Well we arrived in Chiang Mai after the long train journey, got our bags, found our driver and made it in to town for some breakfast. We stopped at some hotel and got some quality western food. It is always nice to eat Western food once and awhile, keeps a good balance going in the stomach, which is always important.
One highlight from the train was Deb. Deb is one of the ladies on the trip. It was around 10PM we had come back from the “disco car” and were trying to get ready for bed. A little typsy Deb began making some noise and out of nowhere came “Shusssh.” Since the curtains were drawn on all the beds, you didn’t know where it came from, but it was freaking hilarious. She started saying “who said shussh?” Then you would get another “shussh, shussh.” Heck I started shusshing her just because it was hilarious to hear her reaction to the shusshing.
Back to Chiang Mai. So we checked in to the hotel and Jim our driver/guide arranged our optionals for the day. Today I decided to go elephant riding and bamboo rafting down a river about an hour outside of Chiang Mai in the mountains. The elephant riding was once in a lifetime experience. It was Deb and I on one elephant on some rickety chair thing with a ghetto seatbelt that really didn’t tighten or anything. Elephants are pretty darn high if you didn’t know. From the top of them you are pretty high up and really don’t realize it till you look down! The reason why this particular riding experience was so good was because it wasn’t some stupid zoo-like path around in circles, this was a riding experience up the hills, over a river and in to the jungle. Every so often the elephants would stop and rip apart bamboo and other shrubbery to eat. The guides on the elephants would make moans and other calls to make the elephants move and respond. On the way back to the camp I decided to hop on the head/neck of the elephant and switch with the guide. It was crazy. I was not strapped in, the elephant was not some circus elephant, and I was just on its neck/head riding along with the guide and Deb in the back. After elephant riding we fed the elephants banana’s with the peels to their trunks and then were off to bamboo rafting.
Bamboo rafting was Elizabeth and I along with a non english speaking guide. They were long rafts made from real bamboo, tied together with some rubber from old tires. I was given a long pole made from bamboo and was in the back helping steer the raft. Elizabeth had the honors of sitting down in the middle and enjoying the ride down the river. At one point the guide in the front decided to get funny and stir the back toward the bank of the river and a low lying tree, a huge branch laying over the water. I saw it coming but didn’t have time to get my pole out of the way and before I knew it the pole was caught between the raft and the tree trunk and it starting to bend. I tried to get it loose but I couldn’t. The pole was bending and bending and I was afraid it would either snap back at me and hit me square in the face or chest, or worse. So I had no choice but to jump off the raft backwards on my back and fall in to the river. I was a little scared because I didn’t know if the raft was over my head, and this was a rushing river with shallow water and big rocks at the bottom. I quickly got back up to the top of the muddy stream and saw the guide laughing. My chest felt tight, my blood pressure was high and I was not really happy on the inside. The guide asked me if I was ok with hand gestures and while I felt like giving him the Thai symbol for “fuck you,” I laughed and said “yes yes,” waving my hands in a way that he could understand. He continued to laugh and this really got me pissed. Regardless I kept it in, just went along with the apparent botched joke and enjoyed the rest of my ride.
From then on out I wasn’t standing and steering, but instead sitting down on the raft and enjoying the journey down the river that way. From time to time the raft behind us as well as our guide would slap their pole in the water and yell “crocodile.” Elizabeth said it was a case of a one word vocabulary. I agreed and just continued to enjoy the ride.
After the ride we dried off, found Jim, tipped the guide and made our way back to the hotel in Chiang Mai. I was starving and hadn’t eaten all day. I had about an hour or less before we had to meet in the lobby to go up the mountain in Chiang Mai to the Doisep temple. I decided to get some local food from the corner. I ordered some chicken and rice and told the lady “I want spicy.” What a huge mistake. One thing I should have realized is no spice on the menu still means some spice, but when you order “spicy,” you pay the piper. What is the saying, “don’t play with fire unless you want to get burned?” That played true this day. The food was the spiciest food I have ever eaten in my life. My face and skin literally burned for a good hour plus after I ate the food. I started to tear and sweat it was so spicy!
