The adventure so far
24.09.2011 - 30.09.2011 30 °C
Takes forever to upload pics so ill add more at some stage!!
Sunday we decided the stench of our unwashed clothes was becoming too much so we headed around the corner from our hostel and did a batch of laundry, 20 baht for a kg load which is dirt cheap! While we waited for it to finish we walked around the corner to the Tha Pae walking market on Ratchadamneon road and bought some baggy trousers and vests to survive the heat here. I would advise everyone and anyone not to bring that much stuff with them to thiland as you can buy clothes, cosmetics, bags pretty much anything for an absolute bargain here its crazy to bring any with you!
We chilled that night in the Lost Hut bar also around the corner from our hostel a cool reggee bar with a chilled atmosphere and great people. It sarted pissing down heavily outside at one stage and im told me and the owner of the bar Sai, a cool thai lady, ran out into the rain like two lunitics and started dancing and singing along to the tunes from the bar (my memory evades me of this but i blame the Chang for that..).
Monday was a late start as you imagine after the previous night and we took a random wander through the old city and decided to book a tour for the Wednsday which includes elephant ride and rafting so that should be good banter! We walked to the Anusam market for food and ended up having to stay for ages as one crazy lightning storm hit and the heaviest rain ive ever seen poured down as the market stall holders rushed to put up plastic sheeting over their goods. One piece of advice if your in this area, Burger King is a great place to use a clean loo with toliet rool and also get change for a big 1000 bhat note! The other toilets near the market charge 5 Bhat so use that as a fall back if you need to! We tuk tuked home through the Loi Khro rd, the red light district of Chiang Mai (or one of them) where the western men come to have a good time and the thai women stand at the entrance to the bars waiting on their nights business. They all pay pool here , i guess to break the awkwardness of the whole thing and relate in ways to the western bar and pool culture..or they all just love pool who knows!
Tuesday after checking out of the All In One hostel and bidding farewel to our French friend Gill we checked in a couple of streets over to a cheaper hostel without the luxury of airconditioning for £3.95 per night in Mojito house on Moonmuang soi 6 and headed out on our free half day tour of the arts and crafts of the region,we were driven by the tour guide we had met the day before, a friendly guy who loved comparing western prices to Asian prices with us and stopped off at wood making, silk weaving, cotton, brass gemstone, paper and honey making warehouses where the workers gave us a tour of the factorys and the shop at the other end incase you decided to fork out for any of the goods. The gemstone factory shop, the biggest jewlery shop in the world according to sinage outside was probably the most impressive and also intimadating as a thai women walked around with us showing off the different cases of jewellery and quoting prices we politely declined the offer to try on 40,000 baht rings (which is only £1000 and not expensive as far as diamond and gem rings go, but still out of a backpackers price range.The paper making factory was by far the coolest as the time and effort taken to convert wood from the Sa plant into paper amazes me . They make umbrellas and fans and loads of cool paper products and we ended up getting a couple of paper souvenirs to take home. The Honey bee factory was also notable in that we were given a presentation on honey making and the different honey products made by the bees in their hives and we tried Royal jelly, high grade honey and pollen grains. We got some honey ice cream on the way out to cool down, it was immense!
Wednesday we awoke to monsoon rain, which was annoying because this was our activity tour day. We headed out into the soaked streets and were drenched within minutes. Our driver picked us up and the group which consisted of Germans, Chinese and Turkish tourists headed off to our first stop the Butterfly and Orchid farm. It was interesting but a bit...er washed out..in the rain as we all walked around with umbrellas and i weaved my way around the orchid farm trying not to cut any down with my umbrella and be hit with a 2000 baht fine. The butterflys were'nt overly enthused at the rain either as one or two put on a little bit of a show for us before retreating back to the shelter of the trees.
