Friday, 6 November 2015

Episode 43 Java and Thailand

Lorelei’s Sailing Adventures

Normally our blog is all about our “sailing” adventures.
This blog post and the next one are a little different as there is no sailing.
So what’s it all about you might ask?

Let’s just say this: –
2 blog posts, 5 Countries, 12 Flights, 50 Days, 12 500 photos…..
At the end of Episode 42 our Indonesian visa had almost expired, we were making arrangements to leave and our Bali experience was finished.
Or so we thought…….

 Our location for this Episode of the Blog

Our route for this Episode of the Blog.

After leaving the Gili Islands (end of Episode 42) we returned to Bali to see our agent Ruth, get all our paperwork in order and prepare for leaving Bali & Indonesia.
Whilst our visa did not expire for a week, we left a few days as a fudge factor in case of any unforeseen dramas.
Our meeting with Ruth went very smoothly and we had all our affairs in order in just 36 hours. Perfect!


With a few days left we talked about what to do and the one thing we really wanted to do but could not, was dive in northern Bali at the areas of Tulamben and Seraya.

We had tried in Episode 42 but the swell and wind was from the north making it very uncomfortable on Lorelei.
It was still from the north and only light but with beautiful days.
Additionally all the dives can be done by walking in off the beach.
Whilst there are many dive resorts in the area, the bulk of the divers come from the dozens of dive companies in Bali’s southern tourist area.
They have buses that take divers on the daily pilgrimage up north.
With the most popular dive being the USAT Liberty Shipwreck
(A WW2 US Supply Ship), 100’s of divers descend on it daily between 10am and 3pm.
However we could not justify the price and the crowds were a turn off.

So we came up with an idea and rang our Bali Tour Guide friend Wayan (who we did tours with in Episode 41 & 42) to see if he could take us up to the dive sites.
Sure enough he was more than happy to help and we had pencilled in 3 days of diving starting the following day.

The trip can take up to 3 hours each way during peak hour traffic so we decided on a 5am start each day which missed the traffic (and diving crowds) and meant for a 2hr 15min trip instead.
It’s a fantastic road trip with a bit of everything - built up areas, coastal roads with ocean views & a sunrise, winding roads through mountain ranges with spectacular views, small villages and finally Mount Agung overlooking the Tulamben coastline.

The first dive each day was the Liberty shipwreck.

The place is so well set up for divers with a large car park, wash-down areas for you and your gear, food & cafés and even porters to carry your scuba gear down to the water’s edge.

The beach is volcanic rock (from Mount Agung) but the sand is black sand.
The wreck is sitting on the black sand making it not only a sensational wreck dive but also a terrific macro dive as well.

So each morning we dived the wreck at 8am with Paul shooting wide angle and Lisa shooting 60mm macro.
We had sensational viz and low crowds making for some terrific photo opportunities.


For the first afternoon’s dive we dived the Coral Garden macro site just near the wreck.

Across the road from the site is the Tulamben Wreck Divers (TWD) Resort.
They were super nice people and would fill our tanks each day for just $3.50 for air or $5.00 for Nitrox.

We ate at the local Mexican Restaurant while they filled our tanks.

The next day we did the wreck again in the morning.

After talking to the dive guides at TWD, they suggested we try a dive called Seraya Secret which is the premier muck/macro site in the area.
It also has a similar beachside set-up for divers as the wreck, just on a smaller scale.

It was a sensational dive with lots of interesting critters.
This time Lisa went 60mm and Paul went 90mm super macro.

Can you see what this is? An Orang-Utan Crab.

For day 2 we were a lot more organised and finished an hour earlier than the day before.
So we decided on lunch at a local place on the way home that was a lot cheaper, with bigger meals and a fantastic view.

As we were coming home in the daylight we were able to stop at a lot of the lookouts and monuments so we could take some photos.

We stopped at one set of traffic lights on the way home and watched a large flock of ducks crossing the road with their owner.

The third day was a repeat of the second day with the same dives and same lunch stop, but this time with a different route home so we could stop in Sanur.

The morning dive produced some fantastic viz again and only a few other divers on the wreck.

