Day 6 & 7: First full day in Chiang Mai. Full day of Zip-lining through the jungle, climbing a waterfall, and a little too many adult beverages. Skip a cooking class and visit a temple and head out to Chiang Rai.
A driver came to pick us up from our hotel at 8:30 am. There were several others in the van and we had a couple more people to pick up. A total of 9 people. Its a 55 minute drive to the jungle where we will be zip-lining. Once we arrive we are fitted for our gear and taken to the course for a "safety and how-to" demonstration. 10 minutes later, we're off!
Justin has never zip-lined before but I have in Mexico with my mom for my graduation. There is a lady my moms age there with her daughter who is afraid. I told her my mom was afraid as well, but after the first 'zip' she realized it was really fun and offered amazing views. She ended up doing ok but appeared nervous the entire time. 33 platforms in all, much longer than the course I had done in Mexico. Throughout the course Justin got more comfortable and we seemed to the only two that had zero hesitation about leaping off the platforms...and hanging over the edges to take cool pics. Oh, and we saw a Gibbon, a small blonde monkey with a tiny black baby around its waist.
We finish around 1 and are fed lunch. We were introduced to Thai Papaya Salad. YUM!! I could eat that everyday...as long as you say 'no spice'. Even when you say no spice, its still slightly spicy....so dont bother to say 'a little spicy' or you will be on fire! We sat across from an American guy in the military. He was with a Thai lady that spoke very little English. We asked a few questions about how they know each other and were met with very short answers....we gather she was his hooker/travel partner he picked up for this trip.
After lunch we are taken about 5 minutes away to the base of a waterfall. As we start hiking up the path that runs along the side of the waterfall, we keep thinking we have reached the top...only to round the corner and see more stairs winding up the mountainside. 30 minutes later we finally make it the top; however, the views as we hiked our way up were better than the actual view from the top.
We are dropped back off at our hotel, shower up, and head out. I read about a part of town called Nimman which is near the University and a perfect place to do a coffee-shop crawl and have cake and coffee on every corner. Some articles call it too westernized and some call it artsy and progressive. Either way, it was a newer part of town and filled with Thai students....a nice departure from the crowds of young immature dirty backpackers. It delivered as promised, coffee & cake stores one after the other with wonderful patio bars and restaurants in between. We came across one joint called 'The Cinema Lounge' and they had a large bobble-head like statue of Tom Hanks, as Forrest Gump, sitting on bench with his box of chocolates. On the bench was a star, as you would see at the Hollywood walk of fame, with the name "Forrest Hank". We died laughing!!! Some of the English translation here is just too funny!
We spent the rest of the evening in this area having dinner and a couple of Leos, a really light Thai beer I am a fan of. We eventually ended up back at the Cinema Lounge for another drink. Once back at our hotel we decided to walk down to the corner bar that was lined with people. As we walked up we meet eyes with the Ethiopian guy from our bus ride. He tells us this is 'The Place' to be and that it is Jazz night and the band will start in 15 minutes. The outside patio is lined with people facing the interior waiting for the music. We went in to grab a drink and noticed that the balcony directly above the band is empty. SCORE. We go upstairs and get the best seats in the house. A white American looking drummer, a european looking bongo player, 3 sax players (2 young white guys and one Jamaican looking guy) a Thai percussionist, a white base player, and a FEMALE Thai pianist. What a group, and they were VERY good! We stayed for about 6 songs and realize we have probably had enough to drink and our eyes are heavy. On the short 1/2 block walk to our hotel, I decide I need something sweet. Its late and all that we can see is a 7-11. In we go, I come to the counter with Magnum Bar (chocolate ice cream bar) and Swizzle Fingers (those hazelnut chocolate filled little coffee stirrer looking things)...Justin comes to to the counter with a giant Leo. Back in our room I crank up the music and we split the Leo. Yeah-Yeahs, Matt & Kim, Scissor Sisters, Rush, Randy Rogers Band, Stoney Larue, Johnny Cash....quite a mix of music is played as I dance all over the room spilling my drink everywhere. Justin watches and take incriminating videos. But eventually, he joins! Somewhere along the way we hit and wall and both fell into bed and were asleep in .2 seconds.
Day 7: The next morning comes and Justin wakes me telling me our ride to the fullday cooking course will be there in 30 minutes. I quickly remind him we decided while dancing last night that we hadnt paid for the course so we werent going and were going to head to Chiang Rai a day early. "oh....oh yeah"...and back to bed we go. Our phone rings shortly after and we tell them we are not going. They are confused, so we say "we're sick, bad food". "ohhhh" says the lady, "ok". Back to bed. Around 10 we head down for breakfast and decide that even though we have seen enough temples for a lifetime, we will see the one in Chiang Mai that people keep saying is the one must see. Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is a golden temple that sits on top of a mountain and is about a 30 minute drive from town. We hire a cab to take us there and then directly to the bus station.
The drive up to the temple is really pretty, we are at the tail end of rainy season so everything is really green. We arrive and our driver says he will wait an hour to hour and a half. We enter the temple and it is definitely worth the trip, but we aren't all that thrilled as it is only slightly different than all the other temples we have seen. We are in and out in about 45 minutes.
We take a nice "VIP" bus that has lay-back chairs and only carries about 30 passengers. The service is impeccable on a BUS! There is a bus attendant, like a flight attendant, who hands out a cold wipey and bottled water. Half way through our trip she brings out a snack, a weird little snack, but its a snack served to me ON A BUS!
I have full cell service almost the entire journey and come across a blog of guy who has written a short book called '12 weeks in Thailand' and is a book version of a blog he kept while traveling to Thailand to train Muy Thai for 12 weeks. It hits me here. I have been so upset for the past year that I fell off track with my fitness in my last job (ironically, a fitness company) and I remember how happy I feel when I am fast, strong and conditioned. I google Crossfit Thailand and find there are only a handful in all of Thailand BUT there is one on the island of Koh Tao which is where I will be spending at least 5 days to get my diving cert. I decide that as soon as we get to Chiang Rai I need to find a westernized mall to buy a couple workout shorts and a pair of tennis shoes I can run & do crossfit in. I feel excited.
We arrive in Chiang Mai and check into Fun-D Hostel. Its geared a bit towards the young crowd but is pretty new and very clean and has laundry & computer facilities...which we badly need at this point.
We walked to the Clock Tower in the center of town for a light show that happens every hour between 7 & 10 and grab some quick dinner. We spend the rest of the night catching up on computer stuff and doing laundry. Did I mention that Justin is working remotely during our travels? He manages his team by responding to emails and waking about 2am (2pm in Dallas) to make a couple quick calls.