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Chiang Mai Pt I-Art, Elephants & Wet Pants

Sitting in Chiang Mai station, feeling relaxed and free, Blind Melon playing on my headphones sounding sweet, and I find myself reflecting on how this feels. It’s good to pause. Flying is actually really fun and liberating and completely affordable in Thailand – it will be a total of 7 flights before I reach New Zealand. The heat has been totally bearable so far, I enjoy waking up early and the warmth on my skin. It seems that everywhere is air conditioned, which is great although I’m pretty sure it’s given me a sore throat.

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I had yet another taxi ride which consists of disjointed conversation alongside tragic boyband music (they love it) and the questions 1. How old are you? 2.Are you single? 3. Why are you on your own? All light-hearted of course, my response is usually ‘it’s easier’ because maybe I don’t really know why, maybe because nobody else wanted to come? Maybe I didn’t want them to come (in the nicest possible way) It hasn’t bothered me, I know it’s really early days and the night times could be massively more fun and exhilarating with a group of friends, presence makes a difference, but it’s just how it is – it’s all good.

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Chiang Mai feels instantly calmer after the madness of Bangkok. I booked into an art gallery hotel called Art Mai? which is absolutely beautiful. Each floor is designed by a local artist and themed on an art genre – I’m on the abstract floor! My room has an easel to create art and I found myself doing a happy dance around the room with excitement.

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There are lots of boutique hotels and cafes around and the old city that hosts a night bazaar, no time for boredom. I have experienced a beautiful 2-hour long Thai massage (turns out I enjoy being squashed) and am very much enjoying the freshness and quality of the food, oh and the cheap beer.

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I have packed a lot in for my time in Thailand but tried to have a couple of days in between to relax and reflect on each experience. On the second of my free days in Chiang Mai I booked myself in to spend time with elephants and experience the day as a mahout. I was picked up from the hotel alongside a couple from France, 3 Australians and a guy from Seattle. After a quick change into what seemed to be 90’s denim prison fashion, we were instructed on how to climb onto and command the elephant. Bai – forward, Toy – backward and um, I can’t remember the word for stop…

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I climbed the elephant by holding the top of her ear, a fold of her skin, she then lifts her leg with you on it and well, you kind of make a jump for it and hope for the best! Totally strange but really good when you relax into the movement. When you’re ready to get off you put your legs forward over her head, which she then lowers and you slide off! this seemed about a 2 mile drop for me. We walked for around an hour through the forest and river which lead to us bathing the elephants, this was incredible, what powerful clever creatures they are, I really was in awe of them.

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I didn’t get the memo about swimwear so had wet pants the rest of the day -yay! I was careful to choose a company that rescued and rehabilitated elephants, rather than exploiting them purely for tourist purposes. There was no use of chairs (completely bare back and natural) and no use of metal canes or any of hideous tools. It was a case of the elephant responding to commands, whether you think mine did or not I’ll let you decide…

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Soundtrack: Blind Melon – Sleepyhouse, Guano Apes – Rain

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