As you have probably realized by now, I did not get a chance to post about my month-long adventure in South East Asia. I had every intention on updating my blog throughout the trip, however it proved most difficult with only a smartphone, so I apologize for the delay!
We left Toronto on April 23rd and flew directly into Bangkok, Thailand. Upon landing, (and after much miscommunication!) we hopped in a taxi and headed for a few pre-determined sights before making our way up to the train station. We first dropped by the Taling Chan floating market (small floating market in Bangkok) where we enjoyed a nice seafood meal and some (warm) durian. Next, we made our way to the Chatuchak Weekend Market, which is the largest outdoor weekend market in Thailand. I absolutely adore outdoor markets so this was an exciting experience for me! The only downside was that although we only brought carry-on luggage, it was incredibly heavy and strenuous to carry so we could not enjoy the market as much as we hoped, though we did get some nice cool drinks to help keep our spirits up. It was bittersweet leaving the weekend market, but I was happy we were able to experience it, even for a short while. We made our way via taxi to the train station to pick up our pre-bought tickets and wait for our overnight train up north to Chiang Mai. The overnight sleeper train was actually very comfortable and not very crowded. The staff were also extremely friendly; it was a lovely experience!
Upon arriving in Chiang Mai, we hopped in a private cab (charged us the same as a tuk-tuk but was air conditioned!) and made our way to the Jungala House where we would be staying for our short visit in the lovely northern city. Doh and his wife were lovely hosts, and I definitely recommend staying with them if you ever get the chance! We weren't that tired after arriving, so we took some time to exchange money and feed ourselves before calling a cab to go to the Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai. Our host Doh was extremely helpful and arranged a car for us! At the Tiger Kingdom, we purchased 3 packages which allowed us to go into the tiger enclosures and pet them, and take pictures. It was quite an experience! We decided to go to the medium-sized tiger cage together, and then each did a separate enclosure on our own. I chose to spend time with the 2-month old tiger cub, who was so incredibly adorable and soft. Upon leaving, our driver recommended stopping by a snake show, which was interesting, before heading back to Jungala House to rest before dinner. We had dinner at We's Restaurant, our first real meal in Chiang Mai, and it did not disappoint. Highly recommend going if you're ever in Old Town Chiang Mai! That night, we took a tuk-tuk to the night market where we explored and bought souvenirs, before retiring for the evening.
I had made arrangements for an elephant tour however the morning of, I realized that the dates were unclear and we were unable to get in touch with the trip providers. Luckily, our host Doh used to lead trekking tours and used his contacts to find us another elephant tour we would be able to join that day! There was only one other couple on the tour that day so it was a nice small group of four (six if you include the driver and guide). Toto's Elephant Training Camp was AMAZING and we were able to join mahout training for the morning, getting to know and training with our elephant ride Mekamun, before riding her bareback through the jungle, and bathing her. After eating lunch at the elephant training camp, we said our goodbyes to our new elephant friends and headed to a waterfall where we were able to swim and spend time cooling down in the water. Our guides were amazing, and even hiked up with us to go to the bat cave nearby! It was really an incredible tour and one of the main highlights of the trip.
The next morning, we ate a quick breakfast and hurried to the train station for our day train back to Bangkok. In our haste, I had forgotten my digital camera at Jungala House! Doh and his wife were extremely helpful and accommodating and upon returning to Canada, I was able to coordinate its return. Cannot thank them enough! Upon arriving back in Bangkok, we made our way towards Khao San Road area where we would find a hotel for our short stay and explore the city. The next morning, we did our own walking tour of Bangkok where we spent the day temple hopping to the 3 main temples in Bangkok: The Grand Palace, specifically Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). Each were amazing and majestic, but my personal favourite was Wat Pho. The giant reclining Buddha was incredible to see and experience. I had originally planned to visit Soi Cowboy that evening for a ladyboy show, however the day proved to be extremely trying and we ended up sleeping through the night.
Our last morning in Bangkok, I arranged a surprise visit to the Bangkok Aquarium as an early birthday present. The Bangkok Aquarium is located in DMK, one of the main shopping centres in downtown Bangkok. The tickets I had purchased ahead of time included a Behind the Scenes tour of the aquarium, as well as popcorn and a drink, and admission to the 4D cinema. It was a really lovely visit and we even saw a few of the animal shows while we were there!
Heading to the airport was actually a nightmare, as we didn't realize it was a holiday and there was a lot of traffic everywhere. The tuk-tuk we tried to hail was charging obscenely, and when we asked mall security on the best route to get to our airport, they recommended taking the train a few stops and trying to hail a cab from there (closer to the airport and therefore, should be cheaper!). When we arrived at the recommended station, all we were able to find were motorbikes who could only take one passenger each. Eventually, we were able to find a taxi driver who was sympathetic to our cause and agreed to take us to the airport for all the money we had left (wished we could have paid him more!). Luckily, we were able to make our flight and were on our way to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam!