Orchids in Chiang Mai

In my post about Day 1 of trekking I mentioned we had an unexpected stop at an Orchid/Butterfly farm along the way. I wouldn’t mark it as the¬†most exciting part of the trekking experience (kinda pales in comparison with waterfalls, elephants, sing-alongs, and rafting, you know?), but it was very aesthetically pleasing and gave definite inspiration to a novice orchid cultivator like your humble narrator. Or, perhaps, not-so-humble, as I’ll include shots of my own recently-bloomed orchids (that were dormant for over a year before coming back! Hooray!).

they take moisture and nutrients from the air! so resourceful.

wait… this isn’t an orchid…

favorite. hey little guy!

in the butterfly portion, where a surprisingly thorough search was required to actually find any butterflies


And as promised… my feeble attempts at orchids in Thung Song:

named ‘mary jo,’ after me mum.

photo courtesy of wayne, who made contributions to my time lapse project while i was gallivanting. thanks schnooks!



Chiang Mai Trekking: Day 3 (Spoiler Alert… ELEPHANTS!)

So if you’ve stuck with me you know we spent the night of our second day trekking at an elephant camp along the Mae Tang river. Our morning was almost instantly blessed with appearances by the darling beasts (Ryan: “I think elephants are the only animals that can be so big and still be considered ‘cute.'” Me: “AMEN!” [I’m not sure that’s¬†exactly how the exchange went but if it didn’t it should have.]). Sorry, I cut myself short–¬†appearances¬†by the darling beasts¬†as they went for their morning baths. In a river.¬†It really doesn’t get more heartwarming, in spite of the fact that some of them were in chains. You could tell that those¬†mahouts felt nothing but compassion for their companions. A chain is just an elephant-sized leash with an unfortunate connotation, I suppose.

hey, look at that barefoot dude on the potentially adorable rock!


thirsty boo

haha! don’t know how, after all these years, this scene¬†from a ‘winnie the pooh’ movie popped into my head, but what a wonderful blast from the past! see 0:55 for the specific part.

so zen.

just strollin’ past the breakfast area (another boiled egg and toast, if you were wondering)

hahaha… i love this one, he looks so happy.

so big elephants still qualify as cute but babies?? no words.



and then we got to ride them. we named ours ‘bo’ (or ‘beau,’ if you want to be artsy and clever), which then became ‘dumbo jangles.’ WE LOVE YOU BEAU!

aaand, another of the bb

fun times getting up the hill (it didn’t help that ol’ beau, number 2 in line, wasn’t exactly the quickest guy)

way to go, beau. you really did it.

there’s a famous picture of the king similar to this…

source: http://www.thai-eyes.com/religion-superstition/the-mysterious-white-elephant-thailand/ (a moderately interesting read about white elephants– i’ve just learned that good ol’ king bhumibol has 11!– if you’re into that kind of thing)


happiest moment of my life?

The fun didn’t stop with elephants, however. We all piled into a white-water raft (well, 2 between the 10 of us) and braved the rapids of the Mae Tang until reaching a bamboo raft (a real¬†bamboo raft, not like those PVC-pipe-posing-[unconvincingly]-as-bamboo-rafts in Guilin. Because, you know, China has a bit of a bamboo shortage going on.), which carried us onto our lunch locale.

it’s interesting to me that in this candid i JUST so happen to be making a fish face… is this something i just… do? at random? for no particular reason?

better group shot:)

oh hey there, sak. couldn’t help noticing you there, strummin’ on that there ukulele. you wouldn’t happen to… think it’s cool, would you? like it, just a little bit?

well you’re in luck! my brother happens to be one of those really stand-up, generous guys you hear about on occasion, and he’d happily like to bequeath this small stringed instrument upon you. ‘jing jing?!?!’ jing, sak. jing.

But the fun didn’t stop there!

In spite of a bit of post-trek exhaustion, and in spite of having been finally put on antibiotics after it became clear that my skin infection was not responding appropriately to generic creams and iodine, Ryan and I set out to link up for a final hurrah with our new friends at one of the Zoe in Yellow locations (there are about 3 that share a common courtyard).

with mairead and rose

rolf, leah, ryan, rose, mairead, rachel, yours truly



Chiang Mai Trekking: Day 2

Day 2 of our Mae Tang-region trek in Chiang Mai really brought us to the depths of the jungle. But first, while all the whipper-snappers in the group were getting some early-morning shut-eye, Mom and Dad went off to find some miniature Thai friends.

first in the form of the friendly pig/rooster couple

and then with these 2 rascally studs, whom they proceeded to pump full of chips and soda at the ripe hour of 7 am.

