Lady Boys, Elephants, Muy Thai and more

Thailand continues to get better. My next stop on my trek was Chiang Mai, which is south of Chiang Rai but still north of Bangkok. I had my friend Elyse from Chiang Rai set me up with a friend of hers in Chiang Mai which ended up being a really great connection. 

I took a 3 hour taxi ride from the hotel in CR down to my hotel in CM. I had a few other options but this seemed best. Considering all the gear that I had with me, this felt like the best bet. A bus would have cost me $5-$10 and the taxi ended up costing me about $85. It was a pleasant ride, with water provided and the ability to stop when I needed to. 

I arrived to my hotel around 7pm and got checked in. I was hoping for a better experience than I had up in CR and seeing as it was the same hotel brand, I was a bit nervous. I quickly realized that the staff here spoke much better English and they seemed to understand some of the more “complex” questions that I had. I was able to convince them to get me free Internet (the fact that hotels (especially expensive) ones still charge for Internet is a joke) and get an Ethernet cable sent to my room as well. 

street art in chiang mai thailand

A front desk agent took me to my room and showed me around a bit. It was nice, well laid out had a nice big bathroom and that same comfy bed and pillows I had in CR. The view from my room faced the mountains outside the city. The hotel food options were the same as in CR so I was really motivated to get out of the hotel. We were more centrally located this time so I figured it wouldn’t be as difficult. The hotel is about 20 minutes by foot to either the south gate or west gate. The old city is surrounded by a moat with “gates” on all 4 sides. The hotel is also locate literally one minute from the very famous night bazaar (more on this later). There were plenty of restaurants to go to during the day and plenty of street food stalls to try at night when the markets were going. 

One of the people I’ve been in touch with who lives in CM suggested I check out the south gate for food. This was great! There were easily 100 different street food stalls (on Saturday night). They also had a stage with bands. It was a bit intense but I was prepared because of my first stop in CR. Check out my Thailand Food post. South gate was the perfect intro to CM and the walk allowed me to get my bearings and get acclimated to the city. I went back to the hotel and crashed for the night.

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For breakfast the second day I was even more motivated go eat outside the hotel. I wanted to check out another one of the gates so I headed to Tha Phea gate (on the east side of the side of the city) (more details on food).

Now it was time for some photography. There are at least a dozen temples all throughout the old city. I spent most of the morning and early afternoon just wondering around. It was great. The temples weren’t as crowded here as they were in CR (probably because there are so many). By about 1 o’clock my camera battery was about dead and I stupidly forgot my back up. I jumped into a tuk tuk to run back to my hotel. The guy had some trouble getting it started. I didn’t think much of it. Then he instructed me to get out and push!!! What!?! Lol. I should have found another tuk tuk and left this guy to figure it out. But I said why not and started pushing. It took us 3 try’s to get moving. 

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Meeting Phil, the “big fella”:

It was time to meet up with Phil. I’d heard good things about him so I was excited to meet him and have someone local to hangout with. The place we planned on meeting at was closed so he told me to hop on the back of his motorcycle and we’d go somewhere else. I’d never been on a bike before but I figured it would be ok. It was a bit scary and as I sat there with my legs cupping his ass I thought to myself, this was a hell of an introduction. 

We had lunch, chatted a bit and made a plan to meet up later for some drinks. Phil is in Thailand as part of the same program as Elyse. He isn’t teaching in a classroom but instead is teaching soccer at an orphanage outside of town. He used to play pro ball and he’s also started working with the goalies of one of the local soccer clubs. We met at a local british pub (Phil is from england) and met this guy Scott who was watching soccer by himself. Scott’s an Australian and he’s living in Thailand for a few months. He’s a really talented artist and a great guy to have a chat with. This is one of the things I love about traveling. Just making a random friend and getting to know them for an hour or so. This is easy to do in the states because pretty much everyone can speak English. It’s more difficult overseas (although its been easier in Thailand, at least you can spot the foreigners) 

After chatting with Scott and having a few drinks, me and Phil decided to go out and get into some trouble. It wasn’t quite trouble, but things certainly got a little weird. So there is this whole street right by hotel that have lots of lady bars. These places that you could go if you are interested in getting a whore (sorry, is prostitute the PC term?). I’m not interested in that. It grosses me out. Furthermore, here in Thailand, even if I was interested I’d be too nervous that I’d get a lady boy instead of a lady. 

Phil had a plan in his mind that he would get a picture of me with a lady boy. That’s fine I thought. No harm done. So we went to a bar that Phil knew had a couple of these lady boys. We stopped in for a drink and immediately were approached by both ladies and men. I made it pretty clear I wasn’t interested but Phil was having a good laugh at my expense. 

