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Published: January 31st 2006
Little girl at Doi Sutheop outside of Chiang Mai
Have you ever had a hot shower that’s better than…well, you know? My shower water was so hot last night that it almost burned my scalp…but I stayed under it for as long as I possibly could! It was that good, and it took almost that long to get the dirt outta my hair, ears, off my black feet…ahh! I have spent most of the last 5 days in the jungle and now I’m back to civilization.
Chiang Mai is probably the 2nd biggest city in Thailand. It is the capital of the North, and is much more mellow than Bangkok. The weather is always cooler than the south, and the people here are very proud of their city. When I first got here I was a little disappointed…it just seemed like another busy city…but Chiang Mai is best when you get below the surface. Get away from the famous, tourist-invested Night Bizarre, get out of the guesthouse restaurants, and away from the hundreds of temples…and get to know the people. The people here are amazingly friendly…the most helpful, giving people I have met in Thailand, which is saying a lot, because the Thai people are amazing all over the country.
They just don't look of this world.
Most people who come to Chiang Mai use it as a base for trekking in the mountains surrounding the city. I was about to book a 3 day trek, but then decided I wanted to cover more ground before I head into Laos. I wanted to get up north further to a town called Pai and up to Mae Hong Son…too many things to do and not enough time on my visa! So instead of trekking I hired a 4WD and a guide and headed off-road through the jungle. I left most of my stuff in Chiang Mai and took off.
During the past 5 days I have been whitewater rafting down category 4 rapids, I have been thrown off an elephant into water that I wouldn’t let my dog swim in, I have seen monkeys and bears, I have hung out in a villages that don’t exist on any map of Thailand, I have ridden a horse to the mountainous border region of Thailand and Burma…where I hung out at the makeshift army camp that is stationed straight across from the Burmese army camp on the next mountain over…I could hear gunshots in the jungle below (sorry Mom, I
needed a little excitement!). I visited the Long Neck Padaung refugee camp…that tribe you always saw in National Geographic where the women wore the coils on their necks, even though it is just a tourist attraction now. The women quit wearing the coils, but then realized how much money they can make from it. They all sell handicrafts, etc…and charge to get into the village. I hear they make more money than a lot of the business people in Thailand. I think the picture says it all. The kids were cute as hell though…it was worth going there just to hang out with them.
I have been lost in the jungle, gotten to roads that were washed out, flooded…or just came to a dead end into the wilderness. I have watched a man fight with a cobra and end up kissing it. I have drank too much Thai whiskey and gotten sick in Pai, and ate the best meal I have had in Thailand at the Fern Restaurant in Mae Hong Son. It has been an eventful week. I really love the North.
But the best thing that has happened over the past week has been the people I have
Long-Neck Women text messageing a friend while making sarongs to sell to the furang. Too funny!
met. Max, Boy, Pak, Hui, Tony…all local Thais who have made my experience in Thailand that much better. Boy was my guide through the North, that I realized didn’t have a license half-way through the trip (at which point I learned to drive on the left hand side of the road quickly)…and the rest of the guys and girls are people we met in Pai (a great little mountain town that reminded me a little of Auburn, CA or Golden, CO)…or Chiang Mai. And also Sarah…a girl from North Yorkshire, England…who was on her own trip that was parallel to mine quite a bit. Boy, Hui, Sarah and I all went out to this place called the Warm Up Bar last night and I have to say I now realize why some guys are in love with Thai women. The girls at this bar were stunningly beautiful! Amazing people, amazing fun…but now it’s almost time to leave Thailand. I am hanging out here in Chiang Mai for a couple more days…going out with Boy and some girls from the University tonight (where Boy is making me lie and say I’m 24…I asked him how I explain the grey hair and
he just laughed)…then I head up to the Golden Triangle…then into Laos. Wish me luck!
Talk to you all soon,
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