Put your reading glasses on because this is a long post!
I know it’s been a few days since I have given an update but to be honest we are having the time of our lives here and haven’t had much time to sit and reflect on our days. We’ve been trying to keep up with our adventures in our shared journal but I forget to keep things up to date on my phone so I’ll try my best here. We have been non stop for the past few days and when we do have down time we are passed out in our beds.
Aoi Hostel – after a 12 hour over night train we checked into our first hostel here in Chiang Mai. It’s less than $5 USD a night so we had the whole “you get what you pay for” in the back of our minds. That is a true statement right there. The hostel it’s self is not so bad but the way the showers are here in Thailand is a little different. You shower in the same area where the toilets are so it’s kind of gross when you have to pee right after someone else just showered. What makes it worse here is that we are pretty sure the bathrooms aren’t cleaned often. The employees here are wonderful but a tad bit unprofessional. But that’s part of the vibe and experience. The owner is Joe and we didn’t see much of him. He’s a local and I believe he took over the hostel from his mom. Him and his girlfriend have a dog that lives here which was super cute. We first met Ryan, a guy from the states! He checked us in and let us leave our bags in the lobby until our beds were open. We had time to go explore a little of Chiang Mai.
First stop was a coffee shop because Chiang Mai is know for their coffee and teas! Christina got a Thai coffee and I got an iced Thai tea! Best I’ve ever had! We then made our way to an American restaurant for a fresh salad wrap! After walking around the city for a bit we went and moved into our dorm room. We stayed in a 10 bed mixed dorm and had bottom bunks across from each other. It’s kind of hard to describe what staying here was like unless you’ve experienced a cheap hostel before. We’re not even sure if they changed the sheets after each person. Thankfully we prepared ourselves for travel and had locks for our bags and a safe with and extendable lock to lock our bags to the bed. Staying in a room with other travelers can be a bit nerve wrecking but it wasn’t that bad.
We napped and then went to a bar around the corner called Loco Elvis. Like I said before, the locals love American music lol. After a few margaritas we went back to our hostel and had full intentions of going to bed but that all changed when Ryan invited us out with them! That’s when I met Xavier (Christina met him in the lobby earlier). Both Xavier and Ryan were very welcoming and didn’t mind having us tag along. They both are from the states but now live in Chiang Mai and work/live at the hostel. They have turned the hang out room into their bedroom for the most part. We met so many great people this night! Some staying in our dorm and some who were just mutual friends of other travelers. Selvie & Simon were 2 Dutch guys around our age who knew how to have a good time! We spent the night dancing to EDM and techno music at a club with them all while they tried to teach us how to shuffle. Danielle and Anja were also there and had previously met each other in India and met back up during their travels here in Thailand. Danielle had only learned how to speak English just 6 months ago! We loved hearing about their travel experience and hearing about where they are off to next. All of them thought we were from the UK because of how we talk. There was also another girl and I completely forgot her name. Her and Ryan seemed to be a thing and she kept feeding Christina and I her bucket of rum. We got so lucky to have met such a wonderful group of people. They welcomed us with open arms and all told us that Thailand was the perfect spot for our first international travel trip. By the way when we all left as a group from the hostel, the cute dog that lives there walked with us most of the way. She was so sweet, not sure where she ended up after we got to the club. After the bars we ended up going back to Danielle and Anja’s hotel where we met even more of their friends and learned about more travel experience. Anja was even kind enough to offer us some of her goodies she got from a local Rasta bar. Selvie was my favorite person we met that night! He told us all about his travels and life experiences! We all ended up outside on the patio at one point talking with everyone and Selvie just had us cracking up. Danielle added me on Facebook so that we can message in English to help her better her understanding. Across the street there was a man changing and Selvie got all hot and bothered because he was a black guy and in his words “he has dark skin so he’s got a big, you know”. He told us all about his plans to attend the world largest gay pride celebration and that we should come with him! He also told us that the night before after drinking he went back to Aoi Hostel and found someone passed out in his bed. We all eventually walked back to our hostel where Christina and I made the decision to go to bed while half of the group went out after hours to the underground secret bars to play pool.
The next morning we didn’t wake until 1pm so clearly we had a good time! We spent the day exploring and eating delicious Thai food! We were still trying to learn the map at this point! Old Town Chiang Mai is basically one big square surrounded by main roads and rivers so it’s easy to navigate once you understand it. A nice French girl at our hostel suggested some cool places to go and we got completely lost while trying to find s coffee shop. We ended up at the night bazaar and markets. We spent way too much money on gifts for people but really things here are so cheap that it doesn’t really matter.
The next day was our big elephant adventure! Before coming to Thailand we both knew that a day with elephants was a must do for us! The problem is that we wanted to find a place where we felt the elephants weren’t being used just for show or being treated unethically. A lot of people don’t understand that elephant tourism here is a problem and that riding an elephant in the jungle is not safe for them! Elephants are not meant to spend 12 hours a day with humans on their back. It greatly damages their spines and depresses them. We choose a company called Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. They are big on advertising NO RIDING but a lot of places say that and lie. We read reviews and took a look at their website and decided that we liked them.
We were picked up in our hostel lobby around 8am and taken to a “taxi”. It’s a truck where the bed has been turned into a seating area. There was already a couple inside and we later made friends with them! They are from the middle of Canada and have been together for 10 years! Both were extremely friendly and gave us a lot of suggestions on places to visit while we were in town. We then picked up the rest of the group! A family of 4 from England who were on their first international adventure as a family. Their daughter was around 22 and lives/works in Australia so they all met half way to explore Thailand. She had been to the jungle before and told us how much she loved it! The other couple was from New Zealand and recently quit their full time jobs to travel the world for a year. We felt kind of small only telling them we were traveling for 3 weeks but everyone keeps saying it’s a good start! We had a great group of people to spend the day with!