We boarded the bus again and headed to the first elephant camp Chok Chai. On the way we passed villages with houses were completely flooded and people waist deep in water. As we climbed higher into the countryside the rivers were swollen with monsoon rain water with massive pieces of debris from upstream cascading their way down. We arrived at the first elephant camp where the rest of our tour were going to see an elephant show. There were elephants everywhere, just chilling out and eating and some with tourists on their backs. After dropping them off the driver sped along the dirt road with Gareth and I to the next camp and we were dropped off. We were greated by a Thai elephant keeper and he pointed to a wooden bridge accross the massively swollen river to where the elephant ride track started and told us to head accross. This was the nerve wracking experience of the day as it poured down and we half walked half ran accross the swaying bridge with the river roaring along below us. Once accross we walked to the platform which was surrounded by elephants all saddled up waiting. The elephant guides were all chilling out and some were asleep and we climbed up and shakily boarded our elephant. The guide secured the seat with a rope, sat on the elephants head and off we went.
Our trip through the jungle was to say the least..scary as hell. The guide seemed to be carving a new route or doing some gardening I've no idea, but we held on for dear life and our umbrellas as the elephant made its way slowly over new and uncertain ground and the guide hacked away at the overhead trees. You would think that once he pulled out his mobile phone and started a conversation i would be a bit more chilled at his laid back confidence but i wasnt. At one stage he had to hold us both in at a steep decline and i started to wonder what it would feel like to be killed by the weight of an elephant.
Once we were back on solid ground and had made it once more accross the wooden bridge we had our buffet lunch and after we were driven to an "idillic" waterfall that was more like a white water rapids because of the rain where on a good day you can take a dip and go bamboo rafting. The next stage of our day was zip lining in the jungle and the Chinese group we ended up with were great craic, laughing away at eachother and when one of them didnt quite make it to the other platform but instead zipped back to the middle and had to be hoisted back over by one of the Thai instructors everyone was in stitches. Gareth and I were the last to zipline accross the river and they let us do a "superman" as they called it as we were harnessed to the line by our backs so our hands were free, it was great craic! After that it was a ox cart ride which was verry mellow compared to the elephants, then it was back on the bus and on to our last stop, the hill tribes.
The hill tribe village was about 20 minutes from the elephant camp and belonged to the Long necked Karen tribe. We were given a history of the tribe by our guide as we walked around and took photos. This particular village was a tourist focused village and the main tribal village was a good treck away into the forest but not part of our tour. We watched the women making and selling scarves and bracelets at their different stalls and basically waiting for tourists to come and buy stuff. They start the elongation of their necks from the age of 6 and stop when they are 24. The process involves fitting a brass ring around their neck every year and is seen as a sign of beauty. Back in the day the rings were gold so once they turned 24 they were wealthy and the men in the village were more inclined to marry them. There were also women from three different triibes who had their own stalls just before the Longnecks and the Akha tribal women chew tobacco gum stuff they make from leaves tobacco and paste to make their teeth black, also seen as a sign of beauty, it actuallly looked like she had coloured them in with a Sharpie marker they were so black! We jumped back the bus ad headed back to Chiang mai city.
The whole trip cost us the equililent of around £19 and we booked in one of the many travel agencies dotted around Chiang Mai. You get similar packages with well known travel agences in the western world but you pay an absolute fortune for them in comaparison so id advise waiting untill you get here to book anything and also barter for the price!
So far Chiang Mai is awesome and on our walks around we've visited alot of cool temples, there are over 300 temples in Chiang Mai according to a guy who we first ignored as we mistook him for a tuk tuk driver looking for a fare but turned out to be just a guy chilling and chatting to random tourists about his city's temples, so you cant miss them. There are loads of cool bars and restaurants here and the people are really friendly and welcoming. The markets are amazing and the range of random foods you can try is immense! The market beside our hostel on Moonmuang Soi 6 called Wat Dokkham is great for fresh fruit smoothies in the morning! We leave today to hit the beaches of Southern Thailand and hopefully get a bit of tan on our pale Irish skin and do some Island hopping! Cant wait! :D