Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Margaret River, Bangkok and Chiang Mai

For our final few days in Australia we decided to head south to Margaret River, another region of Western Australia famous for its wines. Apparently in terms of weather, climate and soil conditions the area is very similar to the South of France – Bordeaux Region – and so will be able to produce similar style wines.

Compared to Perth, the first thing you notice about Margaret River is that the temperature is a few degrees cooler and the wind has dropped considerably, so it was much easier to pitch the tent!

We arrived on Kev’s birthday so we headed straight out to start celebrating. The wineries were all a short drive away so we decided to stay in the town instead and visited a new brewery that has recently opened and sample some of their craft beers.

The next day we booked on to a wine tour so we’d both get to taste the wines and neither one of us have to drive. Gemma recommended us a company called Bushtucker Tours, which took us to four vineyards, a chocolate factory, a dairy (to sample some of the local cheeses) and a brewery – with a big lunch thrown in to soak up some of the alcohol! 

We were treated to a gourmet buffet of local delicacies including kangaroo, crocodile, quondong (a fibrous desert fruit) and ‘bush limes’ – it was our first time to eat kangaroo and crocodile and both were lovely – lean and flavoursome and not really like anything else I’ve tried.

The weather began to turn on our last day, so we decided to head back to Perth before the rain started and pack our bags ready for our flight to Bangkok and the next leg of the trip.

We’ve been to Bangkok once before – at the start of our last trip – so we decided to spend just one night there before flying up to Chiang Mai for the start of our travels around Northern Thailand. 

Still, it was good to be back. Bangkok is a huge and crazy city so we booked a place to stay on the Khaosan road – it’s really touristy but good fun for one night and has plenty of entertainment and things to do. 

One of the first thing we noticed when we arrived was the humidity compared to Australia – given that the temperatures are pretty similar, it’s a lot more humid here, even though it’s dry season (or Thailand’s winter)

After a quick nap and dip in the pool, we popped out for a wander around. Despite being in a tourist hot spot, the bars and restaurants are so cheap (especially compared to Australian prices!) There’s excellent street food, all cooked fresh and we really were spoiled for choice. Amongst the various street food stalls was a cart of (cooked) insects, ranging from tarantulas, crickets, cockroaches, beetles, scorpions, snakes and mealworms – but neither of us fancied taking our chances with them!

As the evening progressed, the city really began to wake up. More and more people flooded the streets and there were hawkers everywhere, selling their wares. It was really vibrant and great for people watching...

Amongst the many bars, restaurants and market stalls there are also loads of massage places, with a Thai massage costing just £2 or £3 for half an hour – this was a welcome sight and we opted for a foot rub, but soon went back later on for a shoulder, neck and head massage – to undo the damage done by carrying around a heavy rucksack. I think we’ll be having regular massage during our time in Thailand! The only slight drawback is the language barrier so Kev found it hard tell his massage therapist if the pressure was a bit too firm – the standard was otherwise pretty good!

Chiang Mai is the capital of Northern  Thailand and is much less hectic and smaller than Bangkok. 

We've been staying in a hostel a short walk away from the night market and a short tuk-tuk ride from the temples of the old town/city centre. We enjoyed taking in the temples by day and shopping, eating and soaking up the atmosphere at the night market in the evening

We spent a day wandering around the old town's many temples, filled with golden Buddhas and monks in their orange robes. 

We felt like we'd hardly scratched the surface - there are so many of them!

We wanted to see some elephants in the wild whilst in Chiang Mai. There has been a recent shift in elephant tourism with people historically wanting to ride the elephants, but now prefer to see them enjoying their natural environment and not being asked to perform circus tricks or take people on treks. Tripadvisor has even stopped advertising any tours that contains any such animal cruelty, so it was important for us that we picked a tour with the elephants’ welfare in mind.

At the Dumbo Elephant Spa (so called because you get to give the elephants a mud bath then wash them off in the river afterwards) there are six elephants, of which five have been rescued and one baby who has never known any ‘circus life’ or any cruelty.

We spent time with all the elephants, who all have very different personalities. Elephants have a similar life span to humans, living up to a hundred years old and have similar levels of maturity so a three-year-old elephant will be like a naughty toddler! One such elephant has even been given the name ‘Naughty Boy’ and he was always misbehaving, trying to get more food by stealing our lunch, or by acting boisterously in the mud, so we had to keep our distance.

We started off by feeding all the elephants some fruit for breakfast then followed them up the mountain path to watch them digging and feeding on tree roots. The highlight of the day however was the mud spa (both for the elephant and for us!) The elephants were absolutely delighted to roll around in the mud and have mud splashed all over them. The sanctuary staff were also very keen to splash mud all over us, making sure we got stuck in.

It was thrilling to get so close to these massive animals and also to see such strong personalities and such a sense of fun, despite only spending a few hours with them – but also a little bit scary – and therefore wise to be cautious around them!

Tomorrow we’re off to our next destintion, Pai. I’ll write again from there.


  1. Loved the elephant story. What a fun thing to do! Great blog, Sarah. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Looks like you are still having loads of fun