The afternoon dive was good but with the spring tides there was a bit of current.
Bad for the little tiny critters that don’t like current but great for larger critters.
Lisa found 2 leaf fish in the shallows.

We were not sure if these Cuttlefish were mating or fighting....

The best photo bomb of the day award goes to the Eel behind the Stone Fish.

The daily car trip meant 5 hours driving each day and a few terrible situations.
On the first morning we arrived at the scene of a terrible fatal accident.
A car had clipped a motorbike with a couple riding.
The bike went down and the 2 people were run over by a truck behind them. It was a terrible sight and one that was etched into our minds.

On the third day we saw a dog get run over by a van in front of us in the mountain areas. The sight and sound of the dog’s cries was terrible.

Overall though it was a sensational 3 days and finally at the 11th hour we had managed to put a tick in the last box of Bali things to see and do.
We admit that we had serious doubts as to the quality of the diving in NE Bali. We would urge anyone coming to Bali who is a diver to consider adding a couple of days in this area to your itinerary. You won’t be disappointed.

Once again we can highly recommend Wayan for doing tours if you ever come to Bali.
It’s not like booking with the larger businesses where you just get a staff member in one of the many company cars.
It’s his car, his business, he speaks perfect English, knows all the islands history, culture and religion and he works alone to support his family.
After doing 8 full days with him, we are now officially his No.1 customer.

So that was it… Bye Bye Bali.
We set sail and took Lorelei to a protected location where we could put her safely in storage while we moved onto the next phase of our adventure.

Surabaya City, Java

 October 21st was our 20th wedding anniversary.
It was our 5th wedding anniversary since we left to go sailing and we were treating ourselves to something special – well that WAS the plan…..

To be honest we hadn’t had a good track record of fantastic wedding anniversaries since going sailing as it is around the transition time when we are sailing between seasons, countries and hemispheres.
We have had 3 of them whilst on long passages and 2 in terrible weather.

For this our special 20th anniversary, we had booked a 4 day private river tour in the Tanjung Putting National Park in Kalimantan, Borneo to do a jungle tour and see the Orang-Utans.
It was the one thing on the top of the list for Lisa to do in Borneo.

To get there was going to require 2 flights.
The first was to Surabaya (the second largest city in Indonesia) on the Island of Java, with a quick overnight stop and then onto Borneo from Surabaya the next morning.
On the first flight we could smell smoke and thought it was people smoking
However when we arrived in Surabaya, the visibility was terrible due to the smoke from the fires raging through Borneo and Central Java.
We stayed in a hotel overnight at the Airport.
It had a great view over the airport and the terminal with a fountain in the middle.

We woke at 4am on our anniversary morning to get our 6am flight to Borneo.
At 7am the flight was cancelled due to the dense smoke at the destination.
From there it turned into a comedy show for the next 36 hours!
Additionally we were the only westerners in the entire domestic airport section which made for interesting times in the predominately non English speaking community.

We tried a second airline that had flights still running however seats were filling quickly and we had to make a quick decision.
So we flashed cash to the airline office staff and were quickly booked in.
At the same time we booked return tickets to ensure we weren’t stuck there.
The flight was due to leave at 9:30am but was delayed indefinitely.
Fortunately they hadn’t made up our room at the hotel so we went back in.
At 2pm we were given the go ahead to check in.
It was pandemonium with only one check in counter open, clearly no defined queue and 20 people wide at the counter all pushing and shoving to get booked in before everyone else.
It didn’t matter because when we finally arrived at the departure gate, there was no plane!
Eventually the flight was cancelled at 5:30pm due to the smoke.
So it was back to the office with the hordes of angry people to collect our baggage and refunds.
Because everyone had actually checked in, they started refunding people, minus the airport tax.
We didn’t care so much as it was only A$15 for the two of us but it was a big thing for the local people and it became very, very heated.
Fortunately because we paid cash to the staff that morning, they ushered Lisa quietly into the office and simply gave it back and we were out of there quickly before it got too heated.

