We Made It!
Monday March 24, 2014
We arrived in Chiang Mai around 8am and easily made our way to Le Meridien Chiang Mai in a taxi. Parker had slept most of the flight and was still fighting whatever stomach bug he brought with him from home.
I was immediately impressed with the friendliness of the hotel employees and Thai people in general. They noticed my husband carrying Parker and asked if he was tired from the trip. I told them no, he was actually quite sick. They told me they would have a room ready for me as soon as possible and to wait in the lobby. I think we waited about 30 minutes before someone came and told me our room was ready.
We don’t have any status with SPG, so we were just given a basic room. But it only cost me about $80 for 2 nights, so that was just fine with me. The hotel was beautiful and in a great location, so we really couldn’t ask for more. In the “Pre Child Days”, my husband and I stayed in many guesthouses and hostels with shared baths, so staying in such a “fancy” hotel was a great treat for us. One of the benefits of having a child and traveling: not wanting to subject them to the uncleanliness and potential dangers of true “Budget Travel”.
Since Parker was sick and we were absolutely exhausted from flying in coach all the way across the world, I abandoned my Chiang Mai itinerary and original plan of hiking up to Doi Suthep Temple immediately after our arrival. Instead, we went to the room for much needed showers and more sleeping for Parker.
I thought this was all we would ever see of Chiang Mai.
We had a big day planned for Tuesday – elephants! So I wanted Parker to get as much rest as possible. In between naps, Matthew and I took turns exploring the hotel and surrounding areas. The infinity pool was very nice, but it was a very hot and hazy day, so the view was not that great.
The view from the pool
While on my walkabout, I noticed a McDonald’s across the street from the hotel. Parker had not eaten anything in well over 24 hours and he will usually always eat McDonald’s. So when dinner time approached, I told him about the McD’s and he actually got excited about it and said he wanted to go. However, once the food was placed on the table in front of him, he said he didn’t want any. I feel terrible about this now, but I thought he needed to eat so I pretty much forced him to take a few bites. My mistake. He threw up all over the table and floor. Of course I was mortified, but the Thai employees and even other patrons rushed to his rescue (from mean Mommy). Everything was cleaned up and he was given much love and pats on the head from just about everyone in the restaurant. Poor little yellow-haired Farang baby.
After that drama, we decided the best thing was a nice bath and more rest. So back to the hotel we went.
Enjoying a warm bath. What’s with the windows? No privacy in most Thai hotels.
Tuesday March 25, 2014
Today was our whole reason for coming to Chiang Mai. Patara Elephant Farm. Parker had been looking forward to this for months. It was all he talked about. But on this morning? The first thing he said was “I don’t wanna go”. Yikes. We were being picked up at the hotel at 7:30am, which left very little time to talk him into it. We were leaving Chiang Mai the next evening. I could not reschedule this. So once again, I forced a sick child to do something against his will. Before the nasty comments come in, I honestly did not realize how sick he was. I thought it could possibly just be jet lag. He was not running a fever, he was just very very lethargic and had an upset stomach.
He slept on the van ride to the Elephant Farm and sat around for most of the introduction. There was another little boy, the same age as Parker, in our group. If Parker had felt better, I think they would have had a great time together. But Parker just really didn’t want to be there. At one point he laid down in the dirt and tried to sleep. It was at that point that Matthew and I seriously considered finding a ride back to the hotel. But then the elephants came around. Despite being sick and not eating for 2 days, Parker perked up a bit.
Let me tell you a little about Patara Elephant Farm. I researched several elephant farms in the Chiang Mai area. I wanted to visit one that gave you lots of one on one time with the elephants and also one that was truly interested in their well being. I absolutely did not want touristy elephant rides through the jungle or elephants in chains!
Patara Elephant Farm gives you a full hands-on experience of being an “elephant owner for a day”. It is work! You are responsible for one elephant for the whole day. You have to check them out to make sure they are in good health. Which means making sure they are producing tears (they’re not crying), that their feet are in good shape and you also have to check the consistency of their poop and make sure it smells right.
Parker wanted no part of the poop smelling
After inspecting your elephant, you have to feed him or her. We fed them sugar cane and bananas. Parker had his own baby elephant to take care of, but since he wasn’t feeling well, he wanted to stay with me. But don’t worry, someone else took care of the baby!
After their meal, we had to brush them off and take them down to the river for a bath. I will tell you, it’s not very easy to wash an elephant! They don’t stand still and the younger ones want to play and go under the water. But Parker seemed to have a great time bathing his baby elephant. I was happy that something took his mind off of being sick. Even if only for a short time.
After bathing and playing with the elephants in the river for awhile, it was time to ride them back to the main camp area for lunch.
You ride completely bareback, no seat or bench, just a rope to hold on to. A few years ago we did a camel trek in the Sahara Desert and I can tell you that elephants are a bit more comfortable to ride, but harder to get on.
