It was an early morning start in Chiang Mai after travelling on the overnight train from Bangkok and arriving at 7.15am. We decided to leave our bags at the station and head into the city to take advantage of the cooler morning temperature before going to our accommodation which was out of the city. We had some breakfast courtesy of a 7-11 convenience store (there are a lot of these dotted all over Thailand!) and visited a couple of temples including Wat Chedi Luang. We met a friendly Thai family also out sightseeing who had driven up from Bangkok and they recommended and kindly offered us a lift to the Silver Temple (visiting it with us) and then dropped us at the train station to collect our bags.
As our accommodation was several kilometres out of the city, we called ahead and asked for the best way to get there. This is when we found out about GRAB – an online taxi and food delivery service similar to Uber that operates in Thailand. We installed the app, and ordered a taxi. On arrival we discovered that Agoda had cancelled our booking (without notifying us!), but fortunately the hotel was not busy and had a room available! The hotel had a small swimming pool, so this was utilised every day to cool off.
The Thai family we had met in Chiang Mai had tipped us off that there was a football match on on one of the evenings we were staying. So we went and watched Chiang Mai vs Chainat – it was the first time at a live football match for the kids and I, and was an eventful game with a small but lively crowd. During the 2nd half, the watering system sprung a leak and water spurted up behind the home teams goal! The water was shut off after a couple of minutes (some quick work behind-the-scenes) and play was able to continue, the game ending in a 2-2 draw with the final goal in the 88th minute!
We decided to go to one of the many elephant sanctuaries here (Chiang Mai Elephant Home), and this gave us the chance to learn about and get up close to some elephants. We made food balls, pounding rice, bananas, sugar and a couple of other ingredients with a pestle and mortar until we had a malleable ball of goo. These were then wrapped in banana leaves and we fed them to the elephants (which included two young calves) along with bananas and sticks of sugar cane. After a break for lunch, we helped give them a mudbath and went into the river with them where we washed them down, getting squirted in the process. The elephant handlers and our main guide were very professional, if lacking a bit in English (but hey, who are we to talk, knowing only a few words of Thai!) and it was a great experience.
Our return trip from the sanctuary included a visit to some waterfalls, but as soon as we were in the water, a thunderstorm passed through the area, with impressive and very close-by lightning strikes accompanied by a torrential downpour. We vacated the water and took shelter until it subsided enough for us to make it back to the truck. On our return journey to Chiang Mai we discovered just how close the storm had been and the local impact of it…
We had a day visiting the museums of Chiang Mai – as we knew they would probably be air conditioned, so might be tolerated by the kids. We bought a combined ticket and went to Chiang Mai City arts and Cultural Centre, Chiang Mai Historical Centre and the Lanna Folklife Museum (we had tried to visit this one earlier in the week, but they are all shut on a Monday). It was interesting to learn about the history of the people in this area, and of the changing country borders over the years.
At the end of our stay we headed to Chiang Mai airport to fly south to Surat Thani before taking a bus and ferry for some relaxing time on the beaches of the nearby islands of Koh Phangan and Koh Samui.