We arrived back at bangkok just before our train to Chiang Mai was due to leave and were not looking forward to the 12 hour journey. We were pleasantly surprised at what turned out to be an 18 hour journey. It was a sleeper train so we had well comfy bunk beds with a proper mattress, clean sheets and pillow and waitress service oh and no creepy crawlies, so nothing like the trains in India. After tea and cakes we settled in for the night and slept until breakfast was brought to us in the morning.
After finally arriving in Chiang Mai we realised we had made a mistake when booking our hotel, we had phoned the wrong number and had booked into a nice hotel instead of the cheap guest house, the hotel wasn't too expensive, it had a pool and breakfast included so we decided to stay. We spent the first day by the pool and didn't really do much else, went out for tea to an English pub, not something we do very often but was worth it for the steak and kidney pie and chips, Chris got his full fry up he's been craving. The next day we hired a scooter and got out of the town for the day visiting a reservoir and a valley and spotted a couple of elephants along the way.
After yet another day at the pool we decided to go and watch Thai boxing that night. What an experience, we were escorted into the stadium by a six an a half foot 'woman' with massive hands and an Adam's apple and told to sit near a bar which we soon realised was a lady boy bar. The boxing was really good, there were eight fights starting with the youngest, the first 2 boys looked about ten years old but I still wouldn't like to fight them, gradually the fighters got older and bigger and we saw a few good knockouts. During the break between fights our lady boy bar put on these crazy cabaret style dance shows. After about 3 hours of fighting, dancing and drinking we decided to call it a night and headed back to our hotel.
The following day we had booked an all day cooking lesson which started promptly at 9:30am, after a night on the lotion we both felt a bit done in and were initially not as motivated about our cooking lessons as the previous day. However this soon changed when we saw how well organised and equipped our "school" was. We were firstly split into small groups of about eight people and each told to select our individual menus, 6 dishes each, strangely enough out of a possible 6 categories and 18 dishes Tracey and myself pick the exact same 6, without looking. Spooky! Having decided what we were going to cook we were taken to the local market to buy some ingredients for the days cooking. Throughout the day we cooked Pad Thai noodles, chicken spring rolls, hot & sour prawn soup, Thai green curry - we also learned how to make the green curry paste used and sticky rice with mango. Each time we finished cooking a dish it was dinner time, so by the time the whole day was over we'd actually eaten 5 times or 6 if you include breakfast. That evening we were that full we didn't even have dinner!!
The following day we hired a scooter and headed off to the nearby National Park to do a bit of walking. However we couldn't really find a proper path and after about an hour or so of 10 min this way 10 mins that way we decided to give up as it was scorching hot. On our way back to Chiang Mai town we stopped in at another hill top temple. This one wasn't too bad though only about 300 steps. It was apparently one of the holiest Wats in Thailand. After looking around the temple we headed back to our bike where Chris got shit on by a bird up a lamppost, Tracey thought it was dead funny and so did all the other people who saw. I wasn't too amused, but it's meant to be good luck! That night we went out to have a walk around the town and had dinner in a small street stall.
We had initially planned on doing our zip lining in Laos, where we planned on doing 3 days, 2 nights in the Bokeo Nature Reserve but having heard some bad reports from some fellow travellers and also reading some not so good reviews online we decided to give it a miss and just do a full day in Chiang Mai. We got picked up nice and early and taken to the Jungle Flight centre where we were kitted out with harness's, helmet's and a bamboo stick to use as a break. Off we went zipping around the jungle, the day included about 22 zip lines (up to 300m long), 3 abseils, an hours walk along the canopy walkway and a face first 40 metre drop followed by lunch. We both loved it but were glad we chose to do just one day because we were absolutely shattered and couldn't wait to get back to our luxury hotel.
We decided to spend two more days in Chiang Mai and then head for our next stop Chiang Rai which we would used to break up the journey between Thailand and Laos. We spent one day at the zoo which was really good, in fact probably the best zoo either of us have ever been to. There where lions and Tigers and bears, oh my and elephants, gibbons, giraffes (Tracey fed one), crocodiles, 3 Panda bears and loads more animals. On our last day we spent a lovely relaxing day in the sun at our pool and then went for an hours whole body massage, much deserved I might add.
The following day we headed to the local bus station to get our bus to Chiang Rai. The journey took about 4 hours and we arrived in Chaing Rai mid afternoon. We managed to find a guest house in the lonely planet right in the centre of town for a reasonablish price so decided to stay there.