Elephant Sanctuary at Chiang Mai

WP_20160804_14_27_45_ProAfter returning to Chiang Mai we had a day booked at the Elephant Nature Park. We chose this elephant experience because the kids were quite keen on seeing elephants and this one in particular seemed quite ethical.

The sanctuary people picked us up at our hotel and it was an hour drive to their park. During the ride they showed a movie about how mistreated elephants ae in Asia. It was quite a disturbing movie, I think Emma may have cried a bit. I guess it was an ok introduction to what the sanctuary is all about. They buy elephants from people in Thailand, typically ones that are injured or too old or sick to work. In Thailand, elephants are used for logging and for tourists’ enjoyment (circus, painting with their trunks, rides, etc). The movie depicts the elephants needing frequent punishment to keep them inline, and shows them as being extremely mentally disturbed. Good times.

WP_20160804_14_35_23_ProAt the park we got to feed the elephants, see some baby elephants, and help bath them with water. No riding. I guess it’s not a lot of “activities” but after it was all said and done, it felt very rewarding. Just as our tour was ending, the skies opened up with a bout of monsoon rain. I recommend the Elephant Nature Park.

The next day we left Chiang Mai. It was a nice city and the quieter “old city” made it seem smaller and more intimate. It’s a great place to visit. Coming up next: Ko Samui.


After spending a few days in Chiang Mai, we decided to head out to the hills and spend a couple of days in a small town called Soppong (also called Pang Mapha). There is a well worn backpacking route from CM to Pai to Mae Hong Son, and Soppong is on this route about 1 hour past Pai. Pai has a huge backpacker scene, similar to Khao San road but apparently not many people stop in Soppong.

We went to the bus station and bought tickets for the minibus. The trip would take 4 hours. The first but was ok until we started heading into the hills. This road then gave new meaning to the words “switchback” and “twisty”. I dont recall seeing anything quite like it. Luckily the road surface itself was new and smooth so it wasn’t bumpy.

WP_20160801_16_10_23_Pro (4)We made it to Soppong in one piece, but just barely. Everyone was feeling kind of yucky and the only thing that stopped motion sickness was the magic of Gravol. We stayed at guesthouse called Soppong River View, it was really nice. Our balconies overhung the river in a very picturesque setting. The rooms didn’t have ac but it wasn’t really needed with a fan and the cooler temperatures of the higher altitude.

The next day we hired a driver to take us around the area. First we went to Tham Lot and visited one of the big caves. We floated through the cave on a bamboo raft and got off a few times to hike up through branches of the cave.

After Tham Lot we drove through the valleys to see different viewpoints, including karst formations, rice fields, and a small village. I’ll have to wait until I get to my computer before I can upload more images from my dSLR camera.

We only spent one more night in Soppong and then it was back to CM for a few more days and a trip to the elephant sanctuary.

Chiang Mai

We arrived in Chiang Mai from Siem Reap after connecting switching planes and airports in Bangkok. Timing wise it all went pretty smooth and we basically walked onto a shuttle bus at Suvarnabhumi airport just before it left for Don Muang airport. One interesting thing happened upon our arrival in Chiang Mai, and it’s a good puzzle for you math/probability folk (I know there’s a lot of you!). As we were walking to arrivals, we saw the couple that were staying in the suite beside us at Siem Reap. Out of coincidence, we both:

  • had suites beside each other at Tenai hotel
  • left the same day
  • traveled to Chiang Mai
  • arrived at the same time, but took different paths to get there

Chiang Mai is the largest city in the north but right away we could tell that it was waaay smaller than Bangkok. We decided to stay in the “old city” which is a walled section in the center of CM. This where most of the local sites are , along with guesthouses and restaurants.

WP_20160729_19_36_50_ProWe stayed at SK House 2, which had nice big rooms with a/c and a small pool. Everyone was tired by the end of the day but I walked to a nearby night market for some food. It was a great little meal, I stopped at three different carts for some pork and rice, an Isaan salad and mango and sticky rice for dessert.

WP_20160731_13_17_44_ProThe next 2 days we just poked around the city, checking out wats, museums and more of the local northern food. Everyone liked CM, it was interesting and laid back. Mind you, we didn’t venture out of the old city where things are quieter.



