Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Thailand Day 6-7: Elephants, Tigers, and Thai Food... Oh My!

Day 6:

This was the day of the trip that I was the most excited about! When I started planning this vacation, I  found this tour and it was set on taking it! 

Riding Elephants, cuddling with Tigers, and seeing Chiang Mai's most famous temple.

We woke up bright and early and met up with our tour guide, Donna, who took us to a morning market to pick out our breakfast and some bananas for the elephants!

Then she drove up a ways up into the mountains above Chiang Mai to a beautiful valley where the Elephant farm was!

We were given some Thai clothes to wear and sat down to a delicious breakfast of sticky rice, pork skewers, and mangoes. Then our Donna turned the reigns over to Bobby our elephant guide.

Then we headed down and met the elephants!!

The elephants are trained with different commands and so when bobby made a certain noise the elephant raised its trunk and made a kissing noise against our cheeks. It was awesome! After our introductions, we practiced the commands we learned from bobby and practiced mounting the elephants and getting off the elephant properly.

Ladies first.

Aaron's turn to try it out!

This is my favorite picture of Aaron of all time! The look on his face is pure and utter joy!
And we are off!!

We got to take a walk with the elephants through the beautiful valley! It was the absolute highlight of the entire trip! One of the elephant guides was the one who took all these pictures, so we were free just enjoy the view around us and the fact that we were riding on elephants!

I can't really describe how everything felt and how amazing the experience was! I was on the back of an awesome elephant and enjoying the beautiful view and the air was cool and the morning mist was still rolling down the mountains. It was such an amazing gift to get to do this! Aaron and I still can't believe it!

After the walk through the valley the elephants got to enjoy a bath in the river. It was a messy job, but so fun to play in the water with these animals. One of them even got a little playful and sprayed water and everything.

When the picture was being taken, the elephant leaned into me to pose!

We shared an elephant on the way back! It was already a super full day and it wasn't even lunch time yet!! Plus this was only the first animal encounter of the day!
After the elephant sanctuary we made a quick pit stop at a butterfly sanctuary and orchid farm. 

Then continued on to The Tiger Kingdom for lunch and tiger play! The tigers at this habitat have been raised in captivity and are essentially domesticated... either that or they are drugged, even thought multiple signs around the facility guaranteed that they were just well trained. Either way, Aaron and I feel right about hanging out with the big cats in case there was an drugging or mistreatment of the animals, so we decided the baby tigers were safest.

The first few tigers we interacted with were asleep, so we were brave enough to lay with them and have a little cuddle time.

Then we went on to the baby tigers that had more energy. This meant less clear photo opportunities, but it was way more fun watching them wrestle and play together anyway.

Aaron giving from wrestling tips

This one stood still long enough to let me give him pets

... and feed him a bottle. It got dicey when he started swiping at my hand with his intimidating claws

We walked through the rest of the facility and got to still get up close and personal with  some of the bigger cats. It is definitely impressive how big these guys are when you are right next to them. I just kept thinking how huge their heads are!

But wait there is more!

We have ridden elephants and played with tigers and now it was time to take in the popular Doi Sutep Temple overlooking Chiang Mai.

The steps up to the Doi Sutep

having our marriage blessed by a Buddhist monk... good to know he approves

Overlooking Chiang Mai... you can also see the temple from our hotel room balcony

A mural carved out of a single piece of wood showing the founding of the Chiang Mai temple

We realized that after this temple we were pretty "templed out" and we spent the rest of the day relaxing, swimming, and enjoying the hotel.

Day 7:

Our last full day in Chiang Mai was something I was super excited about! We signed up to take a cooking class for Thai Cuisine at Zabb-E-Lee cooking school. I knew I was going to have a lot of fun, but I didn't know this was going to be a VERY close second to riding elephants!

We started our Thai cuisine experience at a local market learning all about the ingredients for our dishes and other unique Thai foods!

Our instructor Anne

You can see in the middle of the picture the pink eggs. They are thousand year eggs, which means they are basically rotted and fermented eggs that people actually eat in Thailand. Thoroughly disgusting, right?!

Ready with our aprons and stationed at the ready!

All the ingredients are so colorful

As Anne showed us how to chop and prepare the food, she quickly saw a star student in Aaron and used his food as examples the whole time... always the teachers favorite!

My fresh made spring rolls

We got to pick each of our dishes from appetizer to curry to soup and learned to make each of them. Aaron and I purposely chose different dishes, so we could try each others.

Making curry from scratch

After we had cooked up each dish, we got to sit and enjoy the food all together!

Miranda's dishes: (clockwise from top left) Pad Thai, Kaeung Jeud Kalamee (stuffed cabbage soup), Kway meow lei suan (Thai spring rolls), and chu chee Kung.

Aaron's dishes: (clockwise from top left) Gai pas med ma mango himmapan (stir fried chicken with cashew nuts), Tom yum kung nam on (hot and sour prawn creamy soup), Khow so (Chiang Mai curry with egg noodles), and Som Tum (papaya salad).
We met some great people in the class from all over the world. One couple was on their honeymoon and we bonded over being newly weds. Needless to say it was a blast!

I think my favorite part about the cooking class was that it also was a souvenir! We got a free cookbook at the class and I brought home some awesome Thai cooking skills to share with my friends.

After the cooking class, on our last night in Chiang Mai, we walked over to the Saturday night market to pick up all our souvenirs and enjoy the food and crowds.

Aaron was brave enough to try BBQ grubs.

After - not for the feint of heart
The grubs were all well and good until Aaron bit into a particularly juicy one and that was the end of that. His reaction to the grossness was hilarious enough to draw the attention of a German tourist nearby and Aaron was gracious enough to offer the man a taste as well. Bug eating is a great way to make friends!

I opted for a cup of sweet corn... safe and delicious

We got to the end of  market and turned around only to realize the crowds had gotten little overwhelming. We had also run out of cash and need to withdraw some more to buy our last bit of souvenirs, so we went to an ATM. As we were standing at the machine a HUGE rat ran across my foot and into the alleyway next to us. I screamed like a little girl, Aaron also yelled in horror and we were both thoroughly entertaining to the old Scottish man standing behind us. We all had a good laugh, but after our third aggressive animal encounter in three days, we were ready to say goodbye to Chiang Mai and head to the beach!!

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