I ordered a cheap Grab to my hotel and arrived late (around 9:30pm) where I was taken to a room in another building around the corner (which I at first thought was strange, but ended up being an upgrade - score!). The building was gated and came with a nice patio section with a sitting area and then a data key to get into the hallway/building and my room had a mini bar, water heater, tv and AC with two twin beds. I was happy to be in a comfortable place but was pretty tired from traveling so much and it was Thanksgiving back at home so had planned to Skype with my family that night. So I walked about 10 minutes to 7-11 to get some bottled water and snacks and then showered quickly before calling them. It was great talking to them and it made me miss being there, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t sleep that night because I had planned a morning tour to this elephant sanctuary where I had to be up by 7:30am. I fell asleep around 1:30am so I only got about 5 hours of sleep. It was difficult waking up and I felt sick actually but I went straight to get some breakfast (included) before getting picked up for the tour. Breakfast included 2 fried eggs, toast, orange juice and coffee. It was perfect timing because the minivan then picked me up and there were two people already in the minivan. I said hello and sat in the front row because I didn’t want to feel car sick and they were in the back chatting away. It seemed they were at the same hostel and the girl from the USA and wasn’t sure where the guy was from but turns out he’s from Chile. They were chatting about traveling solo and I tried to relax and sleep as we went to pick up others but couldn’t because their convo was very interesting what they were saying about Chiang Mai and then another couple came into the van, they were from Canada. I decided to be more friendly as soon as I realized the sanctuary was not as close as I thought - instead of it being 15 minutes it was an hour and 15 minutes away.
So we all introduced ourselves and told each other our stories and then we were finally there. It was a really cool experience and I’m so glad I booked this sanctuary, Bamboo, because I had a blast with the elephants and feeding them. There was a baby elephant only 6 months old named Bamboo and so cute, it made me so happy. At first it was a little intimidating how fast they ate when trying to feed them bananas from your hands, it felt like they were going to eat your hand off so I got a little thrill from it. And then we were able to walk up next to them (something I've never done) and feed them bamboo and then could pet them and go on a walk and bathe them...it was all super fun because it was a new experience and they had the sweetest personalities! We also made herbal medicine for them which was made of rice, and this interesting sour fruit that tastes like sour raisin and then we were served pad thai for lunch that wasn’t bad. I informed the leader that I needed to be back by 2:30pm for an appointment and then of course the USA girl asked what I needed to be back for (I had booked a massage because I was going to get a tattoo the following day and wanted to ensure I was relaxed)...so I just said I had to be somewhere.
Anyway, we were back by 2pm and I listened to music the whole way back because I was tired of the small talk already. When I got back, I was able to clean up a bit from the mud and then got picked up right in time by the spa I had booked for a hot oil massage and mani/pedi (they pick/drop off for free). It was so relaxing and just what I needed after a long morning/day with the elephants. When I entered, they first gave me this cooled iced tea and a questionnaire and then I followed the masseuse to get my feet cleaned before going in for the massage. It was the best massage I had in Thailand for sure, I mean it was a lot more expensive than the walk-in type spas, but this was an upper-class spa which I wanted to check out since I really needed to relax before my tattoo. It was exactly what I needed and more, afterwards they gave me these rice cookies and ginger tea and dropped me off at my hotel around 6pm. I was relaxed and tired and decided to go to the restaurant close to my hotel that I had seen the night before and ordered a coconut chicken soup with rice and it was so cheap and delicious. Then I went back and did some planning for the next couple days and then tried to plan India and go to bed, but couldn’t fall asleep again because I was anxious about my tattoo.