The ride was rough! We spent 2 hours in the back of this truck with the last 30 minutes being spent driving up a mountain. Now I’m sure you can imagine what being in the back of a truck on a mountain is like but it’s way worse than what you’re thinking! We basically were off roading the whole time on an unpaved road and speeding around all the turns and curves ( the road in under construction so maybe next time it won’t be so bad). The driver was honking every five seconds to warn other cars we were going around the sharp curve. Needless to say I got extremely car sick. Hell, I get car sick driving around Savannah if I’m in the back seat. I didn’t think I would make it! Christina and I both just kind of laughed at each other the whole time and then laughed with the Canadian couple because no one else seemed to be phased by the crazy driving.
Fast forward to getting there! We made it to the top of the mountain and had to walk some pretty crazy paths to get to the village where we began our day. Thank god my ankle is pretty much healed or else I would not have been able to make it. We ended up at a small village area where the shelter looked like something off of the show survivor! It was so cool to see the handy work that went into making the place. We were given an introduction and learned about the 3 female elephants we were going to spend the day with. All 3 were rescued from training places and brought to the jungle to live free happy lives. The company originally started with allowing visitors to ride them but soon changed their rules after noticing the negative effect it had on their elephants. They told us that the elephants became depressed and once they stopped they noticed a huge change in their moods. Their ears were flapping again! Apparently that a sign for a happy elephant. The youngest one was 18 and the oldest was 37. We had to hike up a pretty crazy area of the mountain to finally get to see them but it was well worth it! Over hills and makeshift bridges over rivers that make you question if you want to die that day or not. Although it was pretty scary it was also kind of amazing to see a completely different way of living and to see true survival skills put into action.
On top of the hills we met the 3 elephants. I can’t even remember their names 😦 but we greeted them with fresh fruit and corn! We spent time feeding, petting, and hugging them! After maybe 15 minutes of that we then followed them into the jungle where we got to see how they act in their natural habitat. Being guided into a jungle by elephants is pretty fucking cool! One of the elephants was pretty slow so it took us a little while to catch up to the first half of the group. Watching this huge creature maneuver it self through rough terrain was a sight to see!
We ended up in an area with a river where we spent an hour or 2 just observing them! One went one way to eat some trees. One with across the river and tore down some branches and one plopped herself right into the water and started rolling around. That was the highlight of my day!!! Here we are in the jungle on top of a mountain watching a animal that weight at least a ton just rolling around in the water. How can life get any better than that? After some time the 2 other elephants joined in and we watched as all 3 of them jumped, rolled, splashed, and completely submerged themselves into the river.
We were then guided back to the camp area but took a different route. This was terrifying but so cool all at the same time! Walking along a tiny path along the edge of a cliff where at any moment or wrong move you’d fall to your death (or get pretty hurt) was liberating! We spent the next hour taking a break and having lunch that the local woman made for us. After lunch we were given a lesson on elephant holistic health and got to watch healthy treats be made! They mix rice, tamarind, black pepper, bananas & something else I can’t remember and ball it up as a daily treat to keep their digestive systems clean.
Soon after, we met the elephants down at the watering hole (bath tub). It looks to be man made and is where we had time to play in the water with them and scrub them down! You can’t be afraid to get a little dirty and wet here! The staff threw water at everyone and we all basically took a bath together. It was kind of like being at beach bum but with elephants! We then moved to the mud pit and got to cover them in mud and had time for a group photo. We said goodbye to the babies and watched them make their way back into the jungle.
We all washed up and shortly made our crazy hike back to the top of the mountain where the road was. I honestly thought I was going to die! One because it was like being on the stair master at the gym but on full speed for like 5 hours but I was also not looking forward to the drive back down to civilization. Thank god we made friends with the Canadian couple because they gave both of us something called gravel which is a motion sickness pill. Halfway down I still got extremely sick but managed to not puke my brains out. We ended up taking a little break at a gas station where we had time to chill out and relax. We dropped off some our group but ended up going to the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary office with the Canadian couple to pay for the rest of the trip (we only paid a deposit online) we also got some cool free shirts as a keepsake.
I know I speak for both Christina and I when I say that this experience was a once in a lifetime thing to do! I honestly wish I had the time to type more details but really I don’t want to because it was a special moment for us that only we will ever be able to understand.
As for today, we checked out of Aoi and didn’t even want to take the time to shower because we were just over it at this point. We finally found the coffee shop we’ve been looking for and it was perfect! Its considered on of the many secret gardens here so I’ll let the pictures do the talking
We are now all nestled in to our new hostel called Hug Bed and both just took the best showers ever! This place is so clean and so refreshing! We are staying in a 6 bed female dorm and have pod style bunks so it feels a little more private. I’m laying in the top bunk fully content while Christina is below possibly sleeping.
Content is a word we both have been using a lot here. I LOVE this city and can honestly see myself living here one day. Christina keeps getting moments of feeling fully content while we are just sitting enjoying a meal. I completely understand what she’s talking about. Our new hostel has a balcony view of one of the main roads and we just finished up some laundry! Our clothes are hanging outside to air dry. It feels nice to feel clean for the first time in week!
I know there is so much more to talk about but I’ll leave all of that for only Christina and I to remember from this trip.
I also wish you could taste the food here!
Thank you guys so much for keeping up with us and for supporting this journey we are on.