Chiang Mai, Thailand + parents in Penang.

5 days off for Diwali + my parents visiting the island called for a family holiday with surrogate children Alice and Tom. We decided on Chiang Mai, a place I had visited before but can’t remember much about.

Chiang Mai is quiet, calm and clean for an Asian city. On the Saturday we wandered about the old town and stumbled across various temples. We found a coffee shop with a waterwheel and a nice waiter called Woody. He struggled to understand us and misunderstood a question about how the waterwheel worked as us asking him to switch it off. The toilets were the best bathrooms we had ever visited, they smelt like spearmint and had patterned hand towels. This was a highlight.

The temples are all so ornate and beautiful to look at and wander round. The slightly creepy statues of child monks started a conversation about who could and would become a Thai monk. Turns out any man can be a Thai monk and most people choose to become one for a minimum period of 2 days (?!) at some point in their lives. There are 200 rules to being a monk. Being a monk at some point makes you more desirable for marriage because you are seen as modest, honest and trustworthy.

Whilst we were at the temples my mum received a phone call from my uncle. It was 4.30am in the UK. We knew that this probably meant that my grandma had passed away, so this was a strange and surreal moment. My parents decided to go back to the hotel to get wifi and Alice, Tom and I went to check out the thrift stores. ยฃ2 shirts and Converse! We then met back up in Good souls vegan restaurant (really great salads, slightly bland cakes) and we spoke to home about my grandma. It’s very sad that my grandma has passed away but I’m really grateful that we were on holiday with friends to distract us from that. I found some photos a couple of days later that I’ll add in as a memorial to her.

That evening we had a toast to my Grandma and went out for a nice meal and to explore the night market. We asked for wine glasses for our room which caused much confusion. “Manuel” as Mike named him struggled to cope with such an off the wall request.

The night market is a very polite and calm affair in comparison to many other markets I’ve been to, especially in Asia! We had a great meal at a random find and it was another fun and happy evening.

The following day we went to Elephant Rescue Park, which I prebooked before we arrived. I did a lot of research into the park because none of us wanted to feel that we were paying money into an unethical, cruel place where elephants were mistreated. Unfortunately many of these parks are like that. Elephant Rescue Park thankfully was not. They have 7 elephants that they have rescued from logging, circuses and riding camps. On the journey there we were mildly amused, mildly annoyed by Chaaaaaang our guide. He was very talkative, hard to follow and slightly annoyed by our lack of understanding or willingness to put our hands up after every question “Put your hand up if you want to see elephants”…Obviously Chang that’s why we are here. On and on it went, he even made a comment about people looking out of the window instead of at him. Sorry Chang for wanting to admire the beautiful Thai countryside.

When we arrived we got changed into hilarious, unflattering red outfits. A different guy gave us a talk about the history of the elephants, including a very sad tale about one of their elephants who had sadly died. The elephant had been rescued with extensive injuries to its feet as a result of being overworked and mistreated. It was clear how much the owner and employees of the park love the elephants. It made me very emotional and I had to put my sunglasses on to hide a tear.

Finally we were allowed to feed the elephants, then we walked with them about 1km to a lake where we bathed them. It was a wonderful experience as the elephants were free to walk around with only voice commands used to control them. They were all very well behaved, loving and obviously had no objection to any of the activities. Alice bonded with the largest female elephant whilst they were hanging out in the lake.

We made a lot of jokes about how Alice looked unimpressed in many photos:

She did enjoy it really.

Google Elephant Rescue Park if you want to go here. We were impressed and felt it was a great context to interact with the elephants.

That evening Alice, Tom and I went out to a reggae bar. We thought it’d be a swell idea to order a huge mojito. Tom spent some time trying to identify which Asian country different women came from, and we took a couple of group shots.

When the bar closed at midnight we were enthusiastic for more so we followed the crowd of travellers to a club called “Spicy”. Now I haven’t been in a club for a very long time. It was like being transported back to freshers week. PEOPLE WERE KISSING EACH OTHER IN PUBLIC. Two boys/men tried to talk to me. Aqua “Barbie girl” was playing. It was off the hook. After some time it got a bit too much so we went to 7/11 to buy a ham cheese toastie and some sour cream and onion crisps. Then we took and Tuk Tuk home where we enjoyed the ride thoroughly and shouted random things like “Penang” out of the side of it. It was all the fun to go to a club but I have zero interest in repeating it.

The following morning we went back to the waterwheel place to get breakfast. I woke up feeling very sick and wondered if it was alcohol. We had decided already we wanted to hike so we went to the national park. Take a tuk tuk to the zoo and wander down the path behind it to access the waterfalls. It’s a great place to walk with views of the city and rocks to scramble on. Unfortunately I felt so sick that I was struggling to balance and was not my best self.

Here is me having issues.

It was relatively plastic free and pretty quiet. We saw a few local boys doing some dangerous sliding into the waterfall. They were doing it for attention we think. We wondered why they were not at school. When we returned back to the town I began throwing up. This continued into the night and so I missed the final meal. Alice and Tom returned with bacardi breezers (night cap) but I was still too sick. It was gross.

The next morning we reluctantly returned to Penang and complained about returning for most of the day. Chiang Mai was a lovely vacation and it was full of laughing. Despite sadness about my grandma I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Thank you to my family and Penang family for being the best company. ๐Ÿ’›

For the past 12 days my parents have been here in Penang. It has been really great to spend positive time here again together after a very traumatic year. Of course we still talked about it a lot, but I and my friends here are in are much better place than we were when my mum was here in Jan and Feb.

Here are some Penang photos:

We also found a new place to explore, Sungai Sedim. It has a treetop walk, white water rafting, camping and hiking. It’s always great to find new local places for days out!

Around 1 hour 15 from Penang and a great find.

5 weeks today and it will be UK Christmas holiday time. Cannot wait to see the rest of my family and friends ๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’› Thanks fam for a brilliant time again in Penang. Miss you already.

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