12.04.2007 35 °C
We have just got back from our "Treasures of the North" trip up to the North of Thailand. We have had a fairly hectic week and have seen and done a lot so we can't really go into too much detail otherwise this entry would be way too long.
On our way up north our first stop was at Sukohthai the previous capital of Thailand and also our tour leader (Nok's) home town. Our main activity here was our cycling trip around Sukohthai's Historical Park, a large park area full of old ruined temples set amid lakes and trees. It was an incredibly beautiful place and was a very rewarding experience. Also while in Sukohthai we sampled the night markets, where Jamie sampled one of the local delicacies, fried bugs!! (Much to Katy's disgust!!) He tried fried grasshopper and fried grubs. They tasted like smokey bacon flavoured crisps.
Our next stop was Lampang where we transferred to another guest house for the night. In the morning we went to the Elephant Conservation Centre where we got to watch the elephants have their morning bath, then we went to watch the elephant show where the elephants painted, played musical instruments (including playing the elephant song), showed us how they were used in the logging industry by moving and aligning the logs, they also performed various tricks such as putting a hat onto their trainers head. At the end of the show the male elephants bowed and the female elephants did a courtsey. We were then able to feed the elephants bananas and sugar canes.
After the show we then went on our elephant back ride through the grounds which lasted about half an hour. We were taken through the lake where we had seen the elephants have their bath and then into the forest going up hills and through burned out parts of the forest. After our ride we were taken to the elephant hospital (the first one in the world) where we saw elephants that had been hurt or injured and were now being cared for at the hospital. One of the baby elephants had lost part of his leg from standing on a land mine, we were able to go right up to him and feed him bananas.
After we left the elephant hospital we then went to visit a Karen village (the Karen are a hilltribe that live in the north of Thailand). Our journey there was very eventful though as it is currently the Thai New Year and the celebrate by throwing water at each other, we're not really sure why though. When we drove through the various villages we would be met by hoards of little children carrying buckets of water, and as we were travelling by Songtai 9an open backed truck) we would always get drenched. By the time we arrived in the Karen village we were all soaked to the bone. The Karen village itself was very interesting and we were shown how they made whisky from rice and also how they weaved sarongs out of silk.
After the Karen village we travelled to a small town outside of Chiang Mai where we would stay in a home stay for the night. That evening we were treated to a performance from local children where they performed traditional Thai music with traditional Thai instruments, after the performance we even got the oppertunity to play the instruments ourselves. Then we watched a couple of Thai dances while having a Thai massage, and were then given candles to dance with and copy the dancing by the locals.
The next day we left the homestay and travelled the short distance to Chiang Mai where we went to the night bazaar and around the night markets. The next day was free to explore Chiang Mai and we wandered into town to look at a couple of the temples in the area before stocking up on snacks for our long 12 hour night train journey back to Bangkok.
The train journey was very eventful, to start with the train pulled away leaving our carriage still at the station!! So had to come back to get us, so that didn't fill us with a lot of confidence for our train journey ahead. Later on some people ventured to the back carriage of the train where they found that there was a disco carriage on the train with flashing lights a DJ and a bar!! The train journey was very rickerty and neither of us slept the whole journey, mainly because Katy wasn't feeling very well and Jamie was scared of the train toppling over. We arrived in Bangkok at 6am and everyone was feeling more than a little worse for wear so we spend the rest of the day relaxing by the pool at our hotel before transferring back to our original hotel for the next week.