Oh the stories behind Chiang Mai! If you’re just visiting this little series… hop on over to the ‘Travel Adventures’ tag (at the bottom of this post) to see our trekking journey across the beautiful countries of Australia, New Zealand and Thailand from start to finish.
If you’ve followed for a bit, welcome back to Thailand! While exploring the rural north country, and specifically areas around Chiang Dao (which is an even more rural version of Chiang Mai), we had the opportunity to: ride elephants, take a lazy river trip by bamboo raft, crawl through 12″ crevices in a local cave, hike through six hill tribe villages and spend the night high on a mountain in a little woven hut.
*Jump on over to PDB’s Facebook page to watch two quick videos from our elephant camp adventures*
But first… we had to travel the 12 hour trip from Bangkok to the quite and secluded northern region. We decided to be adventurous about the whole journey and booked an overnight train on one of Thailand’s finest. The above train car illustrates seat boxes *before* and then *after*, when said seat boxes turn into sleeping berths. The lower seats slide together, and the upper beds descend right out of the train car ceiling. Oh, and they keep those fluorescent lights on all night.
But other than that, it was great fun! We met fellow travelers and had the opportunity to see much of the country side, especially when we woke up at the early hour of 5 am for train breakfast.
When we arrived in Chiang Mai a few hours later, our arranged transportation picked us up in a ‘taxi truck’ and drove us an hour and a half to Chiang Dao. If you have ever thought your car seats were uncomfortable…
Upon arriving in Chaing Dao, we immediately realized that we had entered the magical land of foggy mountains, bathing elephants, stilted teak homes, and miles & miles of exotic landscape (insert *swoon* here).
We spent a morning at a local elephant camp that trains these beautiful giants to log deep in the forest. The best comparison that I can think of is that elephants are the Thai equivalent to American horses – they aid the locals here in everything from tedious daily labor to travel to the occasional tourist-style trail ride.
Logging was at one time one of the largest exports from the area, and elephants were a primary resource used to aid villages in collecting the heavy pieces of wood. At the Chaing Dao Elephant Camp, elephants are rescued and rehabilitated from more crueler ways of life and are reintroduced as well-kept and well-fed preservers of the ancient art.
I couldn’t believe we were lucky enough to watch these gentle beasts bathe and roll in the river… I needed to be pinched. Be sure to watch these two quick videos of bath time and logging exercises.
*More on the elephant ride to come*
That afternoon we toured the country side by bamboo raft – a rather economical way to get from point A to point B. As the trusty captain of this vessel, I was sure to not run into above startled water buffalo along the banks (don’t worry, they didn’t let me steer for too long).
Oh goodness! I have too many pictures to sort and clean up for this post… and I can’t imagine leaving any of them out. Please stay tuned for mountain trekking, cave spelunking, elephant riding and village touring to come!
Happy Thursday and thank you for stopping by to check in on our travels.
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