We arrived at Bangkok Airport on the 2nd of February, which now seems like a lifetime ago. We had our Stray welcome meeting that evening where we met our first group, it was the largest of our tour groups so far with a starting number of 17.
The difference with this tour is that you decide how long you want to spend at each stop, you can either go with the bus or you can ‘hop off’ this means that the group will change regularly.
We didn’t see that much of Bangkok to be honest, so even though I’ve been there I couldn’t tell you anything about it.
9am the next morning we set off to Ayutthaya. It took around 2 hours where we then had time to visit Pagodas and explore the town before catching the overnight train to Chiang Mai.
I had my reservations about the overnight train but a few people had assured me that it was nice. We caught the train around 9.30pm and our seats had already been turned into beds. Ben took the top bunk whilst I got the bottom. I definitely got the better deal. My bunk was spacious and felt like a little room, the first time I had my own room for almost a month.
Before sleeping, I plucked up the courage to use the train bathroom. There was the option of a squat toilet or a western toilet. Both had no plumbing – everything just went straight onto the tracks below. I managed to sleep off and on all night and woke to “Hi hi get up get up”. Ben had not had the same sleep quality as me, the AC and the lights were directly above the top bunks and the neither were turned off during the night.
Once we had got off the train we were piled into big red tuk tuks, we were dropped off at the Stray accommodation and this is where Ben and I said goodbye to our first group. We decided to hop off in Chiang Mai for 5 nights.
I really enjoyed our time in Chiang Mai, it’s probably one of the most touristy destinations we’ve been to on this trip and everything was much more expensive but the atmosphere made up for it.
On our second night there we took a cooking class with some of the girls from our tour group. We made a total of 11 dishes and we both loved it. We came away with a free apron, spice paste for curry and a cookbook of all the dishes we made.
We then had a day of no plans which felt wrong after having something to do for a month. We had a lazy morning and explored the city.
The following day was my favourite day of the trip so far. We visited a families elephants with Elephant Nature Park. These elephants used to be used in the tourist industry so that the food for them could be afforded but elephant nature park now pay the family for people to visit them so they no longer have to be treated badly. There were 6 adult elephants and 1 baby which was around 2 months old.
To begin with we helped chop sticks and wash bananas for their snacks which we then fed to them. This was an experience, the elephants knew when you had more than one of their snacks in your hand and would just stick their trunks closer to you till you gave it to them. After the snacks were finished we took the elephants for a walk through the jungle where they could forage for their own food. For some reason I never expected elephants to climb so high but they did it with ease. The baby elephant was filled with mischief. Constantly chasing someone or trying to knock us over. He got under one of bens legs and I thought that Bens time had come. Once he had got us down on the ground he would try to lie on us as this is how baby elephants play with each other. Our guides strongly advised we did not sit on the ground with him near as he was over 100kgs. Once back from our walk it was our turn to eat. After this we took the elephants to the river and everyone got in the water with them. It started with everyone throwing water over the elephants and ended in a water fight.
We left the elephants here and we were driven back in an open top truck where we were standing up in the back.
Our final day was also a lazy day in recovery from our big day with the elephants.
Our time in Chiang Mai and Thailand was at an end. Yesterday we drove to Chiang Rai to see the white temple which was beautiful. Potentially the nicest one I have seen so far. After Chiang Rai we continued our drive up to the Laos border.