Our first stop in Thailand was Siam Reap, Cambodia. Makes sense, right? We knew we wanted to check out Angkor Wat but there wasn't much more we wanted in Cambodia so we booked a private car to take us. We flew into Bangkok and checked into our hotel. We took a short nap as the driver was coming to pick us up at 3am to make to the six hour drive to Siam Reap. The driver from Cambodia Travel Trails was on time and we quickly passed out in the comfy fan to the border.
We arrived at the border and was met by the man who was going to walk us across the border to meet up with our Cambodia driver. He escorted us into Cambodia and introduced us to our driver. While waited in a much needed air condition car as he ran into immigration with our passports along with some cash to pay the police to let us through. (Legit? Maybe?) I am pretty sure my mind went through every possible horrible scenario about what was really happening. Fifteen minutes later he was back by our side with our passports and Cambodia visas. Thank goodness.
After a few more hours we arrived in Siam Reap, grabbed our tour guide, and headed to the entrance of Angkor Wat.
After an extremely long day starting at 3am we finally made it back to our hotel at 11pm. We were beat but very glad we took the trip on our first day in Bangkok.
We only had a short time in Bangkok so we decided to take a midnight food tour. We arrived at the meeting point where we were assigned a Tuk Tuk for the night. A tuk tuk is basically a three wheeled small open cab. It can hold two or three passengers (plus the driver) and zip in and out of traffic. It is also really cheap to get across town if you don't mind the wind blown look. Our first stop was a local family restaurant where we tried four dishes.
We were then driven across town to try some street food. We stopped at a street cart and tried the popular dish of mango with rice. Simple but so good. Next to the mango cart was a fresh coconut vendor. The vendor quickly "skinned" the coconut and stuck a straw in it. Refreshing on the super hot night.
We were then taken to another local family restaurant where we didn't go through the front door. We were led down the alley on the side of the building to the back alley where the cooks were outside on make shift fire stations making dinner orders. Yes, cooking in the alley and not in an actual kitchen. Mass chaos but it seemed to work. One of the cooks showed us how he made the big noodle dish (like drunken noodles) that were were about to enjoy.
We then jetted off to the flower market to grab some lotus flowers for our midnight temple visit. The lotus flowers were not fully bloomed so we were taught how to fold the flower. If you have seen the video you know Tim took credit for the one I folded while I tried to fix his. As we walked over to the temple we stopped to try some mango steins. This is ugly fruit with a white fruit inside. Probably my new favorite. We also stopped for some baby pineapple. By far the sweetest pineapple ever made. It tasted like pure sugar.
When we approached the temple it was lit up but there wasn't a single person inside. we had the whole place to our self. It was gorgeous and peaceful. We made a wish and left our lotus flowers behind.
Next stop was the hidden rooftop bar. We climbed a bunch of flights of stairs and were quickly greeted with awesome views across the river. Our last stop on the tour was the famous Thipsamai Pad Thai. At midnight there was a line out to the street. Out front was a few men manning pans to make the Pad Thai right there on the sidewalk. So we got a show while we waited for our table. The line moved quickly and we paid the extra money to sit inside with the air conditioner (worth every penny). I would like to say it was the best Pad Thai I have ever had but sadly I was so full from all the other stops I was only able to eat a bite or two. The tour was worth every penny and a great way to eat local and see the city.
I was most excited for Chiang Mai and the excursion I had booked at the Elephant Nature Park. I had done a ton of research about where to experience elephants up close but in an ethical manner. The Elephant Nature Park had been in existence for a number of years. They rescue elephants that are older or injured and no longer useful to "circus" type activities and not wanted by the owners. They come to the Nature park where they live out there days without whips, chains, no riding, no painting with their trunks, or other abuse. They just live freely at the camp. You can visit the park and feed the animals or volunteer at the camp and spend more time with the elephants.
We noticed they had a more private tour (Elephant Freedom Walk) at the owners on residence. She has four elephants that were rescued and belong to her. We got to spend the day with them. Feeding them buckets of bananas and cucumbers, following them around on their daily walk, rubbing mud on them in the muddy pool, (trying to stay out of their way), and finally following them down to the river where we helped them wash the mud off them. Fair warning they book up about a month in advance.
(Disclaimer: there is a growing rise in tourist wanting to support ethical treatment of elephants so many vendors claim to be just that in order to continue making money. Proper research needs to be done before booking anything. I used tripadvisor, blogs, and news articles to make an informed decision.)
While in Chiang Mai we stayed at a great hotel called V Lodge. The owner Sky was amazing. I swear he was there 24 hours a day. He booked a Moi Thai fight night and a cooking class for us. We told him what we wanted he booked it. Transport and everything. We were picked up in pickup truck with benches in the back, normal in town, and rushed over to the other side of town. We were given VIP seats up a the top of the arena. There were 8 different fights ranging from 7 years old to adult. I have to say the young kids fights were more exciting then the adults. Tim and I took "bets" on who would win and cheered along with everyone else. Entertaining night for sure.
Our last day in Chiang Mai we braved the heat and booked a cooking class at Siam Rice Thai Cookery. This was bar far my most favorite cooking class we have done so far. We were picked up in that same type of pick up truck and whisked off to the market to learn about the vegetables and herbs used in thai cooking.
The class had only four of us and the best part was that we all were able to make the dishes we wanted. Each type of dish; soup, rice, curry, and noodle, all had the same basic steps just different ingredients.
I made hot and creamy soup, pad thai, curry (Northern Style Tomato Sauce), chicken cashew, and bananas in coconut cream. Tim made a whole different set of dishes. We were also given a cook book with every recipe the class made (20 different recipes) I can't wait to make the curry dish again!
One afternoon I decided to walk the 1 mile by 1 mile town square. I spent a few hours roaming around trying to see how many of the 150 plus temples that are in Chiang Mai. I think I found a dozen of them. Save a few for the next trip I guess.
I ended the day with a stop in one of the many spas in town. Massages (thai, foot, neck....), manicures, and pedicures are insanely cheap. I'm not a big massage person but I do love a pedicure. So I popped into one of the spas and got myself a $5 pedicure. Perfect way to end the week in Chiang Mai.
To see more of our pictures form Thailand and Cambodia check out the galleries page!