Hanging By a Wire

zip line thailand
We made sure to bring our Go Pro along to capture for photos and video!

I felt like our stay in Chiang Mai was one adrenaline rush after another. And our trip with Jungle Flight zip line was no exception. I’m the first to admit Jeremy and I are more than a little a.d.d. when it comes to traveling. We’re all for relaxing, getting massages (and at $15 for an hour, who could resist?!) or lying by the beach. But for the most part, we keep this to a minimum. We’re just so antsy to see everything we can while we’re in a different places. We agreed, however, that once we left Chiang Mai and headed south, that would be when we would lounge on the beach(spoiler alert: that didn’t happen either. We spent a total of an hour on the beach before we found a cave and decided to ditch the beach and go explore. This is probably the reason why I came back from Thailand just as pale as I went).zip line thailand

While we were in Chiang Mai, we wanted to take advantage of every opportunity we could, and one of these opportunities was zip lining. It’s something we had always wanted to do and were were so excited we were able to do so in a large rain forest. There are several companies to choose from but we chose to go with a smaller company, Jungle Flight zip line, and we’re so glad we did. Not only did we find a special deal that made it about $65 per person (down from $89 a person) but the personalized attention and fun loving staff were some of the highlights of our experiences. Along with views like this:

jungle flight zip line thailand

We chose to do Course B which included 24 platforms and 16 zip lines and one 40 meter abseil. (I wasn’t so excited about this part as you can tell. Something about falling straight down just doesn’t get me excited. They didn’t exactly hold back on the speed either.)

facing fears at jungle flight zip line thailand
zip lining in thailand
One of the longest zip lines we were actually attached to the line from the back, making it more of a ‘superman’ feel. This was probably the scariest one for because unlike the regular zip lines where you sat down and could feel the tension on the line right away, this took a few seconds after you jumped off the platform for it to catch. Making it feel like a free fall over the large gorge below.
a great getaway to a jungle to zip line in thailand

 

Just Some Big Cats

I’ll be honest, hubs is just a little bit of an adrenaline junky. Anything that is even a little bit dangerous, he is all for. On our honeymoon, there was a day that he went snorkeling while I stayed on the beach. He came running onto the beach yelling ‘There’s a shark in the coral! You’ve got to come check it out!’ before running right back into the water. I remember thinking ‘that is definitely not the way to get me in the water.’ (I ended up going and seeing the harmless black tip reef sharks and it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had, but that’s beside the point) The point is, when we found out about Tiger Kingdom, a place in Chiang Mai where we could get up close and personal with baby and full grown tigers, we couldn’t resist.
baby tiger at tiger kingdom chiang mai
When you arrive at Tiger Kingdom, you get to pick the age group you want to see. They have babies (2-3 months), small (4-8 months), medium (9-12 months) and large tigers (13-30 months). TIP: Go early! Tigers are most active when it first opens, the temperature hasn’t skyrocketed yet, and they haven’t been handled by a swarm of tourists. Also, when all of the tour groups come, the wait can take over an hour. We showed up just before nine and only waited a few minutes to get into each cage.
baby tiger at tiger kingdom chiang mai
play with baby tigers at tiger kingdom chiang mai
He was just two months old and kept trying to climb into my lap and up my shoulder to be cuddled
tiger kingdom chiang mai
The next age group we saw were the 4-6 month olds and they were also definitely the most active of them all. The ones that weren’t napping were busy running around jumping and playing with each other.
tiger experience at tiger kingdom chiang mai
tiger kingdom chiang mai
tiger kingdom chiang mai
With each age group you are accompanied by a trainer that leads you from area to area and watches out for any tigers that want to ‘play’ with you. This came in handy when hubs made fast friends with a young 5 month old tiger by the name of Michael. He would follow hubs around the cage and try to ‘play’ with him. Aka, sneak up behind him and try to swat or bite his leg. Even after the trainer would lead us to the other side of the cage, it wouldn’t be long until Michael was back. He managed to swat at him once but because he was wearing jeans, it only left a red mark, much to hubs disappointment (he’s the weird type that wants a scar from a tough animal).
get close to tigers at tiger kingdom chiang mai
I have to admit that when we went into the last cage and rounded the corner to see this:
grown tigers at tiger kingdom chiang mai
I was a bit nervous. I’ve seen tigers through a cage and a long distance away before but when we saw it up close and personal, it was a little intimidating.  Good thing these kitties were pretty tired by the time we got there and slept majority of the time.
The topic of drugging and punishment often comes up when talking about these animals. Before we went, I was extremely skeptical. I had heard stories of other tiger parks that taser their animals or give them drugs during open hours so the tigers will remain docile. My concerns disappeared when we arrived and they had numerous pieces of literature about what they believe and how they treat the animals. Not only that, but when we walked in, we could see into the full grown tigers cage as they ran after each other, tackling, playing and jumping in the water. The trainer was walking around in the cage working and the tigers took no notice to him.
They explain that these tigers are born into captivity since the park is used for breeding and preservation of the endangered Indo-Chinese species of tiger. They are used to being around humans from a young age and therefore people coming and petting, hugging or patting them does not phase them. Another factor is the fact that tigers are mainly active during night time and less active during the mid-day heat. This is the reason that the older tigers are asleep in the majority of our photos.
However, precautions must still be taken. For example, when the trainer is approaching a tiger, he takes a stick and bangs it against the ground to warn the tiger that he is approaching so as not to startle him. Also, we must approach the tiger from behind, if approached head on, they will think we want to play with them. Lastly, when we do pet or touch them, we must do so firmly. If we touch too lightly, they may think it’s just a fly and react accordingly.
tiger kingdom chiang mai
tiger kingdom chiang mai
My favorite part of Thailand, and specifically Chiang Mai, is the fact that you can get up close and personal with so many different animals. The city keeps you going with the endless possibilities of activities that it has to offer. Don’t worry, there’s lots of Redbull to help keep you awake so you don’t miss a thing (and at just 35 cents a bottle, how can you resist?!)

