On Wednesday, January 23rd, I took the 6PM direct flight from Mandalay (Myanmar) to Chiang Mai (Thailand) where I arrived about 8PM. The flight had been with Air Bangkok and this flight operator was surprisingly good. Both airports are pretty small and I can’t say that this bothered me; on the contrary.
In Thaïland, I was a bit nervous to cross the border, because my passport was almost full (2 1/2 pages left). I was hoping the immigration officer would be nice and put the stamp on one of the pages with some free space but even though she was nice, she put it on the half page where I had hoped would fit my stamps of Laos and Cambodia … Well, we’ll see how far I can make it with my passport…
Once arrived in Chiang Mai, I took a Grab to my hostel, the Stamps Backpackers Hostel. When I arrived, there were lots of people in the common area and I was a bit overwhelmed, but the owner, Mike, and his wife were super welcoming and explained to me how the hostel works. He started to tell me about the tours they organise but, honestly, I first wanted to go to my room, leave my backpack and put on some fresh clothes. Afterwards I went around the corner to the Salad Company for dinner and I was amazed by the delicious pumpkin soup with fresh and hot pita bread!🤤 Delicious and healthy, perfect (I think I gained a bit too much weight in the last months and now it’s time to eat more soups and less rice and noodles…).
When I came back to the hostel, the other people were just about to go out, but I was pretty tired (I had been up at 6AM to see the sunrise in Mandalay with my friends Severine and Ludivine) and I decided to just go to bed. The only thing I did was book a tour to the Elephant Land, because Mike sold this tour pretty well and he insisted that it books out fast and you better book it 2 days in advance.
The next morning, I woke up fresh and relaxed and I decided to start my day with a nice breakfast: a wonderful omelet with ham and cheese and some baked potatoes, delicious! During breakfast, I met Lindsay from Canada who would become a very good friend; we hit it off right away!
Then I went across the road to finally get my laundry done; I had wanted to do it a week earlier in Mandalay, but it was so expensive there that I had only a few things cleaned and had waited to be in Thailand to do the rest, because it’s much cheaper here.
Later, I went out to explore the historic part of Chiang Mai; it’s full of big and very impressive (Buddhist) temples and it’s a small, but very beautiful city. I really liked Chiang Mai, but it is very very touristic: there are lots of restaurants who offer Western food like pizza, falafel or burgers. I usually prefer more authentic places, but since it was clean and beautiful, I didn’t mind too much.
I had a late lunch and treated myself with a pizza, but it was less good than expected… Well, that cured my desire for pizza for the next couple of weeks …
In the afternoon, I relaxed in the hostel and around 6PM most people came back from their day out and I started meeting new people. The hostel organizes every night a different activity and that evening, they organized a speed dating. This was pretty fun and it was a good way to meet new people. I sat next to my friend Lindsay and we had a good time, even though we didn’t meet our prince charming … 🤣 Around 9PM, some people wanted to go out to see a lady-boy show and we could not say no to that! Have you ever seen a lady-boy show? It’s pretty fun! 🤣 We were a very big group and so we met lots of new people, like Michelle and Delilah from the US and Anna and Daniel from the Netherlands. The show ended around midnight and we were about 17 people from our hostel taking one of these red firefighter taxis back; it was super crowded and a couple of people had to stand in the back, like outside! 😄 I will definitely miss these crazy transportations once I get back to Europe!
The next morning, Michelle, Anna, Delilah and I went on a tour to the Elephant Land where we met Charly from the US and Liam from Scotland. First, I was a bit sceptic about it, because I feel like it’s not nice to hold elephants just for tourism and train them until they will be nice so that tourists can come and pet them… Mike convinced me that this place was different and he was right.
Our guide, Superboy, was very nice and explained how things work in their company. In Thailand, most elephants are held for tourism purposes nowadays, but you need a permit to hold elephants. There are some regulations and the old elephant riding thing is over, fortunately. Now you can only see elephants, pet them and maybe wash them. In the Elephant Land, they have 5 female elephants and they are trained to know that tourist won’t harm them so that they won’t harm the tourists either. In the morning, you get a special uniform that makes the elephants recognize you ; you get a bag with bananas that you can feed to the elephants and they show you how to pet them, what to say to them and how to behave. They don’t use hooks on the elephants and they don’t attach them anywhere. They get only 30% of their food from the people working there, the other 70% they have to find themselves in the jungle around. Every day, the employees walk with the elephants into the jungle and look after them. We got to walk with them into the jungle and to see how they behave «in the nature» while Superboy told us a lot about the Asian elephants and the difference between them and the African elephants. It’s not like leaving them completely free, but it’s much better than holding them in a small area; they have space and some kind of freedom.
After the walk, we had some pad thaï for lunch and lots of fruit. Afterwards, we changed into our swim suits to help cover the elephants in mud. They have one big mud puddle and first we found it a bit disgusting, because it’s obviously not only mud but also elephant poo and pee… Superboy told us that there is nothing better for smooth skin than elephant poo and he didn’t hesitate in covering himself and us in this mud! 😄 It was a lot of fun, but I guess we did a bad job with the elephants since we mostly covered ourselves and not them… From there, we walked over to the waterfall only a few meters away and got ourselves – more or less – cleaned up. The mud was really difficult to get off, especially in the cold water, but who cares, it was so much fun! 😄
In the end we had to feed the elephants one last time with bananas before we went back to our hostel.
