Northern Thailand Day 2 – Chiang Mai and Mae Rim

Groggy and suffering from a slight ‘changover’ (Chang beer has that effect when consumed in large quantities), Vero and I dragged ourselves to breakfast, which was a pathetic selection of desert-dry croissants, drier muffins, old bread and cold, hard baked beans. Manathai Chiang Mai – clearly a place resting on it’s laurels. To stay at the top you need to consistently prove you’re worthy of being there. Manathai isn’t. Not in Chiang Mai anyway. We checked out straight after breakfast.

Our tuk-tuk took (that’s a good homophone) us across the river to a place we wanted to check out called Rimpi Village resort, highly recommended by trip advisor. Found the welcome lively and fresh, the rooms and the resort as a whole soulless and dull, lacking character and charm (which, for all it’s fault, Mannethai has in spades). We went to Holiday Inn instead and got a good room for 1,330 Baht with a river view. It was a big hotel, a big room, and nice enough.

We went out of the hotel and got a tuk-tuk to town with the intention of getting a motorbike to rent. It rained a bit on the way in, so we decided to just take the tuk-tuk all the way to Mai Rim, out in a lovely countryside of rice fields and tree and cottage dotted slopes. We went to a national park, where there are 10 waterfalls and the tuk-tuk driver took us to car park 3, the one providing the easiest access to the falls. From here, we hiked up along the river, taking in all 10 falls. They were impressive in their ceaseless power, but not in their beauty, as the water colour was a muddy brown due to it being rainy season.

After this breath of country air, we headed back via the incredibly interesting Insect Museum and Zoo, a display of an amazing array of butterflies and insects from around the world of all shapes and sizes. Some, like the Tree Nymphs, were huge, as were some beetles, and I’m sure I’d seen some of them before in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. There was a veritable garden of Eden here for butterflies, with loads of flowers and strategically-placed pieces of fruit like watermelons and pineapples. We were given a short tour by a couple of very enthusiastic students who had been working there for 3 months. They proudly showed us chrysalis and larvae, ugly looking things providing little promise of the beauties they would become. We were shown varieties of stick insect, which the young men pointed out with child-like glee, before picking them up. We saw a big mantis on the floor. “This one too old already” one of the students said, poking it. “Oh, it’s dead.” He picked it up and carried it with him for the rest of the tour.

We were shown some preying mantis’ which our ‘guides’ tormented by having a fight with one of them using his finger, as the mantis extended it’s front legs to fight back in a position that resembled a Thai kickboxer poised to attack. We were shown a tarantula and scorpions, beetles in their tanks, and larvae growing deep in the ground, pulsating and ready to burst into life as beetles very soon. We saw two beetles having a fight on a piece of rolling wood, a sport that Thais bet on. I held a stag beetle, a bloody heavy thing. Overall it was a great experience, very unique, and I would highly recommend the Siam Insect Farm and Zoo.

Back in Chiang Mai, we were hounded by Aun, our fat-faced greedy tuk-tuk driver. as we said our goodbyes, “Go with me tomorrow, I take you around. You want to go to handicrafts shop? Gem store? Wood carving?” We paid him B600 for the day we’d just had. It was reasonable. He did have to drive through a flood which almost fucked up his engine.

In the evening we went to the riverside area and a place called ‘Nice Stop’ for a delicious seafood meal of white wine, accompanied by live music, lots of locals, and a riverside location. Lovely. We went to Riverside bar after, which had some great live music on. The band were singing Adele’s ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ when we got there – and doing a decent job of it too. It was a fun, packed place, full of locals high on sangsom and enjoying the music with friends. We had a good jump around with them, then got a tuk-tuk back in the rain for B80.

Author: Neil

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