Before we knew it we’d had our breakfast (toast and a boiled egg), given Sak adequate time to make our little parcels of Mama noodles (Thai Ramen) wrapped in banana leaves, and it was time to once again set off.

down the slippery slope to the waterfall

sak, whittling us some chopsticks. i told you this guy was awesome.

reading ‘the jungle’ in the jungle. cool right?!

it’s true, 7/11s really are everywhere in thailand! (though notice this one is only open 23:59 hours per day)

exiting the jungle and on the way to the elephant camp.

That’s right, our second night was spent at an elephant camp. It was a little less lively than the night before (though no less delicious), and I think I ended up heading straight to bed (okay, to read Mockingjay by the light of the “Torch Light” on my little Nokia– its singular special feature) around 9 o’clock at best. And in the morning, there were indeed elephants to behold!

Chiang Mai Trekking: Day 1

I mentioned in a previous post that our time in Chiang Mai was “dominated” (to use a favorite new Wayne-ism) by our three-day, two-night trek through the nearby Mae Tang region. I really, really wish I had more information than that; specific locations, names of waterfalls, routes through the jungle, etc. However, as things stand, I have close to nothing in the way of “details.” That being said, it seems that most Chiang Mai jungle treks I’ve heard of all resemble one another very closely so take my word and recommendation and¬†do this if you are ever in the area.

I also mentioned that we booked our trek (which included all meals and accommodation during the trek; elephant riding and white water/bamboo rafting at the end; and a fantastic English-speaking guide named Sak), a night at a guesthouse in Chiang Mai on either side of the trek, and all related transportation right from the Information Booth at the train station for a considerably lower price than we’d seen in our Lonely Planet guide, which advertised that similar treks would run about 2500 Baht (+/-$90). We ended up paying 7000 Baht (+/-$230) for the four of us, which is just kind of mind-blowingly cheap for what you get.

That being said, I’m sure I don’t need to include that there weren’t exactly a lot of frills involved in the experience. The accommodation we were provided during the trek was… rustic at best. The kind of “rustic” that translates to small mats with mosquito nets on the floor of a little bamboo hut with no electricity. Which was perfectly fine and I’ll admit to sleeping wonderfully both nights, but something that I do feel should be a bit of a disclaimer. As for the food, my family said time and again it was the best they had in their time in Thailand, all prepared for us when the moment was right by dear ol’ Sak. He even left a small portion vegetarian for me when I mentioned it to him. Just real hearty vegetable, curry, and rice dishes that were perfect for the hungry jungle wanderer.

As you can imagine, roughly a million photos got taken during the trek so I’ll just do my posts day-by-day. Our itinerary ended up being a little different to what I’d heard about most of the treks, with the elephant riding going down on Day 1 and the trip progressing from there. Somehow our elephants ended up on the last day, right before we did our white water and bamboo rafting, leaving the first two days wide open for lots of walking! After a bit of confusion in the Song-tao we determined our group to be comprised of us four Calonders; plus Jule and Rolf, a lawyer and a dentist from the Netherlands; plus Leah, Rose, Mairead, and Rachel, four girls going into their final year of Uni in Ireland (though Rachel’s actually English). Though we were obviously a bit of a diverse crowd it ended up being a very fun and entertaining mix and I think we all were very satisfied with the arrangement! Our first stop was actually at an orchid and butterfly farm, which was unexpected but lovely, but I forgot to upload those photos so it’ll get its own post later.

So here you are: Trekking Day One. The day took us from Chiang Mai, to said orchid farm, to a market to buy supplies, to our starting point where we were given lunch. Then it was onward on foot past a waterfall and up a hill to a village whose name from the sign I can make out to be Ban Huay Goop Gan, but which yields no Google search results so who knows if it really even exists. We mingled with a few of the locals (who are their own ethnic group and don’t speak Thai), cleaned up a bit, and took in the beautiful surroundings. By night we had a bonfire singalong with Ryan on ukulele and myself, Sak, and Ryan passing around a guitar as well. Then it was time to rest up for another big day.

welcome to the jungle

action shot of rolf assisting rose across the river

at the waterfall we had the option of enjoying the natural waterslide. only one goofball found himself simultaneously properly attired and ballsy enough to do it!

bustin out the big guns.

an angry birds umbrella makes its first appearance.

doin’ the old walk-and-uke

the very quirky guide for another group giving it a go.

oh yeah, did i mention ryan and i did the whole thing barefoot? such contact with nature! such wonderful energy! shoes are naught but mini-prisons of the feet!

the gate into ban huay goop gan

our digs for the evening.

and inside

our crew. we made it!

dad got some nice shots of the locals coming to hang/sell jewelry

someone else trying her hand at the uke

nice one, pops!

the dinner-cookin’ room.

the first of sak’s delicious meals.

singalong in full swing.

