Happy Birthday Jim!

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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After 14 hours on a sleeper train we arrived in Chiang Mai (unlike some of our other journeys we knew where to get off on this one as it was the last stop!).  We got a free taxi to Julie`s guesthouse - recommended by lonely planet and a guy we met in New Zealand- which turned out very popular! Luckily we`d booked ahead, but the guy in our taxi hadn`t, so had to find somewhere else!!  We walked around the area with it`s moat and city walls and on the evening went to the night market where we had tea (not realising we`d be getting kiddie portions!).  Once our food had gone down (didn`t take long) we looked around the market stalls where I found a nice bracelet (I managed to haggle the woman down to 1/2 price! But as we were walking away she began tapping the other jewellery with our coin, which we thought must be some kind of crazy Thai curse!).

The following day we enrolled ourselves on a Thai cooking course (which turned out to be one of our highlights in Thailand so far!) with Chiang Mai supposedly being the best place to do this!  We had 5 categories to choose dishes from (appetisers, noodles, soups, curry paste and curries) so the 2 of us tried to pick different dishes to broaden our knowledge of Thai cooking.  Before the cooking began we had a trip around a food market and an introduction to Thai herbs in the garden on site.  Cooking commenced (lo and behold every single dish contained fish sauce in all its fermented, rotton glory!) and all our dishes turned out rather successful :D  Our favourite part was sitting down to eat each dish we`d cooked (which turned out to be a novelty as we hadn`t cooked for over a month!), especially our red and green curries!  We were provided at the end with our very own recipe book to ensure we don`t forget what we learnt!

The next day we awoke (the most important day of the year!) to Jim`s birthday and an adventure trek we`d booked (after much searching for the right tour!)!  We hopped onto the open back truck and rode off to our 1st destination, an orchid farm (where they had massively awesome fish!).  We then visited some tribe villages, the most recognisable being the Karen Longnecks, a Burmese tribe where women stretch their necks (although we found out they don`t so much stretch their necks, but weigh down their shoulders and collarbones with the heavy neck jewellery).  Then it was onto the pinnacle, a ride ontop of an elephant (after much rigorous research, Baan Chang Farm seemed to treat the animals the best!)!! We brought a bunch of bananas to feed it while carting us around (although 1/2 ended up on the floor as our elephant was too lazy to stretch it`s little trunk far enough back!) and thoroughly enjoyed our hour long ride :D  After a much needed energy boosting lunch we began our trek to a waterfall, through a rather commercial patch of rainforest.  We got there and had a well deserved dip in the cool water.  A Thai guy on our trip from the south on holiday brought everyone a beer (well, in my case 2 as Han still can`t stand them!).  Then we started the walk back (our apalling guide sent us on our way with the statement 'you remember the way don`t you?').  We navigated successfully and when approaching the end were halted by shouts and 2 of our group running to catch the rest of us up.  It turned out that the Thai guy was half way back having some sort of allergic reaction.  I whipped out the first aid kit with the antihistamines (Han`s relentless obsession with carrying a first aid kit paid off! She`s good isn`t she?!) and without a second thought Jim grabbed it and went sprinting back up the hill!  The rest of our group waited at the truck and eventually Jim, our guide and the Thai guy appeared.  Once he was safely taken to hospital we carried on on our adventure trek with the last activity rafting! First we did white water rafting which was great fun crashing down the rapids.  Then we swapped our boat for a bamboo raft and leisurely rowed to the end (our Italian friend showed us how to do it Gondola style!!). 

Back at the guesthouse we spent the evening celebrating Jims 25th with a few drinks (this birthday was a strange experience.  The most adventurous one ever, but didn`t really feel like a birthday!)  We had a slight scare when we turned our camera on to find a message saying 'error cannot retrieve picture files' (damned Vietnam memory card!).  Luckily we sorted it though and found all the photos when we pluged it into a PC (we thought it best to take this opportunity to put every image onto CD)and with that Chiang Mai shall go down positively in our memories (especially that awesome cooking course)!

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Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes