After our short but great visit to Luang Prabang, it was time to go back where it all started: Thailand. It certainly (zweifellos/definitiv) was a happy feeling to go back to a country we both enjoyed so much.
We took a flight at 13:15 on Sunday 19th February to Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. From there, we hopped on one of the – famous (berühmt) and beloved (geliebt) by tourists – songthaews to go to our accommodation for the following 4 nights: Green Sleep Hostel, right in the centre of the old city.
It didn’t take long until we had our first typically Thai experience and it felt like they were warmly (herzlich) welcoming us back (willkommen heißen) to their country. The driver had asked us where we wanted to go and we showed him on Google Maps. Just like any other Thai tuk-tuk, driver he had no idea where we wanted to go, plus he couldn’t read the map (Karte)! We tried to tell him to drop us off (rauslassen/absetzen) at any nearby place but he didn’t recognise (erkennen) any of the names we gave him. It was then that he remembered (erinnern) that he had a map in Thai. We showed him again where we wanted to go but he still had no idea what we were talking about. We all couldn’t help but laugh (lachen). Got to love the Thais. We eventually (letztendlich) managed to agree (vereinbaren/einig warden) on a place where he’d drop us off and all was good. It felt good to be back.
It so happened that each Sunday night there is a huge market that runs through the main street (Hauptstraße) of Chiang Mai from east to west. What a coincidence (Zufall). We walked through the busy market that also stretches out (ausdehnen) into the smaller adjoining (angrenzend) streets, looking at local handmade goods, souvenirs of all sorts, amazing food and local performers. We both agreed, this was one of the best markets we’ve been to throughout our whole trip.
After a delicious dinner (corn on the cob for me!), plus fruit shakes (I had an amazing strawberry shake) and cakes for dinner – all for under a tenner – we went back to our hostel satisfied (zufrieden) and very pleased (froh).
The next day we only had one thing on our to-do-list: temples.
We have read on several blogs about a thing called temple fatigue (Tempelmüdigkeit). Just like people get travel fatigue (Reisemüdigkeit) after about three months, you can also get temple fatigue. Throughout your trip you spend hour after hour looking around various (unterschiedlich) temples; at the beginning very enthusiastic, but the enthusiasm decreases (fallen/zurückgehen) with every single one. You simply get templed out (ausgetempelt). I mean how many temples can one person look at?! You need to be extremely weirdly passionate not to lose motivation (Man muss schon ne extrem komische Vorliebe für Tempel haben, um die Motivation nicht zu verlieren). It’s a real shame though, I think (Echo ein Jammer, wie ich finde).
Both of us were already well past that stage (Wir bride haven schon längst dieses Stadium überschritten), but we were determined (entschlossen) not to let this be any obstacle (Hindernis) to our plans. We certainly (gewiss) didn’t want to miss out (verpassen) on anything just because we couldn’t be bothered (aufrappeln).
The first temple on our list that day was Wat Phra Singh. Named after the Buddha statue Phra Buddha Sihing, Wat Phra Singh is a very important temple for the people of Chiang Mai. Supposedly (Angeblich), the head of the statue was stolen in 1922 and therefore the possibility (Möglichkeit) of the statue being a copy still remains. Nonetheless (Nichtsdestotrotz), every year during a festival, the statue is carried through the streets of Chiang Mai for people to praise (anpreisen) it in a religious procession (Umzug) by sprinkling (spritzen) water over it.
The next temple was Wat Chedi Luang, which features a Lanna-style chedi. Sadly, the building was half destroyed (zertsört) in a 16th century earthquake (Erdbeben) but what is left certainly hints (andeuten) to how big and great this building originally used to be. We were definitely amazed at the size of Wat Chedi Luang and it was because of the huge elephant statues that we actually found ourselves being mildly excited (ein bisschen begeistert) about what we were looking at!
Our next stop was the Three Kings monument, which features King Mangrai of Lanna, King Ngam Muang of Phayao and King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai. (To clarify: The Lanna is a northern state, which Chiang Mai is located in, the Lanna Kingdom reigned between the 13th and 18th century.) These three kings were leaders of regional groups in the area and they worked together to form Chiang Mai city.
