19 April 2013 at 02:38
Wednesday evening we arrived in Chiang Mai. Being back in a city immediately you feel the dense, humid heat resting on your shoulders and the sudden sight of shops and Mcdonalds contrasted drastically with the wooden jungle retreat we'd just left. So being typical young English people we took advantage of the cosmopolitan environment and went out and got drunk. Meaw took us to a rooftop bar very popular with boho back packers. You climb up a winding staircase, the walls covered in colourful graffiti covering fluorescent painted walls with mad designs. The roof was low and you had to take your shoes off, I felt like a child in a 'house of fun' at a fair, only one that reeks of weed. Once you reached the bar it was definitely worth the climb. Everyone sat on cushions and rugs on the floor with lanterns hanging off the ceiling and mad ultraviolet lighting making everything look strange. A mist filled the air, a mixture of smoke and water mist being sprayed from the ceiling. The drinks were cheap and Meaw taught us a new drinking game and then I don't remember much else.
Thursday morning we somehow got up bright and early to visit another temple up in the hills on the outskirts. We even climbed the 300 steps to the top rather than taking the tram, which was worth it as the whole staircase had banisters which were magnificent, golden dragons. The temple of course was stunning. I love the little traditions they have, like pouring rose water over some of the statues and lighting candles and they dip these big flowers in water and then shake them to spray water. It's definitely very peaceful. I ate some fresh strawberries and took photos of all the dozy dogs then soon enough we were back in the crazy tuktuk on our way to visit tigers!
This was technically our free time but Meaw had recommended seeing the tigers and I just love cats so much I couldn't really say no. I paid to see the baby tigers which is more expensive but they're just so adorable! Unfortunately everyone else in my group wanted to get lunch first but I wasn't hungry so I set off to meet the babies by myself. There an American man in his 50's, covered in traditional tribe tattoos, decided to befriend me. I didn't really mind because I needed someone to take a photo of me with the tiger but then whenever he did this he kept shouting 'SMILE, why aren't you smiling?!' and I was! I was grinning my head off but then when someone tells you to smile and you smile harder it looks so cheesy and fake and this started to get on my nerves. In the end I just asked why he kept doing it and he said because it was funny winding me up. Needless to say I won't keep in touch with this stranger.
The tigers were so beautiful and fluffy. It was a bit peculiar being so close to them and some of the group were a bit dubious as we have heard about places where they drug them. We asked for more information and the reason they are so comfortable with humans is because it is all they have ever known. The keepers kept comparing them to domestic dogs - they've been brought up by humans and so don't mind being stroked and patted, in fact they like it, and just like the dogs you see everywhere round here, the tigers are sleepy in the hot weather and they are naturally nocturnal. For me they were more like cats. I stroked one and it started flicking its tail just like Sooty when she's in a mood then it got up and walked away. One of the tigers was called Nancy and it was dead cheeky. This stupid American family were determined to get a picture of their tiny baby sat on a tiger, Nancy spotted this and came leaping over like a big kitten and tried to 'play' with the baby by batting it with its paw. The baby was fine in the end so I didn't feel awful for finding it hilarious.
In the evening we went to a tapas restaurant for tea that was completely useless at bringing out food at the same time. Me and Georgie were waiting for mozzarella sticks for over an hour for them to eventually come out and say they'd ran out of mozzarella. But we shared some patatas bravas which was just as delicious as ever! After tea Meaw took us to a beauty salon round the corner as some of us had said we wanted to try a thai massage. In the salon it looked perfectly normal, but once we were taken for our massage it was very odd. We were led up a dark wooden staircase into a dark room with a few dim lights and blankets strung up from the ceiling trying to section out the room. You could here music blasting from an open mic night over the road and there was thin mattress type things on the floor. We had to change into these pajama style clothes but then the massage itself was great once you got over the fact that its painful, if that makes sense? But I didn't feel any benefit the next day so I think it's a onetime experience. Then a couple of us got manicures and pedicures which felt great and there was a cute little kid running around that kept pouring nail polish remover on a cut on his leg. We left the salon at midnight feeling pretty and went to bed.
The next morning Meaw took three of us to another salon where we got eyelash extensions. Everything is just so much cheaper here it felt crazy not to take advantage of it. The woman doing them didn't speak any English and so I didn't have a clue what was going on and I opened my eyes too soon and felt a burning sensation. This also meant she couldn't tell us that you're not supposed to get them wet for a few hours, which is impossible when everyone is chucking buckets of water over you as you walk down the street... but I'll write about songkran in another note because this looks like a short story now.