Thailand to Laos (Chiang Khong/Huay Xai border crossing)

We had researched various ways in which to do the border crossing on various forums etc and one of the most straight forward routes was from Chiang Rai through to Chiang Khong and then cross the river over to Huay Xai (Laos). This can be done in either one day and then jump straight onto the slow boat down the Mekong to Luang Prabang or you can stay the night in Chiang Khong (Thailand) or Huay Xai (Laos), both border towns and then catch the slowboat in the morning, with less hassle and more ease, from what we had heard! Obviously we opted for the less stressful and fail safe option of staying the night in Huay Xai, mainly because once you have got through immigration etc (which takes about 15-20 minutes each side, depending on how much they like you) the slow boat tickets are cheaper on the Laos side!! Well worth the trip.

As it was the day after my birthday, we had decided to treat ourselves (me) to a UTV (dune buggie) experience in the mountains surrounding Chaing Rai, somewhere inbetween Chaing Rai and Chiang Khong. Therefore making our drop off Chiang Khong instead of back to Chiang Rai, once we were done. We packed up our bags early in the morning and got ourselves all psyched up for a morning of muddy dune buggying (thanks to the rain storm the night before). Once fed and ready to roll, we went to meet our driver, who would take us across to the outdoor activity centre, where we would set off from. within minutes of us finding each other, the heavens opened and out here when its rains……it pours!! A 10minute rain shower dropped enough rain to flood all of the streets and bring everything to a grinding hault, especially whizzing scooters.

Once we set off, we were lucky enough (sarcasm) to have a driver who was a stereo typical essex boy and by that i mean wouldn’t shut up, was obviously a multi millionaire (picking people up in a nissan march) his word not ours and loved nothing more than telling you how amazing he was. This was semi bearable until we were dropped with the news from his boss, that we wouldn’t be able to get up the hill to even start the UTV ride, thanks to the road being flooded and as the essex boy had opted for a nissan march, we were screwed. Sods law really, as i had pulled the guy as soon as we saw the car and said out of all the cars and pickups in Thailand, you opt for this, which he cockily replied ‘i don’t need a pickup’!!! YOU WORK IN A OUTDOOR CENTRE!!!

So we then had no option but to head onto Chiang Khong and make the border crossing a little bit earlier, which was fine as a) the driver was happy to take us at no extra cost since our trip had been cancelled and we were already halfway and b) we would get to sort our boat ticket and explore Huay Xai without rushing. After leaving the essex boy and his Thai/Burmese (he wasn’t sure) ‘girlfriend’, we strolled down to the Thai immigration office and got ourselves stamped out of Thailand (boooooo). It was an easy process and apart from a few Thais laughing at my huge bag, as they all had carry ons, everything went fine. We then jumped on a tiny boat about 2ft wide to cross the Mekong and hit immigration for Laos.

Laos immigration was fine as well, after filling out or necessary forms, handing over 1 x passport picture and paying the fee of 1500Baht each, we strolled on through to Laos, oh and not forgetting the random ‘official entry’ man who checks everything is OK, once your halfway up the hill, sitting on a plastic seat in a bamboo hut!! Welcome to Laos i guess.

We took a short stroll along the road and after a few ‘room visits’ and price negotiations, we found a little guesthouse so we could bed down for the night. Once we dropped our bags, we were immediately met with a sign in our guesthouse which showed after crossing the Mekong we already managed to save 800Baht each and that was without haggling, well worth the easy crossing.

After a walk to the official slow boat pier and noticing the ticket office was closed, we decided to book through our own guesthouse for 900Baht/250,000kip each as they sorted us a tuk tuk to the pier in the price too, which others didn’t. Once we were all sorted, we went for a wander and all in all had a stress free crossing, which from what i read, the same can’t be said for doing everything in one day.

—Stay Classy World—ACastling—

Chiang Rai

After a horrible and very hairy 4 hour bus journey from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, we felt like we hadn’t got off to a good start, but as we only had 3 days in Chiang Rai we felt like we had to make the most of it.

