Northern Thailand

Northern Thailand

Feb 10-25, 2019

Chiang Mai

We arrived into Chiang Mai at our so cute homestay. It was the first time we had a little kitchen in a month! It’s crazy the little things that you get excited over.

We took to the streets to explore. So so so so hot. And the air quality was still the pits – I was beginning to wonder when the air quality was going to get better. After 12 days in Myanmar where it seemed like I was choking on the air, I was craving some fresh ocean breezes. Sadly, we were still landlocked and were to be for another month until we saw the ocean again.

We decided to buy masks given how tragic the air quality was. It’s not any cooler behind a mask, let me tell you.

Chiang Mai is a town that, IMHO, is set for tourists. There’s tourist things everywhere. It also has some pretty incredible temples located right in town which we visited.

The next day, I THOUGHT we had to leave for the Chai Lai Orchid which is a place where we were visiting elephants. We packed everything up (on my order), and we were waiting for the bus to pick us up until the people at the homestay said to us “But you stay one more night!” I finally clued in that we were a day ahead of ourselves. Thank goodness it was Valentine’s day otherwise I’m sure would have hear more from Luc about my grave mistake.

We decided to find a fish spa to pamper our feet. OMG, the fish eating your feet is almost unbearable with the feeling it gives you. I ADORE my feet being tickled and touched but man oh man this was almost too much! Eventually it got better. You just had to power through the feeling for about 3 mins. Later on we headed to the massive night market and wandered around, bought a wet bag that I’d been eyeing up since I say the MM Families in Koh Tao, and also a couple of shirts. Starting to get a bit tired of all the markets that are everywhere. It seems like the market is always a place to “see” in the top 10 things to see in “name the place”.

Chai Lai Orchid

The next morning was the actual day to leave so we packed up (again) and waited for our red truck to bring us to the elephants.

We arrived and I asked if the one day tour could be split into 2 half days which ended up not being an issue. So we immediately got to head to the elephants and feel them. The elephants are like no other animal I’ve ever been near. It’s almost like they are communicating with you on an emotional level. There’s this intense draw to be with them, near them, and it’s almost like they are giving you their love. I can’t really explain it but it seemed like all negative emotions I might have been carrying, just melted away when I was near them.

We did a little walk through the forest where Luc and Vivi rode on one of them bareback. The mahout (elephant’s person) said that it’s ok, as long as it’s not for very long and you’re not on a big heavy metal seat.

After that we went in the water with them. The babies are adorable. Again a truly special experience bathing them and connecting with them. It was fun to watch them play around.

After that we hopped into the back of a truck and headed to the rafting point where we were able to raft down a river with a guide at the front. The scenery was spectacular. The only thing that was a little lame is that you rafted past elephants that were still being saddled up with heavy metal seats where multiple people were riding them. It’s hard to believe that this is still being done even though it’s widely considered poor practice.

The next morning we had breakfast and hopped into the back of a truck again and headed to where we were to do a half day hike. The hike was challenging but beautiful! We got to swim in two different waterfalls and lunch was prepared for us. Our guide made bamboo sticky rice over the fire. So delish! We walked through a  hill tribe where we got to watch them weave and learned a bit about our guides family.

The next day we spent the morning chilling out at the restaurant that is there overlooking the river. The elephants stroll past, there are rafts that float back and it’s just to calm. Chai Lai Orchid is such a special place for me. It’s a place that rehabilitates elephants and gives them a better life but it also is a place where women who have been involved in sex trafficking are able to come and get out of that world, learn English, and train in the restaurant industry to gain further skills. This organization is called Daughter’s Rising. I felt so good being here not only because of the surroundings but also because I felt a little like I was giving back by spending my dollars at this place. You can volunteer here and even take home stray dogs that end up here. I was sad to say good bye but hopefully I’ll be back one day.

We drove like a bat out of hell back to Chiang Mai. Not sure but the driver we had was driving like a maniac. I have such a hard time telling people who drive like this to slow down. I feel like an old lady but I just get so anxious when they are weaving in and out of traffic, pedal to the metal and screeching to a halt. Luc, correct me if I’m exaggerating.

We stayed for 2 more days in Chiang Mai. One day was a planning day, where we’re going next, buying plane and bus tickets, applying for Vietnam visas, and then we got massages…… and Luc got a haircut! FINALLY!!

We had been lugging Vivi’s car seat around with us wherever we go and we’ve used it only a handful of times. Luc and Vivi have been trying to strategically forget it places. I’m getting a bit tired of carrying it but never using it. We’ve been riding on boats, busses, back of trucks, cars without seatbelts, airplanes, rafts, and I can count on one hand, how many times we’ve used it. So I got on a Chiang Mai mom’s group and gave away the car seat. So long and thank you car seat for protecting my little girl.

We stayed at this place in the middle of town that was the smallest place we’ve ever stayed. There was literally 3 beds and just enough room for our bags on the floor. It’s the only place we didn’t get toilet paper and it wasn’t included. Say what?? Luc said the guy could sell the toilet paper on the side and make a fortune. We went to yet another night market and ate street food (it just happened to be sushi on the street).

Chiang Rai

We took a 6 hour bus ride to Chiang Rai and checked into our homestay. Although, the guy who owns the homestay didn’t work out that we would be there so we got a room that was tragic. The bed sheet had cigarette holes in it, no AC and it was just dingy. The next day we moved into the room we were supposed to have. We still didn’t have AC but the bed was much nicer as was the bathroom. The nice thing about this place was that the pool was the focal point of the place so it was easy to chat with other people about where they were from and where they were going. Thailand has soooo many French tourists. We made some jokes about there was probably no one left if France because they were all there! But what luck – we speak French so it was easy to make quick friends!

