ALONGSIDE ELEPHANTSSo we got bumped up to business class for our flight from Abu Dhabi to Bangkok.  It blew my expectations.  We received welcome aboard drinks, warm washcloths, lotion, chap-stick, a four-course meal, large screen televisions, high quality pillows and blankets, and excellent service.  Not to mention reclining massage chairs…  We literally each had a bed.  And the food was so yummy!  It totally made up for the fact that we ended up missing our connection to Chiang Mai but what can you do??   I would never pay much to sit up there but it sure was a nice treat!

Etihad already had switched our flights for us so we patiently waited in the lounge before our quick flight up north.  After leaving the plane at the airport in Chiang Mai, we were immediately greeted and escorted to where our luggage would meet us. We had such great treatment the entire trip, although we did have to squeeze back into a standard size airplane seat… 🙂

Upon collecting our bags, a driver met us after customs and drove us one hour into the Mae Wang area to our accommodation at the Chai Lai Orchid Eco Bungalows. Bordering the river, with elephants passing our window every half hour or so, we really felt like we were part of something authentic. Our simple bungalow was quaintly nestled in the surrounding nature accompanied by the trickling sound of the river just outside.  It’s a totally idyllic experience that I would highly recommend.  Just watch out for mosquitoes!

We spent our time relaxing, writing, playing cards, eating delicious food, socializing with the other guests, and feeding and photographing the elephants.   On our final day we were fortunate  enough to tag along to a wedding at a Buddhist Temple up the road to help shoot photos. After the ceremony, we received string bracelets tied by the elders to wish us luck on our travels.  At least that’s what I think they are for. To complete our experience the most senior monk in attendance gave each of us a blessing flag. A very unique and beautiful experience, we are extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to attend despite not knowing the Australian couple whom which it was for.

To finish off the day strong, we helped bathe some of the elephants in the river and rode them into the jungle to night-grazing location.  That was truly an rewarding experience.  We rode bareback right on down the steep hill to the river – a little terrifying for someone with so little experience…but it was wonderful.  My sweet thing decided I needed a shower as well, and as it turns out, she was not wrong!  We loved it.

The following afternoon, 7 of us bid the elephants goodbye, boarded a taxi truck, and headed into the city of Chiang Mai for the next leg of our journey.  More on that later.

Photos from our ride:

THROUGH THE TREES TO THE JUNGLE CROSSING THE RIVER

Photos from the rest:

DSC_2508 DSC_2489  DSC_2459 DSC_2450 DSC_2419DSC_2483 DSC_2398 DSC_2387 DSC_2376 DSC_2367 DSC_2365 DSC_2349

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