The train arrived mid-morning. I got lucky and saw a sign for Julie's Guesthouse, which the Australians had recommended. I hopped in the back of a red covered pick-up truck, the favored transportation in Chang Mai, with a few others and checked in to the guesthouse. I walked around the city with a girl I met at the hostel till the evening when I met up with Nate, another friend from Korea. He was traveling with a friend of his from home. The three of us went out for dinner and drinks and they told me about their day at the Elephant Nature Park, which I quickly decided I had to visit as well.
The next day the three of us walked around the Old City checking out wats and eating delicious Thai food. Nate headed to the airport while Cecilia and I headed for Thai massages. I had read in my guidebook that one of the best places in town to get a traditional massage was at the woman’s penitentiary, so naturally I had to check it out. We came across the prison, razor wire and all, and saw a sign pointing us across the street. It was my first Thai massage, so I had no basis for comparison, but Cecilia had already had quite a few and she said it was better than all the rest. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hoped to get many more six dollar massages while on my trip. I couldn't help but think about what my masseuse had done to land herself in prison, but she was nothing but kind and I was happy to play a small part in the rehabilitation program program.
The next day I went to Thai Cooking School. This was the activity I was most looking forward to in Thailand and it lived up to my expectations. It was called Sammy's Organic Cooking School and I was the first one Sammy picked up at 8:30. As the pick-up truck filled I realized it was all couples – I was the ninth wheel. This was a little awkward at first, but we all got along really well and had a great day. Sammy took us out to his farm where he and his wife taught us all about the food we were cooking in an open air kitchen. We each got to cook five dishes of our choosing. My biggest accomplishment was the curry paste I made from scratch, but I must say that all of the food I cooked was delicious! They sent us home with very full bellies and a book with all the recipes. I hope I am able to make some of dishes at home even if they are only half as good.
I spent the next day at the Elephant Nature Park. It is very different than most of the elephant parks, as it is a rescue
park for hurt or abused working elephants. There were some with broken backs or hips, some that were severely abused, and even one that was blind. The day was split up into education, feeding, and river bathing. It was upsetting to learn about some of things that go on with working elephants, but it was definitely overshadowed by the time I got to spend with them. I was scared to get close at first, but ended the day by putting food directly into an elephant's mouth and I even got a kiss!
On my last day in Chang Mai I took at trip up to Doi Suthep, a temple overlooking the city. This was the first day that rain had truly ruined my plans. Luckily I did have an umbrella, but it had been sunny when I left so I thought nothing of the thin light blue skirt I was wearing that quickly became see though. At least my driver got quite akick out of it. I think he felt bad so he drove me around the city a little and showed me the instant flooding that happens there when it rains. It looked like a disaster to me, but everyone was just going about their normal business.
In the afternoon I headed to Pai, a small town three hours northwest of Chang Mai.