In Mid-March Sarah’s 2 sisters, Lindsay and Dana along with Dana’s now fiancé Carson and Sarah’s friend Lauren all came for a visit in Hong Kong. During their visit, they joined us in Chiang Mai, Thailand for a long weekend over Easter starting March 24th. We took an early flight to Chiang Mai so we could try and get the full day in there, but the trip was off to a rocky start when Sarah’s bag somehow didn’t make it with us to Chiang Mai (it was the only one on the entire plane that didn’t make it on…). Since she had no other clothes we convinced our shuttle driver to stop the Thailand Wal-mart, Tesco, so she could pick up some essentials. After our pit stop we had an hour drive into the mountains of Chiang Mai to our hotel for the next 2 nights, Chai Lai Orchid.
The reason we chose Chai Lai Orchid is because of its unique location in the mountains and accommodations. Most of our rooms were actually old Thai style huts with a very woods-ey feel to them. The other great thing about this place is that they are trying to change the way people treat elephants in Thailand and have a relationship with a group that owns some elephants, so when you book at the hotel you automatically get the ability to pet, feed, and bathe the Elephants. Chai Lai also employs women from local villages that have no formal training to try and give them skills they can use to go into better jobs in the hospitality industry. Check out the website here but it was great place to stay with some really cool social missions.
Once we checked into our room we grabbed some lunch which turned out to be some of the best Thai food of the trip (if not our lives). Scot had his staple Pad Thai and unfortunately Sarah went with the chicken club sandwich. Luckily we had a few more meals there so she could enjoy the Thai food and her sisters were more than willing to share their Thai dishes. After lunch we decided to go pet and feed the elephants. For the rest of the day we played cards and had a few beers along the riverside while we waited for both Lauren (who was coming from visit her sister in China) and Sarah’s lost baggage to arrive. Both arrived, and we met each with a celebration! We ate dinner at the cafe where Sarah redeemed herself by ordering the lemongrass meatball curry which was “amazing”. We headed to bed fairly early as the next day was going to be a long and very fun excursion.
On day 2, we woke up at 6:30 to meet our Mahouts (elephant guides) and the elephants that we would be lucky enough to ride bareback as the sun rose. We rode the elephants bareback, which is much more humane than riding on the cages that traditional elephant tours use. Riding bareback was a blast but also at times terrifying as during some of the more challenging terrain there was a real possibility of falling off. Sarah spent most of the time panicked but survived while Scot’s big elephant was a little more tame but he still felt he had squeeze his legs tight to stay on. After about a 30 minute trek or so we wrapped up and grabbed some breakfast to fuel up for the day ahead.
After a quick 10 minutes drive we met our guide Chicken (he seriously told us that was his name) at a local market to pick up veggies for lunch. Chicken led us to a 2 hour hike through the Chiang Mai jungle where we were able to check out 2 pretty cool but not too impressive waterfalls along the way. However, we ended up at our lunch destination which turned out to be a very impressive waterfalls and rock formations combination that also allowed for a natural pool to swim in. While we had a few beers got wild fish pedicures (were tiny fish eat the dead cells off your feet) Chicken cooked us a delicious lunch. After lunch we trekked another 40 minutes up the mountains to a local hill tribe village where the Karen hill people leave. Unfortunately the when we got to a local school the kids were off for spring break so it was empty. We then took another 30 minute truck ride to the river where we were met by three guides who took us down the river on bamboo rafts. It’s nearing water festival time and Thai tradition is to splash people as you pass them on the river, so we were splashed by many locals on rafts as we wound our way through the jungle towards our hotel. We ended the day bathing DeeDee, the official Chai Lai Orchid elephant and taking a few more pictures in the river. All in all it was one of the best excursion of our life. To finish off the day we showered up, grabbed another delicious Thai dinner at the cafe (Sarah had the Tom ka Gai (soup) and Scot had pad Thai again). We ended the night with a couple beers and played games with some other travelling couples from California; then Lauren harassed some Germans into being her friends.
Unfortunately on day 3 it was time to head back into the city of Chiang Mai, so we packed up said goodbye and took our shuttle to the Siripanni Villa resort and spa. A much different feel from thatched huts in the jungle, here we laid by the pool and ordered lunch until our rooms were ready for us to check in. As the day cooled we went for 90 minute traditional Thai massage, then drank a bottle of wine and played cards on the balcony before catching a 7 o’clock shuttle to the night bazaar. Here we grabbed some dinner at Lemongrass Thai Restaurant which was another delicious Thai meal.
From there on we spent quite a few hours hopping around the bazaar for varieties of different souvenirs. Our personal favorite was the hand carved Jenga sets with different wood patterns which will definitely make its way back home with us. As we started to get a little tired shopping we tried to find a place that Sarah could get a glass of wine at. There weren’t too many places around so in the distance we say red lights that said “Foxy Lady”. We for some reason though it looked like a good place to stop but it ended up being a Thai burlesque dance club. There was a glass of wine available but Sarah said it might have been some of the worst she has. We stayed for long enough for each of Sarah’s sisters to take turns dancing on stage before the 6 of us all hopped into two Tuk-tuks to head back to the resort.
The next was more of the same, but just what we needed. Woke up, grabbed some breakfast and headed to the pool to read some books, catch some sun and mostly just relax. We enjoyed our massages the day before so much that we decided to go for round two in the early afternoon. Carson wasn’t feeling to great so the 5 of us met up and headed to the Sunday Night Walking Street Market. This was similar to the night bazaar but much busier with a lot more local fruits, foods and teas versus souvenirs, sunglasses, etc. Just off the main market road we found a great local restaurant, Kanjana, that served up another delicious local meal (we would go back solely for the egg rolls). After dinner we strolled around the night market a bit more and found our way to the local Monk University and were able to check out a really cool temple. We finished off the night with some Jenga and beers back at the hotel before calling it a night as we had an early flight back to Hong Kong the next day.
All in all, it was a great experience to be in Chiang Mai, we were there during the dry season so could only imagine how lush the jungle would be during the wet season. We are also really looking forward to our next Thailand trip in July which will be to the beaches of Koh Samui!