We were pretty exhausted when we arrived back at the hostel, but the hot shower helped not only getting clean, but also getting new energy. Still, I decided not to drink or to go out that night, because the next day I would have to get up pretty early for my 2 days jungle trekking.
The others wanted to go to a karaoke bar and did their best in trying to convince me to join them, but I resisted until the end, when finally Beau from New Mexico broke me and made me join them… 😄 The karaoke place wasn’t far away from the hostel and there was no entrance fee, that’s why I had agreed to go with them. I had only a couple of hundred baht left and I still had a couple of days to go with that, so I had to safe money…. It was a good decision to join them, because we had a lot of fun. Once we got the karaoke going with a few classics like the Spice Girls, Abba and Shanaia Twain, there was no stopping the people! We were about 10 people from our hostel there and we were singing and dancing non stop until it was midnight and I decided to go home so that I would be in a good shape for my trekking the next day. 😊
Unfortunately, our guide had not the same resolution as me: he was super hangover and already a bit drunk which made him a very bad guide… When I was picked up, I got into a van with 7 other people and I was surprised that so many people wanted to do the 2 days trekking, but later it turned out that we were only 2 people doing this; the others did a 1 day trek.
When the van stopped Pierre from France and I had to leave the others and that’s when we met our guide, Juy. He seemed rather quiet, but not unfriendly and we had a good speed at the beginning. Once we had a break, he then admitted that he had a huge hangover, because he had been drinking with his boss the previous night and that his boss had given him a beer in the morning before the trek against the hangover – in general not a bad idea, but before a trek with customers?! WTF!? At some point he started thowing up every hour or so and I was very upset, that’s so unprofessional and we pay a lot of money for that tour!
Anyway, the hike was beautiful and Pierre and I made the best out of it. For lunch we stopped at a waterfall where we could swim and enjoy the beautiful landscape. It was especially nice, because there were only 4 other people there (plus the locals), so it was quiet and peaceful.
We arrived around 3PM to the place where we would have dinner and sleep. There was a couple from the Netherland there as well, Marianne and Sander; they had done a 3 days trek and they would go back with us the next day. They were super nice and we had a good evening with them. In the description of this trek, they said that we would cook with our guide and we insisted on seeing how and what they cooked, even though Juy didn’t ask us to join, but he didn’t mind either. He had started to drink whisky by that point and was already a bit drunk when we were cooking around 7PM – again, unprofessional… It seemed to us that many people in the mountains and probably everywhere in the countryside drink a lot of cheap local alcohol and spend a lot of nights drunk. It’s a shame, but I guess work is hard in the fields and it’s cold in the night, so they have to find a way to get warm…
Juy tried to show us some mind games and entertain us, but we weren’t much in the mood to spend time witth him. We had a good night anyway, laughing about him and talking to Marianne and Sander.
The next morning, we woke up around 6:30AM for the sunrise and it was quite nice, but we had a lot of banana trees in front of our bungalow and they were blocking the view a bit. We left pretty late, around 9:30AM, because they had to prepare our lunch before we could leave. I don’t like starting hikes this late, because it just gets too warm; I prefer hiking in the morning when it’s fresh.
The second day, we walked through much more jungle than the first day and – in my opinion – it was more beautiful. We had a really good time and when we finally got to our lunch place – around 1:30PM – we could swim and cool down in the waterfall there. Shortly after that, the guides – today Juy was joined by Ara who was super sweet and a great guide – found a tarantula and made it crowl out of it’s howl. They pinned it down with a machete and cut off it’s teeth so that it wasn’t poisonous anymore. Then Juy took it with him to the next stop where they grilled it and gave us some of it’s legs to eat. We were afraid that he would just put the spider in our neck or something while it was still alive; he would be crazy enough to do that (the day before he had eaten a smaller spider alive and he had taken another one and let it crowl in his mouth and on his head!), so we let him go first and kept a good distance until we were rid of that spider. It didn’t taste bad, actually, but I would probably become a vegetarian before I’d eat that everyday…
The walk that second day was really nice, always along the stream where we could see lots of small and big waterfalls. We enjoyed it a lot and the company was good, thanks to not being only with Juy!
Around 5PM we arrived at the end of our trek and took a transportation back to the city where we arrived around 6:30PM. I was really glad to take a nice hot shower and change into clean clothes…
Most of my friends were still in the hostel and we all decided to join the official activity that night, which was going to the weekly Sunday Night Market. We expected a small market, but it turned out to be huge and we all lost each other. In the end, it was just Anna from the Netherlands and me. It was pretty nice, but it was very very touristic and so we were back in the hostel by 10PM without having bought a single thing. Most of the others were either already back or came back shortly after us and we called it a night pretty early, because everyone was very tired.
I have enjoyed my time in Chiang Mai a lot: it’s a very beautiful small city and there are lots of things to do so that you can easily stay a couple of days without getting bored. Also, I met some wonderful people in my hostel and we had a fantastic time together! 🤗