So we returned to the 2-star Ibis Hotel at the airport but it didn’t have a restaurant, so we had burgers for dinner in the Terminal.
And that was the story of our special 20th wedding anniversary…..!!!!!

The next day we tried again all morning but the same issues as the previous day and by noon we gave up.
We were really disappointed but felt lucky that we have the opportunity to try again early in 2016.

After the Orang-utan trip we were returning to Surabaya anyway for a 2 day stay in a 4-star city hotel, so we contacted them and brought the booking forward a few days.
Once we arrived, we realised once again we were the only westerners.
We were given an upgrade to a top floor suite so we simply booked on an extra 2 days to make it a 4 night stopover.

1 hour after we checked into our room, there was a rally out the front on the main street.
At first it was just on the side of the road but within 90 minutes they had blocked the main road during peak hour traffic.
We were wondering what we had got ourselves into….

We loved the irony of the sign….. the rally was up ahead.

We had views over the city that looked good both during the day and at night.

We spent the next 4 days relaxing, swimming in the pool, watching the Rugby World Cup & Moto GP, shopping and exploring the CBD.

One highlight was breakfast at the hotel.
We have never been one to go out for breakfast so the extensive complimentary breakfast buffet options in the hotel was a real treat.

The staff got to know us pretty well and were very interested in our Indonesian travels.

The Inna SImpang Hotel is opposite the largest mall in Surabaya.
It’s the first real opportunity we have had to buy decent clothes and shoes in a long, long time.
To say the mall is huge is a serious understatement.
The place is enormous and 3 times the size of anything we had seen prior.

We had meals out at many different places from pizza to traditional food.

Whilst we don’t eat fast food (except for dinner on our anniversary…) we did see a confused Hard Rock McCafé.

Surabaya is not a popular place for tourists and has a bad reputation for pick pockets and pretty crime (the worst city in Indonesia for this) so we decided to explore the city but only the safer areas closer to the hotel.
We found some nice parks and monuments.

The most popular monument in the city is The Surabaya Monument.
The monument is a shark and a crocodile entwined together in a battle.
In the local language Sura is a shark and Baya is a Crocodile, hence the city name Sura-Baya.

On the last full day we were watching on TV the amazing
(and controversial) race that was the Moto GP in Malaysia.
With just 5 laps to go we could hear lots of noise and music outside the hotel in the main street.
We looked down to see a huge parade of marching bands assembling.

After the race we grabbed a camera each and headed down to the action.
It turned out to be an annual contest for school marching bands from all over East Java.
There were over 60 bands competing with the winners going onto the national titles in Jakarta.
Whilst some of the younger kids were in it for the fun, some of the older teams took it very seriously.

The teams did a lap around the city CBD with one half of the street closed for the contest.

The traffic issues that it caused in other streets bordered on chaos.

We went down the side streets to watch the teams assembling and practising for their turn to join the parade.

There was even a Frozen Band.

The event went on until just after dark.
We’d had enough by that stage but could still watch the bands coming down the street past our hotel window.

Goodbye Indonesia – Hello Thailand!

On Monday 26th October we left early for the start of a long day of travel which involved 3 flights.
Surabaya to Jakarta
Jakarta to Bangkok
Bangkok to Chiang Mai

All 3 flights were with Air Asia and the day went relatively smoothly.

After the first flight we arrived in Jakarta.
Fortunately our bags were checked through to Bangkok so we only had cabin backpacks.
We had to go from Domestic to International Terminal 3.
So we jumped on the free shuttle bus.
It did a long 30 minute loop to T1, T2 and eventually right back to where we started.
We asked the driver where T3 was and he pointed to the door only 20 meters from the one we initially exited from.
Lucky we weren’t in a hurry and at least we got a look around. Silly us…

Our flight was 30 minutes late leaving Bangkok and we arrived at Chiang Mai at 10:30pm.
Chaing Mai is in the central north of Thailand, well away from the coast and is the second largest city in Thailand behind Bangkok.

By the time we arrived at the Rustic River Hotel in Chiang Mai city it was after 11pm.
We had been upgraded to the suite and crashed into an amazing 4 posted bed for a fantastic night’s sleep.
It had been long day of 17 hours and we were excited to be in Thailand.

