Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 7- Chiang Mai National Park by Scooter!!!

Today was check out day and while trying to square off our bill and put our luggage into storage for the day, we had a slight issue with remembering whether we paid on arrival or not.  Ahh...the hiccups of travelling and not speaking the same language as the ended up taking much longer than expected to figure it out because of this, but in the end, we got it all figured out.

We walked down the road, had breakfast, and rented a motorbike (high powered scooter) to drive to Don Ithanon National Park, as recommended by Billi and Pi-Lin the day before!  As part of the usual road tripping journey, we got lost 3 times along the way, each time finding something amazing to stop and look at.  It was so nice to opt out of a tour and see Chiang Mai the way we wanted to, how we wanted to, stopping when we wanted to.  Graham got even more excited when he saw a Tesco's along the way!

We saw a ton of Temples and Buddha's along the way, making note of which ones we wanted to stop at on the way home.  At one point, there was this temple with a Buddha statue SO BIG we both had to shout at each other to make sure we both saw it (shout because it gets REALLY loud along the edge of the road dealing with traffic and bumps and wind)!  We took a break at the rice paddy fields (mostly because it was a tight squeeze on the back of the bike for me and it felt like my knees were up at my face sometimes) to take some pictures and the culture of it all, was breaktaking!

We stopped at the first waterfall in the National Park- Maeya Waterfall, and we were blown away by how serene and beautiful it was.  There was no one else there with us, so we had time to take photos and enjoy our time there without anyone else getting in the way!  It was so hot by the time that we arrived, so we took a few moments to sit by the waterfall and have a drink and a snack.  It was beautiful!

We drove to the second waterfall, and got lost again!  It was WAY too hot for Graham, so we stopped at a thrift store to buy a button down, long sleeved shirt...which happened to be the ugliest thing I have seen in a long time, but it did the job!  The next waterfall- Mae Klang, was gorgeous as well, but not as magnificent as the first.

It was so hot at lunch time, that we went for a swim with what felt like ALL of the LOCALS in Chiang Mai!  We found out that it was a National Holiday, so it was packed on a day that would normally be quiet.  I only had a bikini, and I was stared at like crazy!  I kept getting called beautiful in Thai- "SUAY" (pronounced- swwwweye high pitched and dragged out) (I was taught the word by the massage ladies the day before, as they warned me that blonde haired, blue eyed woman are highly sought after by Thai men and the look by Thai women), which was really awkward, as even boys as young as 5 were coming up to me.  Needless to say, we had a quick dip and I was out of there!  It took Graham longer to get in, as it was very cold, but I dragged him in eventually!

We had lunch at the park, consisting of yet another VERY spicy Som Tam salad, eventhough we asked for ZERO chilies.  We also had half of a BBQ chicken with sticky rice, which was quite delicious and cooked road side.  After lunch, Graham and I started noticing that everytime I ate rice, I started to get "RICE TUMMY"!  Either that, or along with the hives from the chilies, I was getting tummy issues as well.

We started our way home, as when the sun sets here, it gets dark REALLY quickly, and we didn't want to get lost, or check in late for our flight/miss our flight to Phuket!  It started to rain, so we stopped at 7-11 for some really HIDEOUS rain ponchos!

We got to the sleeping Buddha, the huge one we saw on the way there and met some very nice monks.  We drove around the temple, and were amazed at the detail, the shrines and the peaceful nature of the grounds.  I still can't get over the colours and the relaxing nature of how religion is everywhere here, but not forced upon anyone.  Anyone of any nature/culture/religion is welcomed to come to the temples and pray/study their religion and it's just incredible how accepting everyone is here...language barrier or not.

We stopped to fill up with gas before returning the scooter, and Graham didn't kick the kickstand out enough, making the bike fall over.  It ended up braking the brake on the handle and scratched the bike, which we were nervous of what cost it was going to be when we returned it.  We drove over to the shop, returned the bike and the lady said it would be 300 BAHT= $10, but because we were honest about it, she would only charge us 100 BAHT= $3.25!!!!!!!!!!!!  Now if only car repairs were that cheap at home!!!!!!!!!!!

We checked out of Lai-Thai and went to a place called "Bar on the Roof", near the city gates, to watch the sunset over the mountains and had amazing watermelon shakes, pad thai and pumpkin curry!  It was an all vegetarian restaurant, and we were impressed by how flavourful and filling the food was!  The ONLY issue with the bar was that you had to walk up 3 floors of stairs (all which smelled like PEE), till you got to the rooftop!  It was DISGUSTING and Graham and I climbed up and down them as fast as we could!

We took a taxi to the airport for $3.25 and met Billi and Pi-Lin at the airport, as they too were heading to Phuket/the beaches, for the rest of their trip!  Our flight left/arrived early in Phuket, but we really struggled to get a metre-taxi (the ONLY way you want to taxi in Thailand, as ANYONE else tries to rip you off!), but no we were stuck with a taxi bus for $20.  I guess it was cheap to Canadian standards for a 1 hour trip, but REALLY expensive in Thai standards, so we were annoyed.

We got to the hotel, Sugar Palm Karon Beach and checked in, which was really easy.  Thank goodness, as our flight landed after 1am, and we were tired!  We walked into the room and it was HUGE!  It had a great pool and a HUGE BATH with glass walls, overlooking the bed!  We had only booked 2 days here, but we had a feeling that we'd be staying the rest of our trip (at $35 a night, and getting tired of moving and re packing...why not?!), if we can get around easily enough!  The big thing about Thai hotels, is that NONE OF THEM HAVE CLOCKS.  Something I find REALLY annoying, so we had to call to find out what time it was before bed and for a wake up call for the next morning!