Parker getting a leg up on to his elephant
Once you get yourself on, it’s not completely uncomfortable. You sit way up on his neck and put your knees behind his ears. I never felt like I was falling off. By the way, there is a video of me getting up on the elephant, but I don’t think I will be posting that.
Lunch was delicious, with many different Thai foods – and fried chicken! Parker did not eat anything, just as I expected.
I think Parker’s baby elephant knew he was sick. During and after lunch, Parker sat and laid on one of the benches in the field. His elephant kept coming over to him and standing very close. He was a young elephant, but I think he knew Parker was sick and wanted to comfort him.
Excuse the finger! I grabbed my camera fast because I had no idea this would happen more than once.
After lunch, we got back on our elephants and rode them back to the area where they spend their nights. Riding the elephants through the jungle was a wonderful experience that I will never forget!
That’s Parker in the front!
Wednesday March 26, 2014
This was our last full day in Chiang Mai. Our Air Asia flight to Bangkok was leaving at 7:50pm. Parker was feeling a little better today. Not great, but better.
Another activity Parker was really looking forward to was Tiger Kingdom. Now, I am not a fan of zoos or any place that keeps animals in captivity for human enjoyment. So I am aware that I sound like a total hypocrite for visiting this place or even THINKING about visiting it. Even if the tigers aren’t chained up or drugged, they are still spending their lives in small cages. Never experiencing their natural instinct to hunt or run. I have struggled with my decision before we went, while we were there and even now. But we did it and this is what it was like.
We took a tuk-tuk to Tiger Kingdom which was a huge mistake. We could have paid about the same price for a cab and been comfortable in the A/C and not breathing exhaust for 40 minutes. I guess I didn’t realize how far Tiger Kingdom was from Le Meridien.
Children are only allowed to visit the very young tigers so that’s where we started. Parker was very excited to pet a tiger and he enjoyed the experience from beginning to end. As an animal lover, of course I loved being so close to these beautiful cats, stroking their soft fur and hearing them purr. (“soft kitty, warm kitty…”) But, as an animal lover, I was also very disappointed in myself. What was I teaching my child?
It’s funny how afraid Matthew was. He did not trust the tigers. Even such small ones. Every picture that he is in you can just see how uncomfortable he is!
I really wanted to go in with the big adult tigers but when the time came, I didn’t do it. I felt I had done enough and given them enough of my money. And for what really? So I could post photos on Facebook and Instagram? “Look at me with the big scary tiger!” No…that’s just not me. I couldn’t do it. So we took the long, hot, noisy, stinky ride back to the hotel.
All of the hipster backpackers say if you don’t visit Chiang Mai and all the wonderful temples, then you can’t really say you’ve been to Thailand. Well, I want to say I’ve been to Thailand, so we went to a temple. Just one. Wat Chedi Luang.
It really is a beautiful temple. Especially at sunset.
On our way to the airport, we stopped at The Mexican Grill. I had heard about this place on TripAdvisor and Facebook. People seem to love it. I don’t know. We didn’t. We were the only customers in the restaurant for the majority of our visit and it still took over an hour to have our order taken and our food served. Our taxi driver was waiting for us in the parking lot to take us to the airport and a couple times he came around to the door to see what was taking us so long. The food was ok, for Mexican food in Thailand. It’s in a very out of the way location, so I wouldn’t bother going there again if I was in Chiang Mai.
I don’t think I liked Chiang Mai as much as I could have because of dealing with a sick child. We didn’t really get to “experience” many of the things people love about it. We did things to make Parker happy because he was sick. We probably should have stayed in the room for 2 days and let him sleep off his sickness.
I thought Le Meridien was fabulous. The staff was incredibly friendly. On our last day they sent the hotel nurse to our room to check on Parker. He was completely passed out on the bed the entire time she was there. He looked like he was on death’s door. She said we should take him to the hospital. That really scared me. At the time, I didn’t know that that is how you see a doctor in Thailand. (I would learn much more about doctors and hospitals in Thailand later in the trip) She did not speak English and had the Concierge with her to translate, but his English wasn’t much better. She didn’t really do anything to help us, but I really appreciated the fact that she came to check on him.
A tiger and a smile
Here is a brief rundown of our costs for 3 days in Chiang Mai. I did not write down every expenditure because we had to pay cash for many things (tuk tuks, laundry etc) but I will tell you that things are very cheap in Chiang Mai. And even Bangkok for that matter. If you are planning to tour Thailand I would suggest doing your shopping in Chiang Mai and Bangkok and not wait until you get to Phuket. That’s what I did, and prices are Considerably higher in Phuket!
- 2 nights at Le Meridien Chiang Mai: $80 + 4,000 SPG points on Cash+Points
- 1 day at Patara Elephant Farm for 2 adults and 1 child: $444
- 1 visit with small tigers at Tiger Kingdom for 2 adults and 1 child: $123
- 3 visits to McDonalds! $12.37
- Dinner at the Mexican Grill: $28.78
Next post: Bangkok