Of course. The bus was delayed. Because Thailand.. The (public) transport here is working, just not particularly on time. I think Thailand is still more dependent on the state of the sun than on the state of the clock. Because of the delay (and my Tuk Tuk driver going completely in the wrong direction), I arrived at the hostel way after closing time. Luckily, I had already booked the room, and asked Joe (the hostel owner, and one of the friendliest locals I’ve met so far) if i could still check in after closing time. Joe had arranged that I could check in, so after I got to the hostel 1.5 later than planned, I was greeted by one of Joe’s friends, that was keeping watch that night, and he let me in. Time for a good night’s sleep. But that was harder than expected, because I stayed in a fan room, which means NO air conditioning, and only a fan to cool you (and the air around you) off. After some time spent sweating in bed, I luckily fell asleep.
The next morning, it was time to explore Chiang Mai. After visiting a few temples, I decided it was way too hot to walk around, so I rushed back to the hostel, and rented a moto once again. In the hostel I met Daniel, with whom I went on and visited the ‘grand canyon’ (or at least, Chiang Mai’s version).
It was an amazing place to cool down for a bit, enjoy the environment, the weather, and just generally float around in the water. When we arrived there, I saw friggin’ Connor (reunion 1) standing there, who I’d originally met in Ao Nang. It’s ridiculous how small the world is. We didn’t see or spoke for a week, and then suddenly you find out you’re sleeping in neighboring hostels, and you meet again 1500km from the place we met. Chilled with Connor (and a couple of his friends from the hostel) for a bit, and when the water had made me look like a wrinkly old person, it was time to head back to the hostel. Back in the hostel, Daniel decided he’d done enough for the day (it was his first time on the scooter, and he kept driving behind me, saying “it’s a good place to die”), and I went to the Doi Suthep temple, which was located on a mountain. It was a great ride on my scooter, and the temple was quite nice too, so it was worth it to get all the way up to the mountain, and all the way up the 200 steps that led to the temple.
That evening, I met up with Lerain, the Chinese I met in Bangkok that lives in Chiang Mai (reunion 2), and we had dinner and caught up, which was nice. She challenged me to try pork leg, which looked quite disgusting when we walked past the stand that sold it, but I accepted the challenge, and prepared my stomach for the worst. Luckily, it was actually really nice! After all of that, it was time to head home, because the next day I would get picked up early to go to the elephant sanctuary.
So that next morning, I got picked up by the taxi to head to the elephant sanctuary. On the way there, we stopped to pick up 1 extra person, a girl from Canada, but that was it. We’d be stuck with each other for the rest of the day (and our amazing guide Tony, that never once guided. Somehow I always ended up being the person in front, and he’d only correct me on wrong turns well after I’ve taken them..). The rest of the day we spent feeding, mud-bathing and washing ‘our’ elephant (Dinky?). And after being sprayed by mud and water by our friend the elephant, we ended up swimming around in the waterfall nearby.
The promise of the sanctuary was that you would NOT ride the elephants (which is very bad for their backs), but actually treat the animals with respect. Cassidy (the Canadian) and I both hoped that this place honestly took care of the elephants with respect, but unfortunately, it’s hard to know for sure. After spending pretty much the entire day there, we were dropped off at our ‘homes’. The road to and from the sanctuary was absolutely horrendous. Both Cassidy and I had to try really hard not to throw up in the back of the taxi, but luckily we both survived. When I was back at the hostel, it was time for another early night, because the next day I’d go on a 2 day, 1 night trekking. But. Somehow, I ended up at a Muay Thai boxing studio to watch some fighters beat the crap out of each other. And I have to admit, I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it.
After coming back to the hostel way too late, I got into bed, and tried to get a little bit of sleep to prepare me for the trekking. I got picked up by a taxi, then we picked up a Mexican couple, and finally a guy. But the guy hadn’t returned from a night of drinking yet, so I ended up third wheeling for the 2 days. Luckily, Diego and Alé were really nice and made me feel like I wasn’t third wheeling the entire time, so that worked out great. Before I knew I was on the back of some elephant, riding around. I spent the entire elephant-riding-trip trying to decide whether I liked it or not, but in the end I decided that I wouldn’t have minded skipping that part of the trekking. After that, we met our completely mental guide Tana. Fortunately, he was crazy in a good way, so we ended up having loads of fun between the four of us. Tana showed us all kinds of weird things, from getting a Tarantula out of its hiding place with a small stick to scraping some bark of some tree and lighting it up (“gun powder tree!”). The motto of the trip quickly became “happy today, worry tomorrow”, and it was great! After walking around for quite a while (we took a breath near a really nice waterfall during the hike), we ended up in our personal “5-star hotel”, which was a self-built wooden shed with some rock-hard mattresses, and no kind of cooling (air-conditioning, fan) whatsoever. After settling down there, we jumped in the water that was nearby, where quite a lot of local children were playing around. As soon as one saw me, he raced up to me, and kept screaming “sit down!”, and before I knew, I had some 10yo Thai kid standing on my shoulders and doing front flips in the water from there. Moments like that, I really wished I spoke some Thai, to be able to interact with kids like that.
After the swimming and after having dinner, we made a campfire and chilled around that for the rest of the evening. We had a ‘speaker’ for our phones that blasted the music (which was a metal cup, that only slightly amplified the music) and we just sat there and enjoyed life.
The next day, we finished the last part of the hike, and then ended up bamboo-rafting. Which was horrible. Because of there being absolutely no rain for the last 6 months, the water for rafting was so shallow that we spent more time next to the raft than we did on the raft. After all that, we returned to our hostel, and since my time in Thailand was running out, I pretty much immediately rented a motorbike and raced to Pai, my next destination. Over there, I met up with Connor again (this time it was planned, but I’m still counting it: reunion 3) and some his friends from Chiang Mai. Went out with them in Pai, and the next day we all (including 2 Norwegian girls we met the night before) headed to some cave, and spent the better part of the day over there. It was an impressive cave, with bats everywhere, and batshit everywhere as well, which smelt quite bad.
That night, I reunited with Cassidy again (you guessed it: reunion 4) had dinner, and strolled around Pai and around the night market with her.
The next day, way too early, I hopped on my Moto again, because it was my last full day in Thailand, and I still wanted to see the white temple in Chiang Rai. I raced back to my Chiang Mai hostel, returned the bike, picked up my backpack, and raced to the bus that was going to take me to Chiang Rai. There I visited the white temple, which is honestly one of the most beautiful and interesting temples I’ve visited so far. There’s all kinds of comic characters everywhere you look, and it’s completely different from every other temple. I thought I was sick of seeing temples, but seeing the white temple immediately cured me. And every time you looked around in and around the temple, you’d see something new, regardless of how many times you looked.
After finishing the white temple, I went to my Chiang Rai hostel, and of course, there are 2 guys I met in Ayutthaya (they weren’t traveling together, so that’s reunions 5 and 6). Chilled with them for the rest of the night, and then headed to bed, because the next day I had to catch my flight to the next chapter: Cambodia.
Bye Thailand, you’ve been amazing and you’ll be missed!