If you asked Ky and I our plan for this week, as of three days ago we would have said we were taking a bus to Pai for a few nights before catching a night train to Bangkok followed by a week on the island of Koh Lipe. If you asked us two days ago, we would have said that we decided to switch for Koh Lipe for Koh Tao and Koh Lanta. If you asked us yesterday, we would have told you we were skipping Pai to head straight to Bangkok and then hit the islands. Today we decided that after Bangkok, we’ll go straight to Koh Tao and stay there. Yup. That’s how often and quickly our plans have changed throughout the course of this trip. It may sound absurd and stressful and scary, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. We make our decisions as we go and maintain the freedom to stay longer if we love a place or skip over a place that doesn’t seem to be worth the money/time. Granted, this kind of travel would most certainly not work for everyone. In fact, there are probably very few people it would work for. But Ky and I are a whole other kind of chill when it comes to travel plans and life in general, so we make it work.
We spent our last four nights in the beautiful town of Chiang Mai, which – fun fact – has over 300 temples within the city walls. And they're not sub-par temples either, each and every one of them is ornate and gorgeous in its own way bc Thailand doesn't mess around when it comes to religious architecture. After arriving and settling into our hostel, we froggered our way across the main road to a street food hub where we found a woman who made the best vegetarian pad thai on the face of the planet and paired it with the chicken skewers we found a few stands over. The total price of our dinner? 60 Baht. That’s less than $2 USD. I freaking love it here. As we are wont to do when we fall in love with a food/restaurant, we came back every night for the same dinner bc it was just that good. We washed down our chicken pad thai with fried banana spring rolls drizzled in honey (I gained weight just typing that tbh) and made our way back to the hostel to get some sleep.
For once, I had no problem waking up in the morning bc it was TATTOO DAY! Whiiich I talked all about in my post: Getting a Sak Yant: The Experience, so if you didn't read it yet just go back to the home page and click on the correct link under the "Thailand" category! I would have included it in this post but I type like I talk and this would have been the longest post of all time which is unfair to those of you who actually contribute to society by having jobs or going to school or being productive in any way, shape, or form other than reading this blog. I personally wouldn't understand bc I am useless in virtually every aspect at this stage except for the small boost I'm giving the Southeast Asian tourist economy. And when I say small, I mean small. Bc I'm poor. But that's not the point - go read my tattoo post about spending the money I don't have so that a monk could beat me up with a really big needle and bless me in the process.
Now for those of you who don’t know (or haven’t seen the Facebook photos), we spent the entirety of our Saturday hanging out with elephants. It. Was. Awesome. We were up at 5.45AM for our 6.30AM pickup bc we wanted to grab breakfast before we headed to the park, but our street food lady with the delicious eggs and rice was nowhere to be found so we rolled into 7/11 and bought what are essentially the only gluten free snacks to be found in any convenience store in Southeast Asia: ice cream and fruit. Breakfast of champions. Our transport picked us up from the hostel in a red truck – kind of like an Uber that you find on the street that only costs 30 Baht no matter where you go (but ours was included in the cost of the day trip) – where we met James, Charlie and Gregor whose banter had us laughing the entire two hour trip to the elephant park.
**I would like it to be known that we did our research on this park (Into the Wild Elephant Camp) before we booked. I am well aware of the dangers exotic animals face in the world today, especially in countries like Thailand where they are often exploited for the sake of tourists, and we were careful to find a place that treated their elephants with the care they deserve. We could not have chosen better. Pai, the owner of the camp and our tour guide, looked at the elephants like family. He and his brother rescued their three adult female elephants (who now have two babies and a third on the way) two years ago, and have created an amazing sanctuary for them to live out their lives as happily and free as they can be (as they can no longer be released back into the wild due to their dependence on humans). They only used voice commands to control the elephants and rather than working the elephants to a fixed schedule, we followed their whim, whether that meant mud baths or jungle treks or real bath time in the river - all of which ended up happening. It was truly one of the most amazing experiences of my life and I honestly still can't believe it happened. I hugged a freaking mama elephant and took a bath with a lil' baby elephant. Seriously, who gets to do that?! I did worry about the whole fresh tattoo/open wound situation when literally having a mud fight with the aforementioned elephants, but Ky let me borrow a long sleeved shirt that kept the mud off my back and we were good to go on all fronts. Hopefully. I'll keep you updated, but I'll be damned if my Thai-monk-blessed tattoo is the thing that kills me.
