Published: October 4th 2007September 20th 2007
Lady boy dancing at Muay Thai
After the first 4 or 5 fights, there was a lady boy show... they looked FABULOUS!
- Sept 5 - 10 Chiang Mai
- Sept 11 - 13 Pai
- Sept 14 - 16 Chiang Mai
- Sept 17 - 20 Bangkok
After getting the hell out of the rainy border town of Mae Sai, we caught a bus down to Chiang Mai, the largest city in the north of Thailand (and Thailand's second largest city after Bangkok). Chiang Mai is just beautiful, known for its several hundred wats - I hate to admit this, but by this point in the trip we were a little watted out - exhausted quite frankly. But I was really happy to chill for a few days and actually stay in one place for more than one night. We had been staying at different places every single night for the past week (since Luang Prabang), we were too lazy to move out of SK guesthouse in Chiang Mai, even after we noticed it had quite a cockroach problem... In New York, we refer to these giant roaches as water bugs, but they're still disgusting. Our room was also pretty dank and musty, but we were just so tired of moving. We stayed there nearly a week! My how our standards have fallen...
The first several fights were seriously in the 80 to 100lb weight class! These boys were so tiny!
Despite the crappy accommodations, we really enjoyed Chiang Mai. There's so much to do here. I enjoyed taking a cooking class at one of city's many cookery schools - learning how to make red curry and other delicious thai food. A lot of our new friends from the Mekong and northern Thailand made it here to Chiang Mai, and we hung out at our favorite little alley side bar, Chill out, run by this sweet local guy with the unfortunate name of P-boy. I made an excursion with our new German friend Christof to the Doi Inthanon national park, where you can find the highest point in Thailand as well as the King and Queen's summer palace. There were also some amazing waterfalls nearby. At the Wachirathan falls the rocks were covered in slime and quite slippery - I 'gracefully' slid down an entire large rock, skinning my knee a bit... These injuries happen I guess. It was such a beautiful day - fun watching the Thais tube down some crazy rapids, though I wasn't about to try it.
One night we went with Chris to see some Muay Thai boxing near the night market. It was
Chill out bar
Hanging out with new friends - Chris from Germany, Don from San Fran, Furqan and Claire from Scotland
hilarious! The first several bouts were in the 80 - 100 pound weight class!! These little guys were feisty though! We were also drawn in by the last two fights in which Thais fought an American guy and a Danish guy. That was a lot of fun cheering on these 'farang' (foreigners), even if they ended up losing. As we learned, the rules are a lot more complicated than you realize - apparently it's some kind of point system, so while these farang looked pretty good, in the end they lost (and Jen lost her 100 Baht bet - oh well that's about US$3).
What was even funnier was the lady boy show after the first several fights. It was really hard to tell if they were transsexuals or transvestites. Thailand is the sex change operation capital of the world - and this kind of plastic surgury is relatively big here. These lady boys even had breasts, though you could still tell they were boys. It's so strange. There were several costume changes and they put on quite a show. Very entertaining!
We took an excursion to the quiet little mountain town of Pai for a few
Rafting in Pai
us with our guides and the 4 Germans we went rafting with in Pai near Mae Hong Son
days. It was such a sleepy and peaceful place - a good opportunity to get a nice Thai massage and do a little shopping. We also went on a whitewater rafting trip down the Khong and Pai rivers, ending near the town of Mae Hong Son (which is also known for it's long neck Karen hill tribe village). I had only ever been whitewater rafting once before and Jen had never been, so she was a little nervous. It was a little deceiving because the nice guy that sold us the package spoke such good English and claimed that he was going to be our guide. When we got there, we had a different guide who really didn't speak any English besides 'Right,' indicating that the left side of the raft paddles forward and the right side paddles back, 'Left,' meaning right forward and left back and 'Thank You,' meaning we should stop paddling. His one minute briefing was also a bit confusing, especially for the four Germans who were trying to decipher his poor english. The guide said something like, 'if fall water no put feet.' Not sure exactly what it was, but from my last trip I realized
Rainbow near Pai
Another view of this fabulous rainbow.
that not getting a foot entrapment was actually a very important point. It scared me a bit that the safety standards were so poor, but we hopped in the raft and headed off down the river.
