Sawaddee ká! (hello in thai) I arrived in Chiang Mai after a long, uncomfortable overnight bus ride from Bangkok. Aom (the project manager) picked me up and took me to the volunteer house. I was so exhausted so i slept for a few hours then met some of the other volunteers and went out to dinner. My first impression of them was that they were sort of boring but throughout the week they grew on me. There is Claudia- 55 from Switzerland, an eccentric lady who loves neon and is CRAZY about elephants. She must have spent over $100 a day at the elephant camp buying bananas and sugarcane for them to eat. Ina- 35 from Colombia but also speaks fluent German. She is amazing, super easy to talk to, very insightful and kind, and we spoke almost exclusively in Spanish! Nina- 19 from Germany, very shy and reserved but a sweet girl. And Hannah- 21 from Scotland, I have probably become the closest with her, shes funny and quiet. There is also a guy named Alistair who is here volunteering at some hospitals, he’s from Australia and since he arrived at the same time as us he was in our orientation, also he’s hilarious so I was glad he was there. Orientation began with an hour long Thai lesson- Thai is an extremely difficult language to learn. Words change based on the tone in which you say them so it was super confusing. I managed to learn hello, how are you, thank you, how much?, spicy/not spicy, goodbye, and some numbers- which seems to be the perfect amount of Thai! After the Thai lesson we had some boring orientation stuff, going over rules and so forth then we went out to a yummy lunch and took a tour of the old city and spa few temples. Chiang Mai has an old city and a new city, the old city is inside “gates” that are more like old brick walls and only exist around the corners pretty much and the new city is everything outside of it. There is also a moat all the way around the old city which is pretty cool, and there are temples everywhere! After the city tour we had a break then were taken to dinner at a “cultural show” which I could have done without. The food was weird and the show seemed fake and sort of ridiculous. The next day we had another Thai lesson, lunch, then they took us to the largest outdoor market in Chiang Mai. It was pretty cool and very hectic. There were crazy foods and hand made crafts everywhere as well as a lot of cheap, fake, western rip off things. I ate a cricket! At the market Imm (who is the female program coordinator for the medical volunteers) asked me if I would like some pictures of myself. She explained that her boyfriend is a photographer and he wanted a series of pictures with a westerner and she thought I was pretty and asked if I wanted to do it. So of course I said yes! And the next weekend I went over to her boyfriends house with her and he took some really nice black and white photos of me that I’m waiting to receive in an email soon. After that market the other volunteers and I went to the Sunday market which was awesome! It was about 45 blocks of open air stalls with beautiful bright fabrics and trinkets. I wandered through and bought a few little things, practicing my bargaining skills I’m Thai though it was hard for me to understand the numbers when they said them so they ended up laughing at me alot (which was hilarious). After the market we went up to a rooftop bar that overlooked the market for a beer and the view was incredible! That night we went to bed early and prepared ourselves for elephant camp! The weekend after elephant camp I spent some more time in Chiang Mai. Mostly relaxing, though I had to do a visa run which I will explain later, and we went to a lady boy burlesque show! Lady boys are extremely common in Thailand and are even considered a third gender. Basically they are transvestites but many of them get operations to fully become women. Every night they do a free show at the night bazaar you just have to buy a beer or cocktail once inside. It was so fun! And crazy, some of them really don’t look like men at all… Anyway I like Chiang Mai a lot, it’s a lovely city.