The main reason for visiting Thailand was to see our friends David & Maddie Baddiley who are originally from Brisbane but now live in Thailand.
David’s family own the well-established Baddiley’s Marine Engineering Company in Brisbane. We have had Lorelei slipped 3 times there and 2 were refits with the last one being our main engine replacement (which David co-ordinated) prior to going cruising.

David and Paul with our new engine out the front of David’s Workshop

Like us, they have decided to have a break from Australia & work to enjoy some R&R and overseas travel.

David and Maddie (D&M) had arranged for a driver to pick us up from the Rustic River and take us up the mountain to Mae Wang where they live which is about 90 minutes by car.

Out the front for the Rustic River Hotel

However the driver wasn’t due until 10am so we had a bit of time to kill and had a look around the local street markets.
We found lots of stores selling gold jewellery and a great flower market that was the largest in Chiang Mai.

The adjoining building called Warawot Markets had a huge market area and we had a quick look at that too.

Mae Wang, Thailand

The ride up to Mae Wang was fun in the back of a Song Teaw
(Bemo or Taxi Truck) with the twisty mountain roads.

It was so good to catch up with D&M and we had lunch down on the river’s edge while the bamboo rafting guides brought their guests down past us.
Their English friend Gaynor (who also lives close by) joined us for lunch.

On the river’s edge are a series of Elephant camps.
After lunch we went to visit one where a young calf was born
only 4 weeks prior. It was very cute.

D&M’s house is in the quiet village of Mae Mut, surrounded by rice fields.
Walks around the area in the coolness of the afternoon were great.

The weeks before we arrived a flash flood washed away parts of the bridge to their house. It made getting the motor bikes home a bit difficult.

Afternoon drinks on their top deck were great.

Every day we planned an activity which usually involved riding motorbikes.
So for our 10 day stay we hired a bike each.

It was Paul’s first trip to Thailand and he wanted to see a big Budda Statue.
Well what D&M had in mind wasn’t big – it was ginormous!!!!!

We rode 1 hour through tight twisting roads further into the mountains to visit the Big Budda.

Half way up the mountain we stopped to look at a Hydro Electric Power Station. The last time D&M were there it was open and they were able to look inside to see the turbines.
This time Paul and David asked if they could have an up close look and were able to get in and around the turbines.

When we arrived at the statue park, we lit some incense as an offering at one of the lower statues before venturing further up the trail to some smaller Buddas.

Just up from the smaller Buddas was a very big gold Budda that we could just fit in the camera frame.

Paul thought it was awesome but David said it wasn’t the biggest and was about the size of a finger on the big one.
We thought he was joking – but he wasn’t.

We walked over the ridge to see a ginormous Budda being built on the side of the hill.  It has been under construction for many years and is just nearing the top of the shoulders for the torso.

We were able to walk inside it to see the scaffolding and internal size.

We walked around to the side to see a hand and were stunned at the sheer size of it.

We had morning tea on the peak overlooking the valley with fantastic views.

Coming back down the road on the bikes we saw Elephants and rode around some great hair-pin turns.

The small river that runs through Mae Wang is a popular area for Elephant camps.
The elephants purpose has changed over the years from working elephants that were used for things like logging teak and heavy building materials to now catering to tourists.
The most popular thing is to take tourists for rides by strapping a chair onto their backs.
It’s just a personal view but were not too keen on that idea and don’t feel it’s good for the elephants sanity to be doing it day in – day out.

Others feel that way too and one particular resort, The Chai Lai Orchid, in the area has diversified by offering an alternative to the rides.
Instead they offer a unique experience where you can take an elephant down to the river and help it have a bath.
You can swim with them, help scrub them clean, as well as play in the water which they just love.  You can jump on for a quick bare back ride in the water too which is a lot of fun, particularly when they spray water all over themselves - and you!

For us, this was way more appealing and we spent one arvo with a teenage elephant named Doung-Dee doing just that. 
It was a fantastic experience.

Doung-Dee just loved giving Lisa a kiss, “joob joob”, with her trunk.