After I tried to cool down, I had to meet the group to make our way to the Doisep temple on the top of this moutain in Chiang Mai. It was fairly steep and provided us good views of Chiang Mai.
It was cool, we got to hear the monks chanting, walked around the temple grounds, and had to climb like 250 steps in the heat! How fun! In the evening we had dinner at the famous Chiang Mai night market. It wasn’t bad, and after dinner did a little more shopping. Shopping has become a common theme of my trip unfortunately. Things are so cheap and cute and you have to have them, that I cannot resist. I think I have bought 15 new shirts easily. But I love my new wardrobe and it will give me new stuff to wear finally! I hate wearing the same 7 shirts each week, I love my new stuff. I also bought some stuff for the family. Not a lot but a little here and there.
After the nightmarkets I broke away from the group fairly quickly. I walked around the markets a little more myself, checked the internet and my email and had a massage. My second one of Thailand. Again, everything they say about Thailand is true, and I will leave it at that!
I had to find my way home from the massage place and really had no clue. Luckily I found this guy at a hotel next door who gave me directions to the hotel. I was back home, Morrie was sleeping and I had to be up early.
The next day we were off early for our long journey to Chiang Kong. This was a small villageish town on the border between Laos and Thailand. One side of the Mekong was Thailand, the other Laos. So we all packed in to the minivan and we were off. Our first stop was this cashew factory/farm. Pretty interesting how they grow cashews really. I personally didn’t know they grew from trees and kind of hang from this fruity looking thing which is the seed I suppose. I have pictures anyway I’ll post them, you’ll look.
This is where my day got bad though. When I looked for my money in my money belt as I was trying to buy some cashews I realized that I had left my passport and money/credit cards in the locker at the hotel! Fuck! I was not happy. I told Andrea our tour guide leader and she exclaimed a similar expletive. We called the tour operatios manager in Bangkok and he called Jim back in Chiang Mai. To make a long story short I had to pay some guy 2500 Baht to drive all the way up to Chiang Rai about 5-6 hours or more from Chiang Mai and deliver my stuff in a sealed envelope. After calling Dad to basically scream, yell, bitch and moan, I was over it, and it was back on the minivan. From the cashew factory we headed to this white temple. It was a buddist temple built by an artist that was all white. The whole grounds was white. The way it shined and reflected off of the sunlight, it looked really good. We snapped some photos and were back on the minivan. From there we went to Chiang Rai to visit a Hilltop tribe museum. These are people that live in the hills and mountains of Thailand. We watched a film and walked around the small but quaint museum. I bought some cards that I want to frame and hang on my wall. Plus I always like to make some donation and instead of just dropping money in a thing, I would rather walk away with a momento of the place.
We finally got to Chiang Kong, this small village on the Mekong river, checked in to our guest house, no shoes of course, made from all wood and we were off to dinner. I first checked my internet of course and met the rest of the group for a Thai style buffet. Morrie had the idea he got from China to just order a lot of dishes and pass it all around. It worked out rather well, it was good food, unfortunately not enough, as the dishes were rather small. I think the consumption of beer didn’t help either, and personally I was still hungry. So we ordered two more dishes and that seemed to hit the spot.
After dinner we hung around the restaurant/bar and Elizabeth, Meredith and I engaged with the locals on the bar side. I ordered a local rum and coke, which was nice and then this local had some strong looking, dark alcohol in this coca cola bottle. He poured us shots and we did some shots with the guy. I think I ended up doing a few shots, but truthfully don’t remember! I got great photos from the night to help me remember. After dinner we walked back to our guesthouse and hung out on the deck overlooking the Mekong. Some had a few more beers, I perosnally was done and was just enjoying the night.