Picture time:

Phil called two “women” over. I know one was a man but I’m not sure about the other. The one that was a man looked amazingly like a women though. The only thing that gave it away was the voice. Really. He had all kinds of work done and suffice to say, could pass as a female. I have no idea how these guys get the women to get their sex changes and hormone treatments and boob jobs and everything else. Most of the people here are really poor. I guess the surgeries are cheap. Anyway. 

So we lined up for a picture and just before Phil was about to snap the photo this lady boy kisses my ear. And when I say kissed, I guess I mean caressed . It was gross. Lol. It was extremely uncomfortable. Phil continued to laughed while I developed what might be a lifelong tick of wiping my ear with my shoulder. Every time I think about it my ear itches. Phil said “now you can cross that off your bucket list , big fella”… I don’t know what bucket list of mine he was looking at, but that’s not on it. 

The smile didn’t last very long… and you can see the pain in my eyes
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We got the hell out of there shortly after. Before we did, we noticed this American guy talking to the ear licking lady boy. Me and Phil felt we owed it to this guy under the bro code to let him know what he was getting into. If he knew, that’s fine. But god forbid he didn’t, we had to tell him. Turns out he did know and then I felt like the ass for telling him. But, if he hadn’t known and didn’t want that, I would have felt I’d done him a service.

Ran-Tong Elephant Camp

I got picked up at the hotel around 8:00am for my half day trip to the Ran-Tong Elephant camp. Apparently this is a rescue camp where they save the elephants from otherwise shitty situations. (I don’t know what kind of certification they have that they can call themselves a rescue facility (or even IF they do), but the place looked alright from what I could see). We loaded into an uncomfortable pick up truck and stopped at two more hotels to get other guests and then head out to the camp (some 2 hours by car). [between riding in the back of this truck and riding on the back of the elephants, my back was killing me by the end of the day]. We picked up Samantha and Chris (a couple from california, originally from the UK and Ireland [I think]) and also picked up Kelly (UK) and Tiger Lily (yup) and her friend Fleur (both also from UK). Everyone spoke english so I was pretty pleased. Sam, Chris, Kelly and myself had a nice chat during the ride over, just chatting about traveling and what not.

We arrived at the camp, got some clothes to change into (which was good because if I would have had to ride that elephant bare legged it would have been miserable) and got a very quick lesson and learned a few commands. The place was fairly small with about 10-15 staffers working there. They had 2 little stands selling touristy crap but for the most part it was pretty basic.

We got to feed the baby elephant some bananas which was cool and then they had him give us all kisses. That was alright all though it felt like someone put a wet vacuum on my face. .

Baby elephant sucking on my face. Not sure if this was as bad as the lady boy or not.
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I was put on the biggest elephant in the camp. The second time i’ve been made to feel like a fat ass before riding an animal here in Thailand. I mean it’s an elephant, whats an extra 200 pounds.

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After riding a bit we went to the river/waterfall and proceeded to wash and scrub the elephants. They seemed to enjoy this and were flapping their ears and blowing some water out of their trunks and blowing bubbles under water. It was cool. They are very docile animals. They are also surprisingly even keeled while walking. We were going up and down inclines/declines and you didn’t really feel like you were being tossed around. Regardless, sitting at the front was a bit scary because there really is nothing between you and the ground (some 15 feet or so down). 

Standing on the elephant as we wash him in the river
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After washing the elephants we rode them up to a small area for lunch. The ride was at least 45 minutes and was pretty brutal. There were no harnesses or seats or saddles. You’re riding bareback and your legs take a beating as well as your ass. [insert your own lady boy joke here]. Lunch was really good. We had Green Thai Curry with chicken, plenty of rice, some veggies, etc. We had as much as we could eat, which was good because I was starving.

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After lunch we got to take a few more pictures with the elephants, tip the guides, and get back in the truck and head back to our hotels. It was a really fun day (glad I only did the half day). The camp offers half day, full day, overnights, and there were even two girls there that were volunteering for a WEEK at the camp, staying on site. Seems interesting. I got back to the hotel around 2:00 (ish) and went to a local restaurant around the block from my hotel for lunch. “The Kitchen” was good and I actually ended up eating there twice for lunch and twice for breakfast during my stay in Chiang Mai. (more details in Thailand Food).