We took Doung-Dee for small walks up the river in between play sessions and scrubs.

Ironically after being all clean, the first thing she would do was go up to the dry dirt bank and rub dirt all over herself and spray dirt everywhere with her trunk.

All of the time Mook, Doung-Dee’s mahout (care-taker) stayed close by to assist both her and us if required for the entire experience.
He was just great. They obviously love their jobs and the elephants under their care.

David and Maddie’s best Thai friends are a Lada and Aum, a super fun couple who own the Plern Malee Café and Resort which is located on the river only a few klm’s from their house.
They are great people, well-travelled and speak very good English.
We hung out there a lot having breakfast, lunch or afternoon drinks.
The girls are both terrific cooks and the café makes great smoothies.

Lada cooking up a storm in her café kitchen

Just up the road from D&M’s house is a great walk up to a small waterfall that is on private property.
It’s nestled between the fields and can only be accessed by walking up the aqueduct.
It’s virtually unknown by the tour companies and therefore is rarely visited by westerners.

The bridge over the gorge had a walkway over the top of the aqueduct.

The water ran down through a cave that had a pool in it.
It made for a great photo op for the 4 of us using a tripod.

There was another Budda Statue at a temple called Wat Su Pan Yoo that D&M wanted to show us. It was also a 1 hour ride from their house, but this time in the other direction and closer to Chiang Mai and the flatter farming areas.

It is four large standing Budda’s and each one faces a different direction with different hand positions.
They were very tall and we estimated over 30m high.
It has only been recently built and is not yet a popular tourist destination.
We were there for over 1 hour and didn’t see another visitor the entire time.

The view from the top looking back down was amazing.
From the top we discovered the hedges below were not only a maze but also it spelt something in the Thai language.

When we were at the top, David looked across the ridge and could see a new building being built.
We could also see a path linking the 2 so we walked over for a look.

It was a new temple and inside was an amazing spire decorated in glass tiles.
The spire was 4 stories tall and went right up through the centre of the building.

We were able to walk up the 4 levels.
The view from the roof top was amazing with 360 degree views of the farm lands below and the mountain ranges in the distance.

After an awesome lunch that cost A$6 for the 4 of us, we headed to the Grand Canyon for a swim.
The Grand Canyon is an old quarry that has been converted to an oversized swimming pool.
There are different sections you can swim around.

With the high rock sides it keeps the wind out and makes for many points to jump off into the water.
Some are very high and not for the faint hearted.

David and Maddie (who is doing a somersault) diving into the water

The company has put bamboo rafts in to sun bake on and life jackets are complimentary.
Many people get them so they can use them as floats to just laze about in the water.

On the way home we stopped at a Temple complex that Paul spied on the way down in the morning.
It was very ornate and it’s the first time David and Maddie had seen it too.
The sun was behind the 2 temples making for challenging photography.

Just as we were nearly home, Maddie saw a man making sweet rote’s on the roadside.
D&M have had them from him before and said they were great so we all had one each.

Every second day we would stop and take a walk down to the elephants which is next door to Lada and Aum’s Resort/Café.

Sometimes we would spend a few minutes up the top where they were feeding and other times we would watch them in the river with their mahouts.

On the Friday night we were all invited to a birthday party.
It was the 3rd birthday for Serena who is the daughter of a local lady who has an ex-pat husband.
They were very welcoming and there was a mixture of locals, ex-pats, tourists (us), working volunteers, western relatives and backpackers.
All in all there were people from 6 different countries.
All the girls chipped in to help with the food prep and the food was all locally grown, vegetarian and fantastic.

Maddie made an M&M cheesecake as Serena’s birthday cake.
It was a bigger hit with the adults than the kids….

One of the local ladies teaches fruit carving and she made a series of carvings for us while we all looked on.
The end result looked amazing.

On the Saturday morning we were up early to ride 1 hour down the mountain to the weekly San Pa Tong Buffalo Markets.
Whilst they do sell Buffalo’s, they also sell loads of other animals, clothing, food, tools and just about anything else you could imagine.
It was huge and took ages to walk around.

