Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Chiang Mai Part 2

For our second day in Chiang Mai, we planned to go volunteer at a childrens orphanage.  We didn't really plan much but Caitlin read some blogs online that said you could just go there.  We had the name of the orphanage and some brief directions on how to get there so we headed out on a public 'bus', which was more like the back seat of a truck, and hoped for the best.  The driver dropped us off in a place with children playing so we walked in and said we wanted to volunteer.  The people looked at us like we were crazy (nothing new really), but after a couple of minutes we figured out we were at a school, not the orphanage we had aimed for.  We figured it out and where  we were going was just down the street.  So we walked over but found out that you must apply in advance and the minimum amount of time you can volunteer is for a month.  We definitely didn't have that kind of time (and lets be honest, I couldn't be around kids for a month) so there we were several kilometers from town with about a half day left.  I looked on the map and noticed if we went further in the same direction we would get to the botanical gardens.  We both are into plants (Caitlin really into plants).  So we flagged down another 'bus' that took us one leg of the journey, then another one to take us the rest of the way.  We got there and paid and the woman asked us if we want to walk or take the bus.  We asked how much walking to see everything and she said about 4K so we said walk.  I am glad we did because on the walking you get to see much more but I see why most people take the bus.  The maps show one trail but when you are actually walking there are several trails to choose from so we mostly got lost trying to get to the different areas of the gardens.  Most of the walking was also up hill.  I feel like I sound lazy but it is actually much harder in 80-90 degree heat.  The plants were cool a lot of vines and ferns - very jungle like.  There were also some green houses and a natural science museum we got to enjoy as well.  When it was time to leave we weren't really sure how we were getting home.  We went to the road to flag down a bus then some nice people were pulling out and said they could give us a ride.  We figured people who visit a botanical garden have a low chance of being murderers or rapists so we hoped in.  We found out that both of them had worked in the gardens for 20 years so it was fun to chat.  Back in Chiang Mai we grabbed some dinner and decided to check out the regular night market.  Not as cool as the weekend markets but found some really beautiful art stalls that we hadn't seen before.  We went to bed early because we had booked for the next day a one day trek which included elephant riding, a bit of trekking, and some bamboo rafting.  We were mainly doing it for the elephant riding because we were planning on doing most of our trekking out of Laos, which is supposed to be better than Thailand.  The trek ended up feeling pretty touristy.  We did get to feed the elephants but we didn't quite like the way they were treated.  At one point a woman fed our elephant a plastic bag.  The elephant that we had had a baby with it and the baby was attached to the mom on about a 10 foot chain so it couldn't go far and the mom would follow with us on it.  It just felt mean.  We rode on a box on the top which felt more like a roller coaster than anything else.  After talking to some people we figured out that the experience you really want is to ride it without anything underneath you on the back of the head (I probably won't pay for it but if anyone reading this ever goes to Thailand).  We did a little walk through some jungle with a local guide telling us about the plants and we also walked through a village which was neat to see.  After that we rafted down a river on these little bamboo rafts it was touristy but also refreshing and fun.  They let you steer and at one point the guide made Caitlin steer in this tricky part with rocks and we rammed into one.  It was funny, all the locals gather to watch us make fools of ourselves.  We called it an early night back in Chiang Mai and started planning where we were going next.  For our last day in Chiang Mai we saw some temples and visited the University Art Museum.  Then we booked a two day bus ride to Laos.  As I am writing I have just returned from a three day trekking trip, will post about it soon.  Much love!!
At the botanical garden

At the botanical garden

The best shot of Caitlin feeding the baby elephant

My favorite snack!!

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