We flew into Chiang Mai, which is in the most mountainous region of the country. The weather’s a couple degrees cooler than Bangkok, the pace of life is just a little slower, and there’s a great mountain backdrop to the city.
When we checked into our hotel, we pretty much just dropped our bags then immediately set off for our Thai cooking class. The teacher’s husband picked us up in his pickup truck, which we road in the bed of. We stopped to pick up other people from the Netherlands, Columbia, and the UK. They wound up being a great group and made the evening alot more fun.
Our instructor was Vannee, a short, fiesty lady with a great sense of humor. In between instructions and tips we were treated to good-natured barbs at her husband and comments about what we were doing.
Once again we were able to choose dishes from a menu. I made pad Thai noodles, massaman curry, sweet and sour chicken and fried bananas; Kim made fried rice, sweet and sour chicken, green curry, and spicy flat noodles. This time we ate each course as we prepared it. The food was awesome and she gave us each a recipe book with complete recipes for everything that was on the menu. Look for Kim and I to host a Thai/Cambodian food night soon!
By the time we finished cooking and eating it was near 11:00. We were stuffed and tired, so we called it a night and headed back to the hotel.
We got picked up at 8am to start a day of adventure in the hills outside of town. We started off by climbing aboard bamboo rafts that were about 20 feet long and 4 feet wide. They were made of long bamboo poles lashed together and came with a local guy at the front with a long push stick to steer.
We travelled down a narrow, windy river with beautiful scenery and class 1-2 rapids. We were riding standing up, with nothing at all to hold onto, and on bamboo poles that flexed under your feet so you rarely had stable footing. It was great! There were four tourists per raft and it was sort of a cross between surfing and being in a conga line. Shifts of balance and shouts of “wooooo-Ahh-WO!” were nearly constant as the raft navigated the turns and obstacles. It was a totally unique experience and a lot of fun!
The raft ride ended at a little suspension foot bridge. When we walked up from the bank, a family of Elephants were waiting for us, munching on Palm leaves. There were two adults and a baby, who carefully picked up a hose and brought it to me in his trunk so I could give him a spray.
Before I had the chance, though, our guide was rounding up the group. Up from the river bank came 5 or 6 more elephants, and these were already outfitted with seats on top for riders. To get on them, we had to climb up to the second story of a small building that was there and board from the deck. Really surreal to be up that high to get on something…
The ride took about 45 minutes and wound through the forest, crossing a couple of small streams and zig-zagging up and down the hills. The elephants were allowed to roam off the path a bit, which they frequently did to grab some leaves to chew on or just to take a different route. Ours was pretty docile, as her baby was walking with us. At one point she even stopped for a couple minutes so he could drink her milk.
The ride was an awesome experience and I have a whole new respect for how smart and social elephants are.
The falls was beautiful, coming off of domed rock so that the top 3rd was a steadily increasing slope and the bottom was vertical. I hiked up the side to find that there’s another little waterfall and pool at the top. The whole thing might be runnable, though there’s a layer of rock running diagonally across right above the vertical part. If you could keep from having the boat damaged as you cross that, I think it’d be a real fun ride.