Our opinions quickly changed as we went to the local night market, and were the only westerners there, so the market was actually pretty good, not just the same stuff being sold over and over (and over!) again. We had the cheapest massage we had ever had (and that’s saying something), ate an amazing soup and then got to pick what we wanted in our ice cream and watch it be made. There were other things to buy there too, but we were far too focused on the food!

The next day we decided to fit in as much as possible as there is so much to do here, but it is all very spread out. So we popped into a tour guide and she gave us some great advice, which we were surprised about as we didn’t book any of her tours, and that is generally how it works. They will give you advice, on what they are selling, but will not help you if it doesn’t make them money. But this lady gave us loads of advice, and like I just said, it didn’t include getting any of her tours.

It’s not that we didn’t want to but they are very expensive and all the tours offered things we had already done, so why pay more money to repeat them, when you can do something that you haven’t done before?

And that’s exactly what we did, we hired a tuk tuk to take us around for the day. The first place he took us to was Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple which was only built in 1996 by an artist and is still in the process of being built now. This place was mind-blowing. We stepped out of the tuk tuk and just stood and stared, a “wow” was all we could muster.


This gleaming white temple stands out like a beacon, and the closer you get to it, the better it gets as well. I do not have the best vocabulary to explain this temple in the detail it deserves, but I can try! The detail is immense and the white mosaic tiles makes the whole modern temple glisten. As you walk over the bridge, hands thrust out of the ‘sea’ all individually designed and all slightly different. Snakes, skulls and heads intertwine to enclose the hands, and then you walk inside the temple…

what can you see?

what can you see?

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No cameras are allowed inside the modest sized temple and there are men still painting away inside. On 2 out of the 4 walls there are more traditional paintings, one of buddha himself and on the other there seems to be families on clouds being taken to Nirvana, all carrying lotus flowers between their hands. On the third completed wall is something completely different; modern art mixed with traditional art, as there were traditional Thai images and then there were very dramatic and controversial pictures of the Twin Towers with a snake wrapped around them made of oil or images of a grim underworld. But then there were more lighthearted images of Angry Birds, Spiderman and many other modern things that everyone relates to. Very interesting and thought provoking mix, which I guess was the artists idea.

We carried on walking around and saw the buildings which were still being built and we also got to make a wish to hang up along with hundreds of thousands of other peoples wishes, which made for a beautiful image of these silver hanging discs all hung together to make trees.

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We then got back into the tuk tuk and off we went to our next destination: the hot springs. When we got there the place was deserted and we wondered if we were in the right place! But we got shown to a room with a plunge pool which was tapped in to the hot springs (you could smell it) and you could decide how hot you wanted it. They also had little extras you could get like exfoliaters, loofahs and eggs to boil in there with you…?! We just went for the exfoliater and we left with the smoothest skin we have ever had, it was lovely. No exfoliater you can buy from boots or superdrug can match how baby soft our skin felt from using their homemade one! It turns out this place is very popular with the locals too, as when we were leaving, hordes of families were coming in to use the hot springs. We came at a good time, otherwise I don’t think we would have got a room!

After being so lovely and clean, we got back into the tuk tuk for a dusty and dirty ride to our next destination; The Black House. This place was…interesting… it is a place designed by an artist with clusters of black houses and buildings on some land. The houses boast the artists personal collection of animal hides, skulls, bones and horns as well as art and sculptures dating back to different periods and different countries. This place is not for the squeamish or animal rights activists, and if we had known what we were getting ourselves into, we possibly wouldn’t have gone, but it was interesting none the less.


That is the length of ONE snake skin...yes, ONE!

That is the length of ONE snake skin…yes, ONE!

