Sunday, September 8, 2013

Thailand: Chiang Mai, Day 1

Brace yourself for a complete picture overload.  But let it be known that I took over 2000 pictures so I think I did pretty well.  Ok, here goes...

We only had two full days in Chiang Mai and we wanted to get the most out of it in that short time.  One of Nate's friends at Duke was actually from Chiang Mai and gave us some recommendations.  Eventually, we chose to do a  2-day tour with Blue Elephant Tours. We had our own personal tour guide who drove us around in a private, air-conditioned SUV.  

The morning started with a delicious breakfast of crinkle-cut fruit, a fried egg, and toast.  Actually, this was the breakfast we were given every morning, but still.  It was good the first time. :)

Then, our driver Yo took us to the local market.  There we bought towels, checked out the market.  I think the most surprising thing was that all cut up fruit was crinkle-cut (they must really love that style) and there were actually live frogs to purchase for eating.  There were also already dead frog and snake meat for purchase, in case that is what you would want to eat for dinner.  

Nate's first attempt at bargaining.  Wasn't successful this time, but we learned to master the art later. 

The poor little guys who were eventually going to be cooked up for eating.

Nate and Yo, chatting away. 
Yo picked us up some delicious and sweet treat.  It was made of rice and something else (not sure what).

Then we were off to visit the Hmong Hill Tribe. There are about 300 families there and most of them are Cambodian refugees.  There are rose farms there and a bunch of random dogs just walking around. The homes are tiny and the beds are just a piece of wood with a cloth blanket.  Made me feel pretty blessed to have our extra comfortable mattress at home!
One of the homes. 

Pretty upside-down flowers growing on this tree.  I don't know what it's called but our neighbors have a plant just like this growing on their porch!
 This is the home of the chief and in front in that cage is a chicken that they use for fighting.

Unfortunately since it was "off-season" there are no roses on the hill behind us.  But when it is the right season, the hill is covered in roses. 

After that we went to visit Queen Sirikit's Botanical Garden.  This place was beautiful and HUGE! We only saw a portion of it but it was really pretty.

I LOVE orchids.

Like I said, since it was the low season, there weren't as many tourists and it was really hot.  As a result, we were sometimes the only people there for the shows they would put on. 

After the gardens we went to a snake farm.  First we walked around to look at the snakes.  One snake we read was called the "jumping snake" and as we figured that out we looked at it and right on cue, the snake jumped right at us and hit the cage! It definitely showed us why they earned that name. 

After that, they put on a little snake show for Nate and I.  The first guy was sort of a Cobra Tamer, the next guy played around with 3 different snakes and even put one in his mouth, the third put his snakes to sleep somehow, and last they brought out a HUGE python. 

The Cobra Tamer:

The 3 Snake Guy:

The Snake Sleeper:  Supposedly these snakes were asleep.  I'm really glad they didn't "wake up" when we were holding them.

And then the python.  When I was holding this big snake, the guy right behind me pinched my leg to make me think it was a snake.  You can imagine my reaction.

One of my absolute favorite parts of Chiang Mai were these beautiful tree's you would see in random places as you drive around.  Without trying to sound British, let me just say that they are brilliant!

Next it was off to the Monkey School.  I have mixed feelings about this place.  The monkeys are awesome and so cute, but we didn't feel like they were treated very well.  There were some beautiful little monkeys right in front, but as we entered they gave us fruit to throw to some other monkeys who were each on 3-foot chains that were tied to these poles. They said they do this because they will fight each other if let loose, but it didn't seem right.  Anyway, they did do tricks to get fruit thrown to them.  There were veggies, too, but they didn't like the veggies.  They liked the mangoes.

This guy was playing thumb-war with Nate.

They just sit and hold your hands and it sort of melts your heart and makes you want to take them home with you.  
 Then it was off to the monkey show.  These monkeys were really smart and did some pretty cool tricks.

Side note: This monkey below did not like me but really liked Nate.  Every time she came around to us, we were supposed to give it a high-five and when she would get to me, she would hiss at me and show me her teeth, but then she would give Nate a five and hold his hand.  He's mine, hussy!

This little monkey was so cute!

Funny story, we were kneeling down to take this picture and the little monkey reached out and pulled Nate's hair!  It was so funny!