There lots of tours that people can do here, such as cooking schools, elephant parks, zip lining, a “night” safari and of course the famous hilltribe treks. The zip lining looked interesting but super expensive, maybe $140 each. We’re going to visit an elephant park though, after a short trip to a small town in the hills.

Siem Reap

On our second full day we hung out in Bangkok for the morning, hitting a cracker of a market for food! It was delicious. We then visited the Dusit Zoo and then got ready to fly to Siem Reap in Cambodia. Driving from Banglamphu to anywhere else in the city is a pain – cars will be stopped for ten minutes at a time to clear a major intersection.

We finally arrived in SR around 7pm I think. Driving through the rural road and then the city gave us a good first idea of Cambodia. We saw the poverty of the people and the backpacking/traveller mecca that SR is.

WP_20160727_17_02_21_ProOur hotel, Tanei Boutique, was really nice. We had a large suite with tall ceilings right beside the small pool. It was only a few minutes walk from the busy action of SR but far away enough to be quiet. Well, sort of quiet. We had major rain in the afternoon (more on that later), which brought out the bullfrogs. They have these frogs that are pretty small, about 7 cm long and 4 cm tall, but they make the loudest noise. At first I thought there were a bunch of moncks next door praying or something. Nope, it was an empty lot full of frogs.

WP_20160727_12_31_46_ProWe spent two days at the Angkor Archeological Site. The first day we had a 9:30 start and returned around 3pm I think. Very hot and tired too. In the way home there was a crazy big rain storm. It put other rain storms to shame. We’re expecting heavy rain every day but this one was crazy. Tuk tuks were getting stuck in 18″ of water. Which reminds me, all the transport in the area is done by 4 seater tuks tuks pulled by 120cc scooters.

WP_20160728_05_27_12_ProOn our second day to Angkor we did the typical “get up at 4 am to see the sunrise” schtick. It was nice, I always enjoy watching the sunrise with 2000 of my best friends with cameras, tripods, iphones and selfy sticks.

It was a quick trip to Cambodia but it had to be done. The Angkor site was impressive and I’m happy to have gone. After our third night in SR we packed our bags and caught a flight to Bangkok en route to Chiang Mai.

First Full Day

Our first full day in Thailand was hot and busy. We are staying in the Banglamphu area which is the oldest part of Bangkok and where most of the best temples are located. Our hotel is the Fortville Guesthouse, which is clean and utilitarian and not too fancy. They’re in the process of building a new cafe downstairs, and combined with their nice rooftop bar, it’s a decent place to stay. It’s about a 10 minute walk north from the games Khao San road, where I stayed 25 years ago.

WP_20160725_09_09_18_ProWe walked along the Khlong Saem Saeb (canal) past the Phra Sumen Fort to the Phra Athit Pier. This was Emma’s first try at walking in her Aircast boot, and combined with the heat and jetlag, it was a bit of a struggle. We made it to the pier though, and got on a river boat to take us down the Chao Phraya.

first stop was Tien Pier and a visit to Wat Pho. I think everyone really enjoyed this wat, it was the kids’ first look at some spectacular temples up close. From there, we hung out at an air-con cafe for drinks and decided to head back to the hotel to rest. I also needed to contact AirAsia about getting credit for a missed flight (because our trip was delayed a week).


After eating we were going to go to the Dusit zoo but on our way it started to rain. Rain, as in SE Asia rainy season rain. We went back to the hotel and one by one fell asleep for the day/night after a long hot day with jet lag.

Thailand Itinerary, Try #1

We spent a lot of time coming up with a fantastic itinerary for our upcoming 5 week trip to Thailand and Cambodia. Highlights include a few days in Bangkok, Angkor Wat, lazying about the Mekong in the lesser traveled NorthEast Thailand, and several days in each of Chiang Mai, Ko Samui and Ko Phangnam.

Alas, it was not to be.
Emma broke a bone in her ankle 11 days before our departure and we decided to postpone our trip by one week to ensure that Emma has a proper recovery. She was instructed to not put any weight on her foot until seeing the orthopedic doctor and we have to stick around until we see a doctor.

No fear though, as we have come up with a 4 week itinerary that is still pretty great. We decided to cut out the NE Thailand portion, which is a bummer for me because that is one area that I have not visited. However, the NE is probably the least “exciting” of our plans and it makes sense to cut it for the rest of the family. Oh well.

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