Like a bowss

Like a bowss

Back into the tuk tuk for what we thought was our ride home. 20 minutes into the ride we were both nearly dozing off when the driver pulls over, we thought so he could pick up some dinner or cigarettes but instead he comes back with 2 water bottles for each of us! Again, we were shocked and surprised by his thoughtfulness and very grateful as it gets very dry, dusty and hot in the back of a tuk tuk. He then did an impromptu stop at the Gardens, which Chiang Rai is very proud of, as it is known as the ‘Flower City’, we took a look around and the most impressive things we saw were the Orchids. We have never seen so many different types, and growing outside, not in pots like we see back home.

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The next day we decided to go to the Golden Triangle which is where you can see 3 countries from one area; Thailand, Laos and Burma. We took the hour long bus to get there and were instantly disappointed. You couldn’t seen anything for all the touristy crap. We got a few pictures by some signs and we walked up a hill to get a better vantage point, but it was all spoilt by tat. One positive was a beautiful old temple that we found which it seems not many people come across as we had it pretty much to ourselves. We spent most our time here before heading back down to get our bus.

One memorable thing from the day; it was the first time we had seen rain since we left the UK, and boy did it chuck it down! And what happened next?…Our bus broke down…

Travelling Highlight of the Week (w.b. 28th January)

As it was Adam’s birthday on the 29th, whilst in Chiang Rai, we decided to visit Central Plaza to see a movie. Central Plaza is a massive shopping mall about 15kms away from anything, so we got a tuk tuk there and figured that we could easily pick one up from the highway on the way back.

So we leave the cinema about 11.30pm and come out to a deserted street, no tuk tuks, no taxis, no cars even. ‘Oh. Dear. We can walk it, its not THAT far’ we thought. But we didn’t even walk two steps before someone pulled up and offered us a lift, and then another person did the same. The unexpected kindness took us aback. So we climbed in the back of this Thai couples pick up and they started chatting away with us, they were so lovely and helpful and when they dropped us off they wouldn’t accept any money. We tried and he kept saying no.

Once we had got out we both just stood there, “that’s made my birthday” Adam said, “where do you find generosity to a stranger nowadays?” He had a point. We were both so chuffed and felt so privileged to meet such kind people that we couldn’t stop smiling or talking about it, and we thought we would like to share it with all of you too.

This pretty much sums up our time so far in Thailand. The people are generally this way out, happy to help, kind and friendly. Of course you get your scammers, like you do anywhere. But the good people most definitely out-way the bad.

Thai Transport

We have been here for over a month now and have already experienced all of the various ways in which Thai people get around. Although this can differ from place to place, the running pattern of transport tends to be standard taxi, Songthaew (which are know as bus and taxi, depending on where you are) and tuk tuks.

The other exceptions are of that are in Bangkok, where you have the Skytrain, which is like a monorail that goes to all of the main destinations in Bangkok on two different lines, which sits above street level. Very easy to understand and use, find out where you are going on the line, pay the fee which is shows to that destination and collect your ticket…done.

There is also the MRT (Mass Rapid Transport) in Bangkok which covers further afield than the Skytrain and is similar to many countries Underground trains, however it only has one line (very simple to understand therefore). Again simply find where you are getting off, put into the machine the relevant fee and it will spit out a token like coin, which you scan over the barriers and then put into the slot on your way out at your destination. The Skytrain and MRT are both air conditioned, clean and very safe.

Another unique transport in Bangkok is the motorbike taxis! These can also be found in places surrounding Bangkok like Ayutthaya and are not for the faint hearted. Essentially you get on the back of a scooter/motorbike with a man in a high viz jacket, who knows the city like the back of his hand. Whizzing onto pavements, down back alleys and if your lucky, against traffic!!! You will see all the Thai business men and women using these, which kind of makes you think it is the best way to get about. You are certainly in the hands of experts.


