And here with go with Chiang Mai Day #2 Kennett’s Tour. I am calling this one The Day of Firsts, which will become evident as you read on. What a day. We started it off with a nice lay-in, followed by a superb buffet breakfast at The Empress Hotel. I have to say I ate the very best congee I have ever had, and continued to have day after day it was that good. I think the big difference here was that they use pork, and chicken stock not water. It’s killer! Add some soy, chili flakes, fried garlic, and top with some chopped shallots – BOOM.
A little mix-up with the concierge regards our preferred travel mode, despite showing pictures of a red jeepney, the car version of the tuk tuk. We got walked to a car, no thanks. Everyone thought Mary was Thai so started to rattle off to her (something that continued throughout the holiday wherever we went by the way ha ha!). So finally we decided let’s just take a wander down to the main road and flag one. We were so lucky to meet Mr Kim, who became our taxi and tour guide for the rest of the vacation, what a top guy he was.
We love taking tuk tuk because you get to see more, it being open air, you get the smells and weather of the country, you can stop wherever and whenever you want, you are not crammed in with a load of other tourists, you don’t have to stop at the mandatory shops trying to sell you shit, and because it is just seriously good fun. You can work on a rule of thumb that you can rent one of these out for the whole day for about 5-700 Baht, so it is incredibly cheap too. So here comes Chiang Mai Day #2 Kennett’s Tour, now that we have sorted out our transport.
First up though is my brekkie at The Empress Hotel. It’s usual buffet style, and I went weird. Fermented soy bean tofu (more on that below), egg fried cucumber, and chicken congee (which was incredible).
The fermented tofu is an acquired taste to say the least. You want to have a face screwed up like a prune because of the salty, ammonia flavour, then get in to this. I had it once before when in Indonesia, and could not resist the urge to have a go again. It is still just as bad as the first time I tried it, but hey Ollie and I are game for anything.
Whilst driving along Mr Kim stoped and shared with us some things to do on the way to the destination we had chosen. Ollie screamed out a desire to do one of them, so off we went to shoot some guns. It’s holiday time after all.
We rent a tuk tuk for the day and go off exploring. Just for Ollie, we go to the shooting range.
Maybe a little worrying is that, as he is shooting, he advises me his teacher back in Singapore has a Glock at home, Jeeze!
Ollie shooting = First #1.
Here’s his bullet casings spinning out of the Glock.
He’s no Dirty Harry, but he did pretty good actually for a first timer.
It’s an exciting adrenaline rush, but therein is the scary bit – do these atrocities in USA happen not because of depression/madness etc. but because of the supposed power in the hand? Worth a thought!
I have done this before, so actually did pretty good re clustering – we have the targets as proof.
We had 30 rounds with a 45 Glock. Check the bullet shell casings flying out. 1,700 Baht all up, is not a bad price at all for a bit of fun.
Chiang Mai Day #2 Kennett’s Tour, then turns its focus to elephants. Off we zip to Maesa Elephant Camp, +66 (0) 5320 6247. It’s a fair jaunt there, but beautiful scenery all the way, so well worth the trip. Make sure you check the show times and also when you can ride them, or have some fun splashing about with them as they bathe. These are pre-determined times, so if you are going alone without a tour, give them a call. We had a ride booked and then the show afterwards, and when we arrived it was lunch time so off we went to the restaurant. Maybe, like me, you doubt food on offer in zoos, attractions and the like. Well this place proves that absolutely wrong as a theory. I am so so glad we stopped here, and ate here.
Mary, Ollie and Amy went for the noodle soup. If only pictures could smell. The broth was supreme quality. Up there with the best beef kway teows back in Singapore. Here’s the lovely ladies preparing the guys dishes fresh, ever so fresh. And so delicious. All watched over by about 20 elephants just behind us. Amy and I popped to see the elephants and one came past with a “driver”. The elephant took the hat off the driver, and placed it on Amy’s head – too funny.
Now I will just call out on views of animal exploitation and the like. But there are 79 elephants in this camp. The drivers work with them for circa 15 years, so they are truly family. They are well looked after. They truly did seem happy, not lethargic and pacing up and down. And are clearly safe away from poachers and the like after their white gold. With that I am happy, but of course you would rather see them wandering free in the jungles of Thailand. Just saying like!
