Published: December 16th 2005December 8th 2005
Bananas win you friends here!
OK, mental note, when booking a bus trip, make sure it has VIP in the name and that it looks good in the picture they show you, and if it is only AU$7 for a 12 hour bus ride ask why.
It was the bus trip from hell, Bangkok to Chang Mai. Picture this, an old shitty bus, the aircon sort of works, you can hear and smell the toilet from your seat, no movies, a psycho host who tells anyone who dares to ask a question to shut up and sit down, you have to beg for a blanket and a bus driver who weaves in and out of traffic, nearly rolls the bus 1000 times and talks and texts on his mobile phone whilst 50 shit scared backpackers try to get some sleep. So much fun in 12 hours.
We made it to Chaing Mai and decided to settle in the guesthouse that they dropped us off at. Usually I don't do this because I like to break the chain (ie. bus driver drops you off at his cousins friends ex-wifes guesthouse and so on and so on, you can do a whole trip
through Thailand within the same family).
Because I had zero sleep on the bus I had a 3 hour kip and felt as good as gold. Our room was $2.50 each and came with clean sheets, a blanket, a soft pillow, a fan, a towel, hot water, soap, toilet roll and a western toilet. A bit of quiet was thrown in for free too. This is an amazing array of facilities for such a price. I feel like a king staying here, write it down, Namkhong Guesthouse in Chaing Mai. The staff here are so friendly and witty they are always playing jokes on me, I guess even Thai people can spot that I am naive, I may as well wear a name badge that says it.
Rane had organised some motorbikes with 2 canadian girls and a dutch guy and had been riding all morning and had explored the city and the hills thoroughly.
In the late afternoon after Rane had his kip we headed out on the bikes and rode in rush hour traffic through Chaing Mai. It was hella fun going around in circles, the city is housed in a giant square that
is surrounded by a mote and has remnants of a 700 year old wall that was built to keep out Burmese invaders. It is a very cool city and we even found an amusement park with dodgy rides and we felt dodgy so we went on one and and spun around very fast and bounced up and down. Instead of the usual 4 minute ride you get in Oz the ride went for over 10 minutes, we were getting heaps of bang for our Baht!
With our new friends we decided to do a 3 day hill trek the next day. We got picked up at 10am by our guides James Bond and Bruce Lee. They were a cool pair of characters and Bruce Lee was such a happy guy he always appeared drunk and had a string of one liners and constantly sang John Denver's 'Take Me Home', The Eagles 'Hotel California' and The Beatles 'Let It Be'. Imagine 6 very drunk Thai guys with a guitar trying to sing Take Me Home for 2 hours straight, I was lucky I didn't piss my pants when I witnessed this, actually I was one of those 6 drunk guys.
Anyways our group consisted of 10 people. 3 Aussies (1 girl, 2 guys), 3 Israeli guys, 2 Danish girls and 2 Canadian girls mostly aged 18-23. We got along really well for such a mixed bunch and I hung out with the 2 lovely Danish girls Maria and Dina for most of the time as there are no hills in Denmark and they were facing there biggest outdoor challenge thus far. For two first timers I thought they handled it extremely well.
We spent the first two days walking and visiting waterfalls and staying with hilltribe families. It rained and was foggy for most of the first two days but we managed to keep ourselves entertained and there were not many boring moments. Swimming in the waterfall pools was excellent fun and the food was superb, the best I have experienced so far in Thailand. Organic and natural Northern Thailand cuisine that is very exotic. It was also nice to be at 1200m elevation and breath some nice crisp fresh mountain air.
Our final day was the highlight. The day was clear for a start and our first walk was full of laughs as we just kept
Get out of my way little man on bike!
sliding down the steep trail on the way to the elephants. It was my first time on an elephant and me and Rane shared the ride on one, we picked the one that decided to take off and do its own thing and try to get as far away from the hosts as possible. They are beautiful peaceful creatures and I really enjoyed the experience and was happy to hear they are well fed (10 hours a day eating, 10 hours a day working and 4 hours a day sleeping (leaning against a tree)).
We went for a 50 minute walk on the elephants and you couldn't wipe the smile of our faces it was just fantastic, especially watching them do their toilet stuff and when they scratch there underbellies on a rock, priceless.
Our next mission was white water rafting, 5 of us in each boat (2 boats) and we tried our darndest to race each other down. I nearly came out twice on some steep descents but managed to stay in somehow. The rapids weren't too hardcore but I felt pretty hardcore OK. This was definately the highlight of my time in Thailand and I think
I will take it on again soon when I go to Laos.
Finally I am up-to-date with this blog and will definately try to keep it that way now that I found my feet here. Tonight is a big Mardi Gras that goes from 7pm till 2am right near where we are staying and it is set to be a spectacular evening. Tomorrow we are headed to a hippie town called Pai which is 3 hours from here (near Burma) and I am going to chill there with the Danish girls and maybe do some more hiking. Drinking is out of the question for now, until my liver says I can start again.
When I am finished with Pai I am returning to Chaing Mai for a few more days and then onto country number two 'Laos' which is the most underdeveloped country in South East Asia, very picturesque and has some of the best bakeries in the world, so I will be right at home. I laughed when I heard to get to Laos you catch a 7 hour speedboat to Luang Prabeng on the Mekong River with a grey motorcyle helmet with visor on, I can
just picture it looking like the A-Team or something, people have told me it is the funniest boat ride they have done. I can't wait.
There are more photos below