Something that is seen all over Thailand (apart from Bangkok), is Songthaews (translates as two benches) which is essentially either a Toyota, Izuzu or Nissan pick up truck with the bed turned into a mini bus!! These are used as buses, taxis and if you do any trips which involve going off road, this is what will no doubt pick you up. They are all different shapes, sizes and quality! In Chiang Mai these are used as buses which circulate to various areas of the province, dictated by their colour. They are good fun, but can get a little bit hairy when you go off road, as the drivers don’t take it slowly! However considering the weight they are driving with and top heavy nature of the truck (which can hold 10 westerners or 20 Thais!), they drive them like touring car drivers, hitting every apex perfectly and understanding every corner they hit. If we were to drive these, i would dread to think the outcome!


Normal taxis do exist in Thailand, but again depending on where you are and which area you are staying in, you will or will not see them. In Chiang Mai for instance you will rarely see them in the old city, but step into the new city and they are everywhere as normal. In Bangkok they come in a range of colours which dictates the company they work for. They tend to be very cheap and if you are not in the mood for a loud, dusty and hot tuk tuk ride or motorbike taxi, than this is your answer. You need to get your haggling skills right though (as with everything over here) as the Taxi drivers tend to be a bit more stubborn.


Now when i visited Kathmandu (Nepal) rickshaws were the only way to get around and i was lead to believe that they were still a huge part of Thai transport. It certainly does not seem the case anymore, until we travelled further North we didn’t see a single one. In Chiang Mai you see the odd one or two, but it is fair to say the Songthaews and Tuk Tuks are certainly pushing them out. They are a great way to travel around and at the slow pace they go, you get to see so much than in a Songthaew or Tuk Tuk. The drivers are always atleast in their 70’s and have no hesitation in taking you wherever you want to go. Its sad to see they are disappearing as not only are they a great way to get around, but (not to be too eco warrior) they lower pollution emissions within those areas, which trust me in Thailand cities/towns, is needed.


Saving the best to last, the Tuk Tuk. These can come in many shapes and sizes, again depending on where you are. Here are some examples of ones we have seen so far in Thailand:

Standard Tuk Tuk (most areas):


Ayutthaya Tuk Tuk:


Sukothai Tuk Tuk:


Although they come in various shapes and sizes, they all serve the same purpose and the drivers are all as pushy as each other, shouting ‘tuk tuk, where you go’ as you walk by or even pull over to you whilst you are walking along the pavement minding your own business, it is never done aggressively though and easy to ignore if you are not interested. Your haggling skills really need to come into play here, the drivers are not as pushy as the taxi drivers, but certainly know the price they want and get to it in a jokey playful way. Before we came here we read a post on a forum about get these atleast once whilst you are in Thailand as they are pricey and there are easier ways to get about…….wrong. They are convenient, always there when you need one, friendly drivers and always know where you need to go. However with that said, beware of the scams, they will try and sell you tours, trips etc booked through the tourist information or a boat tour from a pier you have never heard of! Essentially don’t be an idiot, if it sounds to easy and to good to be true, then it most definitely is. They are great from getting from A to B and know every location on the map, use them every day if you have to and are that lazy, but my advice would be to book your trek, trip etc through an agent you find or have been suggested, but not from a tuk tuk driver.

I could talk about the various modes of transport a lot more, but have already written enough. I hope that this helps anyone visiting Thailand to understand the various transports and gives a little insight into how people get around over here, for those that aren’t. Thanks for reading.

—Stay Classy World—ACastling—

300 Steps to Doi Suthep

Doi Suthep is a Wat (temple) based far up into the mountain of Chiang Mai, on the dge of the national park. As you may have guessed, there are 300 steps to climb to et up there.

We were really looking forward to going here, not just to see the temple, but for the scenary as well. The only transport which can take you there are the red songthaew. Tuk tuks are not allowed by law to go up that far. If you have your own transport, thats fine too.

We began our ascent…slowly at first, but then we saw older people and OAP’s making their way up, and it made us think, “if they can do it, I can do it faster” so we picked up the pace. I am glad we did it early in the morning as it wasn’t hard, but the heat would have made it that way. Once inside the temple, it was all breathtakingly beautiful; the view over the city and the lush greenery surrounding it to the pagoda and layout of the temple.

