I have to say, Chiang Mai is pretty wonderful. It’s Thailand’s second largest city, located up in the northern province. Everything is really inexpensive, much less than in Bangkok and Cambodia. I think I’ve told you about the heat in general, that it’s a bit overwhelming. Not so much in Chiang Mai. It’s definitely cooler. I think it has to do with us being in a rainforest.
And the monsoon season is picking up. It’s typically been one major, 20-minute downpour a day. Yesterday morning was no exception…
Nate and I went over to the Tiger restaurant to catch breakfast before the guide picked us up for the Elephant Nature Park. You could tell it was going to start raining. And boy, did it rain! The streets even flooded. We had to get back to the hotel because it was approaching 8:00 a.m. So we decided to put these towels over our heads and just run to our hotel, despite the downpour. I mean, we kinda had no other choice. It was only around the corner from the restaurant (about 50 feet), but I don’t know if I was caught up with the rain or what, but I just kept running. I then realized Nate wasn’t behind me, so I started running back. I definitely overshot that one! He takes one look at me when I got inside and cracked up. I. Was. Soaked.
Soon enough, the van was there to take us to the nature park. It was an hour and a half drive north of Chiang Mai. During that time, we watched a documentary about the work this company does. It’s pretty remarkable. They have more than 30 elephants on this nature preserve, along with 80 abandoned dogs. It’s primarily volunteer-based. Some people stay on the preserve for a couple weeks and just help take care of the elephants. When you go there, you work. Most of the day, we’re feeding them pumpkins or bananas. They apparently eat 10% of their body weight each day and spend about 18 hours of their day chewing. Not kidding. We also bathed them, which was a lot of fun. You just hop in the river with them and start throwing pails of water on them. They seem to love it. The dogs there are funny — they’re running all over the place, but are very sweet. They’ll come to you to get pet every chance they get. Nate and I spent a lot of time with a blind elephant. Her story is pretty tragic, but she was pretty fun to be around. We pet her a lot. Even hugged her. Boy, could she EAT. She kissed me with the end of her trunk on my face. I got the instant shivers. I’m summarizing the day quite a bit, but it really was fantastic. These animals really are magnificent creatures, and it’s really sad what’s happening to them. There are no laws to protect the ones who’ve been domesticated, only wild ones. But all of the animals at the preserve seem genuinely happy. They’re not mistreated at all.
We got back to the hotel around 6:00 p.m. and ended up meeting with one of Nate’s friends from Korea, who’s also doing some traveling right now. We grabbed dinner and went to a rooftop bar and drank quite a bit. Met some pretty great people. I ended up talking to this Spanish couple for quite a while. Felt great to use my Spanish. I’m always afraid I’m going to lose it because I hardly use it anymore. They kept saying how great my Spanish was, which tends to be the case when I’m drinking. For some reason, it just gets better when I don’t think about what I’m saying…if that makes any sense. I then chatted up these three British guys for a while. They were pretty damn funny. All-in-all, a great last night in Chiang Mai. And with Nate…
Nate leaves later today to head back to Korea. He was a pretty fantastic travel companion. I’m really glad we did this together. I’m a little sad he’s leaving, but I think it’ll also be nice to have a couple days to myself, too. Am sure I’ll meet some interesting folks. I have a late flight tonight, heading to Phuket. In the morning, I’ll be heading to Phi Phi island. Nate’s friend, Ansbury, was just there and said it was pretty beautiful. I plan to get one helluva tan while I’m there.
In the meantime, Nate, Ansbury, and I are going to finish up checking out what we can in Chiang Mai today. Did I say how fantastic it is here? I’ll definitely come back and spend a good week here.