The Buffalos were pretty stubborn and watching the men trying to get them into small utes was a spectacle.

No amount of pulling was getting this Buffalo off the road

We saw some funny looking cows with long ears.

We even found Hedgehog’s for sale.

Out the back of the markets, the men were watching cock-fighting.
Unlike the fights in Philippines and Indonesia where they strap spurs onto the cocks and fight to the death, these fights were more humane and they would let them fight for a while before stopping, cleaning them and putting them back into their cages.

The owners really cared for their roosters.
After the fight they would give them a wash and tend to any wounds.

The food section had a lots to offer and even a cake stall much to Paul’s delight.

There were heaps of edible things on sticks, even Hello Kitty’s and Angry Birds!

On the way home we stopped for lunch on the river again and had our favourite meal,  Panang Chicken.

Saturday night we had pizza night at D&M’s house.

Sadly with no TV or Internet we couldn’t watch the Rugby World Cup Final between Australia and New Zealand.

On the Sunday Lada and Aum organised for us to go Bamboo Rafting.
Maddie and the girls stayed behind so we went with David.
Compared to our White Water Rafting back in Australia with kayaks or inflatable rafts, the bamboo rafting is pretty tame but it still was a lot of fun.
We had a guide who poled us down the river and steered the 10m/30ft long raft with a bamboo pole.

The rapids started sedately and increased in intensity the further down we went.

We went through a lot of different terrain like grasslands, rocks, under suspension bridges and finally past bamboo eating huts at the bottom.

At the end the staff simply dismantle the rafts, load the bamboo poles onto a truck and drive them back up to the start for re-assembling.

Being a Sunday arvo, the river was a popular place to relax, drink and raft.
We spent the arvo on the water’s edge drinking and watching the spectacle.

We continued the Sunday Session back up at the Plern Malee Café with Lada, Aum and Gaynor.

We finally left at 7pm – slightly intoxicated…..

With the weekend over, we got stuck back into the touring and Monday we decided to do a big ride up to Thailand’s highest mountain, Mount (Doi) Inthanon.

It took us over 2 hours to ride to the mountain.
We had breakfast at Lada and Aum’s café (which is at 500m altitude) and then climbed up to 2250m above sea level. The highest peak is 2500m but it was covered in cloud.

The ride was intense with tight turns virtually the whole way.
It was so steep that sometimes we were back to first gear and under 10klm per hour.

The temperature dropped considerably as we climbed into the mountains and we ended up in jeans, warm tops and jackets.

Half way up we stopped for a break and had a look at a manicured garden.

Towards the top the hillsides were covered with long plastic covered flower growing enclosures.

We stopped at a roadside market that had lots of locally grown fruit and veg along with nuts, honey, dried fruit and locally made wine.

At the base of the peak is the Inthanon Royal Gardens.
The gardens were commissioned by the King of Thailand and are beautifully manicured.

There is a mixture of decorative gardens, working fruit and vegetable gardens and a large range of undercover/indoor hot houses.
There were separate enclosures for strawberries, orchids, ferns, etc.
The orchid enclosure was amazing.

We went to the local restaurant within the Royal Gardens grounds.
The grounds around the restaurant were filled with gardens growing the vegetables that the restaurant uses. We thought it was very clever and the food was fantastic and reasonably priced.

To walk up to the waterfall, we had to walk through a fern forest with many pathways.

The waterfall had loads of water cascading down it and meandering through the many tributaries winding down through the fern forest.

The trip home on the bikes was difficult with tight turns on the steep decline.
At least on the way up you could keep the revs up and accelerate into the turns.  On the way down we were under brakes virtually the whole time. There was no margin for error and we really had to concentrate hard, which was difficult over such a long distance.

Towards the bottom we stopped at a small Buddist Complex with some statues and large spire in the corner.

By the time we got home it was nearly dark. We had managed over 5 hours riding and climbed up and down over 3500 vertical meters.

By 8pm we were all stuffed and had collapsed into bed exhausted.

On our last day in Mae Wang, we decided to do some things close to D&M’s house so we took a short ride up to the Mae Sa Pok Waterfall.
The valley on the way up was beautiful with lots of rice terraces and banana groves.

