What a week it’s been!
As you’ll know, I started my trip in the busy city if Bangkok. Once I’d met my Stray group on Monday, we all left Bangkok the next morning to travel up to Ayutthaya, a city 2 hours North West of Bangkok, with a number of beautiful temples, or Wat as they’re named here. We took a little boat around the city’s moat to visit three of the most popular ones, where we got to see very different designs and purposes to each temple. One particular highlight was the huge golden Buddha in Wat Phanan Choeng.
From Ayutthaya, we took an overnight train even further north to Chang Mai. I’ll be honest, I was not looking forward to this section of my journey at all. I’d pictured this as a version of the Knight Bus from Harry Potter – beds moving around all over the place, essentially sharing a bed with a stranger because everyone would all be cramped in together, sweaty and uncomfortable (I’ve yet to experience below 30° since I arrived in Thailand); you get the idea. I’m pleased to say I couldn’t have been more wrong and even had a charging point by my bed. The sunrise that greeted us in Chang Mai was spectacular as well, acting as a perfect metaphor for what was in store for the next few days.
Chang Mai is such a beautiful city. Relaxed, clean and cooler than in the south (although my statement about the weather above is still accurate), it is surrounded by mountains, jungles and has plenty of activities to keep you occupied. On my first day I headed off with a few people from my Stray group to complete the longest zip line in Thailand – the Flight of the Gibbon – 850m through the Thai jungle. So. Much. Fun.
Keeping with the activity theme, the next day we all went to an elephant sanctuary in the jungle. It was a completely unforgettable experience which I cannot recommend highly enough to anyone coming here. Although the elephants are obviously still used for human entertainment, (you wouldn’t be able to interact with them as we did if not) it’s a thousand times better than the riding camps and forced labour that unfortunately still exist here. I’m not the biggest animal lover – I don’t run over to every small dog I see and squeal for example – however elephants are so smart, inquisitive and playful, it was just incredible to be around them. And boy can they eat!
The last few days have been more relaxed, based around exploring the city and local areas and, I’ll be honest, chilling out by the hostel pool. There are an abundance of beautiful parks, waterfalls that you can climb up (I’d recommend a visit to the Bua Tong waterfalls if you get the chance) and wonderful scenery en route to all of these places to enjoy. One of the best bits of Chang Mai has to be the people I’ve met this week though. Dee Jai Backpackers is the place to stay to meet other backpackers, and I’m having the best time with them all! It really feels like my travels have started properly now.
I’m back on the bus tomorrow morning to head over to Laos but I’ve managed to squeeze one last experience in before I leave – a Thai cooking class this evening. Can. Not. Wait. Bring on the six course feast!