Procrastination sucks. This entry will briefly chronicle my trip to Thailand in February. A couple of usual suspects joined me, Jake and Geoff. The cities we visited were Chiang Mai, Pai, and Bangkok. Although Thailand is the most traveled Southeast Asian country, and therefore the most overrun with tourists, it is definitely worth checking out for its hospitality, affordability, and pad thai, not to mention the pristine beaches and diving.
We flew into the Northern Thailand city of Chiang Mai on the eve of Chinese New Year, one of the biggest holidays of the year in Malaysia and other Southeast Asian countries. In Malaysia it last for a week; in China it lasts for an entire month. Chiang Mai is known for it's outdoor activities by way of mountains that surround the city. On our first full day there, we had a difficult decision to make. Downhill mountain biking or taking a zip-line through the jungle? Well, let's see. Taking a zip-line sounds fun, but how engaging is it to hook on to a metal wire and dangle there while a Thai guy pushes you off a platform... not very. Mountain biking it is. This activity was certainly 'engaging', so
much so that all three of us had multiple spills. (see evidence in the video section) Luckily they outfitted us with knee pads, elbow pads, chest protector, and a helmet. You start to feel like robocop, the invincible mountain biking Thai version that is. However, the fact remains; trees and rocks still hurt. It was a worthwhile experience though and one that I won't soon forget.
Chiang Mai was good, but still a big enough city that we felt like we should check out a smaller mountain town. Enter the hippy hideaway known as Pai. Situated high into the mountains, Pai is 3-hours from Chiang Mai and a hot spot for climbing, trekking, and rafting. As soon as we arrived we booked a 2-day trek including 1-night home-stay in a mountain village. Early the next morning we started off with our guide Nan and one other French fellow by the name of Carl. The scenery, food, and villagers were all incredible. I had the best Thai curry of the trip by far. We even stayed with a couple on their farm in a bamboo hut.
After our trekking experience, we went back to Chiang Mai and flew to
Bangkok. The transition was shocking. It would be similar to going from anywhere in Western Kansas to New York. The break-neck pace of Bangkok makes it an exciting place to be, minus their incredible traffic jams which can literally turn a highway into a parking lot for hours at a time. People have been known to abandon their cars in some cases. And on our way to see a Muay-Thai kickboxing match, we did just that. After sitting idle for 10 minutes, we paid our tuk-tuk driver his fare, jumped out into the highway, and hoofed it to Lumpinee Stadium; the epicenter of Muay-Thai where the best of the best duke it out for prize money and bragging rights. We had been talking about seeing a kickboxing match since day one of planning this trip so we decided to spend the extra cash to sit ringside. I can't say that we ever got hit by a boxer's sweat (or blood) flying off his chin from a roundhouse kick to the face, but I did wince when guys were getting pummeled against the ropes and you could hear the sound of a knee hitting a rib and a elbow hitting a
face. I know it sounds like we only went there to see two guys beat the snot out of each other, but it was definitely a cultural experience as well. Muay-Thai is THE national sport of Thailand and you will regularly see the Thai gather in pubs and pool halls to watch the the fight. It's like going to see a bull fight in Spain, you've gotta do it. Before each fight, the fighters have a ceremony in which they pray to Buddhist gods and perform a slow bowing routine while wearing a special head piece. The pre-fight ceremony dates back to when the fighters would pray to their king. The atmosphere is unlike anything I have experienced before. Picture this; a band that plays traditional Thai music throughout the pre-fight ceremony and the fight and behind them a section of old men that are constantly shaking their fists of money and shouting out their bets from the high seats near the rafters.
The rest of Bangkok was a blur of temples, water taxis, a skybar, and famously yuppy club called Bed Supperclub that charged an obscene cover. However, my camera battery died shortly after the fight and I
haven't stole the photos from my friend's cameras just yet so I have to leave you hanging.
Until next time, take it easy.
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