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We spent a long time just watching others, to try and learn more about what they do. We were able to also take part in some rituals as there were translations. We could do the blessing of the pagoda by walking round it 3 times, clockwise reading the chant. Adam even managed to do the ‘shakey stick thing’ (technical term, I know) A kind man showed him how; you shake a pot of numbered sticks until one falls to the floor. You then go and get that blessing/prayer/fortune from the wall. If you like it, you keep it, if you don’t like it, you can put it in the box to throw away, and shake again. (Make your own fortune…?) Adam liked his and kept it. If it ever comes true, you can go back and stick it on the wall. We’ll just have to wait and see if it does or not!

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Muay Thai boxing

Muay Thai boxing is big out here. It is constantly promoted by vans driving around telling you about “poooffesssionalll fight, tonight. Leeetts get reeadddyy to wuuummblle” And you are berated with flyers on a daily basis; when eating your brekkie, walking down the street. They just see a Farang (white person) and quickly dart across the traffic on their scooter just to give you an advertisement.

Well, it worked as we went to go see a fight. There are 3 places to go and see Muay Thai. One is on Loi Kroh Road and is really just for Farangs, therefore it is fixed and you don’t really see quality fights. Another is called Thapae Gate, and funnily enough is pretty much opposite Thapae Gate and this one is well advertised but there are actual fights. Another is behind the night bazaar and again, is meant  to be real fights. We went to Thapae gate and got our tickets for 300 thai baht each (6GBP). Tickets usually cost between 400 baht and 600 baht for ringside. This in comparison with Bangkok’s 2000 baht each (40GBP), which was a relief!

Let me paint the picture for you, you walk down an alley (which the night before when we checked it out was teeming with rats) and you are shown to your seat. For 300 baht we were as close as the ringside seats but facing more side on, a great view still. The ring is in the middle, and all around are different bars. We couldn’t figure out if each bar ran a section of seating or what, but I don’t think it is that well organised. So we sat down at our seats and ordered some drinks (100 baht each -2GBP- which isn’t too bad for a captive audience) Music was playing loudly, well I don’t know if I could call it music really. But it sounded like snake charmer music. We thought that it may just be on before the matches start, but turns out it is played constantly, all night, hours and hours of this repetitive mind numbing sound. 

You can smell the fighters before you see them. This strong smell of tiger balm (menthol) filled the area, “where is that coming from…?” and then the first 2 fighters walked out flanked by trainers. The fighters were wearing the well known colourful shorts and this headband thing, which we found out is called a Mong Kon, and is meant to bring prosperity to the fighter and protect him from danger.

The fighters also do a ritual dancey/blessing thing once in the ring. All very interesting. Like normal boxing the fights were seperated in weight, although I do question some of their scales as we had a rather tubby bloke against a rake…but oh well. There were also some children fighters, aged around 10, which is a bit shocking to see, but then again, they choose to start training from that age and these fights are much shorter and less intense. If one is winning over the other the fight is finished and a winner declared. All experience for them I guess.

I didn’t expect to enjoy this, but actually it was far more enjoyable than watching boxing. The style is completely different and there are far fewer hits to the face but far more strategic moves to make contact with legs, knees and shins. The noise you hear when legs make contact with other legs or torsos is impressive to say the least!


To split the fights up, there is a ‘Special Round’, this is where 4 not so serious looking fighters come into the ring. Get blindfolded and start swinging. At first we both thought, “really? are you serious?” But it did get entertaining. One guy was walking around blindly digging upper cuts, managed to catch someone square under the jaw and went down. The referee tried to help him up and he went for him. The ref was having none of it and put him in his place. Another guy just spun round and round with his arms out straight to his side and took out 2 others, who quickly fell to the floor which made all the others standing trip over them and also fall to the floor. It ended up with a big pile of confused men on the mat. All were un-blindfolded, gave a big wave and smile and exited the ring. Not the highlight of the night, but definitely entertaining. MT5

More Chillies means More Sexy!