After, we went to the final temple for the day: Wat Chian Man. Wat Chian Man was established (gegründet) by one of Chiang Mai’s founders, Phaya Mangrai, sometime around 1296, which makes it Chaing Mai’s oldest temple. It was definitely an interesting temple to look at, but again, it didn’t lead to too much of excitement on our side.
Last, we went to the Puak Gate and Hua Lin Corner, which are remnants (Überreste) of the wall that once used to run around the entire Old City of Chiang Mai.
In the evening we went for some local food at the food market located near the gate.
The next morning we rented a motorbike and went to Wat Phathat Doi Suthep, a temple located on the Doi Suthep mountain just outside the city. Though not our favourite one, Wat Phathat Doi Suthep featured impressive (beeindruckend) and amazingly detailed golden statues and stupas, as well as many Buddha statues.
Hand-in-hand with our temple fatigue comes an intolerance towards certain types of tourists (Intoleranz gegenüber bestimmten Touristentypen). There are the selfie-taking tourists, the videotaping tourists, the ones that can’t read signs and so many more. A visit to a temple is ALWAYS accompanied (begleitet) by these groups of tourists. Normally we’d just ignore (ignorieren) them, but we’ve come to the point where we are very annoyed (genervt) and stressed out (gestresst) by the stupidity (Dummheit) of some fellow travellers. You see them climbing (raufklettern) relics (Reliquien) in the hunt (Jagd) for the best selfie spot – don’t they realise (realisieren) where they are?! This temple is hundreds of years old and all they can think of is finding the best spot and lighting (Licht) for them to take the perfect picture and then move on. Without a look back (Ohne einen Blick zurückzuwerfen), they don’t even inform themselves about what they’re actually taking a picture with (informieren sich nicht nicht einmal, mit was sie gerade ein Foto machen).
Inside a little temple there was a sign saying “Please be quiet and sit down”. Next thing you know, a group of organised package tourists enters, having a loud conversation about what their kids are doing at home, standing in the entrance (Eingang) disturbing (stören) anybody from having a bit of privacy (Privatsphäre) while praying (beten).
One thing that shocked (schockieren) us most on that day was one guy that took a video of a monk (Mönch) giving a blessing (segnen) to two people in front of him. You usually get the people that take close up pictures of people praying (beten), interrupting (stören/unterbrechen) their intimate moment (intimer Moment) but this guy took it to another level. Whilst the locals were kneeling (knien), the guy placed his GoPro right in the face of the monk (Mönch), taking a close up video and therefore (somit) destroying (zerstören) a highly religious and very important moment for the two praying Thais. Just thinking about it now makes me so angry. He destroyed something that is really important for the Thai’s spiritual life and he didn’t even care (kümmert such nicht drum/interessiert ihn nicht). All that matters (Alles was zählt) is taking the perfect video to put on Instagram for some likes. #culture #temple #thailand #holiday #adventure #blessed. #fuckoff (#verpissdich)!!!
Next thing were the bells (Glocken) outside. Probably hundreds of years old, with a special meaning to the residing (befindliche) monks. There are several (mehrere) signs saying not to ring (läuten) them, next thing you see is a mother with her child walking around ringing every single one (jede einzelne) of them. The sad thing is, that she’s not just setting a bad example (schlechtes Beispiel) for any other traveller, but she’s also setting a bad example for her own child, who then of course followed (folgen) his mother’s example. Can’t people read (lesen)?! Or do they simply not care?
Rather frustrated (frustriert) at people, we left the temple, hopped on our moped and drove to the top of the mountain, where we found a viewpoint with spectacular (spektakulär) views (Aussicht) of the area around. And because the road up was narrow (schmal) and winding (kurvenreich) there were no buses meaning the place was nearly deserted (verlassen)! Yay!
