Published: December 15th 2011December 13th 2011
13 December 2011 – 12.15 local – 05.14 UK
Well here we go with the next instalment of our travels. Before i carry on i apologise if parts of the published blog appear to overlap, this is due to generally forgetting what day it is and where we are. Also consuming generous amounts of Chang seems to dull the ageing memory.
Anyway now sitting in Chiang Mai airport ready to fly down South to Phuket and then on to explore the islands all around. Since leaving Bangkok the past few days have been pretty busy.
We pitched up here in Chiang Mai last Wednesday having taken the overnight sleeper train which as it turned out was ok. Sue complained bitterly about a local who slept opposite her who snored loudly all-night and the loo/bathroom facilities left a lot to be desired, apart from this a nice cheap way to travel, approx £18.00 a head. Arrived in CM at 08.00 and where picked up by the local taxi service, pickup truck with bench seats and delivered to the hotel where we dropped of the bags and went off to explore the city with Emma and Mike.
add that the whole trip to CM including train, 2 nights’ hotel accommodation and 3 days trekking cost us the staggering amount of £65.00 each.
After having a look around the city we found a tuk tuk each and visited the local Diamond / Silver, Leather and Silk factories which were interesting as long as you remained strong to avoid the hard sell at the end. Made it back to the hotel and booked a trip later that afternoon to visit the Temple on the hill and a trip to the night safari.
The Temple trip involved another pick up trip up a steep winding road stopping half way for a scenic photo opportunity only to find a group of local lads randomly singing and dancing in the lay-by who were worse the wear for drinking their home brew. Not tempted to buy as it looked like my Geordie home brew about two days after bottling! They were past caring though. Arrived at the Temple long with a few hundred other trippers and took the cable car up to the top. It was pretty impressive as a Temple, lots of gold etc with a few monks meditating here
and there. Spoilt a little though on the way out by the amount of school children constantly asking for donations and very young children in national costume asking you to take pics the demanding cash in return. No luck from us I’m afraid.
Came back down the mountain and drove through the city at rush hour to the night safari. The fumes where dreadful and we all felt sick and drowsy due to the carbon monoxide. Anyone coming this way does bring a mask, it’s essential.
Arrived at the safari and had a walk around at dusk looking at various animals, birds ect then at 20.30 jumped aboard the first jungle train with a bucket of bananas / carrots ready to feed the unexpected. Great fun was had feeding the giraffes, wild boar and meeting the zebra’s. Mike was lucky enough to receive a full on lick from a giraffe which has a tongue approx 12” long and Emma was the attention of the Zebra’s which we were told not to feed as they bite. Did she make a fuss or what!. The second train took us around the more dangerous Lions, Tigers ect, thankfully these were kept
a few feet away.
It was a great experience and well worth the visit. Taken back to the city centre night market afterwards for a look around then walked back to the hotel for some sleep after a long and busy day.
Friday arrived and after coffee and toast our transport arrived to take us trekking. Twelve of us in total, the four of us, two more Brits Danny and Freya from Exeter, one guy, Sebastian from Chile, three girls from Israel and a couple from Canada.
Drove to a local market first for essential bottled water and fruit supplies the on to a Butterfly and Orchard farm for some photo’s. This is where we met our guide’ Suti’ and his mate who was very quiet and reserved but smiled a lot. Suti immediately latched on to Jon’s as I was to be known for the trip due to the England shirt I was wearing. Football of any kind is massive in Thailand.
