Splish-splashin’ and scoot-scootin’ in Chiang Mai

chiang mai thailand mae ngat dam remote year atlas

Ohhhh boy! So much has happened my first two weeks in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Buckle up, cuz here it comes.

Atlas meets elephants

My first Sunday here we took a trip outside the city to visit the incredible Elephant Freedom Project.

chiang mai thailand elephants remote year atlas

They’re a sanctuary that rescues and raises elephants and gives them pretty much 100% autonomy to just live their lives.

The elephants get to roam around, play in the nearby river, eat all the foliage they want, and of course have access to any medical care they may need.

We started off preparing their breakfast of bananas, sugar cane, and a special rice ball treat. We went to meet the 3 adult females and 2 baby males and feed them by hand.

They were so gentle and magnificent and the babies were all derpy and adorable. It was amazing.

But, wait! There’s more!

We took a little walk down to the river and they joined us to splash around and bathe in the water. The babies were the most excited and spent much of the time rolling around with each other and us.

Then, of course, we got a bit rowdy ourselves and got into splash fights and were tackling each other and generally behaving like children. Because, Atlas.

See more photos and videos of this amazing day!

Video by the ever-talented Henry Jose

The camping trip that wasn’t

The following weekend my lovely friend and biz partner Des organized a camping trip into the mountains.

The plan was to rent scooters and scoot scoot the hour and half ride into the jungle, rent our tents and sleeping bags from a campsite, do camping things, explore the area the next day, and head back.

 Baddest scoot scoot gang around

Baddest scoot scoot gang around

Emphasis on the plan.

So, we planned to pick up the scooters at 4:30ish and head out. However, 5 of the 7 of us had never driven a scooter before.

The very kind rental guy, Phil, took the time to teach all of us how to ride and even rode around the block with us a few times to help us practice.

It was great, but I think we were all still pretty nervous about driving in actual city traffic. I certainly was.

By the time we left, it was close to 6pm.

After a white-knuckle 45 minute ride out of the city, I think we all felt better on the highway route up to the mountains because there was very little traffic. The sun was setting at this point and we still had an hour to go.

The deeper we got into the jungle, the rougher and winder the roads became. We were scoot scooting pretty damn slowly. I swear I got carpel tunnel I was squeezing the handlebars so hard. By the time we made it anywhere near the campsite office to pick up our stuff, it was about 9pm and pitch black.

We eventually come to a fork in the road where the map said to go one way, but the sign said another. While we debated what to do, an unsuspecting local approached us, so we asked him for directions.

After many Google Translate exchanges, we find out the campsite is closed until October (despite taking our money and reservation online). Sick.


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He told us of a nearby homestay he could guide us to. Our only other options were:

A) drive an hour and half back home because we had no gear, or
B) drive 45 minutes back into town and find a hostel to stay at.

We decided to check out the homestay and make a game time decision.

We followed him out of the mountain to a small village and arrived at the cutest homestay I’ve ever seen. It had about 8 rooms with double twin beds, a thatched roof deck with a fire pit, and little kitchenette. We all breathed a sigh of relief and decided to stay. It ended up costing less per person than renting the tents.

The host was incredible. He built us a fire and offered us dinner. In the morning he brought coffee and breakfast. We spent the night giggling around the fire playing games, listening to music, and appreciating at the amazing way the universe tends to work everything out when you just lean into it.

It was only a 24 hour trip, but it was the most incredible, serendipitous adventure with some of my favorite people. It’s a night I’ll surely never forget.

sticky waterfalls and not so sticky water toys

Okay so get this… I’m about to blow your mind with science.

One of the most popular attractions for tourists to visit in Chiang Mai is known as the Sticky Waterfalls. The official name is Bua Thong, and it’s located about an hour outside of the city.

sticky waterfall chiang mai bua thong thailand remote year atlas

It’s so popular because of its unique quality — it is sticky enough to climb! It sounds wild, but hear me out.

The waterfall itself has several levels, as in it doesn’t just fall straight down. It slopes down gently and eventually empties into a little lagoon. The stones are rounded and smooth and at first glance, I was like, dude no way can anyone climb that. It’s gotta be a hoax.

So I grasped the nearest tree with all my might, took a deep breath, and put my bare foot into the rushing water bracing myself to eat shit in front of dozens of people.

But nothing happened. My foot just stayed there as if there was no water. It felt a little like pavement: smooth, but textured enough to feel like I had some traction. Mind. Blown.

Next thing I know I’m hoping around and climbing rocks like Spiderman paying absolutely no mind to the fact I’m in the middle of a waterfall. It was probably the coolest thing ever.

Turns out the rocks are made of limestone, which is where the porous, rough texture comes from that gives it the “sticky” quality. The water itself contains a lot of calcium which deposits into the rocks and also helps give it more grip.

We spent the next couple hours goofing off in the lagoon and sitting on the rocks letting the water rush around us. It was quiet and so, so beautiful.

We ended the day having lunch at a floating restaurant at the Mae Ngat dam, which is a gorgeous man-made lake. The restaurant had a little water park and we spent the rest of the afternoon jumping around on the floating water toys and swimming in the dam.

They were most certainly not sticky. Wipeouts abound.

We organized an obstacle course race, had diving competitions, and were our silly Atlas selves. It was a perfect end to a perfect day!

 
 

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