Around Chiang Mai

At the beginning of May my dad sent me a hectic sample itinerary for their time here that went something like this (don’t worry, I’ll simplify):

22 July: Mom/Dad/Ryan arrive BKK
23 July (evening): Take night train to Chiang Mai
24-28 July:¬†Kick it in Chiang Mai (okay, those were my words, not Dad’s)
28 July: Night train to BKK
29 July (morning): Nate arrives BKK
30 July: Train to Chumphon
30 July (night): Night boat to Koh Tao
31 July-3 August: Kick it in Koh Tao
3 August (night): Night boat to Surat Thani
4 August (morning): Bus to Khao Sok National Park
4-5 August: Kick it in Khao Sok
5 August (evening): Head to Thung Song
6 August: Go to Nakhon Si Thammarat in time to fly to Bangkok in time for a 16:00 flight

He asked if I thought we were trying to do too much and, akin to that time when I was 10 and we were instructed to peruse the Disney World flyer and make an itinerary for our pending trip with the singular rule that¬†We cannot do everything whilst Mom and Dad set off to determine if¬†Titanic was an appropriate movie for their 10-year-old daughter to see in theaters (Ryan, Nate, and I were excited to inform them upon their return that we could indeed do everything, though our schedule not only assumed we’d be exempt from the 2 hour waits in line but also that we’d be able to teleport from location to location. Also¬†their findings regarding the movie were negative.), I assured him it would be fine.

bangkok train station, as we made to depart

In the end we decided to scrap Khao Sok (and also to head to Chumphon the day Nate arrived rather than the next day), though it would have been a fine addition to the trip and I do hope to be able to make my way there before returning home this fall. Still, it ended up being a jam-packed trip nonetheless and the ball really got rolling with our first train to Chiang Mai. As much as I love Koh Tao I think Chiang Mai might have been the part of the trip I was most excited for. I’ve been in Thailand for almost a year-and-a-half now and had to hear time and again the wonderful tales of those who’d found themselves Chiang Mai. Also, when Wayne and I first started talking about coming to Thailand, we’d intended to live up north where we understood the culture and spirituality to be a bit stronger. Of course, I’m happy with the way things played out but I was still eager to get a taste of what life may have been like had we ended up there.¬†At times I found it hard to believe I was finally going.

This train ride also went smoothly; it was sitting there waiting for us at 6 pm, as scheduled, but only left an hour later. Around 7:30 we made our way to the dining car where I introduced my family to Tom Yum Goong for the first time as well as some other traditional dishes (and of course a number of Leo beers). We allowed ourselves to be serenaded first by the Celine Dion concert DVD they had on repeat and then by a few Thai rock’n’roll tracks (about five, also on repeat), of which my rock’n’roll era father gave his surprised but whole-hearted approval. We hit the sack when the car closed a little after 11 and when I woke at 7 I found I was the only one un-breakfasted. The next few hours were spent taking in the rainy scenery until we finally arrived, a few hours off-schedule

the square portion is the ‘old town,’ still surrounded by a portion of wall. we stayed at SK guesthouse, which is in the northeastern portion. you can see the night bazaar to the east of the old town.

The bulk of our time in Chiang Mai ended up going towards a 3-day trek that we were able to organize right from the Chiang Mai station for a price that was way less than we were expecting, but I’ll leave such details for my actual posts about the trek. On either side of the trek we had a day to chill out and/or explore Chiang Mai (specifically “Old Chiang Mai,” where our guesthouse was located and which we only left in order to ravage the fantastic Night Bazaar, about which I’d heard so much).

It’s a town of temples (“wat” in Thai); so much will be apparent in the photos, which are mostly taken from Mom’s and my walk around town the day after the trek. We were staying at SK Guesthouse, so walked north to begin our temple tour with Wat Chiang Man (what I understand to be the oldest temple in Chiang Mai). Unfortunately I don’t remember the identity of any of the other temples I photographed.

exiting our tuktuk to the night market the first night. unfortunately, no pictures of the market itself. but i’m sure i don’t need to tell you to pay it a visit or two if you find yourself in the area! allot yourself a few hours.

wat chiang man

paparazzi shot of the ladies, taken by papa himself.

what the boys were up to while the girls were a-strollin’

a well-deserved massage after three days of trekking through virgin jungle! (ma and i opted for pedicures. had to get our feet beach-ready, you know?!)

Quick recap:
Where we stayed: SK Guesthouse, as booked through the train station information booth.
Recommended eateries: Jerusalem Falafel; the night market food court (surprisingly good Indian food!); the Indian restaurant adjacent to the Zoe in Yellow pubs
What to do: Check out the night market, visit a temple or two, get a cheap massage
Drawbacks: Way easier to find a dentist or botox clinic than a normal clinic at which to treat a pesky skin infection.