Back in the truck laden down with fresh pineapple and oranges we were driven to our setting off point in the lower hills. Back packs were put on and we walked for approx
50yrds before stopping for lunch, Pad Thai wrapped in a Banana leaf. Now fuelled up and fully rested! And having got to know one another a little we formed a line and followed Suit along the track, across rice fields and into the jungle. All was flat going up to now which was good; little did we know what was to come around the corner. The path gradually became thinner and steeper until it was like climbing very steep uneven stairs. Those of us in trainers etc were ok but some I won’t mention who were in flip flops and open sandals struggled somewhat. Up and up we went with the air getting thinner and breathing made quite difficult. At last the climb levelled out and we made it to camp No1 ‘Elephant Camp. A quick look at our sleeping accommodation, thin, hard mattresses on the floor of an open hut looking over the elephant compound then down to the camp Bar for a well earned beer. Sat down for half an hour recovering then taken in turns to climb aboard the three elephants and ride around the site. An amazing experience as we all thought it would be a
quick ten minute jog around the site but we actually sat aboard for ¾ hour going uphill and down dale. Following Sue and my turn Suti decided he wanted to take us for a swim in the elephant bathing pool, so we did, to be told afterwards it had Catfish lurking about. As Sue kept saying ‘embrace the experience’.
Enjoyed a supper of rice and chicken curry washed down by more Chang and some good conversation. All tired so bed at 21.00 hrs.
Not much sleep due to hard mattress and loud Cockerels, no matter assembled for breakfast of coffee, toast and jam then time to embrace the experience and wash an elephant or two.
In go the Brits armed with nail brushes and buckets and after much scrubbing and rinsing we were asked to climb aboard, this time bareback and were treated to another trip around site. We were speechless, a very surile experience and one that will be remembered for a long time.
Back to reality and more trekking this time up a steeper mountain stopping off for a swim in the occasional waterfall. The last hour of this trek was a real test
of endurance braving some very uneven ground, burning temperatures and lack of oxygen. Suti took it in his stride and didn’t break sweat, it was pi..ing out of us in rivers. At last we made it to the top and our second camp site, this time with a local tribe who settled us in to our bamboo hut and opened the bar for us to recover.
Again this was a surile moment, us with our western modcons and these guys with nothing apart from some haphazard huts, chickens, dogs and plenty of children and not a care in the world.
The ladies of the camp came over to sell us the usual beads ect and the oldest skinned up a joint and puffed away quite happily before walking off with slices of bread with which to recover. Obviously gave her the munchies.
Another supper of red curry and rice, more chat and an early bed for some. Mike, Jon Suti and Seb chatting and were treated to a visit from the village nut case who discussed the fundamentals of lady boys then promptly disappeared to let of homemade fire works!, very random but the other locals thought
it a natural thing to do.
The four o’clock alarm went off, cock a bl..dy doo and continued until we arose, aching at 07.00.
Assembled for breakfast, fried egg on toast which for such a simple dish took approx two hours to prepare.
Paid the bar bill and put on rucksacks and made our way through the camp and at last downhill through the jungle to a large water fall. Didn’t fancy a swim so took some pics and carried on along the river bank to area for white water rafting and bamboo rafting.
Life jackets and safety hats on the group split up and took a raft each. The H family had there own and off we went. Hit a bit of white water here and there but not quite what i expected, Sue did manage to topple out though and go swimming!. Next was the more sedate bamboo raft which we rode standing up. Everyone stayed aboard this time and we fetched up about 500mts downriver ready for a late lunch and our final trip of the expedition a visit to see the ladies of the long neck tribe. They are the tribe who
insist, through tradition that the woman of the tribe where brass neck rings so as to elongate the neck. The rings are very heavy and actually push down the collar bone and rib cage to give the illusion of the neck being stretched. I think those of us who visited found it rather sad that these woman sit day after day posing for tourists. We did not stay long and certainly don’t recommend anyone visiting.
At the hotel again we said our farewells to Suti and the other members of the trip and made for the shower and an early evening lie down to recover. Anyone thinking of doing this trekking lark then go for it, you will have memories for life, but do where good walking shoe’s not flip flops.
Next day, Monday was a chill out day doing not a lot really, few emails walking about and planning our next move. As i said at the beginning Phuket Town is our next stop for one night then on to explore this part of the Andaman Coast.
That’s all for now,
There are more photos below