Throughout Chiang Mai there are a million and one different places offering cooking schools on how to learn Thai cooking skills. Picking which one to go through is the trickiest, you could compare prices, how long each session is, what dishes they offer, but it generally all winds up being pretty much same-same (very common phrase used in Thailand.) We chose our place through a recommendation from our guesthouse, which is generally the safest bet. Gerrard did not let us down.

We got picked up by a songthaew (pick up truck taxi) and met our other companions for the day, and once again got chatting away with them. Our first stop was the market, which we have visited ourselves a few times as it is very close to us. But this time we actually learnt about what we were looking at. Boom (the young lady running the school) talked us through the basics and made us realise how vast the thai palate and ingredient list is and little ours is, “how many types of basil so you have?….how many types of ginger?…” In which we all answered one. It turns out their are 3 types of basil and ginger native to thailand and a whole barrage of chillies, our favourite being the mouseshit ones (or birdseye to you or me.) Boom even went into the details of what each colour of chilli means: green being a young chilli so the heat is minimal, red being the old man so the heat is medium, and orange is like the teenager so the heat is most intense. I could bore you with all the details of what she taught us, but I’ll leave it there.

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We arrived at the school and were welcomed into a clean and friendly home, offered drinks and interesting fruits to eat whilst the staff prepared everything just bought at the market. Previously we had picked 7 dishes to make and we were all wondering what we were going to cook first.

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First up was Pad Thai for me and Adam made stir fry noodles. Everything was ready and prepared for each individual, very efficient and we were each given step by step methods on what to do with our dish, it was idiot-proof! All the staff were amazing, so helpful and funny. Throughout the day we even got basic lessons in thai! And learnt the delightful saying “more chillies means more sexy” which the staff continued to remind us as we only put in a “Westerner” portion of chillies.

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After cooking, eating, sharing, cooking, eating, sharing our dishes and cooking some more we were all delightfully stuffed and got a well earned break (?!?) When we returned we found it was time to make our curry paste which we would then turn into our own curries. The amount if dried chillies which went into each of these pastes was alarming, but it worked. The flavours were amazing as all curries were passed around for the offering.

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All in all, another fantastic day in Chiang Mai where we got to meet more fantastic people, and make some beautiful food. We even got our own recipe books to take home! Thank you Basil Cooking School, we couldn’t recommend you more highly.

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Trekking, Waterfall, White water rafting and visiting a tribe (not in that order)

There is a lot to do in Chiang Mai, and if we had the money, we would be doing a lot more. But we don’t, and therefore have had to be quite picky about what we do. I wanted to see the long neck tribe (Karen tribe) which are native to this area, and Adam wanted to see a waterfall. Luckily enough there was a 1 day trek that encompassed this and more. Why don’t you go it alone and not pay for a group trek ? Some people may ask. Quick answer: you can’t, well not easily enough, and you definitely can’t go for a trek into the jungle unaccompanied. There are no path signs and no actual pathways, just rough ones which have been tramped out by lots of groups passing through over the years.

squirrel man

We got picked up at 9am by one of the converted trucks (songthaew) by a man and his pet squirrel. Yes, you read that correctly, his pet squirrel, what I initially thought was a man with a hunchback was his squirrel keeping cosy under his coat on his shoulder. Once everyone was picked up (10 of us in total) we began the long drive up the mountain which steadily got steeper, windier and dustier. We got chatting to people on the ride there and enjoyed the drive up despite the conditions. First stop was at the Karen (long neck) tribe. This is the tribe, funnily enough, where the women extend their necks from the age of 5 by wearing metal rings and adding a new one on each year. They also wear these rings on their calves. It is not just beauty driven, they initially wore this rings to protect themselves from their life and their work in the dense jungle. The rings on their neck would protect them from tigers attacking and killing them and the rings on their calves would stop the cobra strikes and bites. This tribe still live and work within the jungle in very traditional way. Just now tourism is a big part of their life, and probably a great financial help.