One of my favorite parts of our day at the elephant sanctuary was the lesson Pai gave before letting us interact with the elephants on history of Thailand and importance of elephants in their culture. His quick historical synopsis was heartfelt as he described the love the Thai people have for their kings, who they call their "dad" and the vital role that elephants have always played in the Thai way of life. It was truly important to him that we understand that the locals who ride elephants are not harming the animals any more than we do when we ride horses. It was a fantastic reminder not to judge a people or a culture for things you don't understand. He did also express his hatred of groups who treat their elephants poorly and abuse them for the sake of money, and warned us to be careful in the future bc there is no law stating that only well-regulated places can call themselves sanctuaries. Literally any random company can call themselves a sanctuary, and many do, despite their abuse of these beautiful beasts. The competition between camps is actually so stiff that some larger, more abusive and powerful companies have started spreading lies on the reviews of companies like Pai's, saying that they use hooks and nails to control the animals and not to visit their camps. We saw a few of these reviews ourselves when we googled the company previous to our visit, but each comment - there were approximately 7 or 8 and all within the last week - was responded to by Pai personally and the overwhelming 99.9% majority of reviews were A1.
A two hour return trip to the city found us back in our hostel around 3PM, and I left Ky to his nap while I recorded to Chrissy (one of my best friends since high school who I talk to more than almost anyone I know despite the thousands of miles that are perpetually between us). When Ky finally woke up from his nap (I say that as if he doesn't patiently wait for me to wake up every morning bc he is always up by 7AM and I'm more of an 8AM with a wake up call kind of girl), we headed to our pad thai place before grabbing a $2 tuktuk to the Saturday Night Bazaar outside the city to wander and find Ky some pants that wouldn’t rip after one wear (lol). We walked the 40 minutes back to the hostel bc I am my mother's daughter and didn't feel like I had gotten enough exercise that day, stopping for snacks from 7/11 on the way which we enjoyed way more than we would have if we weren't so tired and hungry from the events of the day - yeah, playing with elephants is hard work, okay?
The next morning was a slow one, especially bc our hostel dorm had no windows and it felt like the middle of the night no matter when you woke up. We grabbed a coffee and chased down some more flowy pants for yours truly bc I am addicted to them and cannot stop myself - not that I've tried - before enjoying a delicious lunch of spicy basil chicken and rice and looking for a Wi-Fi boasting cafe where we could get some planning done and I could theoretically work on some masters applications.
Spoiler: I didn't get any applications done. We did, however, get some planning done for the upcoming week - including deciding to get our scuba license on Koh Tao next week - before heading to another night market, where I found what LOOKED like yummy candy but was actually the most deceptive looking dessert of all time. I didn't spit it out, but like, it was a close call.
We were up early again the next day bc Ky hates me and he decided to schedule his Sak Yant - which he decided to get after debating for like 72h - at 9AM and wanted to be at the shop by 8.30AM bc it was his first piece and he was full of nervous excitement. But if you want to know more about that you'll have to read my Sak Yant post bc once again I have written way too many words for your poor brains to be forced to process in one sitting. Brevity is not a virtue I was blessed with. Sorry.
Post-tattoo, we headed to the Chiang Mai airport for our delayed 4PM flight to Bangkok. Why was it delayed? Bc I was flying on it, and that is what happens with planes I plan to board. Normally we're way too poor to fly (we've got a "catch flights not feelings" mindset with a "how about a bus instead" bank account balance) but we found a flight to Bangkok for $65 a piece including a checked bag - yes I know my bag itself cost more than that last time, shut UP. Fast forward a few hours and we were navigating the public transport of Bangkok - including Skytrains and buses - for over an hour to get to our hostel, but it was totally worth it bc it only cost $2 each to get there in one piece. I almost broke down and called an Uber at one point bc it was 7PM and we had eaten one meal in 12h and I thought I was about to actually fall over on the overcrowded Skytrain. Somehow we made it with some semblance of our sanity and grabbed chicken skewers and rice for under a dollar each and enjoyed them with our ice cream bars on the hostel roof.
As of now I have effectively crawled into bed and kept my poor, weary eyes open just long enough to write these words down for your (hopefully) enjoyment and my own personal memory. But for now, sleep is too appealing to ignore any longer, so that's all folx!
Until next time my loves,
Today's list of differences and surprises:
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Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
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