Adventures in Northern Thailand
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Chiang Mai is a laid back town in the north of Thailand, with far different an atmosphere than the city life of Bangkok or the beach party scene at Kho Phi Phi. Its streets and sidewalks are wide and clean, and people are out at all times of the day and night lounging in coffee shops, restaurants, and used book stores.
There were plenty of activities in and around town for those who want to do more than relax. Our first stop was to the Tiger Kingdom, where guests are allowed to pet tigers and pose for pictures. The entrance fee depends on what size tiger you choose: large, medium, small, or smallest. Thankfully Sarah chose small, leaving me far more optimistic about emerging from the cage with four limbs still attached.
Quite a few people did get close to the large tiger but there were no instances of any tiger “going tiger”.
We were permitted inside the cage after we signed a waiver, washed our hands to the elbow, and removed our shoes. Sarah got up and close with two sleeping tigers that didn’t budge when she stroked their fur.
Another pair wasn’t as tired and instead started wrestling.
I’m not a big fan of cats, but they usually think the opposite by brushing up against me or jumping in my lap. This cat was no different and proceeded to bite at my feet after posing for this picture, only stopping when the handler intervened.
We left the cage before the end of our allotted fifteen minutes to rush back to Chiang Mai for a Thai cooking class. Our hyper instructor, Mam, was to lead us and eight other students through the preparation of a multi-course meal. All the students were given menus and asked to choose what we wanted to make. Mam then walked us to the market to show us the noodles and other ingredients then took us through herbs and spices grown in the school’s garden.
This process repeated a few times, until a complete Thai meal magically appeared in front us. My final product was pad see ew, cashewnut with chicken stir fry, massamum curry, and coconut milk soup. Hopefully no one asks us to cook anything like this on our own.
The following day I joined a downhill mountain biking group, but Sarah instead opted to go trekking saying she “didn’t want to die.” At the bike shop our group was outfitted with jerseys, elbow pads, knee pads, and helmets before being herded into a truck for the ride up Suthep Mountain. We mounted our bikes and started the 4200 foot descent on the paved road before turning off-road.
I have done quite a bit of road cycling but this was my first time mountain biking and found it unnerving to bike over rocks and twigs and puddles of mud. After a while I learned to trust the fat tires and shocks to absorb the impact although I had to constantly squeeze my brakes to avoid picking up momentum downhill. The few uphill stretches had me standing up and pedaling with all my might to get across the sticky terrain.
For short segments we cut away from the off-road trail onto steep and narrow single rider trails that were about a foot wide surrounded by shrubbery. I would not have believed these were meant for biking until I saw our guides forge ahead.
The ride was going well and I was getting used to not having full control at a high speed, but towards the end of one of the single trails (shortly after I took this picture) I took a turn too sharply and flipped over trying to avoid a tree.
My knee guard took the brunt of the impact and I stretched my lower back but I wasn’t injured. After the guide lifted the bike off me, I stood up and shouted down to the rest of the group that I was ok, and continued the ride down. We made it to the bottom of the mountain after four hours, my quads and wrists and forearms burning. But I was pumped up and ready to go mountain biking again.
I made it back to the hotel before Sarah and was showered and watching TV when she returned to tell me tales of her day.