We explored Chiang Rai in the heat, and visited a hill tribe museum where we learned about hill tribes and the opium epidemic that raged in Laos not that long ago (2012 was when they started to put an end to it). We had hamburgers for lunch and walked through a beautiful flower garden.

I remember the place where we went for my birthday. Luc had gone for a run and spotted it and the food was delicious. I had yet another burger for dinner. These two are starting to make fun of my burger and French fry love. I think already by this time I was starting to get sick of noodles and rice. This became a bone of contention between me and Luc for 2 reasons:

  1. He doesn’t like to spend a lot of money – ever. Many arguments and comments about me spending more than he did on food mostly was beginning to really tear at me. I had spent the last 5 years saving my money for this trip, I’m going to spend it how I want. What I ended up doing was contributing $100 of my own money to make him shut up for a while about me buying western food (always more expensive) and cocktails (they don’t have wine and the beer is like kokanee – gross!).
  2. Street food is always way less expensive so he wanted us to eat this all the time. And it wasn’t good enough that it was sushi on the street, it had to be authentic. This also became a “thing” that we fought about. So many comments and issues about food and money that I just didn’t know would be such a problem travelling.


We’ve always, for the last 15 years, had arguments around food. It’s the most problematic issue in our marriage hands down. Travelling just exasperated this issue. It’s not until we get to Dalat, Vietnam where it comes to a head. More later.

We moved after 3 days into Chiang Rai centre. We had great hopes of meeting up with the MM family but they were all really sick and it turned out that Vivi also got quite sick there with a fever so we never ended up seeing all of them (Luc met up with Cam to go to a night market one night). We visited the clock and did a little meet up at a hostel with live music.

It’s always so disconcerting with your kid gets sick in a foreign country especially when it’s a fever. So we stayed home and just rested while we tried to control the fever. The next day the fever had broken but she was still experiencing issues with the toilet so we tried to wait until we thought she was better before heading out to the White Temple.

The White Temple was pretty incredible to see. It’s stunning and fairly new I think. It’s a little on the bizarre side too.

We went to the hospital after that. Reason being is that I wanted to get Vivi checked and get some antibiotics if she needed it before we left for Laos the next day and we wouldn’t be anywhere near a hospital if she got sick again.

The hospital was AMAZING! So quick, clean, spoke English, and we got the drugs right there so no need to go to a pharmacy. It was a better experience then going to the hospital in Switzerland for my kidney stone. We were able to pay, it was so cheap, and out in a flash. I felt a lot better about leaving the next day to go on a boat ride for two days.

REFLECTION:

  • Thailand is beautiful and set up for travellers. It’s fairly easy to get around Thailand and most people speak English. Getting money out of ATM’s was impossible for us (and we are later finding out it’s hard in Bali as well) not sure why. We have Visa and MC and they both don’t work. Also, in Thailand, not many places take credit card to pay for things (restaurant, shopping, etc…), it’s few and far between so we always needed to go to a bank to get money out.
  • We’re learning more and more about each other… The hot is really taking a toll on me and Vivi. Luc seems almost unfazed. For me and her it’s just becomes so intense that it’s hard to even see straight. There sweat pouring out of my face and it doesn’t stop which is nothing like I’ve ever experienced and it’s so uncomfortable.
  • I’m super surprised by the air quality here. I couldn’t imagine living here full time given this. It also makes me so grateful for living on the West Coast of Canada.
  • I love watching Vivi as she learns, explores, and meets new people. She’s such a great little backpacker and super resilient. She tries new foods, new things, and is absolutely fearless.
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LindaRobinJermann CamilleDonnaLuc Jermann Recent comment authors
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Linda
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Linda

I’m glad you could leave the car seat behind. They are a very recent law in Canada or BC for kids as old as Vivi. Traveling around the world, especially countries where they don’t have strong customs of wearing seat belts, makes it harder to see the sense of car seats.

Were you concerned by getting sick eating street food? Or do you feel you have been traveling long enough that your have built up immunity?

The elephant sanctuary is so cool, and the women who work there too! A win-win situation for both.

Enjoying your trip!
Linda

Jermann Camille
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Jermann Camille

C’est super intéressant votre voyage avec tous les détails….et j’aime bien les commentaires de ma belle-fille pour la nourriture. Luc il faut manger varié pas que des sushis !!!! J’ai bien aimé que vous 3 vous lavez et giglé de l’eau sur les éléphants, et Violette qui passait sous la trompe de l’éléphant pour chanter une chanson pour mon anniversaire.!! Le climat est beaucoup trop chaud pour moi, je ne supporterais pas cette chaleur intense.Je l’a comprend Robin, elle préfère son climat au Canada. C’est comme moi en Suisse. Nous étions aussi avec ma fille Au Spa des poissons. Ca… Read more »

Donna
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Donna

Wow! Robin… What an incredible story – this one and the last… in the last one where you had to walk on a plank I can totally relate… I hate heights and walking high up on a plank would freak me out too. I love all your photos with the elephants and the temples are so beautiful.. Thanks much for sharing your feelings and all the emotions that come up – seems like you all are strengthening your relationships to each other – the heat doesn’t help for sure .. And for Vivi to be such a super traveller- you… Read more »

Luc Jermann
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Luc Jermann

The driver in Chang Mai was not crazy just a sporty drive in a sporty car.