Essence of Chiang Mai - June 10th 2015

We are fortunate not to need to do the “Tourist” things like visiting a Hill tribe village, visiting Long Neck Ladies, taking a trip to Chiang Rai, visiting The Golden Triangle at Chiang Saen or riding an Elephant at one of the many Elephant Camps as we had these experiences on earlier visits to Thailand.

Clearly remember an Elephant Adventure out of Chiang Saen in the Golden Triangle where we travelled on elephant back for a couple of hours up some mountains to an old Opium Village. The elephant in question just had the mahout walking in front rather than sitting on his head. After about 20 minutes of climbing he got hungry and on the narrow pathway he turned sideways with his four legs bunched and leaned as far as he could over the steep embankment to reach a banana plant. We clung desperately to the howdah and were in grave danger of tumbling down the precipice. Fortunately his handler managed to regain control and we continued along the narrow tracks. After about an hour or so this “Elly” got a bit sick of his hefty passengers and every time we crossed a small stream he paused, filled his trunk and reached back and squirted us with water.

We have been on elephants in Bandvargah National Park in India and had our first encounter with tigers in the wild from elephant back. It was an adrenalin rush experience as our elephant came upon two tigers resting in the jungle after a kill. The feeling of being so exposed (as the tigers could have jumped up and attacked us) I think was one of those defining moments. We were in their territory on their terms and they were in control. Its effect on us was to make us want more high risk adventure!

In Nepal we were staying at Tiger Tops in The Chitwan National Park tracking tigers again! We were in Elephant Grass (as tall as elephants) when our “Elly” suddenly stopped, started trembling and making a moaning sound. Although we could not see it in the grass he had spotted a tiger just in front of us. We always remember him shaking with fear as the mahout tried to get him to move on. Adventure travel always seems to turn up these magic moments and once experienced you are never the same again.

Enough of the reminiscing. Today we plan to explore more of the old moated town. Yesterday evening we walked down Rachadamnoen road and had dinner at a tiny street café. It sat about 10, had one wok but the menu sounded great and no tourists in sight! It was called Pad Thai on Rachadamneoon so we had Pad Thai, Spring rolls, Pad Kra Prow(A pork spicy mince), and Fried Morning Glory(a noxious weed in Byron Shire). The food was what we had been waiting for. Genuine Northern Thai food and spicy with lots of chilli and garlic. Washed it all down with Thai Iced Coffee and a Lemon tea. Cost 375Baht or $14.40 Australian.

Our plans here now are to “sniff out” the essence of Chiang Mai. Decided to try the Scorpion Tail Ping River Cruise. Arriving before 11am we took some pics of the boat and surrounds. Noticed a man reading the paper in a hammock relaxing by the river. I asked could I take a pic and he smiled and agreed and was pleased when I showed him the result.

When our 71 years old guide appeared they wanted to photograph us so we agreed. They then used my camera to take a shot which proved to be its last. Somehow after it was returned to me it bit the dust and was no more. The cruise was OK but the River bank is pretty uninteresting and our prima donna guide gave us a commentary with pics for the whole 90 minutes to the point of exhausting us! We had to keep looking at him so did not see a lot of the river.

Journeyed to Festival Central by Taxi Truck to purchase a new camera. As mine only cost $150 Australian it was not claimable under our American Express Travel Insurance. New one is on the charger and will be ready in the morning to snap more pics.