“A lot to catch up on…
“So, I spent the last few days in the city of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. I really enjoyed my time there. It was a lot less hectic than Bangkok was. It is the jumping off point for a lot of adventure-based activities, so there is a lot to do.
“Did a fairly typical trek for that region on Friday. After about an hour drive up into the mountains you go to an elephant camp where you can ride one for about an hour. Then you hike further into the mountains/jungle (about an hour hike) until you get to a waterfall, where you can refresh underneath it, totally necessary since it was about 90 degrees and humid. You hike part of the way back and then raft the rest of the way, half as a whitewater excursion and then the last part as a slow-float on a traditional bamboo raft. It is definitely a full day. I was really looking forward to the elephant ride but was slightly disappointed in it — it was a little rushed and commercialized. But the rest of the day was great, just spending it in the jungles and mountains and on the river. We almost lost a British girl out of the boat into the rapids but other than that it was a relaxing day.
“The next day, the hostel I was staying at arranged a “driver” for the day for me. I questioned my decision when he showed up in what looked like about a 1983 Datsun hatchback that had seen better days. Sometimes you just gotta go with it, so I jumped in. Driving here is crazy — lanes are just a suggestion apparently and there are motorbikes and tuk-tuks coming at you from all directions. He turned out to be a great guy and we had a good time together. He first took me to Doi-Suthep, which is a temple on top of the highest peak that overlooks the city. There are over 300 steps you have to climb to reach it. It again was pretty impressive and with some great views.
“I also somehow wandered into a room where I ended up getting blessed with some holy water by a Buddhist Monk. I am not sure if I was supposed to be there or not but the monk didn’t seem put off by it. The only English he spoke to me was “ok, good luck” so hopefully that comes true.
“Next I was off out of town a ways to a park where they raise tigers and you can go into the cage with them. Definitely a great trip. I had heard mixed reviews based mostly on rumors that they drug and/or beat the animals to keep them docile enough for humans to interact with them, but I didn’t see anything to suggest that. It was certainly one of the highlights of my trip so far. You can choose which size you want to be with so I decided on the “big cats.” Just a day full of good decisions. Being in an enclosure with 4 tigers all around 2 years old is definitely nerve-inducing! Won’t forget that for a while.
“That’s it for now. I am currently en route to Cambodia, so I will check in more from there.
“It would take me too long to document all the fantastic people I have met and spent time with here. Probably one of my favorite things about being out in the world is meeting other travellers and swapping stories or sharing adventures. I did want to pass along a couple of random meetings. The first American I really met here was staying in my hostel in Chiang Mai travelling with her two friends from Toronto and low and behold she is from Bloomfield Township. Then I am sitting in a mostly empty airport waiting to leave Chiang Mai and the only other person within a mile of me is this girl who went to Dartmouth College (my alma mater). She was great company — we ended up sitting together and then killing time in the airport before we both went our separate ways. Never ceases to amaze me when I have connections with people I meet half way around the world. “
Tags: Matt Burke
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