first we approached gingerly and the trunks seem quite scary as they lunge at you but we soon got over that. We were then given clothes to change into and were taught the verbal commands that they use to control them including forward, back, left, right, stop and kneel. We got a chance to ride them and try these out but although trying our best to shout these Thai words with authority, I think the elephants were eiher responding to the trainers or knew the routine by heart. Each pair then got assigned an elephant and we had a 20 minute ride. Jess was at the front and I was at the back. We made sure before booking that we would actually get to ride them bare back rather than in one of those boxes where you are not actually touching them. In hindsight the boxes are to stop the pain that comes from riding a surprisingly bony elephant.
Lunch was pad Thai and a 'make your own' spring roll set up. It tasted really good and was very filling; an impressive included meal! After lunch I sat at the front of the elephant and we rode for an hour down to the river. The elephants crossed to the other side with their heads going under and breathing through their trunks and intermittently spraying us with water - very cool! We rode a bit further along the river and were given scrubbing brushes and bowls to wash them with. The elephants loved the water and were rolling around, soaking us. It was a lot of fun to see and the elephants all seemed very happy! After that we got driven back to the hostel. It all seems very surreal looking back at the pictures now!
That evening we went with a few people to a free outside music festival 'Chiang Mai fest' which had musicians playing from around the world and food stalls to reflect that. We listened to a few performers before getting our first tuk-tuk to the night market. There were hundreds of stalls but with a distinct lack of space in my bag (even after leaving a pair of trainers and working tops in Borneo) I held off buying more clothes and instead watched Jess haggle!
On Sunday morning we visited the impressive Wat Pharasing temple and then got extremely lost on our way back and had to hail a tuk-tuk back to the hostel. In the afternoon we went to a Thai cooking class. We had a to choose 4 from a list if dishes and I made pad Thai, green curry, chicken and cashew nuts and bananas in toffee sugar. You ate each dish straight after it was made so i was very very full by the end. It was a fun afternoon and all the dishes were easy to make but I'm not sure how I will replicate them at home without all of the pastes.
On Monday morning myself, Jess and 2 others from the hostel went to Tiger Kingdom. We had heard mixed reviews and Jess wasn't initially keen but we all ended up enjoying it. We first went into the pen with the 'smallest' tigers and they varied between sleeping and playing but all SO cute! We then went in with the 'biggest' tigers who really were massive and quite intimidating. Tigers are nocturnal and they were sleepy but still responded to the trainers. I don't think they seemed drugged or out of it and it is one of the only opportunities to see a tiger that close so I would recommend it.
In the afternoon Jess and I went in search of a Thai massage. After finding a place that could fit us in we changed into their clothes and spent an hour and a half being jabbed, pinched and pulled. I was expecting it to hurt at the time but that I would feel great after... I didn't and 2 days later my shoulders are still hurting!
That evening we went out for Thai dinner with a group from the hostel and then had a few drinks before going to warm-up bar. It was a fun night but perhaps wasn't too sensible considering our 8 hour minibus to the Laos border the next day.