Lunch at the elephant park was incredible. This lady was pumping out some of the very best noodle soup – like a beef kway teow, just Thai style. Simply incredible – even more incredible based on where we are.
Here she is, how good does that look.
I also ordered this pork curry – deep in flavour; fish sauce, coconut cream, peanuts, heaps of chili and Kaffir lime leaves – OMG, so so good! Man oh man though, this was a BUM BURNER!!!
Chiang Mai Day #2 Kennett’s Tour, now goes to the jungle. Off we go on a short elephant trek, atop two 25 year old elephants. Beautiful things they are. These drivers were the guys I was mentioning that have lived and worked with these elephants for 15 years. They are mates. They chat to each other, no beating, or hitting here. Funny thing at one point was that I dropped my flip-flop, only to be retrieved by the versatile trunk of our lady elephant, delivered straight to my hand. Bless her.
Let the elephant rides commence!
Got to love elephants. Be safe my lovelies.
They did hula hoop, played harmonicas, played football (see video), threw darts and even painted – yes painted – can you believe it? And the paintings were amazing trees, flowers, landscapes – and sold at 6,000 Baht each.
Elephants painting = First #2.
Now to the elephant show. Very cute and very funny, and yes Jude (but I think more Mary) loved it.
Not a lover of zoos and the like to be honest, and the exploitation of animals for entertainment – but the white stuff in their head is what is getting them killed in the wild sadly. These guys seemed happy enough though, and clearly they loved Jude. At least they are safe and loved, as the the trainers have been with them since birth.
Were were sat atop two 20+ year olds, one male and one female as you can see. Jude was going crazy, shouting all the time (I think to hide that he was a little scared). At this height I now know what it is like to be Steve Rutherford.
You can never get enough of elephants, these creatures are so gentle. I could watch them forever.
Next up for Chiang Mai Day #2 Kennett’s Tour, is Tiger Kingdom, www.tigerkingdom.com, +66 (0) 5386 0704. One I could not turn down to be honest, despite the cages being bloody small, but again they are alive, safe, well looked after, and have great relationships with the keepers. The guys we met had been working there 15 years, and looked after our tigers since birth. Read on, more to come on this topic later. But seriously I could not, not do this.
So first you choose from Giant Tiger, Large Tiger, Medium Tiger, Small Tiger, Smallest Tiger, and then you go in and have some time with your choice. You go in to the cage with 1 or 2 keepers, and then you are standing next to your choice, as in touching it close. Ollie and I went in together with two tigers, so we could take pictures of each other. Amy went in with smallest tiger, which happened to be a 4 month old lion cub, born at the facility.
Tiger Kingdom = First #3.
Next stop is Tiger Kingdom. OK OK, yes it had lions too.
Amy could only do smallest, and ended up with a rather feisty little 4 month old lion cub.
Why do I say feisty, well she grabbed her round the legs at one point. Only playing, but you saw the power and speed of this cat, even at the age of only 4 months. The keepers had to calm her down and then Amy could go back in. More pictures to come from the pro photographer in the cage as we were not allowed in. Can you see Ollie and I in the window watching nervously?
Yes you do have to sign a disclaimer, in that if you get mauled, dismembered or eaten it ain’t their fault.
This is Nala everyone, the one in front that is.
Ollie and I went Tiger, and ended up in a smallish cage with two, 2 year old Tigers. How amazing was this experience, back to a series of firsts.
OMG look at me, I am stroking a real tiger. She liked my beard by the way everyone. This tigers is Yuki.
Massage, massage, massage. You get this ‘safety’ briefing, after you waiver you safety rights – too funny. What is that right behind me on her own, yep it is Yuki’s sister.
“Is that pressure OK for you Yuki?”
“Yeah Brian, Yeah!” said Yuki.
What a truly incredible experience this was. A little nerve wracking for sure, but worth every minute of adrenaline spent.
My turn to take the camera now – Ollie looking a little pensive it has to be said, ha ha.
I wonder why he kept his running shoes on?
Much more relaxed Ollie, there, there, there.
Words cannot describe how beautiful these animals are, but when you are this close, also how deadly they could be in a split second.
Just stunning! And this is taken from about 2′ away.
This is Yuki’s sister. The keeper was keeping her entertained, I suppose so she didn’t come and eat us. He was using a big stick with some leaves on the end (she is a cat after all), and got her in the pool with an amazing splash as she pounced on the leaves – that was a demonstration of what these guys can achieve in that split second, as she sprung, and two massive paws with claws extended swiped the leaves as she dove in the pool. Just a tad scary as there is no zoom on my camera, she was about 4′ away.
