We could probably have done a better job of recording all the incidental costs which we have just captured here under Misc…. things like food and drink, taxis, tours, haircuts, massages, ice creams etc etc etc, but that will have to be an improvement for future blogs as we just didn’t really record these as we went along. All the major travel and accommodation costs are in here though, and the total is about right.
We could have saved on this amount and cut corners, or we could have spent a lot more… but looking back we got the blend just about right with a mix of luxury and basic on the accommodation front and the travel front. Getting out there was clearly the biggest expense – so the longer you stay, the better value you get from the flight.
Day 6 (30/01/2014) – Our last full day in Chiang Mai. I told my sister Angelita, before our trip to Thailand, that I would love any opportunity to spend time with elephants at an elephant sanctuary. We had not pre-booked anywhere to see elephants, so it was hard to find a place that was not already full. Luckily, however, we managed to get a morning at the Ran-Ton Elephant Camp, not our first choice, but I had read good reviews of this place, where they look after their elephants well and are helping to combat the declining numbers of elephants in Thailand through a breeding program, as well as practising a safe and humane tourism model for their elephants that have in the past often suffered from abusive situations. We were picked up from our hotel at 7 am, to be driven on a pickup truck about 1 hour out of Chiang Mai. On the way, we stopped to pick up 2 Canadian girls and another couple from Kent (England), although he was English and she was Polish. It was quite chilly in the cool morning air as we sped along, but everyone was very friendly and the chatter and exchange of travel stories and tips kept our minds off the chill. After quite a bumpy, but not unpleasant, ride through the North of Thailand’s countryside via lovely green farmland and rice paddies, we arrived at the elephant park (about 1 hour out of Chiang Mai). It was a very humble place with some facilities such as a toilet, changing room and a little stall selling small gifts. The gift crafts were mostly made by Burmese women. I bought some beautiful colourful bracelets from them. We were given trousers to change into since the elephant skins are hard and scratchy and can hurt your legs if you are not wearing trousers. We were also given a very colourful top to wear. Later we were glad to have had these clothes on since we got soaked at the river and it was nice to change back into our own dry clothes. We felt like honorary Mahouts for few hours. We started off by being introduced to a 3-year-old baby elephant, incredibly cute and we fed him more bananas than seemed possible, he could not have enough bananas, and we got hugs and sloppy kisses from him in return.
As we waited for our sleeper train to Chiang Mai, at Bangkok Station, we felt for the first time like we were real backpackers!
We heard that train travel in Thailand is easy, comfortable, inexpensive, and is the best way to see some of the Thai countryside. We booked a first class ticket. There are various combinations that can be made with shared cabins etc, but we decided to go for the single berth compartment, that although more expensive (about 1, 953 Baht, £40 per person, per compartment ), we felt that would give us more privacy and also a better sleep.