Saturday, August 04, 2007

Thailand, Chiang Mai: June 15-20

To get to Chiang Mai from Bangkok, we took the overnight sleeper train. I found it quite comfortable but the train broke down in the morning and arrived a couple hours late. Also, don’t expect first class bathrooms. Instead, you get to watch the ground go by as you peak into the hole so be careful of dropping something important down there.

Once we arrived, we saw people with a sign for Libra Guesthouse and I remembered someone we met along our trip telling us good things about it. The people offered us a free ride to check out the guesthouse whether we stayed or not so we had nothing to loose. Libra Guesthouse is family owned so the atmosphere is really good. Liz and I got food poisoning at one point and they took care of us. They even postponed a trek that we had signed up for because we and two other people were too sick to go.
There were many things to do in Chiang Mai. We went to watch a Muay Thai Boxing match, which I thought would be more interesting. I thought it’d be more elbows and knees action like the movie Ong Bak, but it was like regular boxing with the gloves. There were musical instruments accompanying the fight though so that was a bit different. Plus some of the sets had 12 year old boys fighting so that was a little bit of turn off. One guy got knocked out but I was in the bathroom. Also, the judges kept talking to Liz and I. One of the judges found it heard to believe that I wasn’t Thai and everyone who walked by him, he would ask what race they thought I was. I guess I stood out in an audience full of foreigners. Most of the other Thai people were in the standing area betting or in the bleachers further away.

Since Thailand was our last stop, we did a lot of shopping. There is a huge night market that I think is open every night and a Sunday market which is of course open on Sunday’s. Just ask your hostel and they’ll direct you to those places. I like shopping in Thailand. The style of clothes is nice and it’s cheap if you know how to bargain. Even if you don’t, it’s still cheaper than home. It’s a good thing I’m too lazy to carry too much stuff home, otherwise I could open a shop back at home!
Liz and I both really wanted to see some Thai dancing so we booked a dinner at the Cultural Centre and we even got a free shuttle there and back from our hostel. The food wasn’t great but the dancing was really good. Liz even volunteered herself to go dance on stage with the dancers. Back to the food, I think this is where we got our food poisoning so be careful if you do decide to go this route.

We had wanted to learn some Thai cooking but with our food poisoning pushing our trek a day back we ran out of time. Instead, we opted for some relaxing Thai massage. I had a massage in Hong Kong and came out in more pain than I did walking in but this one was different. The girl hit all the right pressure points and I came out perfectly relaxed and happy.

Now the adventure begins and it wasn’t a pretty beginning. I still felt a little bit sick and it didn’t help that we rode in the back of a truck through a winding road for 2 or 3 hours. I wasn’t the only one sick too. Another girl just got food poisoning and one girl was sick from her malaria pills. The hike on the first day wasn’t a pretty one. We got to a waterfall for lunch but I couldn’t eat and I’m sure a few other people couldn’t. Then we hiked to the village were we’d be staying but it had started to rain so it felt like, well you know. I felt so relieved when I finally got to lay down in our flimsy hut with chickens and dogs running beneath our floor. Of course, the most annoying thing were the roosters that started crowing early in the morning. I’m thinking like 4am, maybe even earlier and it’s not just a single crow. It’s about 40 roosters crowing for at least half an hour, right beneath us and all around us.
That was crappy day number 1. Day 2 gets better but a few of us are still in pretty bad shape. Remember, I had only managed to stomach about 2 spoonfuls of food for the entire day before. We hiked for 3.5 hours before stopping for lunch. Lunch I was able to manage. Instant noodles! I can’t digest rice when I’m sick I think. Anyways. After lunch was a 2 hour bamboo raft ride down to the next village. For 2 hours, our feet were submerged in the murky river water. Our guide hit a log and I saw a rat jump into that water. And to think I was going to jump in for a swim. We arrived at the next village and after settling in, the villagers had set up a mini market for us to buy souvenirs. Also, after dinner some of the men sat with us and played some card game with us.
The next day was much better. We got a truck ride to a cave, which I didn’t find that interesting. The exciting part of the day was the elephant ride. The one that Liz and I rode on was called Spicy Girl and she was smaller than all the other elephants. Also, our elephant guide kept saying, “Oh my Buddha” and I thought that was funny. These elephants kept picking things up along the way to eat and splashing us with stream water. I didn’t see the elephants being mistreated, which was good because we were worried about them using hooks to scratch the back of the elephants’ ears. The only threatening thing was a thin bamboo rode that our guide usually used to hit a tree branch to make our elephant move on.

And that concludes our trip in Thailand!