Elephants and rock climbing and motorbikes, oh Mai!

Posted on Posted in Travel Update

Couldn’t help the pun. And sorry about the bike, Mom.

Whew, I feel like every update is a big one.

The itinerary since the last post had been: elephant sanctuary – rock climbing – Pai motorbike tour.

It’s easy to feel like there’s been so much happening that after a few days writing about it all feels like this huge task and then it feels hard to start writing and then more stuff happens and then: boom! It’s been a week and the only thing that’s been accomplished is fretting about the idea of writing.

SO – with the mantra “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” in mind – here’s a rundown of the last few days. I feel I could write a whole post about each day, but that’s just not going to happen right now, so here’s what I’ve got.

(Turns out writing and posting stuff takes forever! I’m doing my best, and perhaps with practice I’ll get more efficient and consistent.)


Elephant Sanctuary

I met two women from England, Gina and Ellie, on the train to Chiang Mai and then I ran into them exploring temples around the city.

In the end, we booked the same elephant sanctuary tour for the next day – and it was amazing! It’s one of the more touristy things I’ve done in a long time, but it was so cool. And I couldn’t justify going to Thailand and not seeing some elephants. Or feeding elephants. Or kissing elephants. Or swimming with elephants.

The sanctuary we went to is run by the Karen tribe. They work with an elephant hospital outside Chiang Mai and many of their elephants come from the hospital. As elephants need to be ‘broken’ (read: systematically abused) in order to ride them, no riding is allowed at the sanctuary. Instead, you feed them bananas, walk around the jungle with them, give them a mud bath, and then wash them off in the river.

At first, feeding them is scary, but they’re super gentle.

They gave you kisses which felt like a little suction cup on your face.

They were so so so cute.

Maybe I can take one home with me??

I learned lots about elephants! If you have questions, ask away!

Pro tip: for travel advice, check out @maid_in_asia on instagram to follow Gina and Ellie’s travels through SE Asia!


Rock Climbing and Motorbiking (aka sorry Mom)

The next day, I was coincidentally able to link up with a Westminster College class trip who happened to have a layover day in Chiang Mai the same day I was there. It was awesome to see some friends, and it was even more awesome to see my girlfriend, Zoey, who’s currently on that trip.

It’s been funny/strange both being in Thailand at the same time, but doing completely different things. We’ve chatted for about an hour total over the last three weeks, so stealing a day with her was so fun. She was able to sneak away from her group for the day and we took full advantage to get into LOTS of trouble.

We rented a 110cc scooter for 200 baht (~$6.25). I reluctantly left my passport as a deposit, and after we finally figured out how to start the thing I promptly almost ran it into a van, and then rammed into a curb. Whoops.

With much yelling, white-knuckling, and getting passed all over the place, we made it out of the city and had a lovely hourlong joy ride to the climbing area – Crazy Horse Buttress.


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We promise we know what we’re doing…

We met up with Allen, a friend of friends (thanks Cody and Alexa!), who works at Chiang Mai Rock Climbing Adventures.

He graciously let us join him and a local group of climbers for the day.

They’re bolting routes like crazy at Crazy Horse – over 90 new lines have gone up in the past month! That said, we were at walls that had never, or almost never been climbed on. Nothing had names – we just got on what looked doable. It was scary and fun! And scary!

Here’s Allen trying hard.

Here’s Zoey try-hard face.

At Crazy Horse they’re developing everything with a ton of intentionality – with sustainability and usability in mind. They just built new bathrooms (out of mud!), new trails are getting built all over the place, and they are bolting to the grade. For example, if a climb is an easy grade, there are no run outs, because new leaders and beginners are likely to be more scared, so ample protection makes the climb more accessible and safe.

The infrastructure, accessibility, and sheer volume of climbing is truly impressive. I want to spend WAY more time here climbing!

It’s also really sweaty, and beautiful, and buggy, and sweaty, and dirty, and did I mention it’s super humid and sweaty?

Zoey and I were CAKED in dirt by the end of the day.

We had fun Thai incense to keep the bugs away.

I got bit by something mysterious and now only have one ankle. My other ankle appears to have disappeared as my leg seems to just turn into my foot now, the swelling is so bad my ankle bone is nowhere to be found. Stay tuned to see if I loose a limb.

On our way home we nearly crashed our scooter into a market because the market was in the main street of a town we were passing through. (Navigating on the fly is super hard and also scary on the opposite side of a road with approximately 20 minutes of scooting experience.)

After off roading our moto through some sketch parking lots (nice driving, Zo) and nearly locking ourselves out of our bike (nice, Zo) we went and checked out the impromptu market.

It was the best thing EVER! We only saw ONE other white person! The vendors showed us the prices on calculators because we don’t speak Thai and they didn’t speak English. Ahhhh I was in heaven.

We drank coconut smoothies (not kidding best drink I’ve had in my whole life and it was 25 baht aka 75 cents), ate pad Thai, and had roti (best described as a Thai crepe?) for desert.


Our motto for the day was ‘stay scared’ because we didn’t want to get cocky and botch the whole motorbike thing at the very end. I like having all my skin intact and didn’t want to donate any to the pavement.

Somehow we ended up driving straight to the rental place on accident, sans city navigation issues, and they didn’t check the bike for damage (read: very large dent + scratch from curb incident). We walked away with passport in hand and no damage fee. It was incredible.

Really, it was a perfect day in an amazing place spent with one of my favorite humans. It felt like we got away with something all day long because things we’re so scary and somehow ended up working out so smoothly.


Today, Zoey and I parted ways – the school group is going south and I’m going north.

I started my day back in solo travel mode by paying 100 baht (too much) to get to the train station and then 50 more for an unlicensed, unhelmeted, 8 minute motorbike ride because I actually needed to be at the bus station and then I promptly paid 150 baht for a 3.5 hour, completely full van ticket to Pai.

Turns out, most people get 180 baht tickets to Pai which pick them up at their hostels and have like 4 people in them. Huh. I’m slowly, slowly learning.

More on Pai next time!

A millipede just crawled across my neck while I was laying in bed so now I’m going to go contemplate how I’ll ever sleep again.

4 thoughts on “Elephants and rock climbing and motorbikes, oh Mai!

  1. Hahahaha. Enjoyed this much. Sounds like y’all are doing alright 😉 sending much love and good thoughts your way!

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