Yuki, the stunningly beautiful Bengal Tiger. What a job these keepers have interacting with
I leave you with this lasting memory of such a beautiful beautiful creature. To my Chinese mates, please leave these guys alone – they won’t prolong life, or give you virility if you eat their crushed bones – tell you what cut the poacher out of the equation and you go catch your own if you are that desperate. I bet there would be a substantially different outcome!!! LEAVE THEM ALONE!!!!
What a day Chiang Mai Day #2 Kennett’s Tour was. Now we need go back and get showered and changed for dimmer time. But let’s grab a quick Singha for the journey home in Mr Kim’s jeepney. A beautiful trip home it has to be said.
And we’re on the way home with our new best mate, Kim the tuk tuk driver. We are so lucky that every trip we find the nicest tuk tuk guys and then use them all week thereafter. What a top bloke he is – and cheap cheap too. Best way in my reckoning to explore, it’s yours, you go where you want and when, and no stopping off at shops which are mandatory on normal organised tours.
Dinner tonight was at the place I photographed yesterday funnily enough. The one that does the dinner river cruises. This is The Riverside Restaurant, The Old Riverside 2002, +66 (0) 5324 3239. What a find – thanks again TripAdvisor. This became an absolute favourite. Great location, great food, great staff, superb live music wafting through the night air, 3 levels to choose from, the cruise option if you’d prefer, and all for a very reasonable cost of $129 – which is incredible for what we ate and drank this night. Superb work Riverside, we’ll be back to see you guys, of that I am certain – fantastic night for us thank you. This is a MUST visit folks.
Dinner tonight on the river again – this time at The Riverside. What a superb place this was. We are sat here on the basement level, of three levels, with another part across the road, and two river cruise boat restaurants you can see behind us.
$129 SGD for about 6 dishes, 2L jug of beer, 2 glasses of wine, 5 desserts, etc. how good is that for price. And now lets get to the truly wonderful food – this is deep fried sun died beef, OMG, we had two of these. Sort of jerky on steroids!
Amy goes for Deep Fried Smoked Chicken Wings, these disappeared in minutes!
North Eastern style minced pork salad, Laab Moo by any other name – the classic spicy Thai salad. This was a belter, super spicy – so good. Great choice Ollie.
Thai chicken wrapped in pandan leaf. Yes we over-ordered so ended up packing this.
Deep fried pork rinds – say no more, helps me through the 2L of beer. A little chili dip with this, a cracking dish with a cold cold beer. Yes please!
I massively cocked up and did not get a picture of my Tom Kha Gai, and what a shame because it was one right up there re flavour. But one tiny complaint to Riverside. I don’t know if you toned it down because of the white face, but it was not nearly enough spicy. You had sweet, sour, salty but were massively missing one S. Although I rectified it by asking for chopped chili and threw half a bowl of that in. SORTED!
Mary went for deep fried pork ribs with lemon and garlic. This some North Eastern Thai fair, loving the condiments with this – peanuts, galangal etc. Put them all together for flavour poppers in your mouth. Seriously good food here!
What a cracking restaurant, twinkly lights and live guitar music pumping out. This is the view from the river looking back. How beautiful.
Mary goes for sticky rice pudding with mango for dessert – which has been on her desired list for consumption all trip so far. BIG tick in box for her this!
My dessert was Thai bananas in sweet milk. Savoury and sweet, the only style of dessert I like. What a great finish to the meal.
A little look at the neighbours restaurant – perhaps there one night as well then – but I think near Iron Bridge or Night Market tomorrow night, after we do our temple tour.
Last up for today is a little video clip I call Shooting. Me shooting a Glock, and the elephants shooting penalties.
There you have it folks, Chiang Mai Day #2 Kennett’s Tour, the Day of Firsts. What an absolute cracking day. Amazing sites, sounds, food and new friends made. We are seriously loving Chiang Mai. It is such a varied place, every corner you turn there is something new to see and do. To me it is a blend of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and strangely enough Japan. Go figure. It is truly a MUST SEE destination one day in your life, especially if you live here in Asia, its a hop-skip-jump away. I hope you like the blog folks – ENJOY!!!