Cities visited: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Khong
Thailand was the first stop on our trip. We arrived in Bangkok so excited for the next two months. Bangkok’s Khao San Road (a crazy party street) was overwhelming but exciting, and offered some of the best (and cheapest) Pad Thai we had in Thailand.
From Bangkok we went north, to Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai was one of my favourite cities from the trip. Since Thailand is mostly Buddhist, vegetarianism is very popular – and especially popular in Chiang Mai! We basically spent the entire time eating, and it was fantastic. Every day involved fresh spring rolls, Pad Thai, red and green curries, sushi (!!!) or ice cream (or all of the above). All vegan and all delicious!
Oh yeah and we also saw elephants. Elephants!!! Probably the thing I was most excited for when daydreaming about our trip. We took a bus to the outskirts of Chiang Mai to Elephant Jungle Sanctuary, which is an ethical and humane sanctuary. I did a lot of research on the different sanctuaries, because many claim to be ethical but actually treat the elephants quite cruelly, and encourage tourists to ride the elephants. In order to be ridden, wild elephants must first be tamed, and that taming process is brutal. It can involve beating, starvation, and separation of the mother and their young. Abuse aside, elephants are still not meant to be ridden. Their spines cannot handle human weight. So if you are going to Asia, please do your research and find an ethical sanctuary, and please do not ride elephants! Observing the elephants naturally is so much more beautiful anyway. At Elephant Jungle Sanctuary we were given bananas and sugar cane to feed to the elephants, and then we bathed the elephants in the river. It was one of my favourite days ever! Such an amazing experience.
Next we headed on to Chiang Rai, but we weren’t there for long, it was more of a stop on the way to the Laos border. We did get to see the incredible white temple, Wat Rong Khun. The temple was absolutely stunning, such intricate detail and complicated architecture. I’d never seen anything like it.
Chiang Khong was a stop along the way as well. It was where we were catching the minivan to the Laos border, and then to the infamous slow boat (more on that later). It was a fairly small city but there were lots of other backpackers at our hotel so we all went to a nearby bar for some Changs (a type of Thai beer), and the night somehow ended miles away at a club with ladyboys performing with live music.
After waking up much too early considering the night we had, we were packed into a minivan and taken to the Thailand-Laos border. Next stop Luang Prabang!