When one does not know if it is a good morning or was a good night, one is in Chiang Mai.
Always, on the nights prior, I’d have a big jug of Mug-a-rita from Elvis Loco; And a small-town, crazy party at Zoe’s; And some more Hong Thong sessions in the hostel. Often, I’d not see any bed until 4am.
But always too, the next days’ adventures weren’t ones to miss. So those would happen— with racoon eyes and a head that spun.
The first order of business was a relatively long (ok, 45 minutes) 4WD ride to Maetaman Elephant Park. With me were fellow hungover backpackers from Wellington, Canberra and Groningen.
A chap named Abba, who always had a squirrel perched on his shoulders, picked us up very early in the morning. We had booked the tour randomly from one of the leaflets lying around at the hostel— as you do when hungover and felt obliged to do something more worthwhile than well, succumb to alcohol intoxication.
1. ELEPHANT CAMP
The elephant camp was nested in a small, riverside community. Mahouts, in uniform blue tops and fisherman pants, were just starting their day when we arrived. Most of them were on the riverbanks, bathing elephants in preparation for the half past nine show.
We sat in front of the row, our cameras, ever ready. A bunch of almost geriatric but moneyed tourists lined the back, the brims of their straw hats overlapping each other.
The show was quite enjoyable. Their routine included a well-choreographed dance number, an elephant painting session (which was very impressive) and an acrobatic drill of sorts. I was all eyes and ears, until Jelena and I simultaneously, accidentally caught an elephant’s erect phallus on camera. I lost all concentration since. LOL.
2. OX AND ELEPHANT RIDE
As I’ve validated the very second camp minders coaxed me to step into an elevated platform and onto an ox cart, sitting pretty in an open carriage with a huge-ass umbrella was the highlight of the day.
Together with an Aussie musician and a Dutch social worker, we enjoyed the sights of the village whilst nursing a splitting head ache. Our driver, who also doubled as photographer, made us wear sunglasses to conceal the strain of our wasted-ness.
Same was the case when, after the ox ride, I teamed up with Matt and did the Elephant ride. We took the riverside route and was treated to a display of enviable water-based activities like bamboo rafting and bathing with the elephants. If only we were sober, we would’ve found and booked those instead.
3. ZIP LINE
After a fun but sedentary morning at the elephant camp, we were driven to the zip line spot. To be honest, it was like a surplus version of a treetop adventure. But the guides were perky and passionate so we went along and let them do their jobs (like proudly reciting a safety drill spiel in broken English, which was very cute).
We went through around 4 or 5 zip lines and all were mediocre. But we were a happy, drunken bunch with shallow joys, so we had a blast! I, not only forgot to break and smashed into the safety dude with a fluoro vest, I also stopped mid-trip in one of the zip lines and the dude SHOUTED, “cos you are heavy miss!”
I swear I could have strangled him with my harness.
4. WHITEWATER RAFTING
Imagine rafting on a dry river bed? Not only did we need to physically disembark from the raft and push it to wherever there was decent amount of water, we also got stuck countless of times.
Abba, who, by that time I realised was the big boss and not just some tour guide, put up a poker face and pretended all is well. He kept herding us to do synchronised rowing and chant some nonsense for team spirit. He also had a couple of minions who were practically carrying the raft for us. I bet, if they could, they could’ve surely fetched water to fill the river.
But again, although that handwork of a no-water rafting sobered us up, we were a happy bunch. We still laughed our way out of that misadventure.
5. TIGER KINGDOM
The tiger kingdom happened the next day, after another night when the morning rolled uncertain. I woke up with my innards still soaked from the night before’s beer, as usual. But I promised myself to hug tigers.
The boys didn’t make it, of course. So Jelena and I went on and enjoyed a rare morning of girl bonding with a car and a chauffeur all to ourselves.
Though not particularly a fan of cats, tigers felt like they were half-giant plushies though, so I was overly stoked having had the chance to pet them.
When we returned to the hostel, the boys were beside themselves. But at least they were rested. Myself, on the other hand, looked like I needed a long shower even after I had a long shower.
TOP ACTIVITIES TO DO IN CHIANG MAI.This post is part of a travel series featuring a month-long (supposedly) solo jaunt to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.