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After visiting the tribe we continued our drive up the mountain and we then stopped off at an Elephant camp for our lunch before an elephant ride. Lunch was lovely; Pad Thai, can’t go wrong and it gave us all a chance to have a good chat too. We then were quickly diverted to the elephants, “elephants now, let’s go” our guide told us. No 5 minute warning, now or never seemed to be the ultimatum. This part I was not too comfortable with, especially after having such a positive experience in Koh Chang (see previous post: Ban Kwan) as it was all very rushed. Some people came in from a trek, quickly hurried off their elephants, and then we were rushed onto them again. No break for the elephant and climbing onto them via their head wasn’t the nicest way to go about it either. We began a beautiful walk along the river via a very narrow path (narrow for me and you to navigate) and a not so pleasant walk back along a busy mountain road, in which every time a truck came past the poor elephants weren’t too happy and backed up right to the edge of the road, where there was a steep drop I might add, and then turn to see what was approaching them. Quite nerve-wracking for a wimp like me. On a positive note, we got to feed them on the way round, our elephant wasn’t that bothered, but the elephant nearest to us was and kept searching us for more bananas, and upon finding we had none left gave us an unsatisfactory snuff through her trunk. Cheers big ears.(Pun most definitely intended.)eles eles2After a safe dismount from our elephants we jumped back in the truck and drove even further up the mountain and stopped off at the beginning of our walking trek. Lots of other people were hanging around, either just coming back from the waterfall or about to start it like us, all with a guide. We began our walk in at a good pace on quite even grounding. The further we got in, the less path there was and it turned more into scrambling. Personally I enjoy walks like that, it makes it more interesting, but not all did and there was a lot of slipping and cursing! I enjoyed it until we had to cross water over bridges with no hand rails. But then that’s me and I have the grace and balance of an overweight ballerina. We got to the waterfall after about 45 minutes and of course Adam was the first one to strip off and fully submerge himself in the ice-cold water. The Argentinian lads who dared it first and then gave up quickly followed suit as did a few friends from our trek. After taking everyone’s photo who was already in there, I braved it myself and to say the least, the temperature was bracing and quickly took your breath away when you went under the full force of the waterfall. Lovely and fresh though. After we got out we had to dry quickly as our guide had had enough and was off. Wet feet, shoes on, quick don’t lose them!


One of the more stable bridges

One of the more stable bridges

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Back into the truck, back down to the elephant camp (no elephants though, all finished for the day hopefully) and we were to start the last leg of our trip; white water rafting! We all donned the life jackets and helmets, split into groups and lifted the raft down towards the water. Our instructor was fabulous on every level, he said his English wasn’t good but he underestimated himself, he gave us great instructions and worked his arse off the whole way down to make sure we didn’t get stuck over every rock. The man was performing acrobatics at the back whilst we thought we were doing all the work.

There were some fantastic rapids and some smooth quiet parts which were so serene and peaceful and in which we spotted an elephant grazing on the mountainside. The important part is we beat the other team down the rapids and then got onto a not so exciting bamboo raft, which consequently sunk. Not as enjoyable and a bit of a let down after such a great raft down. Either way, again, our guide became a gondaler and directed us down the rest of the river.

All in all, we had a fantastic day and met people from all over the world; Hawaii, China (but living and studying in Aus), Germany and Argentina. Shame we couldn’t have spent longer with them.

Chatting with a Monk

Chiang Mai, as I have said before has an old city which is surrounded by old stone walls, and within these walls (and some outside) there are many wats (temples) within walking distance of each other.

You many have noticed from previous posts that we have been to see a lot of wats. That’s because there is a lot of them to see! Simple as that. Within Chiang Mai’s walls, from just one day of traipsing around we uncovered some little gems, “ah”, I hear you say “but once you’ve seen one wat, you’ve seen them all.” My answer to that, yes and no. Yes, there have been a few wats that we walked into and walked straight back out again, as it looked just like another one we had seen, but here in Chiang Mai we discovered at least 3 wats which for 2 non-buddhists (but willing to learn) we found particularly interesting and even helpful.

phra sing

Wat Chiang Man is a small but stunning temple where every inch of wall space is covered in paintings depicting buddhas life from birth. The paintings were beautifully done and it really helped us to understand the beginnings of Buddhism. Wat Phra Sing was the first temple we saw that had flags hanging from the ceilings, some containing money and others with print on of the signs of the zodiac.We stepped back and watched what went on, and saw some Thai people buy the empty flag and fill them with money (we couldn’t tell if it was real or not) and then find a space to hand them from the grid on the ceiling of the temple. Again, we were not too sure why they did this, perhaps as an offering, or for good luck. Either way, it was a new thing that we had not seen at a temple, and another thing to add to our long list of “why do they do this…?”

chedi luang chedi luang2

Wat Chedi Luang was a firm favourite for both of us as there was so much going on, not only was there a temple on the site, but there was a school, a buddhist monk college/university and a relic of an old temple too, and everything was explained in Thai and English, a true rarity but so helpful. Within the temple itself, there was so much to take in (I believe we had the good grace of optimal timing.) As we walked in, we had a look around and were happy to see some explanations in English and then some Buddhist Monks walked and began chanting. There was an elder at the front reading out the 200 odd laws with the younger monks sat facing him. From what we understand (from the English translation and from what we observed) this was the time for a monk to (for lack of a better word) ‘repent’ any laws he has broken by confiding in another monk. Also the whole ceiling was covered by these low hanging flags, there could have been hundreds or even thousands covering the entirety of the buildings ceiling, but these ones did not contain money like in Wat Phra Sing, only print with the signs of the Chinese/Thai zodiac. Again, why? We do not know!


We left the building and began to wander the grounds, and the first thing we came across was trees covered in ancient proverbs, which we enjoyed reading. Then we saw a big sign welcoming visitors to “Come have a talk with a monk. Don’t stand by, come and have a chat!” …..Well, this took our interest; should we? Can we? It’s a bit daunting, mind. Umm, right we’ll walk around the grounds once, nip to the loo, and once we come back round again, we’ll do it. We agreed and started our (decisively slow) walk around the grounds. We previously had so many questions about Buddhism and the rituals carried out within temples among other questions, but under pressure we both drew a blank. Errmm…we can’t just go in there with nothing! So we wracked our brains to try and remember what we wanted to know.

Once we had completed our full circuit we took a few deep breaths and stepped over the threshold into what felt like a very daunting situation. How wrong we were. A young monk came and sat with us and began chatting away! Phew, he is a normal person, what a relief! He began asking about us and general info and then we slowly chimed in with our own questions, “What is the correct way to conduct yourself in a wat? Why do people light incense, and carry flowers? What is the proper way to place your hands in respect? Why are there so many different poses of Buddha?” All the answers he gave in fluent English (of which he has only been learning for 1 year, we later found out!) Then questions moved onto him, “What made you become a monk, where are you from? Whats your daily life like? How long have you been here? Where do you want to move onto?”

I won’t bore you with the answers, but just let you know that talking with him was definitely the highlight of our day (or perhaps even the trip so far,) to see just a glimpse, an insight into his world was truly fascinating.

Oh, we also went to the zoo. It was alright. gibbon

Travelling Highlight of the Week. (w.b 14th Jan)

As we were passing a coffee place at Thapae Gate, Chiang Mai. An American with a heavy red-neck/hill billy accent and a big bushy beard (containing some remnants of food) resembling Chuck Norris was talking very loudly on a phone and caught our attention.

“…..if you don’t give me the money you can put all your possessions in a bag and you give them to me…”

Although this seems a threatening statement, the thick drawl of his hill billy accent only made the situation more entertaining.

Would we f**k with him? Not a chance, he was massive. But happily giggled from a far, and moved on.