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Chiang Mai & the Elephant Nature Park & a brief mention of Phuket

Chiang Mai was one of my favorite places Emily and I went when we did our Birthday Vacasian. It had even more delicious food than Bangkok, awesome people, and foot massages, which unexpectedly I will now need daily for the rest of my life. When we got there the first order of business was food. There is no scarcity of that in Thailand. There were all these mom and pop type kitchens all along the street. There is the kitchen literally in the front on the sidewalk and then usually three to five tables inside out of the heat in what looked like a glorified storage unit. Your food was hot and out in less than 5 minutes. You have to sorta not think about food handling or storage or you will just get sick thinking about it. But (knock on wood) we didn’t get sick once on our trip.That first night we were there, Emily convinced me that we were going to a Muay Thai fight. Still exhausted and feeling like that jet lag fog might still be a real thing, I wasn’t exactly excited about this. But nonetheless, when in Thailand…I had to go. And it didn’t seem like there was another option. So we went and sat at a folding table covered in a table cloth that had to have been as old as me in this “Aword” (award) Winning “Stadium.” Listen kids, I am not sure who gave these peeps an award or an aword but this place was in need of no more awards ever. I wanted to buy them a new song to play instead of the same one on repeat and I really would love to send them some new table clothes and cleaning solution. The only good thing that came of this muay thai fight is that we got to eat banana and nutella rotee which basically kept me happy until the giant beers came at the fight.The next day was possibly my most favorite day of the whole trip. We went to the Elephant Nature Park! I loved every second. It was so incredible. Nestled into a natural valley of Northern Thailand, really close to the border of Laos, bordered by a river and forest, it was the most tranquil place I had been since being on safari. This awesome woman named Lek, or tiny in thai, started this sanctuary for elephants in the 90s. Since then she has rescued 44 elephants from trekking camps (where people ride the elephants for fun), from logging, street circuses and more. I am so glad that these majestic creatures have a home where they get to walk up the mountain with us daily and eat all the food they want instead of having giant tourists sit on them for hours a day. Think about it kids: there is nothing cool about riding an elephant. Walk with them instead, feed them one million bananas. They will like you better. Public service announcement of the day.  The elephants were so funny though. We were given a bag of bananas and were told to just feed them the whole day. So we walked to this small hut where the elephants and us broke for lunch. It was so pretty, all the food on the floor, bamboo leaves for placemats, elephants snacking on more food nearby. The 11 of us all talked about our trips so far and then all sorta dispersed to our own part of the huts to take it all in. There were birds chirping and a slight breeze and elephants playing in the valley below. It was pretty magical.After lunch we got to give the ellie’s baths in the river. They like to cool off and then immediately cover themselves with dirt again to protect them from the sun. It’s basically the opposite of what I would want to do but that’s cool, do your thing elephants. They literally handed us buckets and we just proceeded to fill them and throw water all over them while they continued to eat! Hysterical, these ellies. We then got to tour the sanctuary itself – they also have 500 dogs and 400 cats or something to that effect that have been rescued so there were eco tourists there helping with that as well.For those of you who don’t know, right before I went to Europe with my little brother, Daren, I got a fortune cookie fortune that said “You’re feet will touch the soil of many countries” and since then, I have taken a photo of my feet in all the countries I have been too. Hence, feet pictures. The day after the most magical day ever, we went to Funky Dog Cafe (OH! We went to Dash for dinner after all of the elephant stuff. Make sure to go there, so good!) for breakfast where noodle soup is customary so that is exactly what I ordered and a thai iced tea because by this point I am beyond addicted and then we headed to see Wat Chedi Luang and any other wat we wanted to stop in along the way.The coolest part of the day, aside from the cooking class, was getting to attend a monk chat! Whaaaaa?! You literally can go to this Wat (temple for those of you who haven’t caught on yet) and chat with a monk! Just for funsies. So we chatted with an awesome monk who answered all of our questions. He shaves his eyebrows. It was so weird. We asked likely what he would consider super childish questions as well as some not so childish ones. It was pretty awesome though to be able to just sit in this nice picnic area and wait for the monk to be done talking to everyone so they can come talk to you next. Their schedule is pretty crazy, they get up around 5am, do their morning meditation and then walk the streets for food which people give them for free because they are monks. He joked that he has to like the “lay people” because that is his means of getting things. Despite the fact that he has no money whatsoever, he has a cell phone, a laptop, and internet. So he isn’t missing that latest youtube video and seems to have a pretty normal connected life.  He wanted to become a monk when he was 14, at 17 he moved to Thailand from India and now he is 24 and doesn’t eat after noon.The owner at funky dog cafe taught me that you should always face your shoes out. He is Japanese and says that is how they do it so they can leave a building quicker if there is an earthquake. He was a funny guy.After our monk chat, we walked way too far in search of the best elephant shirt that ever existed. But never found it so I was just cranky instead. We went back to our hotel to shower before Cooking Class! I am so happy we had the group we did because they were the best. There was a couple from Chicago on their honeymoon, a lesbian couple from Singapore and a husband and wife from Australia who was legit the funniest couple in the whole world I am convinced. It zapped me right out of my cranky mood and in the mood to make some food. We chose the Baan Thai Cooking School, and I recommend that to you all too, only because I loved their story. The woman who originally owned it was a young woman in her 20s who died of breast cancer and her sister decided to carry it on in honor of her. It made me super happy to see so many people there and hear the instructors tell the same worn out jokes they have probably said thousands of times but they do it anyway and act like it is funnier than the last time they said it. We got to go to the market and found out that people in Thailand really don’t have refrigerators and go to the market every day for food for dinner. That sounds like crazy talk. We made all kinds of delicious things: pad thai, coconut curry, spring rolls, it was all perfect and the best way to end our time in Chiang Mai.The next day we went off to Phuket to just literally sit and do nothing. I didn’t take many photos. We were using it as our catch up days to check emails and make sure we still were in business back in the states. We ate more food. So much food. I had the best pad thai I have ever had in my entire life there. And other than that it was pretty uneventful so it doesn’t get it’s own blog post. Come back tomorrow for BURMA!!!!! I am so excited for you all to see those photos!!!  Best pad thai ever right there. EVER!

  • May 7, 2015 - 9:44 am

    Jaime - Simply amazing!!!

  • May 7, 2015 - 9:50 am

    Lauren Swann - Those elephants!!! I love these, Dani!!

  • May 7, 2015 - 9:53 am

    Brea - This post makes me so crazy happy. I just want to go hang out with the ellies all day. I love everything about that. The fortune cookie couldn’t have been more correct and I love that you take a picture of your bare feet everywhere you go. You should make an album of those. I can’t wait to see more from this trip!! These places are all on our list for 2017!

  • May 7, 2015 - 10:08 am

    Anna - those elephants have already made my day. i need to go to thailand and only play with elephants…does the elephant sanctuary take volunteers?

  • May 7, 2015 - 10:13 am

    Christa Rae - OH MY GOSH!! I think Chiang Mai just stole my heart through your photographs!! Jealous of all of the delicious food you’ve eaten! Looks like such an amazing trip!! The images of the elephants are my FAVORITES!

  • May 7, 2015 - 11:02 am

    Marisa - What an incredible adventure! The elephants…I melt!

  • May 7, 2015 - 11:51 am

    Anna A - OMG!! Those elephant pics are amazing! I’m obsessed with the black and white one! Looks like an epic trip for sure!

  • May 7, 2015 - 2:00 pm

    Emily - I miss all of this so much. Good times!

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