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Day 6: Breakfast At Tiffany's

Chiang Mai, Thailand

When analyzing Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the movie’s characters decline into chaos as their night of partying progresses. Originally cheerful and lighthearted, in the end, characters are sobbing or running from police. While our night didn’t have such a drastic shift, I couldn’t help but think about the real-world similarities on this fine Wednesday.

Morning Elephants

Roxanne and I woke up at 6:00, attempting to grab our clothes for the day without waking up the other 10 people in our dorm. I wouldn’t say we were entirely successful.

After 30 minutes of waving our phones’ flashlights in search for clothes and sunscreen, we ran downstairs to catch our ride for the day. We didn’t know at that time that we would be up for almost 24 hours.

The first destination was an elephant sanctuary. It seems fitting to start somewhere so peaceful. We hopped in the back of a “van,” which is really just a pickup truck with a roof and a lining of benches as seats. Inside were four girls from London and two guys from Florida, and together we embarked on the 1.5-hour ride out of Chiang Mai, through the mountains, and amidst splashes of rain.

It was a gorgeous view of Thailand, and although the road became increasingly curvy and bumpy near our destination, it was incredible to watch as the  jungle slowly surrounded us. Every passenger was “geeked” (Roxanne and I taught that slang word to the other travelers).

By 8 a.m. we reached the mountain, where we had to shuffle from the back of the makeshift pickup truck to the back of a real one. All eight of us crammed inside. Bananas rested on my feet.

The steep ride down into a valley was filled with repeating, foot-deep potholes, and I’m pretty sure I have bruises on every part of my body since descending through the terrain. Luckily this wild ride was only about 10 minutes long, and we soon stopped to be greeted by our guide. And he was carrying a spider the size of my hand. No exaggeration. Welcome to the jungle.

We quickly progressed from spiders to elephants -- thank god -- when walking over a rickety bamboo bridge toward Into the Wild Elephant Sanctuary. I would recommend this location to any traveler wanting to see elephants up close: the company does not jab or squish elephants with sharp sticks or straps. This is common in many tourist stops where people actually ride the animals, being done so to keep them tame. Instead, this sanctuary keeps previously domesticated and sometimes injured elephants safe and healthy.

Throughout the day, we fed the elephants (their tongues felt like the squishy bananas we put in their mouths!), patted their rough skin, gave them a mud bath, and swam in the river together to wash them off. We really swam with elephants. We were able to touch elephants. The elephants were in a safe place. Elephants just wandered around us the whole time. So many elephants! Again, I would recommend this sanctuary to anyone. To top it off, they provided us with the greatest lunch… How could this get any better?

The entire experience lasted until about 1:30, and we soon departed for the ride home. It reminded me of a field trip taken in elementary school, where the school bus ride heading toward the destination is filled with rambunctious, excited passengers, and the ride back consists of an exhausted, but content, silence. One girl on our ride home was even on the verge of puking due to the winding roads. Ahh, the nostalgia.


It was 3 p.m. when we returned to Hug Hostel (which is also one I recommend to any travelers in Chiang Mai). Roxanne and I decided to have our own tour of the Chiang Mai temples with the many remaining hours of the day.

Now, I’d like to pretend that I had done all of my research about the city and had specifically chosen to see Chiang Mai at this date and to go to the temples at this time because I knew of its history, but that would be an outright lie. It turns out that the annual City Pillar festival was occurring today, the celebrations centering right at the temple we were walking to see.

The City Pillar festival, also called the Inthakin festival, celebrates the Brahmic origin. It begins on the 12th day of the waning moon of the six lunar month, lasts eight days, and occurs around Wat Chedi Luang. Such a mouthful… there was no way I could even pretend I planned that one.

We wandered around the giant temple and watched as locals placed flowers on statues. A soft chanting rang in the background and monks strolled through the grounds. The grounds were filled to the brim with children in school uniforms and families buying snacks, and the chaos managed to remain tranquil.

Soon we decided to head out, and quickly the tranquility evaporated.


It first evaporated when we walked into the hostel bar. Holding “Thai spirit and soft drink,” it was an interesting start. We met four Canadian guys traveling together alongside Keeva from England and Philip from Germany. At the hostel, we spent a good amount of time talking about everything from each others’ structures of government to favorite TV shows.

As it always seems to work out, we decided to leave the hostel for an adventure. We all ended up heading back to the temple to see the nightly festivities. It was just as stunning, this time with traditional dancing and music to replace the chanting. We wandered around in a similar fashion as before and then decided to go to the much more exciting destination of 7-11 to buy alcohol, some members in search of an increased buzz. Leaving a holy temple for booze… Classy.

Attempting to buy more alcohol at this convenience store (they sell everything here from liquor to microwaved toasties), the group was declined due to the timing. Thailand law bans the sale of of it after midnight. The 7-11 cashier, however, looked at us with a tired pain in his eye -- you could tell he gets annoying backpackers asking for alcohol after hours all the time -- and said to try Spicy’s. Very mysterious.

Somewhere along this timeline we also walked into a different bar, which closed within a few minutes of our being there. We spent much time walking along a particularly dirty street, where cockroaches scattered every direction with every single step. I was doing my best not to count them, or even look at them, but at the end of the night I lost track after seeing 20 on the same path. And by losing track, I mean there were at least a dozen more moving beneath the trash and our shoes, but I do not want to know the exact number. Literally, the bugs were the size of my thumb.

This first trek across this street was also for nothing, as within 15 minutes of us being at the bar’s outdoor table, the lights just shut off and people left. Really, they just left us in the dark. It was honestly so shocking that it was kind of funny. We quickly followed their example and ended up walking toward Spicy’s, which google defined for us as a club. Along the way, we watched cockroaches scurry by our feet on the same long road down.

I’m still disgusted. The Breakfast at Tiffany’s-esque descent seemed to have brought us to rock bottom, and then we saw a few rats run inches from our feet, just to add to it… And then a rat-like man cut Keeva and I off in the road, separating us from our friends and trying to talk with us. He was probably the nastiest creature of them all. We got around him with the help of our Canadian male friends, but he still followed us, cockroaches in tow. We might as well have gone to hell because I can’t imagine a difference.

When we got to Spicy’s, the lights were off and it appeared dead. The journey to hell really felt like it had been for nothing. Then a guy gruffly told us to go around back, and through the alley, past people whom we learned later were snorting cocaine, and with ratman still tailing us, we walked through a side door into a room with the sound of house music. A little before 1 a.m., we were practically staring at a Thai speakeasy.

We were then ushered through another door, to be greeted by a huge crowd in a small room and the source of the music. We were there for only 15 minutes when they ushered everyone through yet another door into an even smaller room. We had no idea what was going on, and debated going in to avoid such a claustrophobic space. Then they shut off the lights on us, again, and against our better judgement we followed the crowd. Into a coffee shop.

Suddenly, everyone was partying beneath a sign advertising lattes. Instead of hovering above coffee grounds, however, the sign was above a stocked shelf of liquor.  I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

After a little bit of dancing, I walked back to the hostel next to Keeva, the Englander who had a buzzed head and a bunch of interesting stories. It turns out she had just turned 18 before deciding to backpack to Thailand. I was #1 reminded of my days backpacking at age 17 with older foreigners and was interested to see the roles reversed, and #2 even more impressed because she was traveling alone. Such a cool woman! Yay for cool women!

On the road home, which included less cockroaches because we avoided the particularly infested street, we made plans to conjoin our travels. Keeva would come with Roxanne and I to Pai the next day.

So easy to make friends; so easy to pull ourselves out of the grips of hell itself. Off to Pai we would soon go, leaving Chiang Mai behind us.

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