Other Shots from Elephant Camp:

a close up of an elephant trunk in chiang mai thialandadult elephant at rantong elephant camp in chiang mai thailandanother elephant at rantong elephant camp in chiang mai thailandbaby elephant at rantong elephant camp in chiang mai thailand

Baby Elephant Rantong Camp in Chiang Mai Thailand

Muy Thai:

Phil and I made a plan to meet up later that evening and go out for Muy Thai. We met at the Red Lion again and went to a couple of bars before hitting Muy Thai. We bought VIP tickets from the Red Lion so when we got there we got front row seats. Phil hooked it up. The whole place probably could have fit around 200(ish) people and it was in the middle of a group of bars and restaurants.

We were sitting in the front row and these two french girls were sitting in the row behind us. We got to chatting, as I tend to do. They were really fun girls and we had a blast with them all night. I wish I would have caught their names but they were hard to understand with all the commotion.

There were 5 or 6 fights for the night. The first two were younger kids, probably like 12 or 13. But they kicked ass. These are some of the toughest 12 years olds I’ve ever seen for sure. One of them got busted open after taking an elbow to the forehead and it didn’t even phase him. There were 2 teenager fights, then a girls fight, and then a “special fight” where they blindfold 5 guys and put them all in the ring together. It. Is. HILARIOUS!!! They’re all just basically feeling around and as soon as they touch something they start throwing haymakers. The ref takes a couple of hits and actually hit one of the guys himself lol. This was a riot! Then we got two more adult fights and finally the ‘main event’ which was actually a guy from New York vs a local Thai guy. The NY’er was pretty overmatched and didn’t seem to have the stamina necessary. He got clipped with a kick or something to the face and got busted open. They ended up stopping the fight.

some kids competing in muy thai in chiang mai thailand kids at muy thai fight in chiang mai thailan

The whole scene is really interesting. They have guys walking around taking bets, you can order beer, they have this absolutely obnoxious guy playing some kind of flute in the background which goes on the ENTIRE time (least favorite thing of the night, lol).  We were close enough to the ring that I could lean in and take pictures under the ropes. Once the night was over you were allowed to get into the ring for pictures and to fool around.

We took the French girls out for what was supposed to be one drink but we ended up staying out for a few more hours and closing down the bar we were at. We had a really nice time with them and I told them all about my grandfather’s story and told them I love French people. I doubt they’ll ever see this post, but if they do, I hope they will message me or phil. We called it a night around 2:30 and headed back to the hotel.

Getting my revenge on Phil:

Me and Phil met up at my hotel pool and then went out for lunch around the block again at the Kitchen. Phil had to head out to train the goalies at the local soccer club so we just decided to meet up at Red Lion again and head to South Gate for some dinner. I took phil over to South Gate to check out the food stalls. He’s been in Chiang Mai for a month and hasn’t been there yet, which is crazy! I got him to try some strange foods including chicken hearts (photo below). He also got a little to close to some chili’s that he put into his glass noodle soup. Sorry, big fella.

Convincing Phil to eat chicken hearts. He didn’t like them.. I did.
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Chili splashes in phil’s eye
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Hilarity ensues for me. That’s payback big fella for the lady boy!
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Feelings about Chiang Mai:

I really enjoyed Chiang Mai. I think Phil played a big role in that, but the place is really cool in it’s own right. I really felt like I got into the culture there, at least a bit.

Some key points about Chiang Mai:

-There are lots of westerns here so there is always someone to talk to.
-There are LOTS of western men here in Chiang Mai. MOST of them are with thai women.
-There are very few people on the street begging for money and the city is actually surprisingly clean.
-You can find lots of thai people at shops and food stalls and especially the hotels that speak english so getting around is pretty easy.
-Getting around on foot or via a tuk tuk is also super easy as the old city really isn’t all the big.
-There is certainly plenty to do around town between the temples and shops and markets and also the excursion out of town like Tiger Kingdom, Elephants, Hill Tribes, etc. There is a tourist center on just about every corner with plenty of information and trips to choose from.
-I didn’t really get what all the hype was about at the night market. It’s basically all the same shit that you could find all over thailand and all over Chiang Mai during the day. The only good part about the markets are the food stalls, in my opinion. I also don’t really like to shop, so I guess for people that do, one night at the market should be enough.
-Stay away from the stalls in the night market that you have to buy coupons for. They are SHIT! I think it’s the only place in Thailand that got me kind of sick. I had a bit of a fever and a headache a couple of hours after eating there.

I would 100% go back to Chiang Mai again! It was really cool and was totally what I was looking for when I planned a trip to Thailand. Feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions or are planning a visit yourself.

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