Greetings from up north!
i headed out of bangkok on the overnight train to chaing mai and straight away i felt a million times happier (this isnt just me, everyone up here hated bangkok and the backpackers escape up here). although the actual journey wasnt the most fun i have ever had. you get given a seat, which faces another seat on the train. these two seats fold out and down and around to form two bunk beds, one on top of the other. great you think for a 13 (although it turned out to be nearer 15) hour overnight ride. however the problem is that these are built for thai folks - rightly as its there country - and so dont allow big and tall british types to lie down and sleep. this meant that we ( i was within a group of lads from the uk) had to sit around drinking and generally being loud. the thai folk who were also within the same car as us didnt take to kindly to this and so called the railway police and mayhem followed. which was fair enough but it was about 10.30 and we didnt realise that we were causing a problem. all were threatened with being thrown off the train - which abruptly meant that all fun and games ceased.
when we arrived in chaing mai, late, the backpacker hostels were waiting with land rovers and general 4x4 vehicles to whisk us away to the various places. i found mine and met a couple of lads from england (mike and ben) and a couple of lads from canada (scott and john) - who were all doing the same trek as me. got to the hostel and chilled out and showered etc then i went for a little wander to visit some nearby temples before the rain put pay to that little idea. my god it can rain plenty up here.
on the way back to the hostel met mike and ben and we decided to head towards the night market to see what designer knock offs we could acquire. it turned out that the only thing we all brought was a lovely orangemack for the trek.
on route back to the hostel we stopped for a cheeky drink or two at a couple of bars and then found an absolute quality bar. its called 'heaven beach' and its near an irish pub on the less touristy side of town. the bar had a live band playing a host of classical rock n roll and indie tunes, with cheap drinks thrown into the mix. we stayed and drank random thai beer and cocktails till 3.30 the next day. it was pretty good although the next day i was to pay for it.
i was supposed to be going on a day trip to chaing rai. leaving at 7.00 in the morning - admit it you know whats coming! i didnt go, but i did manage to stumble down to say so and they have rearranged it for this saturday. so that day was pretty much a write off as i stayed in bed till roughly lunchtime and felt pretty ill all day. but is was worth it i can assure you.
the next day we set off on are trek into the jungle 2 hours west of chaing mai, after meeting the other two members of the group - an aussie (fiona) and a brit (dan). first we were taken to an elephant 'village' and had a ride on one. sounds great yes - picture in your head lovely hot day, great for pictures. nope - thunder and lightening and rain like only thailand seems to be able to rain - so no pictures. still it was a unigue experiance and alot of fun despite the weather. after that we were driven to a restaurant at the side of the road to have lunch and then onto the drop off point.
we walked, carrying all food and clothing, for about 3 hours and we arrived at two bamboo huts on the hill side by a river. it was awesome to just dive straight in fully clothed to wash away all the sweat and dirt from the walk. the huts, were built by the travel company and are only used by them, have a camp fire and table inbetween. the fire was used to cook and then we sat around it as Lar and Uootai, the guides, told us stories about there culture and the various things that happen in the jungle including the region of jungle spirit. we all went to bed pretty early and attempted to sleep. no one slept much due to the intense sound of the insects and wildlife which was just the otherside of the bamboo.
we woke to a traditional thai breakfast and glorious weather and set off to climb the highest mountain in the region at 1700 metres. the weather didnt last though and soon all were soaked to the sink with a mixture of sweat from underneath the macks and the rain which came down like someone had a hose pipe on above your head. the hut at the top of the mountain was a brillant site and we ate the packlunch of thai noodles (which were wrapped in leaves picked the previous day) with chop sticks which Lar had craved on route. and then the rain eased and stopped and we looking out across the jungle beneath us - a breathtaking view. after the brief stop we headed towards the village which was to be the base for the night. it took another 3 hours of hard walking to reach it through some thick vegetation and by this time the rain was back. when we arrived all bar dan had at least one leach attached to them, myself i had one on each leg, combined with blisters and bites.
the village was isolated from the outside world, and without any power. we were welcomed into the village in a tradition way and ate with the villagers, as the rain continued to batter down. the weather forced them to cancel the show which they do and we were given a talk instead. no one spoke english or even thai as they have there own language - karen, so the guides translated it all. after the talk we headed but to are bamboo hut and showered in the worlds smallest and coldest shower. we were then invited to drink rice whiskey with the elders of the group in a cooking hut. jesus that stuff is strong and it was only afterwards they told us that its strength was close to 55% and the locals drank it as if it was water. we also had a few chang beers and then headed to the sleeping room. Lar followed with a guitar and the children of the village came in and sang songs for us. we, slightly encouraged by the effects of the local brew, returned the gesture with - old macdonald had a farm, wonderwall by oasis and then the show stopper of - youve lost that loving feeling, re top gun. although they couldnt understand what we were saying i think they got the picture!
this morning we woke at 6.30 with heavy heads from the local brew and i for one was sad to leave. we hiked for a further 3 hours to a waterfall - in for once complete sunshine (promplty buring the crap out of my neck and arms). again all jumped straight in fully clothed to wash the sweat off. after that a further 1 1/2 hour walk to the pick up spot, which was only interupted by the site of 4 poisonous snakes and 3 large frogs.
we were picked up and taken back to the same place as we had lunch on the first day. this was followed by bamboo rafting ! sounds strange and it was. basically 4 large pieces of bamboo placed sideby side and fastened in the tradtional way with a bloke at the front with another piece of bamboo for steering. we sat, partly in the river, along the 25 foot raft and promptly went down stream over grade 2 rapids. it was mental and people were falling out all over the shop -funny but looking back now it was quiet risky but alot of fun.
got back to the hostel at around 4.30 had a shower and got dry for pretty much the first time in 3 days. sorted my gear out and handed in some washing - bargain price of about a pound to do everything - and there was alot of dirty stuff.
my trainers have pretty much had it now so i was going to go and see if my luck had changed at the market. but its throwing it down again and i am starving so i might leave it till tomorrow.
on sunday i am venturing north and east and leaving thailand to have a gander at Laos for three weeks. have been told its breathtaking but due to its undeveloped nature i am not entirely sure of internet access so it might be a while before i write again.
take it easy folks