The Day My Dreams Came True

baan chang elephant park chiang mai

I apologize in advance for the ridiculous amount of pictures in this post from Baan Chang Elephant Park. But who doesn’t love adorable little elephants?

When planning our trip to Thailand, there was one thing that was consistently on the top of my list of activities I wanted to do. See elephants. How could we resist when we were in one of the few countries in the world that they are native to? It wasn’t so much a question as to if we would do it, but where we would do it. There are elephant camps and parks in every brochure stand around Thailand, especially in Chiang Mai. I had researched several and admit that I was more than a little picky about where we went. I know everyone has different personal opinions but for me personally, I just couldn’t bear the thought of going and seeing elephants in ‘shows’, seeing them paint, watching them play soccer or riding them with large harnesses on their backs. I wanted to experience them more naturally and give my money to a place that cared for the elephants and helped rescue them from harsh environments.

baby elephant at baan chang elephant park chiang mai
The one baby on the property loved to give kisses.

After much research and a high recommendation from friends, we chose to sign up with Baan Chang Elephant Park, translated as Elephant Home. They are an organization that rescues elephants from abusive industries such as elephant begging and the logging industry (the logging industry is prevalent in the northern part of Thailand and abuses the fact that elephants only need about four hours of sleep a night. They will make them work hard labor for the other 20 hours of the day). Their goal is to teach others about the importance of elephant conservation through proper eating, sleeping, bathing and exercising methods and also to preserve a natural habitat for these rescued and abused animals.

up close and personal with elephants at baan chang elephant park in chiang mai
baan chang elephant park chiang mai

We arrived to Baan Chang Elephant Park at an excruciatingly early hour of 6am. We were told that with most animal visits, to go early in the morning when they were first waking up and had not been around people all day yet. After driving for about an hour through the country side, we rounded the corner into the property and were immediately greeted with the site of about a dozen elephants.

feeding elephants at baan chang elephant park in chiang mai

Our first order of business was feeding the elephants. We were provided a large bucket filled to the brim with bananas and large sticks of sugar cane. We walked through the clusters of elephants with their trunks grabbing at us along the way, eager to get their treats.

You may be wondering about the chain around their feet; that was my first thought too. Every elephant sanctuary has to chain up their elephants for people’s protection and their own. This particular company takes in any abused elephant that they find. Meaning, some are very aggressive from being abused and living in extreme conditions. They need time to become docile once again, and for the company to work with them in hopes of a full recovery before people can be near them. This is also to protect the elephants. If they go unchained, they can leave the sanctuary which raises the risk of someone taking them back into harsh conditions or worse, the elephants can plumage local gardens and farms. If this happens, the farmers will often shoot the elephants.

baan chang elephant park chiang mai
After the feeding was finished and all the buckets lay bare, it was time to train. Since there were no harnesses on their backs, we would ride them through the jungle bareback. We were taught in Thai, how to tell the elephants, to go, stop, turn and lay down in order for us to mount their backs.
Turn: kuay
Stop: how
Go: non long
Lay down: pai
riding elephants at baan chang elephant park chiang mai
riding elephants at baan chang elephant park chiang mai
rescue elephants at baan chang elephant park chiang mai
baan chang elephant park chiang mai
Feeding him some sugar cane
After we felt confident of the commands, we set off for an hour trek through the jungle. Not only is this for our benefit but also the elephants. The mahout (an elephant trainer that lives with the elephants. Each one has only one elephant to care and look after) determines how much exercise their elephant needs and will continue to take them on this route until the elephant is satisfied and well exercised. Therefore, all the elephants are used in cycles and some more than others depending on their individual needs.
We were paired up with an older elephant by the name of Don Coon. You could tell he knew the trail well since his mahout wasn’t even guiding him. But instead of sticking strictly to the trail, he would slowly veer off every once in awhile in search of a snack. Who could blame him?
trail at baan chang elephant park chiang mai
baan chang elephant park chiang mai
The back is not as comfortable as it looks! I was sore for days after this!
The last part of the day was probably my favorite. After the hike, we led our elephants to a large pool of water and were given a scrub brush and bucket. We proceeded to wash all of our elephants while they relaxed and played in the water.
washing elephants at baan chang elephant park chiang mai

