Adventures in Chiang Mai Part 1: “Ladyboys” and Rainforest Ziplines

With only 3 weeks left in my trip, I decided to bypass the beaches of southern Thailand and head straight for Chiang Mai in the north. I was afraid if I went south that I would encounter the oh-so-troublesome “I’ve seen better” syndrome that is an unfortunate side effect of regular travel. I had just recently visited some hard-to-top beaches around Australia and Indonesia and figured I’d see what else Thailand has to offer.

Whitehaven Beach of The Whitsunday Islands

Bali's Bingin Beach

I flew into Bangkok, the massive, hectic capital city famous with backpackers for the mental, non-stop parties found on Khao San Road.

Massive and Manic Bangkok

My flight arrived late at night, and I got to the airport and realized I hadn’t really thought about where I was going to stay or how I was going to get there. After about two hours spent wandering the airport investigating different transportation options, I finally got on the newly built Skytrain and reluctantly headed towards Khao San because I knew I’d have no trouble finding a place to stay.

Khao San Road at Night

The next morning I made my way past the Zombies still wandering the streets at 6 am on my way to catch my train to Chiang Mai. Due to the flooding, they had to re-route transportation and my train ride turned into a bus ride. I had heard horror stories of friends traveling Asia and getting stuck on long, hot, crowded bus rides with upset stomachs. I was dreading this 10 hour trip, expecting it to be smelly and run-down, and picturing myself getting a sick stomach again and being trapped.

I could not have been more wrong. What I got was the flashest bus ride of my life. I had a super comfortable seat that reclined almost 45 degrees with more leg room than an exit row. It had all the amenities of an over-seas flight, with built in adjustable head-rests, a pillow and blanket waiting on my seat, and in-drive entertainment. Already impressed, I was shocked when a transvestite bus stewardess started her rounds, bringing snack boxes, iced coffee, and cold cloths for our faces throughout the journey. To be clear, I was not shocked about the tranny (“ladyboys”, as they call them, are infamous in Thailand), I was shocked by the fact that my bus had a stewardess. And he/she was bringing me snack boxes labeled “Your Best Friend Companion”  with sugary treats and buns filled with a confusing yet delicious green or purple paste/jelly hybrid substance. Then about ten minutes into the ride I was wondering how the person behind could be kneeing my seat with all the legroom we had, at which point I realized oh, that’s just my massage chair. Casually.

But then it got better. I’m not sure if I was more excited about the massage chair or the fact that there was a toilet. A real toilet, with a seat, and a flush, and, oh it was almost too wonderful for words…toilet paper!!! I almost didn’t want the ride to end, but I arrived in Chiang Mai ready to have some adventures.

Night Markets of Chiang Mai

The next day I headed out with a group of Australian boys from my guesthouse to do something called “Flight of the Gibbon.” It’s 2km of zip lines broken up by 18 treetop platforms through the rainforest. Quite a change from the overly cautious safety regulations you’d find on trips like this in the West, we were quickly strapped into harnesses upon arrival, received a safety briefing that went something like “lots of safety, lots of funny” and then ran after our guides to the start point where they literally grabbed our carabiners and pushed us off the first platform before we could say “Sawatdee kaa” (hello in Thai).

Flight of the Gibbon

Chiang Mai was off to a flying start (I couldn’t help myself). I had so much zen time in Indonesia I was craving some adrenaline, so after spending the day being thrown off treetops 1300 m above sea level, I was still just getting started on the adventures…

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5 thoughts on “Adventures in Chiang Mai Part 1: “Ladyboys” and Rainforest Ziplines

  1. Hi Shannon…

    My next adventure is a zipline tour either on Vancouver Island or Maui! I can hardly wait, as it has been on my to do adventure list! Manta Rays on a night dive is also on my never-ending list of travel experiences. I am so glad and excited for your next sojourn to Quito, Ecuador. I know you will enjoy the people and culture as much as I did. Your ESL course and teaching will give you an entirely different perspective of the country and culture, and more new friends!

    Happy 2012! Enjoy the moments:-)
    Aunt Peggy

  2. So many beautiful places. So many wonderful opportunities to meet and learn from cultures. So many memories. How many more places are you thinking of visiting?
    I’m glad you found a real bathroom. haha.

  3. hi, Shannon
    Wow, what a beginning in Bangkok! I think that an unexpected surprise is worth more than a successful scheduling because it makes you want more of that good news. I mean, travelling in a train which is almost as comfortable as a first – class airplane flight when you were supposed to have a trip only seen within your worst nightmares… that´s a lucky break. It must be shocking to find yourself being served by a “ladyboy” steward, don´t make a bad gesture, but it wouldn´t easy for them to work in this side of the globe.

  4. Hi Shannon,
    Is very interesting the bus that you speak, because in Ecuador the buses doesn’t have massage chair, it woud be good if we would have this wonder for our stressed life.
    I don’t like adrenaline, my life is very quite, is good that you like adrenaline because you is risky and will achieve many goals in your life. Each person is different in every all and this does the life more interesting.

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