We went to bed SO excited for tomorrow and our week of adventure/relaxation of some of the best beaches in the world!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 6- Mae Tang Trek Tour day!!!

We got up this morning, after a rough night's sleep- the bed is quite old and creaky here, so every move you make, tends to wake you up!  We had a quick breakfast before heading out on our full day's tour!  I was so excited for today, I also had trouble sleeping because of that!  Elephant riding, orchid farm, waterfall hike, Long Neck Village, Bamboo rafting, the whole works!!!!!!!!!!

We got on the tour bus and met two Canadians!!!!  They were both from Toronto, but one is living in Hong Kong and the other is planning to move there so that they can be together!  How fun!!!  Hi, Billi and Pi-Lin!!!!!  We got along so well, and had a lot of fun together!  Sad that they won't be in Canada so that we can all hang out again!  We took pictures of them and they took pictures of us, such a nice gesture so that we could have "couple" photos after we got home! 

We went to the Orchid Farm first, which was gorgeous!  Orchids here are EVERYWHERE, and in colours that I had never in my life seen before.  We also went through their butterfly farm, which for me, was a HUGE feat!  I HATE things flying around my head, and the size of these butterflies really freaked me out!  I got out of there as fast as I could (after I saw what Graham wanted me to), and waited for Graham until he was done snapping away!

We then got back on the bus and went to the elephant camp.  We walked through some countryside, rice fields and into the camp, and I was mesmorized!  Yes, I had never seen an elephant before!  There was a baby elephant and our elephants that we would be riding.  I did not like that they are chained up, and would have rather ridden on flat ground in their "natural" territory, but it was exciting none the less!!!!!!!!!!! Graham and I had a VERY stubborn fitting...who even after being coaxed with bamboo sticks, didn't want to move anywhere but to the ground at times!  It was a surreal moment and an experience to remember for a lifetime!

After riding the elephants, we got to feed them bunches of bananas and get up close to their trunks/faces!  They were so rough and their noses were so clammy and wet, but feeding them bananas was amazing!

After walking back to the truck, we had a VERY long and bumpy ride to the waterfall.  We were all very hungry and thirsty by this point (it was HOT), and were excited to stop for a lunch/drink break!  We had pad thai, wrapped and served in banana leaves and seaweed chips (tasted like sour cream & onion) for lunch!  I felt so hungry, I could have eaten 3 pad thai helpings, but we had to move on and I am TERRIBLE at using chopsticks! 

We did the trek to the waterfall, and part way into it, we knew the tour guy who booked it for us and told us it was "easy" had obviously never done it before!  It was an INTENSE hike, walking across streams by single bamboo bridges and being in flip flops didn't help.  By the time we were hiking, it had to be over 40 degrees, and the hike was a good 30 mins or more of winding paths along the mountains and uneven ground.  We had high hopes for it being GORGEOUS and well worth it, but we had heard it might not live up to the hype :(  I struggled 3/4 of the way through with getting very sore knees and legs, and felt weary being so hot, but Graham was VERY helpful and encouraged me alot by telling me how proud he was of me!

When we got to the top of the mountain and hit the waterfall, we were thrilled to see that everyone was swimming in the waterfall and cooling off!  We got into the water, which was FREEZING cold- how, I don't know, as it was 30 degrees or more for WEEKS, but it was refreshing once you got used to it.  After a good swim, and waiting for Graham to FINALLY get in the water, we took our trek back down.  It was steep and exhausting, but we did it!

We were then taken to do some white water rafting, and although it was only class 1-3 (which to Graham is like canoeing on a river, after Africa), it was a lot of fun for me, having never done it before.  We got to the last 1/4 of the river and switched to bamboo rafting, which Graham helped steer for.  The guide kept calling Graham "chief" and wanted to get our pictures taken with us after!

After having a snack and drink, we rode to the long neck village.  We found it quite sad, as it was more of a tourist trap then a real long neck village, but it was interesting to see how different the way of life is/was.  We played a lot with the kids, teaching them how to do "high fives" and kick a soccer ball around, which they seemed to enjoy.  The colours there were SO BRIGHT and the women all looked beautiful!  It was so funny to see that even in different cultures, MOM'S were still getting their kids in trouble!

We got home and exchanged emails with Billi and Pi-Lin, so that we could exchange photos after our trips.  It was so nice to meet them and have fun with travellers/Canadians that we had so much in common with!

I had a shower, got changed and went for a blow dry and style (why NOT when it's hot out and only cost $2!!!  Who wants to blow dry and straighten their own hair, when it can be done even better and so cheaply by someone else!?!?!?  I felt refreshed, clean and ready for a great night out with my HUSBAND! (That will NEVER get old!)

We went to the market for dinner and Graham had the most INCREDIBLE fish caught that day and hand selected at the seafood counter!!!  It was seabass with lemon, garlic and chili and the sauce was so good, we both could have DRANK it!!!!!!!!!  After sharing the fish, rice and each having a drink, we left satisfied, having paid $12 for the whole meal!!!!!!!!

We finished the night with a 1 hour foot, back, neck and shoulder massage with our same ladies and it was the best day we have had together yet!!!!!!  They did this CRAZY thing during the massage where they put their leg over your arm/shoulder and pull back on your shoulders in order to get your back to crack!  Graham hated it, but I loved it, as my back was SO tense that day!

What an AMAZING day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!