The waterfall was nice but had no area for swimming. Instead there was a large rock area that the water ran down onto after the waterfall.

For our last night, the girls got together and made a stack of food for a BBQ at Lada and Aum’s café.
Some of Lada’s friends had flown in from Bangkok and a few mutual friends from in town also came.
We started at 4pm and had a great night with 12 of us eating, drinking and having fun.
The food was fantastic and in Thai tradition, there was loads of it.

After dinner and a lot of drinks, the karaoke machine got quite a workout….

At around 10:30pm David and Lisa put together
5 lanterns and we took them outside and let them go.

The last one was special.
We all held it, made wishes, said something special and let it go together.
It was a perfect way to end our Mae Wang experience with David, Maddie and their special friends.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Fortunately Lada had to go to Chiang Mai the next day and she offered to take as down which was perfect.

We checked into our hotel room at the newly opened Chedi Home Guesthouse.
We tried to go back to the Rustic River but it was booked out.
It didn’t matter because the new place was awesome with a very close proximity to everything in the old city and a great view from our window.

The Guesthouse at night.

In the centre of Chiang Mai is “The Old City”
It was built nearly 700 years ago and had a high city wall surrounded by a moat.
Inside the city are a large amount of Buddist Temples and Monuments.
Parts of the wall, the moat and many of the temples have been rebuilt/restored, whilst other parts have been left untouched.
It gives a nice balance of old and new and The Old City has become hugely popular with tourists.

On our first afternoon we walked around inside the old city with the main purpose to visit the temples.
After seeing a few we realised that all the temples front facades face east.
That meant in the afternoon the sun was setting behind the temples and made it nearly impossible to take decent photos looking into the sun. The temples were also crowded.
We quickly worked out that very early in the morning would be a much better time to visit.

At an older temple we saw monks placing flags in woven baskets and building sections of a new temple.

The old temple in which they were working was made from timber which is different from all the others which are brick or stone.

We also had a look at some other spires, the wall and the moat.

Two spires – one new, one old

As darkness fell we went and had dinner at a street night market at the Old City Gate Entrance.
The street food was tasty, very cheap and there was a huge variety.

One stall owner had 6 beautiful Indian Ringneck birds happily sitting off to one side.

As it got dark, the city came to life with loads of bars, restaurants, and traffic.
Paul had a blast taking time exposure shots of the moat and the city.

Whilst Paul had ticked his things off that he wanted to do in Thailand, Lisa’s top 2 were still not ticked.

The top of her wish list was to go to a Muay Thai Boxing Fight.
Yeah OK we know this is a weird request from a female but Lisa loves UFC and Muay Thai is next best.

When doing research a few days prior, David had told us a title fight was on the first night we were in Chiang Mai.
So when we arrived we enquired as to ticket availability and we very excited to find there were still VIP ring-side seats available so we booked straight away.
In reality Muay Thai fights are held in Chiang Mai most nights but title fights are not so common.

It was a 7 fight programme starting at 9pm at the Thapae International Boxing Stadium.

Our seats were right behind the judges and bell. Lisa was very happy.

First the young boys fought followed by teenagers.
The 15 year olds didn’t hold back and the second fight was one of the best of the night.

Fights 3 and 4 ended in some pretty heavy going with 2 wild knock-outs.

Knock out 1 – and a few broken ribs

and Knock-out 2 –he was out cold….

The 5th fight was a bit unusual.
They put 6 fighters in the ring, blindfolded them and let them go for it.
It was really wild. The referee was helping one guy on the ground and copped a big whack to the back of the head.

The next 2 fights were international fights with Swiss vs. Thai.

The Thai guy was pretty cocky in the first fight until the Swiss guy finished him off in the 2nd round.
The last fight was the Title fight and it was a big event with lots of fan-fare.

The fight was fantastic and went the distance.
 The Thai fighter won 3 rounds to 2.
They had a lot of respect for each other after the fight.

We stayed behind in the VIP area afterwards and were able to get photos with the fighters.