I went to bed probably around 2am and decided to skip breakfast and so glad I did because I needed the sleep. I woke up around 10:45am and decided to do a yoga session, my body was telling me I needed it and I didn’t even look at my phone all morning, not even the time. And then when I checked the time it was 5 past noon and I was planning to walk to the tattoo parlor (had an appointment for 1pm) but kind of glad I didn’t because that would’ve been too far of a walk. Anyway, I ate the snacks I had gotten at 7-11 the first night and took a Grab scooter to the tattoo parlour, Celebrity Ink, that took about 10 minutes. I arrived right at 1pm and the place seemed very clean and organized. There was an American looking blonde young girl finishing up her tattoo and two guys who seemed to just be getting started or not even halfway done. The girl actually got a yin yang tattoo on her arm with a sun around it, what a coincidence. And then the other two guys something on their chests so definitely was going to stay longer. The manager confirmed the design of my tattoo with me and we had to adjust the wave part a bit because it was too detailed for the size. She was explaining that you can’t do too much design in such a small tattoo, so the artist/tattooist (Tore) who didn’t speak much English redesigned it while I filled out the disclaimer. It was a little stressful seeing as though we had already established the design but then had to adjust it on the spot (it made me more nervous) but I’m grateful in the end because it would have definitely looked too busy..I mean I was really counting on them to come up with the best design for what I wanted and they pretty much did throughout, so it worked out well. After about an hour of paperwork and re-design, we were finally ready and he made the stencil on my leg which I didn’t realize stays on when they ink you so it had to be perfect. Tore started around 2:15pm and it actually didn’t hurt as badly as I expected a tattoo to hurt, but I know it all varies. I had put on my backpacking playlist, so I was feeling fine and relaxed the whole time while sucking on a lollipop. There were times when it pinched and hurt, especially bone on bone, I could really feel the needle, but that didn’t last long. I kept that song, "The Greatest" on repeat during the harder times (my favorite most meaningful song from my whole trip). It took about an hour for him to finish up and there was a new manager that had just gotten there as I finished so he checked me out after Tore took some pictures of the final tattoo...I was tatted! The other manager who originally was helping me took pictures of us and then I paid and was on my way to get some food..it all seemed to happen so quickly. It was a little strange to be done already for some reason, I guess it was just the way it feels for the first time to be marked permanently on your body (having only lasted 2 hours) and there you go...there's no turning back...something I've never experienced before obviously. I was really shaky since I didn’t have a good breakfast so I asked where to get the best meal at around there and thankfully the manager gave me a good suggestion down the street about 10 minutes..I couldn't think straight. It was in the middle of the day around 3:30pm so no one was at the restaurant thankfully, it was quiet so I ordered a large chiang beer and chicken pad see ew because that’s what I felt like having. I relaxed a bit before walking back towards my hotel, feeling weird that I couldn't share this one-time experience with anybody, but that's the whole point of the tattoo in my opinion..it was for me, and only me to experience. I ended up stopping for another beer as the sun was setting because I wanted to catch some rays but didn't want the plastic on my tattoo to wear off so I headed back when the sun set. I was tired and needed to figure out laundry so I did that first and then showered and decided to just have the ramen soup I had bought because the noodle place I originally was going to go to was closed next to my hotel.
The next morning I slept in a little and went on a walk to see all the temples I had wanted to see in Chiang Mai (put it all in Google Maps). It was a hot sunny day and I got a milk bubble tea and did some shopping and saw the beautiful temples - it was a relaxing morning. I got back to my hotel around 1pm and Grissel (the lady I met in Cat Ba from France) had messaged me that she was at her hotel so we planned to meet at the noodle place next to my hotel around 2pm. I relaxed in the AC as my tattoo was hot and then met up with her and we had a nice chat over seafood pho and then walked to get a drink but then the cafe we stopped at wouldn’t serve beer until 5pm so so we went to this pharmacy so I could get what I needed for my motorcycle scar and then I was really ready for a massage at that point. It was the last Thai massage I could get and since I didn’t want the masseuse to touch my tattoo, I just got shoulder/back/neck, and she ended up doing legs as well. It seems as though whatever massage you get they just do more or whatever their style is, not the same at all. Like the one I got in Vietnam at the airport where the girl literally stood on top of me walking and crawling on my back was her version of a Shiatsu massage. Either way, it was relaxing and when we got out of the massage room, there was a nice ginger tea and cookies waiting for us. It was around 5pm and there was this open market along the streets that had just started so we decided to walk around the market. I had zero cash left and needed to get to an ATM so thankfully we found one next to this restaurant that had happy hour and a live band even though the ATM didn’t work, we sat down and ordered happy hour. It was a fun relaxing evening listening to the live band and drinking while ordering my train tickets with that Indian girl/manager at Cat Ba's brother. I ordered a yummy cashew chicken which I had been wanting to try in Thailand and it was delicious and then I was feeling a bit buzzed and anxious because I needed to get back to pack and go to bed since I had to wake up at 4am for my flight to India, so we made our way back through the market crowds to an ATM. Grissel walked back with me to my hotel to have one last drink together. We said our goodbyes and then I showered and packed and tried to go to sleep by 10pm but it ended up being like 11pm so I probably got like 4-5 hours of sleep. It was really tough waking up that early but the airport was super close and small and the flight left right around sunrise.
I received an email before boarding my flight that my second flight (3 flights total to get to my final destination, Rishikesh) had been delayed so I knew I needed to figure some things out during my layover in Bangkok (which ended up being 4.5 hours as opposed to 3). The airport in Bangkok was crazy busy but since I had a long layover, I had enough time to go through everything and change my third flight (from Delhi to Rishikesh) to a later time, since I wasn't going to make the original time. I also had to contact the yoga school who had planned to pick me up at the airport in Rishikesh that I would be arriving later than expected..a lot of coordinating. The airport was like a mall and had a variety of stores so after I was finished coordinating the mess, I bought some lotion and last minute bubble milk tea and then finally boarded my flight to India. I was one of the few white chics on the plane, it was full of mostly Indians and a few light skinned tourists...I knew I needed to start getting in the mind set that I will soon be arriving in India...a third-wold country...a country never would have thought in a million years I would be traveling to at this time in my life. It turns out my aisle seat was next to these two young Australian 18-year-old girls, so we chatted for a bit and then relaxed during the 4 hour flight to New Delhi....here I go!