We then moved on to the Grand Canyon. If you now imagine impressive sights like the real Grand Canyon, you’re wrong. Chiang Mai’s Grand Canyon is simply an old quarry (Steinbruch) that resembles (ähneln) a canyon of sorts. Regardless (Trotzdem), this place was quite picturesque. After the quarry was abandoned (verlassen) for a few years, it filled up with rainwater (Regenwasser), now being 40m deep, and exactly this is what makes the Grand Canyon so special. For an entrance fee of 150 baht each, you can chill out on one of the sunloungers (Sonnenliegen), have a swim, take out a canoe, take out a pedalo (Tretboot) or chill out in one of the inflatable (aufblasbar) doughnuts. We spent the rest of our day enjoying the beautiful hot weather, drifting (treiben) along the water on the doughnuts and working on our tan on the sunloungers. One of the most unique (einzigartig) places we’ve ever sunbathed, for sure.
In the evening we went to the Night Bazaar. Located just outside the Old City, the Night Bazaar features food from all over the world. We decided to go with ‘bao baps’ which were like small burgers but the buns were made of bao-style fluffy white bread (for anyone unfamiliar with bao – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baozi). Tom had BBQ pork and I had chicken and they were absolutely delicious (köstlich)!
The following day was a day we were both looking forward to for weeks. One major activity in Chaing Mai are the many elephant sanctuaries. More than 3000 rescue elephants (gerettete Elefanten) live around the area surrounding Chiang Mai and we were determined (entschlossen) not to miss out on visiting these majestic creatures (majestätische Kreaturen).
We had spent hours and hours making sure we found an ethical sanctuary where they treat the elephants well, which of course includes NO RIDING. We decided to go for a small one called Happy Elephant Home! We were both really excited (aufgeregt/sich auf etw freuen) but little did we know that this was going to be one of the best days of our entire trip.
Happy Elephant Home have just six elephants; four adult rescue elephants – Molo, Coffee, Liam and Tongbay – and two baby elephants – Milo (nine months) and Mina (two years). The four adult elephants were all previously (früher) exploited (ausgenutzt) for trekking, shows and performing (vorführen) tricks, before they were saved (gerettet) and freed (befreit) from the cruel tortures (grausame Qualen/Folter) they had to go through to entertain (unterhalten/amüsieren) humans (Menschen).
We got picked up at 9am and after we picked up a few more people, we were off on our journey to the Happy Elephant Home, located about 1 1/2h outside the city.
After we arrived we dressed up in traditional Karen clothes and were introduced (vorgestellt) to the camp. Our guide told us about the history (Geschichte) of some of the elephants and what they do to now take proper care (richtige Pflege/Behandlung) of them. Then we proceeded (fortfahren) to cut sugarcane (Zuckerrohr), which we would feed (füttern) the elephants. We all had a go (Jeder kam an die Reihe) and filled up (füllen) our bags (Taschen) with the sugarcane, as well as a lot of bananas. Tom and me were very ambitious (ehrgeizig) and packed (einpacken) as much as we were possibly able to carry (so viel wie wir in der Lage waren zu tragen).
Fully packed (Bis sum Rand vollgepackt), we were finally allowed to go see the elephants. And apparently (offenbar) they have already been waiting for us hungry for food.
The elephants usually stay in 2 groups; Molo, Coffee and Milo – which would be the first group we’d feed – and Liam, Tongbay and Mina.
As we walked into their enclosure (Anlage), they were already trotting towards us (heraneilen), reaching out (ausstrecken) with their massive trunks (Rüssel) towards our bags. Cheeky (freche) animals; they know exactly that it’s feeding time and what delicacies (Delikatessen) visitors (Besucher) have in their bags. They’re also very picky (wählerisch). They prefer (bevorzugen) bananas to sugarcane and sometimes they would drop (fallen lassen) any sugarcane you’d hand (reichen) them, well knowing (wohl wissend), that you still have bananas left in your bag.
After what felt like minutes but was actually about 40 minutes, we moved on to the second group to also treat (verwöhnen) them to some hand-cut (“handgeschnitzt”) sugarcane. Turned out they were just as picky (wählerisch). They proceeded (fortsetzen) to drop (fallenlassen) all the sugarcane I cut with love (mit Liebe geschnitten), reaching out (ausstrecken) for the few (wenige) bananas I had left. I told (gesagt) them that they had to eat the sugarcane first to then be treated (verwöhnen) to some banana dessert, but they just wouldn’t listen (see woollen enface nicht auf much hören)! Plus my willpower (Willensstärke) wasn’t strong (stark) enough – I simply couldn’t resist (ich konnte einfach nicht widersetehen).
