Thailand and Sister Reunion!

So, I know I never posted about my trip to Busan, but honestly it ended up being kind of a bust with a severely delayed flight and bad weather, although it cleared up just enough for us to enjoy a few hours on the beach. If I make it there again I’ll hopefully be able to explore more of the city.

My most recent travel experience was to Thailand over the National Day holiday. I had the first 8 days of October off work for the holiday, and my sister was able to take some vacation days to meet me there! After a dash to the airport after a class, I landed in Bangkok just after midnight. My sister had already gotten to the hotel and crashed after three flights and over 24 hours of travel. In the morning we had to go back to the airport to head up to Chiang Mai.

One of the best things about Thailand for tourists is how inexpensive it is. US Dollars go a long way in Thailand. The hotel we stayed at in Chiang Mai came to about $30 a night, and that includes breakfast in the morning. The room was lovely, the food was delicious and it was in a pretty nice location.

We spent the first and second days exploring the city and visiting markets. On the first day we wandered around the area close to the hotel, and stopped for some delicious smoothies. We relaxed in the pool and hit the Sunday Night market, where I purchased some fun trinkets. I know you’re expected to haggle but everything cost so little I felt bad trying to get it for cheaper. I picked up some pashminas, pocket watches, bracelets, and dinner for 30 USD.

On the second day we explored a temple in the city where the market had been the night before, and then we got a taxi up the mountain to see the famous temple up there. It’s worth getting the private taxi if you have the money simply because then you don’t have to wait until the car fills up. The driver took us up and gave us 90 minutes to explore before he would take us back to the city. The view and the temple were both gorgeous to behold.

The third day of our vacation was our entire reason for going to Chiang Mai. Elephants! After some research, my sister chose the Elephant Nature Park as we wanted to go somewhere reputable and ethical.

I highly recommend Elephant Nature Park if you want to spend time with elephants in Thailand. They have rescued many elephants from abusive situations, and their goal is to change the tourism industry in Thailand by spreading awareness about the abusive practices of the riding, trekking, and circus industries. You should never ride an elephant. It sounds like a fun thing, but the elephants have been bound and beaten into submission in order to make it even a possibility. The animal is not enjoying the experience, and many of them end up with back injuries later in life from excessive riding.

They picked us up from our hotel and drove us and others on the tour up to the park, showing us a video about the facility, as well as how and why they got started. We were sad learning about how the elephants had been abused, but the majority of the day was a very positive experience. We got to give the elephants a tasty snack (bananas) and meet the ones that are friendly to people. They walk around freely around the property and spend their days with their friends. The staff served us a delicious (and entirely vegetarian) lunch, and since the rain finally stopped we got to bathe the elephants in the nearby river.

For more information on the Elephant Nature Park, please visit their website: http://www.elephantnaturepark.org

After our experience with the elephants we traveled from Chiang Mai to the island of Koh Samui, where we stayed at the lovely Prana Resorts. It’s a gorgeous hotel with a wonderful staff that was very helpful in getting us where we needed to go. We spent a day travelling to different islands on a tour that included kayaking and snorkeling.

There are some places on Earth that just feel like they are a privilege to be able to see with the naked eye. You can see pictures of them, but nothing compares to the majesty of being in their presence. The Anthong Marine Park is one of those places. If you have a chance to visit and swim in the waters, do it! We capped off that day by attending the resort barbeque on the beach and enjoying a fire show. I’d never tried sweet and sour sauce with sea bass before but it was delicious! The performers weren’t half bad either.

We went to another beach the next day and just enjoyed the sun and walking around the island. We had lunch at a local restaurant and enjoyed another popular tourist attraction in the area. The Grandma and Grandpa rocks that are shaped like genitals. We spent the evening at the night market where I found a nice purse and my sister found some awesome gifts for a friend. We ate some Thai food on the beach again and then I convinced my sister to stop at the Irish pub I found for some Magners’ Cider and an snack after going around to the vendors again.

Our luck turned on our last day as it began to rain. Considering it was the end of the rainy season, I would say we got lucky it only really rained twice (once during elephant day). So, we tried going to the beach, but the rain brought us back to the resort where we had some lunch and then my sister went to get a massage and spa treatment. I’m one of the few people on earth who really doesn’t enjoy massage so I enjoyed a nap in the room and a swim at the resort pool before we went for dinner at the rooftop terrace restaurant.

Our last day we spent the morning exploring the Big Buddha of Koh Samui before going back to the resort to pack our bags and go to the airport. Our flight was slightly delayed which meant we had to hang out at the Koh Samui airport for awhile, but we still made good time to get back to Bangkok. My flight to Beijing was at 2am, and my sister’s first flight of 3 back to the states was around 7am so we went to a hotel in Bangkok near the hotel. It was sad when I had to say goodbye, but all good vacations must end sometime. We all go back to our houses and find out that our lonely cats decided to tear the place apart in revenge while we were gone.

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