Then it was off to Tiger Kingdom! This was one of our favorite parts of Chiang Mai because really, it's not every day you get to go pet real, live tigers!  We got the package where we could see the smallest, small and biggest tigers.

We started off with the babies.  They were adorable and really fun to play with.

Then it was off to the biggest sized tigers.  And my heavens, they were huge! The rules were: 1) Don't go by or touch their heads, 2) Pet them with a firm hand, and 3) Don't touch the fences because they are electrical. The tiger's are supposedly a little sedated and we watched others interact with them so we felt pretty save.  We had a guy escort us with the tiger's so if there was any sign of them starting to get "playful".  

Quick, kind of scary story: I was taking pictures of Nate with one of the big tigers and another big tiger that was in the water started walking right toward me and our escort had to move me out of the way because the tiger was going to get "playful".  I'll just pretend that he thought I'd be fun to snuggle with instead of good to eat.  :) They moved the tiger away from all the people to put him in check, I think.  

We caught this one right in the middle of a yawn.  Looks scary, huh? 

Another yawning picture.

Then it was off to the small tigers.  They were a lot of fun to watch because they were way less monitored and they just kept playing together.

These two were wrestling and for some reason I was super nervous to get close to them while they were playing. Nate, however felt totally comfortable. He still likes to tease me about it. :)

After Tiger Kingdom, we went to Seven Colors Waterfall and National Park.  This place was beautiful! It is a small waterfall that you can actually climb up and down.  The hike up and down on the stairs was a little rough though... a good reminder I need to exercise more :)

Then we were off to Rabeang Pasak Tree House Resort.  This place was FANTASTIC! I really cannot say enough good things about this place.  It started off as a place for this family to visit, but then the idea was brought to the owner to open it up to the public.  So he gave it a try and they have done great! I wrote the experience down on my i-Pad so I would remember so here is what I wrote:
"This place was AMAZING! There are 7 tree houses and there was only one other couple staying there. Mink (the owner) showed us around and let us choose a tree house out of 5 different ones.  I thought we would choose a really high one but the ones that were really high were tiny and their bathrooms were outside, several stories down. It was still really cool, though.  So, we chose the Rim Tan House (River View) that was next to a little stream.  Our shower had no roof so we were able to take a shower under the moonlight.  And surprisingly, the water was pretty warm. We even had electricity, which you don't always expect in a tree house.  The bed was up a tiny spiral staircase and took up the entire second level. We fell asleep with the screened windows open and the sound of cicadas and other bugs safely outside our window and a fan blowing right on us.  It was so nice.

But what I really loved about this resort was how personal it was. Nate mentioned that he doesn't eat meat and so they made an entire delicious meal catered to him.  I was given chicken and things to eat, but we had the most amazing meal! We at bamboo shoot soup, I had a sweet and sour chicken dish with bell peppers, cucumbers, and other yummy veges (it was delicious). They made Nate a tofu sdish that they usually make with tilapia. I made Nate eat that one. :) And then they made us a cashew and vege dish.  Seriously, the food just kept coming and it was all incredible.  And then for dessert, they gave us a nice, big fresh mango... my favorite! Anyway, they were so friendly and the refrigerated my medication for me. They remembered Nate's preference to not eat meat the next morning for breakfast.  Anyway, everything was so personal and personalized that it made all the bugs and everything that usually bother me, seem like it was no big deal at all.  I highly recommend that place!  Also, one thing I thought was cool.... Mink saw a customer review online that one of their beds was too small, so they shut down that tree house for 2 weeks while they made the bed area bigger and added another mattress pad.  Talk about great customer service!"

Fresh banana's you could just pick and eat.  They were so different than banana's you eat in the states.  They were delicious though!

Our tree house...

The front door and spiral staircase.

Our outside shower.

Our semi-outdoor toilet.

The back-door and our little couch.

2nd story... aka our bed.

So, Chiang Mai Day 1 was just incredible and jammed packed with fun.  Needless to say, we slept very soundly that night and were ready to start our next day!


Jessica said...

Everything looks so amazing!! Those tigers - SO cool!!

Emily said...

What a fun day! Those little monkeys in the cages remind me of those really sad pet abuse commercials they run late at night - sad. How cool that you got to pet an adult tiger, those yawns make them look pretty fierce!

Tasha said...

My sister in law was just there On her honeymoon.Small world!!!