Nearly one month into our trip and most of us agree that we miss breakfast food: pancakes, french toast, egg mcmuffins, scrambled eggs, or simply toast with jam. Our 3-day weekend in Chiang Mai offered us a taste of breakfast from home and much much more. After the 8-hour bus ride from Khon Kaen to Chiang Mai we were all quite hungry (and it was about 6:30 in the morning). So where did we go? The 24-hour McDonald’s! McDonald’s became our little home away from home as we all indulged in hashbrowns, egg mcmuffins, as well as enjoyed their facilities to prep for the day (i.e. brush our teeth, put our faces on, etc.). We got some stares, but if there’s one thing about Chiang Mai it’s that there are many farang (Westerners). After we were rejuvenated, we dropped our belongings off at the hostel and headed off to explore the old part of the city. We visited many temples (วัด), all of which struck me with wonder and awe. Each one was majestic and tranquil in its own way and stunning with all of the gold inside and out. My words can only go so far to describe these amazing pieces of Thai history and culture (so here are some pictures).
In the evening, we visited Wat Doi Suthep. It was a steep song taew ride up the mountain (during which I felt like I was inhaling diesel the entire ride), but the beautiful temple and view of Chiang Mai was worth it. After the sunset, we sought out dinner at the downtown night market. It was a struggle to find cheap food, but we finally found a place that offered Thai food for less than 100 baht. By a stroke of luck, the restaurant we ate at was very close to a lady boy show! For less than $10 we were treated to a night of entertainment. All of the performers were very skilled dancers, they rocked some amazing outfits, and the show dealt more than its fair share of surprises and laughter.
The next day our morning started off right with a true American breakfast – toast, eggs, orange juice, and BACON! After eating I was even more pumped for that day’s adventure: visiting the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. It was a 2-hour dusty car ride from our hostel, but so incredibly worth it. All of the elephants at this sanctuary are rescued and are not ridden anymore. We met with three elephants, two of which were sisters and the other was a cousin. The first thing we did was feed them, which the elephants were all too eager for. They would reach out for the food with their trunks so fast I don’t know if they even really chewed it. After feeding them, we watched as they got a drink down by the river and started rolling around in the water (it seemed like a refreshing bath!). We were treated to a delicious lunch and learned about how they make medicine to the help the elephants with their digestion. They use a combination of rice and tamarind. The next activity was bathing the elephants! We were all given a little plastic container to splash water onto the elephants, as well as a brush to scrub them clean. However, I would say the activity was half washing the elephants and half having a water fight with the employees! Our last activity was the mud bath! The mud acts as a sunscreen and bug repellent for the elephants. We splattered mud on ourselves and on each other to culminate one of the most memorable days of my life. It was so heart-warming to witness how happy and content the elephants were. While Chiang Mai was fun, I have to say it was nice to return to the calmer and less crowded Khon Kaen, where farangs are few and far between and I can practice my Thai without being judged so hard.