CHIANG MAI, THAILAND
After a delayed flight in Bangkok and running through the airport with a 32 lb. backpack and a congested body from having the cold, we finally made it into Chiang Mai. We were greeted by our tour guide who is literally the reincarnation of Russel from UP! in female form. She was the cutest, happiest woman I have ever seen in my life. She was so so sweet and had the best smile and softest voice. All of us instantly loved her and we couldn't have asked for a better guide. Our first stop in Chiang Mai was to a few of the popular temples. We visited the Suthep Temple where we learned a lot about the different buddhas. I guess my destined buddha is the meditation buddha and Rachaels is the reclining buddha (aka the sleeping buddha). We got a good laugh out of that one especially since Rachael can sleep anywhere. Seriously 5 minutes into any flight she is OUT. It is actually quite a talent. After seeing the temples we headed to our hotel before catching a tuk tuk to our Thai massages that we scheduled. The Thai massages were definitely interesting and unlike any other massage I have received before. You can for sure count on us getting more massages when we are in south Thailand. We headed over to walk the night markets after our massages and then headed to the Good View restaurant for dinner on the river. Our guide had recommended this restaurant. It was a local grill and bar and we had a lot of fun being there. Granted at this point I was really feeling sick and so tired from our airport mess that after dinner we headed home and caught some good sleep. The next morning we headed to the local orchid farm. The flowers were stunning and Rachael was totally in her element. I was shocked by how much it takes to grow a single orchid! There were also a thousand butterflies at the orchid farm and our tour guide kept calling them "butter fries". We were dying haha. After the orchid farm we headed over to the Tiger Kingdom. Disclaimer: I know they drug the tigers and any animal rights activist would be 100% disgusted with us going to the Tiger Kingdom, but Rachael's cousin was dying to go and so we just had to kinda join along. So yes we saw the big tigers and petted them. It was neat to touch and pet a tiger but it was so sad to see how sleepy they were. It really isn't right for any wild animal to be in an enclosed cage just for human entertainment. After the Tiger Kingdom we headed out to go ride elephants. Disclaimer 2.0: Again I know that riding elephants breaks the elephant spine and that if you had to ride an elephant you should ride in bareback, but we had this tour booked that took you on an elephant ride into the Karen Long Neck Village and who am I to be the one person that wanted to cancel/rebook the entire excursion. So again, just had to go with the flow. Rachael and I did enjoy riding the elephants. As we talked to the mahout we learned that the combination of riding the elephants into the Karen Long Neck Village actually really did help provide support and an income for village families. Our mahout's family lived in the Karen Long Neck Village. His wife makes and sells her weaving home decor, it is how they support their kids going to school in Chiang Mai. The elephant excursion was actually really cool. We learned how the mahouts wash and ride their elephants. We were able to feed the elephants and received some very slobbery elephant kisses. We rode the elephants through the jungle and into the Karen Long Neck Village. It was such a neat experience and the views were INSANE. Vising the Karen Long Neck Village and learning more about their culture and traditions was so neat. This was something I had really been looking forward too ever since I had learned about the Karen Long Neck Village in National Geographic. The women get their first ring when they are 5 years old and one every year after until they are married. The get the rings to protect themselves from wild jungle animals like tigers. When tigers attack they typically bite at the neck. Having a bronze ring around the neck protects the woman all day while their men are out working taking care of the elephants. When a woman is married she doesn't receive any more rings (with the exception of special milestone rings in her life) because she now has a man to protect her. I was able to touch and hold the bronze rings and they are extremely heavy. Contrary to popular belief the woman's necks don't actually get longer. The weight of the rings just pushes the shoulders down so much that it allows for more space to add more rings as they get older. I thought this was very interesting and really enjoyed learning more about this cultural aspect. From the Karen Long Neck Village we stopped by the orchid farm once more for lunch and then headed to the airport. We have LOVED Thailand and are so excited to come back and experience more. This is definitely one place I would love to come back too. But for now, Myanmar here we come! xx, m.