Above all else, we thought the fights were very well run and the Muay Thai code has a great deal of respect, probably the most of any code of fighters.

There’s no trash talking, slandering and dirty tactics.
The fighters have lots of respect for their opponent, the opponent’s entourage and the Muay Thai code itself.

Interestingly enough, there was about 60/40 guys to girls in the crowd.

The next morning we were up early to get back to the temples inside
The Old City.
It paid off as the sun location was right and there were no crowds.

The largest temple had a smaller one located next to it that was for men only. Inside was incredibly ornate with the entire walls covered in detailed paintings.

Inside the main temple there were many monks praying.

In the grounds behind the temple is the city’s largest old temple,
 Wat Jediluang or the City Pillar.
It is over 700 years old and is in the centre of the Old City.

There were lots of smaller pillars and other interesting sculptures around the area.

Another of the temples in the northern sector also had the walls covered in amazing painted murals.

Some of the smaller temples were also beautifully decorated inside.

With the Old City streets being narrow and busy, the best way to get around is in a Took Took.

In stark contrast to Lisa’s first Thailand must do, the second was a cooking class.
After doing a bit of research we booked to do an evening class at a local place in Chiang Mai called TomYumThai.

We were picked up at 4pm and went straight to the markets with the 7 other willing participants to get our fresh produce and to do a quick market tour and explanation of the ingredients we would be using.
Oun our cooking class teacher and company owner did the tour.
He was a funny guy and very likable.

After that it was back to his house to cook 6 dishes.
It was very well set up with 3 separate areas for eating, preparing and cooking.
Each time we moved into another area, the staff would come in, clean up and prep for the next phase.
It was well organised, light hearted and a lot of fun.
The others in the group were all fantastic people and we had a great arvo/evening with them. The 9 people in the class came from 5 different countries so it was a great mix of interesting people.

Just some of the prep room antics…..

It was Paul’s first ever cooking class and he was a little reserved at first but ending up having a lot of fun.

By the end we were all laughing and joking over the final meal and dessert.

On our last full day in Chiang Mai, David and Maddie came down on their bike to join us for lunch.
We had a fantastic meal at a great Sushi restaurant followed by some yummy Macaroons surrounded by excited schoolgirls happy to be in the photos with us.

That night we ended up at the Night Bazaar Markets which are about 1klm from the Old City.
It was crazy how big they were with streets and streets of stalls selling anything and everything and lots of “Same Same But Different…”

We had a funny experience right at the end.
We really struggle to find clothes and shoes for Lisa in Asia because of her height and size. She towers over most Asians!
Once again in the markets we couldn’t find her any clothes.
As we were walking home at 11:15pm we found a large isolated clothes shop with a “Happy Hour Sale” from 11pm to midnight were everything in the store was 100 baht (A$4) so Lisa went in and was helped by a great staff member.
She walked out with 4 tops and 3 skirts for A$28.
Talk about bargains at the 11th hour….. literally!!!

The next morning we were on a plane out of Thailand.

So that’s it for yet another jam packed episode of our blog.

Overall we loved our few weeks in Thailand.
There was an international advertising promo a while back promoting Thailand as “Amazing Thailand”.

When you say something great about the place the locals joke and say
“AMAZING THAILAND!!!”, but really that’s exactly what it is.
From a tourist and local’s point of view, it is a little more expense to visit and
live here than in Indonesia and a lot more than The Philippines,
but it’s still very affordable by western standards.

We only touched on a very small amount of things to see and do in central northern Thailand and we are definitely going to come back with a little more time to explore.

A HUGE, HUGE thanks goes out to our friends David and Maddie for putting up with us for days on end. It was pretty go, go, go and we had an absolute blast with them and are very thankful for their local knowledge and guiding us everywhere.
We've decided to give them 5 stars on the Tripadvisor rating!!!! Hehe

So we’re off on the next leg of our adventure – Singapore, Malaysia and then onto Australia.
Look out for Episode 44 towards the end of 2015/early 2016.

Cheers for now.
Paul Hogger
Lisa Hogger
And a temporarily in storage Yacht Lorelei.

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