Week 1- Thailand begins...


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December 20th 2012
Published: December 20th 2012
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Sawadee ka everyone,

It is Thursday afternoon here in Thailand which means its a week since we arrived and definitely time to write my firstblog entry so that you can all keep up yo date with our adventure.

As we lay here on the White sands of Koh Samet it is it is remarkable and exciting to consider how much life can change in the space of just 7 days. In some ways I cannot believe that a week has passed already but in others I feel that what we have already experienced spans accross a far greater space of time. The way that we have fallen into this just goes to show how quickly you can acclimatise from one way of life to one quite literally a world away. For those of you who I promised to keep updated here's our story so far:

Our plane touched down in Bangkok airport at 7amon Thursday 13th December after a long flight from Gatwick with a stopover in Dubai. No sooner had we stepped out into the humid Bangkok air, were we whisked away quite literally into a taxi which drove us (rather quickly) onto our first destination, one that most backpackers will be familiar with- Khaosan Road. We found ourselves a budget guesthouse called '@ home' tucked away in one of the quieter side streets and set about some very serious business- naptime.

It wasn't until we woke up at 3pm, confused and disorientated, that any of us realised quite how much the jetlag had affected us and we decided it was time to refresh ourselves with some shopping, Pad thai and Sangsom (thai rum). Funnily enough, this combination worked a treat and to rward ourselves for such great bargaining skills on the market, we decided to indulge in one of Khaosan's greatest traditions- buckets of Sangsom and Coke.

Fast forward 12 hours and all that remains are blurred memories of Sarah having a dance off, tequila shots, me trying to buy drinks at the bar with no money and a 4am trip to McDonalds. A rather fitting quote from my boyfriend Sam- "You can take the girl out of Thanet, but you can't take the Thanet out the girl". We did it for you guys back home and...you're welcome.

Bangkok had been great fun but with slightly sore heads, we decided that it was time to head up North to Chiang Mai for some fresh air. We took an overnight bus which although taking 12 hours, is definitely the cheapest way to get around Thailand. At the equivalent of 10GBP per person, it works out cheaper than trains or flights and as a bonus you save on accommodation costs and arrive at your destination early so you don't miss a day stuck in the icy air-conditioned buses.

We arrived at Chiang Mai at 6.30 am and immediately we could feel the difference in atmosphere. Even at this time, thi Tuk tuk drivers already scouting for business, the city had a distinct ambience. It was big and vibrant but unlike Bangkok the pace of life was much slower and less rushed. We bundled all of our bags into a tuk tuk which took us to a backstreet guesthouse called 'Chiang Mai Inn'. It wasn't until later in the afternoon whilst having a chat with 'Mr. Jungle', the owner of the guesthouse, that I realised I had stayed here before. Those of you who I travelled with before will know him as 'Mr. Whisky' and all that I will say is that I'm thankful he did not recognise me. He spoke to us about his 2 day Jungle Trek which is designed to take travellers off the beaten track and further into the jungle, away from the usual tourist route. His prices however, were accordingly high and (learning my lesson from previous experience) we decided to give it some thought and see what else was on offer. After a morning of cuddling tigers at 'Tiger Temple' and Jessy's rare sighting of a maned tiger (a lion), this seemed to pay off as Mr. Jungle returned to us with a discounted price we couldn't turn down.

We left for our trek on Monday morning at 5am, each kitted out with an army rucksack, sleeping bag and a huge Machete. At this point I must just say that I don't think I have ever seen 3 people fall over as much as we did in the space of 2 days. It was actually quite embarassing. We were all assured that our Converse would have ample grip as the ground would be dry. My converse are now hibernating in a plastic bag at the bottom of my rucksack caked in 3 layers of jungle swamp mud.

We drove in a 4x4 to a camp with the othertrek participants; Jean-Christoph and Charlie (2 friends from France who have been working in Australia), Emilie and Alex (a couple, also from France) and Michel (from Quebec). Although everyone spoke broken but conversational English, communication was fairly tricky to begin with and we realised how lazy we are with learning languages. Our new French friends agreed with us too so apparently it does not go unnoticed.

We drove to a camp where we rode elephants through the jungle while feeding them bananas. I have been elephant trekking before but seeing them up close again gets no less exciting. Mine and Jessy's elephant point blank refused to walk on unless it was fed more bananas and once we had exhausted that, it resorted to stripping the bark off of each tree we came across with its trunk. Once we had finished and carved slingshots from a tree, we carried on driving and travelled deeper into the jungle, off-road style for another hour and a half. By the end Michel looked ready to vomit.

We hiked uphill for 3 hours and along the way our jungle guide (an ex army/ex alcoholic/jungle expert/complete legend) collected things which we could use to make dinner and taught us about the different types of plants and leaves and what they can be used for. We hiked to a self-sustained village called 'Karen' where we cooked noodle soup and used our knives to carve chopsticks from bamboo to eat with. Sarah decided that she would use the village toilet but unfortunately it was occupied...by a cow. We carried on hiking up towards our base camp and had a while to take in the incredible view, looking out across the mountain peaks and valleys. As the sun began to set, we sat out on the lookout point preparing dinner together, drinking cinnamon tea made from the tree bark we collected along the way and taking in the breathtaking sun, setting behind the mountains.

With the sun gone, the temperature dropped very suddenly and while the men built us a campfire, we went out to set traps by the river for rats which Jackie Chan assured us would taste delicious cooked on the fire for breakfast. We weren't convinced. The evening was spent going for a night trek with head torches, cooking frogs on the firew, drinking Sangsom from cups made of bamboo and listening to Michel's unsuccessful renditions of Lady Gaga on the guitar.We put on all our clothes and got under our mosquito nets for waht turned out to be the best nights sleep since arriving in Thailand.

Tuesday was an early start. Jackie committed to his rat plan and it turns out we were right... they were not good. Whatever anyone tries to tell you, rat meat does not taste like chicken. We were all aching so much that getting down the near vertical hill we had climbed was not an easy feat. We had sme epic falls and near death foot slips. We arrived at the river and bamboo rafted down it in 2 teams. The french boys called us 'the spice girls' so we decided to adopt this as our team name. Michel was Ginger spice and loving it. Due to some dirty tactics from our opposition, we lost the race but soon got over it when we got to our final destination- the highest waterfall in Chiang Mai.

We swam and jumped off the rocks into the fresh water which was freezing but very welcome after 2 days worth of jungle grime. On the way back to the city, Jackie Chan gave us some thai rice whisky to see us through the journey. With some Thai courage inside us, we decided to demonstrate our French speaking skills. Back at the guesthouse we all carried on drinking and decided to head out to a bar and have afew drinks. We talked about cultural cliches and discovered that people believe English girls drink too much. We proceeded to prove them right.

Our final day in Chaing Mai and we all felt ready to move on. With aching limbs and mouldy feet however, we felt that we should probably get ourselves ready for the islands and spent an afternoon having Thai massages, manicures and pedicures before getting on a 13 hour overnight bus journey back to the south for sun, sand, sea and Sangsom.

Goodbye all, more soon xxx

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