After we all had empty bags, slobbery (versabberte) hands and feet, it was bathing time (Badezeit). We went back to Molo and co and gave the other three elephants the time they needed to make their way to the dirt pit (Dreckloch) that was waiting for them (auf sie warten). And then the party began. We were all lined up (in einer Reihe stehen) at a huge hole full of mud and water (großes Loch, gefüllt mit Match und Wasser) and the elephants jumped in (reinspringen), splashing (spritzen) mud (Matsch) everywhere. We watched them as they got dirty (dreckig) and after they decided (beschließen) they had enough (genug), they got out and started rubbing off (abrubbeln) the mud on a tree.
For us it was time to have some food of our own. The staff had prepared (vorbereitet) a table full of food for lunch. Massaman Curry, Fried Rice, Steamed Rice, different sorts of vegetables and much more. So good!
After lunch a Canadian girl, who’s name I unfortunately (leider) have forgotten (vergessen), joined us. She had been volunteering (Freiwilligenarbeit leisten) at Happy Elephant Home for over a month and she had so many interesting things to teach (unterrichten) us about elephants. I sadly can’t remember it all, but here are a few things:
– Elephants only sweat (schwitzen) through their toes (Zehen) and as that – of course (natürlich) – is not enough too keep them cool (kalt) enough, they have to take several (mehrere) baths throughout a day as well as throwing (werfen) lots (eine Menge) of dirt (Dreck) over their backs (Rücken)
– Elephants spend 20 hours a day eating and they have to eat about 10% of their own bodyweight (Körpergewicht) per day!
– You can see if an elephant is healthy (Gesund) through their poo (Kacke). One dropping (Haufen/Kugel/Ball) is not enough and if they’re too small, that’s not good. They should be big and at least about 3.
– Elephants only have four teeth (Zähne).
After we were all full of delicious food, we walked the elephants to the river, where they would have a wash (Bad). On the way we fed them pumpkins (Kürbisse). The baby elephants can’t just put them in their mouths, as their jaws (Kiefer) and teeth (Zähne) aren’t strong (stark) enough. They come up (sich etw einfallen lassen) with clever ideas (schlaue Ideen) to break (zerbrechen) them into smaller bits (kleinere Stücke) though. For example, they would cautiously (vorsichtig) step on (drauftreten) them, to break them into smaller, edible (essbar) pieces. Smart (schlau) animals!
After that tasty (lecker) meal, we continued walking towards the river. As we were approaching (nähern), we saw a group of elephants already (bereits) bathing (baden) in the water. The river is shared (teilen) by several sanctuaries in the area and the Canadian girl explained (erklären), that one group of elephants respects (respektieren) the other. Whilst (Während) one group is still (noch) bathing, the other one would wait (warren) for them to finish (fertig/beenden), before they would have a wash for their own. Also, the elephants are never forced (zwingen) into the water. Whenever (wann auch immer) they’re ready (bereit), they would move into the water by themselves. We gave them a little time for their own and then joined them, splashing (bespritzen) them with water, rubbing (einreiben) dirt (Dreck) on them, just to wash it off (abwaschen) again. We gave them a good scrub (schrubben). Such fun!
I had a nice chat (Unterhaltung) to the Canadian girl about her time at the sanctuary. She told me that each elephant has their own person that looks after them. They’re all Burmese and in the first two weeks she would spend all day with them. They don’t speak any English, but she speaks a bit of Burmese and so she learned a lot about elephants and how the sanctuary is run. Seeing that she has been there for over a month and has spent every day in the first few weeks with the guys looking after the elephants, I had an even better feeling about having chosen (gewählt) the right sanctuary. You always hear horror stories about sanctuaries treating (behandeln) their elephants horribly behind the scenes (hinter den Kulissen), but seeing that if she had seen anything like this, she wouldn’t have stayed for so long. All in all, we were more than happy!
After our bath in the river, we all went back again and were treated (verwöhnt) to some delicious cookies (Kekse), before we had to get back into the bus, that brought us back to our accommodation. What an excellent day!
The following day we booked ourselves on a bus to go further north to Pai.