Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thailand Trip - Part 2

Our next stop in Thailand was north of Bangkok, out of the city and into the forests of Chiang Mai. This was truly an amazing place. We spent the majority of our trip here and had so many amazing things planned! We were a little nervous that the recent flooding would affect our time in Chiang Mai, but after we landed, we quickly realized that everything had pretty much dried up thank God. If we had visited just a few days earlier, I'm certain that the markets and some of our activities would have been cancelled.

The first thing I noticed while flying in was just how beautiful the scenery in Chiang Mai is - even right around the airport you can see gorgeous green mountains and blue skies. Another thing I liked about Chiang Mai was how close everything was - it was quite a contrast coming from Bangkok where we literally had 30 minute drives between stops! Our resort was only a 15 minute drive from the airport - Siripanna Resort and Spa. It was amazing! It is right off a main road, but somewhat secluded and quiet. The interior and exterior were beautiful, and we were treated so well from the moment we arrived. The staff greeted us with moist towels and Rice Juice (which is sort of sweet and actually really refreshing!) in the lobby while they checked us in. They even took us on the tour of the resort as well as our room. I loved all of the walkways outside - they were lined with bamboo on either side, making them all sort of "hidden", which made you feel like you were walking around some secret garden. The extensive breakfast buffet was one of the highlights as well. There was so much good food and fresh tropical fruit that I could barely decide what I wanted each morning. This was by far the best breakfast we had at any hotel on our two-week trip. My favorite part of the resort, however, had to be the pool area. It was an infinity-edge pool that wound all the way around a center "deck" area with sun chairs. It felt almost like a moat or something! Loved it!

Siripanna Resort & Spa

After coming through the lobby, you enter into this area - there are outdoor bamboo pathways to your left and right. The left will lead to the pool (you can see it straight ahead) and the right leads toward our room.

Part of the pool

Our original room needed some maintenance, so they upgraded us to an amazing suite!

Our first day out in the city, we took a tuk-tuk into town. From our hotel, it was only about a ten minute drive to get there. The town of Chiang Mai is pretty tiny, but inside there is a square-shaped section that is the "Old City" that is even smaller! It still has the remnants of the old city wall - some sections are better preserved than others.

The moat around the "Old City"

The Old City is shaped like a square, with a main gate on each of the four sides. This is me at the Thae Pae Gate on the East side of the city.

Matt convinced me it would be a good idea to rent a scooter to ride around the city!

There are soooo many temples around Chiang Mai, and it is such a small city that it is impossible not to run into them everywhere you go! This is one that we ran across but don't know the name. I needed to cover my shoulders while visiting.

Matt standing on part of the Old City wall

Another temple we found

One of the most famous temples in Chiang Mai that we stumbled across - Wat Chedi Luang

Monks were actually having worship time at this one we visited.

Our hotel at night

Out to dinner with our friends at a restaurant called Whole Earth - this is our favorite Thai dessert, Mango Sticky Rice!

Night markets are HUGE in Chiang Mai - they literally have one every night. This one was the Chiang Mai Night Bazaar.

The following day, we had reservations at a zip-line course called Flight of the Gibbon. Matt and I have been zip-lining in Okinawa of course, but this place was on a much larger scale. The rides were longer, and you are much higher up in the tree-tops of a real rain forest. We also did some tandem zip-lining (two at a time) as well as some repelling, which I think was actually a little more scary than the zip-lining for me! We went with our friends Lyndsey and Andrez, who met us in Chiang Mai the night before. It was such an enjoyable day, and I think our experience was even more fun because we got to spend it with some of our closest friends!

Me getting my harness on

On the ride up into the rain forest

It was incredible being up so high

It is called Flight of the Gibbon, because we are supposed to be swinging from trees like Gibbons do. We actually got to see a whole family of Gibbons in the trees at one point during the day!

Lyndsey and I - you can see two of the Gibbons hanging behind us

Check out this video clip of the zip-lines:

Soooo far down!

Right near the end of the day, it started pouring in the rain forest! We got soaked, but it was an experience I will never forget - being up so high in those trees with that rain! It is hard to even describe - check out this video clip of us as it begins to start raining:


Check out this video clip of us repelling down the tallest tree in the world (not really, but it sure felt like it!) at the end of the day. (It's kind of a long clip, but you just have to watch the beginning to see Matt and I):

Lunch at the end of Flight of the Gibbon

Another night, another market - The Sunday Night Market - is the largest and most popular one in Chiang Mai, and Lyndsey and I had been looking forward to it for months! We spent all night there shopping while the guys rode around on their scooters!

The best fresh coconut milk at the market

We probably spent almost an hour at this one stall trying to haggle with this vendor! They were hand-painting these lacquer ware boxes, trays and bowls with such pretty detail. I love green, so I ended up getting the green one in the very front of this picture that I had my eye on all night!

Lyndsey and I after our hard night of bargaining!

Our next day started off with a half-day ATV ride through the mountains of Chiang Mai. The day had a few hiccups - let's just say that it was an interesting morning! Our bikes kept breaking down on the ride - some more than others. Mine and Matt's actually held up the best by far. Unfortunately for our friends, Andrez's bike ended up being unfixable, and we had to ditch it out in the jungle! He ended up having to ride with Lyndsey for the second half of the day. The company ended up giving us our money back for the day (after much "discussion"), but we all still had a great time. The weather and the scenery were absolutely beautiful, and we had a fun group of 6 - Matt and I, Lyndsey and Andrez, and another young couple from Belgium. No matter what happens, we always have a ton of fun with Lyndsey and Andrez, so the day wasn't completely a flop!



The off-roading portion

After our ATV extravaganza, we stopped at the Tiger Kingdom where you get to play with tigers. None of us were really interested in going in with the full-grown tigers - they were definitely beautiful animals, but they were a little scary for us! We ended up paying to go see just the "small" and "smallest" tigers. The "smallest" tigers were 3-4 months old, and they allow you 10 minutes with them. I wish we had a little more time, especially with these babies, but it was still such a cool experience! This place was touristy, but it wasn't like other places where they just take a baby tiger and set him in your lap with a bottle so someone can snap a photo of you and then charge you to buy it. This was a large cage with a bunch of babies in it, roaming freely, and you get to walk around and pet/play with them as much as you want (and take as many of your own photos as you want) for the time allowed.

The babies were the best! Those faces were so cute, and they played like house-cats!

Look at those paws!

On to the "small" tigers - 5-6 months old - that I equate to being "teenagers" as they were much more rambunctious!

This is pretty much what they did the whole 15 minutes we were with them

And this!

Check out this video clip of us with the baby tigers:

Stay tuned for my favorite part of Chiang Mai!


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