Today is our free time day – we have scheduled activities starting at 4pm but up until then, it’s our own choice.
I made the choice to book an activity with Dragon Flight Chiang Mai – it’s a 1900 baht experience (about £36, $50) for the day but it sounds super cool! They drive you up to the jungle and then there is a course of zip lines through the jungle.
Dek booked the trip for me, and I paid him cash for it and was told to meet in the lobby between 8 and 8:30. Some of the others had other activities booked, so there were a group of us waiting for different mini busses. Mine arrived first, and after a bit of confusion over my lack of ticket (Dek spoke in Thai and the problem went away), I got on board and sat… There were 3 girls already on the bus, and we then proceeded to drive around the town picking up people. The mini bus was oddly silent on the way to the adventure – I think everyone was afraid to start the conversation, but that kind of worked out because most people were tired so there was a nap opportunity. I chose to check out the scenery instead, and we drove for almost an hour and a half into the mountains, with the minibus really being pushed to it’s limits – the driver had to turn the AC off to get up some of the hills!
Eventually we arrived at base camp and we were given a bit of a briefing, told to sign a waiver, and offered tea and coffee.
I started chatting to a group of girls from Europe (2 from Switzerland and 1 from Germany) and we agreed to group together and pay for a photographer – 1200baht for all 4 of us – to take photos throughout the experience. At 300baht each (£6) this was a pretty cheap thing to do. Once we were briefed and fed and watered, we were fitted with our harnesses – Petzl gear, and pretty new looking. They were thorough in checking everything fitted properly and then loaded us onto a van for the short ride to the start line.
I won’t bore you with a description of all the lines on the course, but it was a REALLY fun morning. Here are some of the highlights photos:
The zipline course finished close to the office of the company, so we stopped there and removed our safety gear etc. The photographer copied all the photos (over 300) onto our memory cards, and we headed down to their little restaurant for the included lunch which consisted of green curry, steamed vegetables and some stir fry noodles as well as rice. It was a really fun morning!
Once everyone was filled up, we headed back on the bus for the 90 minute bus ride to Chiang Mai. I was last to get dropped off, but was still back in my hotel before 3pm, giving me an hour to go and relax before our 4pm next activity. I headed quickly to the laundry to drop off a load of washing which was weighed and she told me the price would be 60 baht (£1.20) for the load!
At 4pm we met in the lobby for our Khantoke dinner, which means heading out to a locals house to sample their hospitality and learn more about their day to day life. The home was a short mini bus ride from our hotel and we arrived at Chiang Mai Home Host by Raunkaew Yanon Family. We were greeted by Pat, the head of the family, and his son Joe, who presented us with a welcome drink and welcomed us in surprisingly good English.
After the welcome drink and presenting us with a necklace of flowers, we were guided around two houses. The first house is the older of the two, made of Teak wood (before the Thai government protected Teak in the 1970s) and it’s neighbouring rice barn. The family live in the traditional Lanna way, and this home is home to Joe’s cousins. The house itself is raised up from the ground to protect from flooding and other intruders, and is separated into 3 main rooms – a bedroom for the parents, and a bedroom for the kids, as well as a living space which includes a small prayer area, a cooking space and a living area. They only have two bedrooms because the orientation of these is very important – the feet of the parents are allowed to point to the children, but the children can’t point towards the parents (feet are considered dirty in Lanna culture, which is also part of the reason why you have to remove your shoes at all the temples and when visiting someone’s home).
The family grow all their own rice in their rice field, and harvest one a year. The harvesting is done in a big basin, which is then separated into small baskets and stored in the rice barn. 6 generations of the family have lived on this site, with 4 generations currently living there – Pat is the 3rd generation, his mother lives there as does Joe and his wife and their daughter. It was amazing to see the way these people live and that they are trying so hard to keep the old cultures and traditions alive.
In the second house, which is more modern, we were given samples of various traditional produce and techniques – including the Lanna way of having tea (soaked tea leaves are chewed like chewing tobacco) and brushing their teeth (which involved tree sap, bitter nuts, a leaf, some bark, and some other stuff… It tasted awful!)
After the tour of the two houses, we were shown around the garden which is where the produce for our dinner has been grown. This family focuses on growing herbs and flavours, so the meat and vegetables themselves have come from the market whilst the herbs and sauces are all products of the garden. In the past, all of this would have been traded with neighbours. The most impressive part for me was the greenhouse, which had an incredible smell due to all the drying herbs and spices. We were also shown the rice field where they’re desperately awaiting the rain in the hope that the crops will grow quickly enough before they need to harvest.
After the garden tour, we headed back to the area around the house where we were introduced to Grandma who was preparing some banana leaves on a hot stone. We were quizzed about what we thought they might be for – and it turns out, they’re for cigars! In the past, almost everyone in the Lanna families would smoke, because it keeps away mosquitos. Fred and Steve gave one a go, and it looked pretty authentic, but I wasn’t tempted!
Soon it was time for our appetiser, and we were presented a do it yourself snack, with a plant leaf to hold our various ingredients. To this we added seed, nuts, onion, kafier lime, chill is and a hot sauce, wrapped it up and popped it in our mouth. It tasted awesome!
I think we all could have had a lot more of these little snacks, but Pat and Joe were keen to show us the rest of the meal their family had prepared for us. A normal Lanna meal would be 1 or 2 main dishes but since we were guests they had prepared a whole platter including Pork Belly, Pork Bolognaise, Chicken Red Curry, Steamed Vegetables, Stir Fried Noodles, Sticky Rice, Boiled Rice, Chicken Legs, Crispy Pork Skin, Prawn Crackers… And a ton of other things I didn’t even write down!
As per tradition, dinner was served on the a small Khantoke tray and we sat on the floor, legs crossed, and ate with our hands. It was really amazing to try these traditional foods in a relaxed and friendly family environment. Towards the end of the meal, Joes 2 year old daughter came over and joined us and she was pretty cute, clearly shy but practicing her ‘peekaboo’ – the only English she appeared to know. Not bad for a 2 year old though!
At the end of the meal we prepared our own herbal tea – I chose Turmeric, which tasted good and is meant to relieve a stomach after a heavy meal.
Just before we set off, we were presented with some goodbye packages of some home made sweets, which looked really cute and tasted good too. After that, we headed back to the hotel to drop off our bags before our next activity!
At our request, Dek had arranged tickets for an evening ‘ladyboy’ cabaret show in the market that evening – the show started at 21:30, and we paid our 290 baht for our tickets and made our way in. The show was Chiang Mai Cabaret – catchy name! The ticket included a free drink, which was served to us by a flamboyant waitor/waitress as we waited for the show to start.
The show was great fun – I didn’t take photos since I prefer to let the production do their own photography. If you’re interested, here’s a YouTube video of part of the show: https://youtu.be/ZJU3YzdzVtk
Once we were done with the show, I headed back to the hotel since it had been a pretty busy day! Tomorrow we get ‘free time’ before heading to Laos in the afternoon. I think I’ll treat myself to a lie in!