baan chang elephant park chiang mai
If you’re ever in Thailand, I would highly recommend spending a day with the elephants at one of the many Elephant Sanctuaries.
Some other great places to spend time are Patara Elephant Farm and the Elephant Nature Park. When we go back to Thailand (because let’s face it, we will go back) we want to check out the Elephant Nature Park which is more intensive on their care and conservation of the animals.

48 Hours in Bangkok

Even with just 48 hours in Bangkok, I didn’t know what to expect before going. I heard mixed reviews of people either loving it or hating it. Wanting to move there or find the first flight out. We arrived late on Saturday night and were greeted with much welcomed humid air, smiling faces and a friendly cab driver who, though his stifled laughter, still couldn’t seem to get us to pronounce ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ in Thai properly. We eventually got better with the ‘sa wat dee ka’ and ‘khaawp khoon ka’ with time. It was a warm welcome from the city I was so unsure of.
In this site seeing mecca, we hit the ground running the next morning and saw as much as we could in the short 48 hours in Bangkok. Here are my top picks of how to spend even a short time in this bustling concrete jungle.

Markets, markets, markets
One thing I love about visiting other countries is looking through the local markets. Buying or just looking are equally enjoyable as you peruse stall upon stall that would intimidate even the most experienced of shoppers. Filled with textiles, jewelry, bags, sculptures, knockoffs and more, you can find everything your traveling heart was hoping for. In Bangkok alone there are several to choose from, the most popular being the Floating Market and Chatuchak Weekend Market (known to the locals as ‘Che Che’ Market).
No worries though, there are ‘smaller’ markets hiding around every corner of this country and we saw our fair share. The picture taken below is from a market near Soi Rambuttri Street (an amazing bohemian, backpacking haven filled with eclectic restaurants and hostels). The market was several blocks long on either side and was shut off to cars and transportation during shop hours.
Soi Rambuttri Street market bangkok market
Feel the tranquility inside of one of the many temples
Similar to the markets, tourists can find several different temples without even meaning to. In order for us not to get ‘temple overload’ we picked three or four temples that we wanted to see and stuck with those. If you try for all of them, you can literally spend days visiting the 19 ‘well known’ ones in the Bangkok area. We decided to stick with The Marble Temple, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Even though we still wandered into several others as we were walking down the street.
Another one to check out is the Royal Palace. We didn’t exactly make it all the way into this one. There is a lady standing at the gate and her sole job is to tell everyone passing if they are appropriately dressed or not…while yelling through a megaphone. I was one of the lucky ones blasted for *gasp* wearing shorts. In any temple associated with the government, you must cover your shoulders and knees in order to enter. Don’t worry though, there are garments for rent with a small deposit that is returned when the garments are. After seeing the line to rent these said garments, we turned and walked right back out with the intention of coming another time which unfortunately didn’t happen.
marble temple bangkok temples
The Marble Temple
wat pho bangkok thailand
Wat Pho was definitely my favorite temple that we saw in Thailand. It is the largest temple in Bangkok and is home to a 46 meter long reclining Buddah. I realize it looks large in the picture but it’s nothing compared to seeing it in person. As soon as you walk into the room, your head automatically goes all the way back in order to take it all in.
wat pho bangkok thailand
Wat Pho
 wat pho bangkok thailand
wat arun, bangkok thailand
Wat Arun was another one I was very excited to see. We never made it across the river to go inside but the views from across the way were just as magnificent. When lit up at night, it’s especially beautiful.
 
Take a ride down the Chao Phraya River
This is one of the best ways to get from one end of the city to the other. You can either take a private long-tail boat taxi or opt for the cheaper way of traveling and hop on one of the many ferries that travel along the river. It’s also a great option to take a tour of the river around sunset and see the coastline come alive with lights as the guide tells you about history of the river and temples that line it.
Chao Phraya River bangkok thailand
Chao Phraya River bangkok thailand
Spend the night sipping cocktails and overlooking the city of Bangkok
from the Banyan Tree Hotel‘s rooftop restaurant and bar. While the cocktails are a bit high for the land of cheap eats and drinks (around $9 for the local beer and on up from there for mixed drinks and wine) the views of the city are well worth it. We decided to make a date out of it and enjoyed the views of the sprawling city below us mixed with the stillness that comes with being so far above it all.
 Banyan Tree Hotel's rooftop restaurant and bar bangkok thailand

We loved the city a lot more than we thought we would and would love to return someday. Even though we both agree that two to three days was enough for us to see and do all that we had hoped to. Any other suggestions on what to see in Bangkok?