Our getaway to Chiang Mai was fast but amazing! We had a wonderful time!
We left Bangkok on the Night Bus. We had the seats on the top of a double-decker bus, right at the very front, which kinda made it seem like we were flying. It wasn't too uncomfortable, so we both slept a little on the 9 hour trip across the country. Unfortunately, we were both still recovering from some nasty throat/nose thing, so our noises probably didn't help the rest of the bus sleep very soundly.
When we arrived in Chiang Mai, we quickly found that transportation is different in Chiang Mai. They don't really have regular taxis but an abundance of songthaews---which is a pick-up truck with an addition that passengers ride on. It's closed in, but open. (There are a couple in the background of the picture on the right.) We liked them!
So, we arrived at the Juniper Tree around 8 am, which is just in time for breakfast. The Juniper Tree is a guest house for Christian workers in Southeast Asia. Lots of people stay there from countries like China, Indonesia, and other secure places for getaways... and to have babies. We met about 4 couples who were staying there the few weeks before and after having babies. One couple that we probably talked to the most (Dutch working in China) had a baby girl while we were there. Anyway, all that to say, it's a very unique place. The 'suggested donation' for staying there included 3 meals a day and laundry. As we walked in to eat breakfast, we heard a little voice say, "Hey Mr. Matt!" and turned to see one of the Grade 1 students there with his family. So, we had a little familiar face to greet us and to hang out with us while we were there.
After breakfast (which includes meeting lots of new people which might have been a little 'too much' for us after the 9 hour bus ride so early in the morning), we were shown to our room/bungalow. Our first impression was that it was really cute, albeit small. The bed took up most of the floor space... and it was hot. The air-con was on the fritz, but we didn't realize that. We just figured it didn't cool very well because of the design... apparently, it was just broken. :/
We settled in, took long naps, then went exploring. We found the night market area, which was really fun. It was the afternoon, so we ate a late lunch at Burger King (our first time at one in Thailand), walked around a little, then went back to the Juniper Tree where we joined up with a British family, working in Bangladesh, to go to Chiang Mai's Night Safari.
We really enjoyed the Night Safari. We got there early enough to walk around the entire park and see all the animals in the daytime. Then, we had dinner on a balcony overlooking the huge lake. After that, it was dark, s we sat by the lake watching the fountains for awhile, then went on the first trek of the Night Safari, the Predator Prowl. There is an open tram that you ride through the park, with a guide, and go to different sections of the park. The parts with the dangerous animals are separated by moats and/or fences, but other animals can walk right up to the tram, though we didn't experience anything too had-on. After the Predator Prowl, there was another route with took us through the 'Savannah'. Both were nice, and we enjoyed the night safari part because some animals are a lot more active at night than in the daytime. We couldn't get any great pictures at night, which was a bummer though.
The next morning, we did breakfast, which meant meeting many more cool people. Then, we hired a songthaew for the day. We went to the Mae Sa Elephant Camp, where we got to hang out with a bunch of elephants. We were going to ride, but it was pretty expensive. (Side note: Apparently you really do get what you pay for. The elephant rides seemed a lot more legit and safe than the one we experienced in Khao Yai. There were safety ropes and bars for the people who rode at Mae Sa Elephant Camp. They paid 3 times more, but they got more for the money for sure!)
After chilling with the elephants, we had the driver take us to some waterfalls that we had seen on the drive up the mountain. The admission was really cheap, and we had a good hike up to see the 9 out of 10 waterfalls. I only made it to the 8th, but Matt went up a loooong way before he saw the 10, so he decided to just turn around. They were beautiful, and it was a fun way to spend that time. While we were going up, I was thinking, this is really nice that we get to see these beautiful waterfalls and hike together... wait, it's even more cool that we're doing these things in Thailand!
After the hot and long but invigorating waterfall trek, we went to a snake farm. There, we got to walk through and see lots and lots of snakes then watch a snake show which included king cobras, coconut snakes, rat snakes, and a burmese python... all of which we got to touch/hold if we wanted. I was very cool as a cucumber while the snakes 'accidentally' got out of the performance area, so the snake guys enjoyed testing my limit. They even put one of the longer snakes in my purse for awhile. (Sorry for the snake details, Kristen). We took some cool pictures and video that I will post in a separate post for you people who may want to skip over that part). ;)
After the snake farm, we went to an orchid farm, which was more relaxing and more beautiful. We had lots of fun seeing all the different kinds of flowers and taking fun pictures.
After the orchid farm, we were about at our limit of taking in new, cool things--and were hungry! The driver took us to a Mexican restaurant in town, which was really good! Then, we swam for awhile, showered and got ready for dinner. After dinner, we went back out exploring. This time, we went to the Night Market which was fabulous! It was a lot nicer than the Thai shopping we've done around Bangkok. We bought a lot of souvenirs and movies and things to take home to friends and family (so much that we had a hard time getting it back in the suitcase)! We really enjoyed walking around, shopping, getting Starbucks, then getting Thai massages.
So, our second day was an incredibly full day, but we felt like we did a good job of getting a feel for Chiang Mai.