Having done class fives before, I kept waiting for the scary parts - but it really wasn't too bad. It only got up to class 4 in a couple parts after our lunch stop. With the water level so high, there weren't too many rocks jetting out of the water, so it was really a lot of fun. The only thing that was too bad was that one of the German guys was really sick and had forced himself to do the trip anyway. I felt so bad for him - once you start, there's really no turning back. In a couple parts where the river was calm, we even got to hop in the water and drift along side the raft in the cool water. The scenery was beautiful and we really lucked out with weather - although the pastey Germans got a bit sunburned. On the drive back from the end point, it started to rain. But we saw the most
beautiful rainbow and gorgeous mountain scenery that had been hidden by clouds on the drive out.
Back to Chiang Mai
We headed back to Chiang Mai and checked into a different guesthouse this time. We were settling into the room, doing some laundry in a bucket, when I moved my bed over so I could hang up a clothesline I had brought. To my surprise, out runs an ENORMOUS spider - science fiction size with hairy legs. I scream as this horrible thing runs up the wall. I was horrified at how fast this scary beast moved! Luckily Jen was there too, so I could keep an eye on the monster while she went for help. I think people in the cafe across the street were laughing at me screaming. The lady staying next door came over to find out what was going on. Jen came back 5 minutes later with the lady boy (with 5 o'clock shadow) who worked at the guesthouse. Letting out a big sigh and rolling his eyes, he pranced over to where the beast was last spotted - under my bed - and with his swiffer gracefully smushed it and swept up the hairy
Lady selling birds
at Wat Chiang Mun in Chiang Mai.
pieces into the dust pan. He seemed quite annoyed to say the least, but we were relieved - though my skin was still crawling. I guess you can't travel in southeast asia for this long and not have such an episode - for us it happened in our last week! I don't even want to think of all the creepy crawlies that have been lurking in the places we've stayed - at least we didn't see them...
Later on met up with some of our new friends again. We headed over to the huge Sunday night market. Now we have been to many markets in Asia already, and I have never seen one so clean! That was very surprising, though we didn't buy too much. We spent the next day taking care of things that we needed to before leaving Asia, like going to the dentist. Not having any dental insurance anymore, I really couldn't afford to do it in Australia or when I'm back in the states. And the dentists in Thailand are excellent - most of the Thais we met had great teeth. The same couldn't be said of Laos, Vietnam or Cambodia.... forget about India. Our
Highest point in Thailand
I went with our new friend Chris from Frankfurt on a tour of Doi Inthanon National Park, where there is the highest point in Thailand.
friend Chris actually had quite a bit of work done, which when considering the savings compared to Germany had pretty much paid for his trip to Thailand.
I was also starting to get really sick - another case of the stomach funk. I'm already done with eating squid and shrimp for the moment after my food poisoning episode in Vietnam. Now I think it was the tuna sandwich the lady boy at the guesthouse made me earlier that made me so sick. Jen was also a bit sick, but still headed off to Sukhothai, a city between Chiang Mai and Bangkok. I just ended up taking a night train sleeper down to Bangkok the next night. Being sick on a train is not much fun, but being sick on a bus would've been worse.
I was feeling better by the morning when I arrived in Bangkok. I headed back to Rambuttri street where we'd stayed before, dropped my things off and headed to Khao San to do some shopping. These last few days in Bangkok were more about wrapping up our Asia trip than sight seeing, doing some shopping, sorting out our tickets, and enjoying our last
In Doi Inthanon National Park near Chiang Mai
affordable facials and massages before heading to Australia. We met up with our friend Chris again on his way back to Germany and met some other nice travelers in the Khao San chaos. It was strange to finally be leaving Asia - I had such a wierd feeling as we headed to the airport. I was a bit sad, but I was still very excited to be heading to Australia.
There are more photos below