There are quite a few combinations of ways to cross the boarder into Laos. We ended up booking a five hour van and then a two day slow boat ride to Luang Prabang. Martha and I really wanted to see the White Temple (Wat Rong Khung) but heard it was no longer worth it due to earthquake damage. The van we booked happened to include a stop in Chiang Rai to see the White Temple. I am soooooooo glad it did because that thing is SICK. The damages are hardly noticeable. Here are some photos of this beauty!
It has been a very busy few weeks for Anna and me! We have been traveling for two weeks from yesterday but it feels like significantly longer. We are currently in Luang Prabang, Laos but I am going to back track to last week.
We took a night train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Thailand. The 14-hour ride — which you would assume would be hell — was a pleasant trip with actually comfortable beds. I slept great … Anna not so much. (I think she is starting to resent me for my ability to sleep anywhere, anytime.)
Anyways, in Chiang Mai we had a day spent in the city before we went on a two-day jungle trek into the mountains of Northern Thailand.
The trek was money well spent and a nice escape from the city, but what made were the people and our guide — Chet.
It was about an hour-hour and a half drive where we hooked up with the entire group and started our first leg of the excursion — a trek up a mountain. We were given no information about what the hike would be like, but picture almost a straight incline at some parts and even steeper on the decent. It was beautiful foliage! Everything was green and lush with bamboo and native flowers around us.
After the hike (Side-note: Chet abandoned us halfway through the trek. “Go up and down and turn left,” he told us as he started back the way we came.) we were going to ride elephants. Now I was really hesitant to ride the elephants. You hear stories about the horrible treatment of the animals. And is it right to ride on their backs? With the group we discussed this and what someone said really struck with me. A gal’s mom works with large animals back home and she said to think of riding elephants like the commercial trail riding on horses done back home.
Also, two of our pals, Desirée and Maddy, went to Elephant Nature Park the next day, which is an elephant rescue center, where they learned a lot about the cultural and economic importance of elephant riding tourist attractions. Desirée and Maddy said they learned at the nature park that the elephants develop a close bond with their trainers and acting in a way that pleases their trainers in turn pleases the animals.
The process of turning a wild elephant into a ‘tame’ one is a horrible process (more can be learned here) but our elephants seemed happy and well treated.
We were also able to help bathe the elephants and ride them in the water, which was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.
That night we slept under mosquito nets in a grass-roof hut all right together.
The next day we hiked to a waterfall that had a little slide and did some white-water rafting. Naturally I went down the waterfall. It was hilariously fun but I did wake up with a throbbing bruise on my hip. (Minor injuries are becoming a theme of this trip.) Lastly, white-water rafting was a great time. I was freaking out and screaming but trying to keep my mouth closed because I did not want to get water in my mouth. It was a tricky dilemma and the uncontrollable screaming won out in the end.
The trek was great and Chiang Mai was gorgeous, but another real highlight of the stop was meeting Maddy and Desirée. They are Canadian gals from Edmonton, Alberta Canada. We have been traveling with them for a week now. They are on a 5-week adventure around Southeast Asia so we are only sticking with them for a few more days before we have to split in our separate ways. #bestfriendbackpackattack
We had one last day in Chiang Mai before heading to Laos. (This was the day Desirée and Maddy went to the Nature Park. Anna and I wanted to go but we couldn’t spent the money with our tight budget.) Anna and I spent the entire day window-shopping and temple hopping. Basically just living a dream … except for the sweat. I was sweating during every moment I’ve written about. Don’t forget. It’s important to the story. Maddy hashtags #meltinginasia on her Instagram and it is incredibly appropriate.
A post on Luang Prabang is coming soon!
Here are a few pictures of scenes around Chiang Mai.
Here are some final photos from Bangkok as well.
We spent five days in Chiang Mai, which is the major city in Northern Thailand. On our first day we spent some time walking around the city, following the ancient moat only to find ourselves lost and very hot. There was a cute café a long the way so we stopped and indulged in some smoothies before continuing on. Eventually we found the hotel and sought refuge in the A/C. We are utilizing our time to see the sights and do activities, but we can’t constantly do activities or we’ll have to come home quite sooner! So some days, we do activities, then a day here and there we bum around. Three months is a long time so we have to have chill, normal people days ☺. We are reading a lot of books and trying to blog. We’ve spent much of our time in travel mode, like riding the 14 hour overnight train to get to Chiang Mai.It was actually quite a lovely ride, no complaints!
While in Chiang Mai, we went on a two-day jungle trek where we hiked into the village to stay in a hut, play with elephants, explore a waterfall, meet new people, and hang out with locals. It was such a great experience because we had an awesome group of people! Maddy and Desiree, our Canadian friends, spent some time at an elephant sanctuary where they learned a lot about elephants in the tourism industry and in the wild. At first I was very hesitant to ride them because I never want to do things with animals if it’s an interaction that isn’t in their best interest. However, upon listening to Maddy and Desiree talk about their elephant sanctuary experience I am glad I got to interact with elephants on the trek and be with them in the water, which felt very natural! We hope to go to an elephant sanctuary while here, so after we do, I’ll write more about it. Overall, they learned that tourism is a positive thing for elephants in Thailand because it provides stimulation, care, and funding to support them.
My favorite part of the trek was playing with the elephants in the water. They were so happy to be bathed and would roll over and dunk themselves in the water. McKay’s trainer was on him in the water and invited me up so I didn’t waste any time hopping on! We rode him back to the village then it was time to clean up and eat dinner.
This trek was an absolute blast! I’m glad we met Maddy and desiree because we have continued to hang out since the trek.
On our last day in Chiang Mai, we visited a very beautiful temple, the most incredible one I’ve seen yet. The inside was insane. Wat Chedi Luang, an old temple built in the 1400’s was also an impressive site to see and I was awed by it’s structure!
For more photos (that I post almost daily) check out my Instagram