A Travellerspoint blog

February 2013

The next chapter of "3 Weeks in Thailand"

Chiangmai: Elephant trekking, Tigers and Death Mountain!

sunny 32 °C

We arrived in Chiangmai at about 6am, and naturally, what with us being westerners, it being breakfast time, and us being in Thailand, we went to McDonalds..!
It just doesn't taste the same - which is probably a good thing!
We got a taxi to our hostel [Deejay's Hostel - Excellent!] from the bus station for 200 baht - not too bad, but it was cheaper in the red bus-taxi rather than a regular taxi.
I'll explain later if I remember!
When we arrived at our hostel, we knew we were in Northern Thailand - greenery everywhere, backdrop of a huge mountain and clear blue skies!

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Our hostel looked like the Secret Garden; hanging vines, trees and plants, secluded little seating areas, orchids and other flowers - beautiful!

We followed suit when we got to the front doors and took off our shoes before entering. The hippy in me rejoiced at the chilled, Zen atmosphere of this hostel, of this place - everyone relaxing and conversing with one another on beanbags in baggy pants with ankle bracelets and wooden jewellery.
We arrived far too early to check in but within 20 minutes we were in our room and Mish and Ricky were asleep! I'd slept on the bus so I ventured outside into the early morning sun.
It was about 30 degrees when I eventually left the hostel at 8am ish but it wasn't humid like Bangkok so it was a pleasant walk.
I found some cute boutiques, decent cafes and coffee houses including this little beauty plenty of street vendors and dogs in abundance.
As I ventured further out, I discovered the moat that encased the old city within Chiangmai and a beautiful park. I bought a bag of what appeared to be carp pellets for 5 baht and dutifully fed the birds and the koi carp in the park until there was none left and only the memory of fishing with my father lingered on my hands as I rubbed the smell of carp pellets into my already heavily worn pants.

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I headed back to the hostel past a smorgasbord of fresh, heavenly smelling fruits so I decided to take a mango which was promptly sliced, bagged and pierced with a stick ready for my consumption.
The sweetest, juiciest fruit dissolved effortlessly in my mouth - there is nothing like a thirst-quenching ripe fruit off of the street in the sun!
This life I could adopt immediately.
I have never felt so at peace in a place in such a shot amount of time. I eventually floated my way back to the hostel to find those two still sleeping away so I hopped in the shower which proved to be even more refreshing than the fruit!
When I got out of the shower, they were awake and ready for the world - we headed out. We went to one of the cafes I'd found previously on my solo excursion, the owner of which was a retired English man - he was nice, and clearly a genius - what a fantastic place to retire!
Tanya and Kylie (Mish's friends from NYC) met us and indulged in a smoothie and some yummy food and then we went to book a 2 day trek through the jungle and elephant riding!
We tried to meet the girls later at a Reggae bar but we lost them. After a worrying night of trying to solve some personal issues happening in China, we eventually went to sleep around 2am.
When the alarm went off in the morning, I wanted to die - little did I know that would be the theme of the next 2 days!
We got our bags, hopped in a tuk tuk and made our way to the girls hotel where we discovered we couldn't be doing the trek together and they promptly left.
Therefore, we took the most obvious option of stealing their complimentary breakfast... Winning!
Our truck eventually turned up to take us to the jungle, but was already full, so we got the VIP treatment and sat in the cabin with the driver!
We stopped at a random Orchid and Butterfly farm and I bought some more fresh mango! More than addicted now!

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We set off again and arrived in an open thicket of trees with bamboo towers and then there they were: Elephants!
We approached with caution - Elephants are really big and feel like a wire brush - they're so hairy!!
A woman sold us a bag of bananas and sugar canes and a mini frenzy began! I think that elephant's trunk explored every part of me looking for those bananas!

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We had some lunch - egg and chicken fried rice wrapped in a banana leaf!

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Then it was elephant riding time! :D
We climbed the bamboo towers and boarded our mighty beasts!
I had an unmanned elephant for a little while so demonstrably he buggered off at considerable speed with me bobbing around on his back!
All of a sudden, my elephant dipped his head down and there was a cute Thai man sat on his head; then we were off through the jungle!

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Holy hell that was toasty, but you couldn't get too hot as the elephants sprayed you with water fro their trunk every 5 minutes!
We trekked for about an hour before arriving at a different elephant camp.
We dismounted and began walking down some steps towards a river - then I saw it!
A zip-line across the river and a rusty, metal cage attached to it.
I was first to go!
After clambering into the cage, I was swiftly shoved to the other side of the river!
I'm just glad I made it to the other side in one piece!

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On the other side there was an elephant being washed in the river, so I headed on down and bathed the elephant. As soon as Ricky and Mish had come across in the metal cage, they too were in the river bathing the elephant with me!

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That's when we got told off by our guide because washing the elephants wasn't part of our tour! whoops!
Then the 4 hour trek up the mountain began...

I have never done anything as hard as that in my entire life. The amount of sweat pouring out of me was tantamount to the waterfall we eventually got to go in to cool off! Insanely hard work and it was only going to get harder.
The hour and a half we just practically marched was the easy bit according to our guide!
After a quick dip in a pleasantly freezing waterfall, we continued on our epic uphill climb!

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There are no steps in the jungle, only elephant footprints and rocks. Luckily our guide had cut down some bamboo for us to use as walking sticks.
That stick saved my life!
The climb was so steep at times I had to hoist myself up on a nearby tree and my bamboo cane!

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Then it happened - I started to fall behind as my legs had never had such a workout, and cardio? More like cardiac arrest!

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I was dying but I had no where to go but up, as I sure as hell wasn't spending the night in the middle of the jungle alone!
so on I trekked, the words "You can go hard, or you can go home" ringing in my ears... (that may also have been the rush of blood I was forcibly pumping around my body!)
Every time I eventually joined the rest of the group who thankfully stopped and waited for me!
Some of those women hadn't even broken a sweat! Bitches!
After what felt like days, not hours, we could see the top of the mountain laced with bamboo huts - our home for the evening.

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Exulted doesn't even cover the level of joy I felt at that moment, but we weren't there yet!
Onwards and upwards we climbed until finally it levelled out.
Flat ground!
Huzzah!
With only a last few minutes of walking to push through, we arrived at our bamboo hut, threw our stuff down and selected a cold beverage from the awaiting cool-box!
I have never truly understood what quenching one's thirst felt like until the moment that icy cool liquid drenched my mouth. I was so appeased by it that I inadvertently drenched my chest too, but it didn't matter, I think I even heard my skin yelp with joy at the unexpected refreshment!
We chose our beds for the night and got change and within no time at all, our guide had whipped up an incredible dinner for all 13 of us using nothing but a clay pot over an open fire pit and a torch in the nook of his neck for light.
Our fire pit was lit after we the watched the sun set over the mountains and played with some of the local children - exquisite.

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Drinks in hand and night ascended, we engaged in Chinese drinking games that attracted the attention of the least offensive French person who gratefully joined in.
After being serenaded by small tribes children for well over 6 minutes, we were then engaged in brain teaser games by our guide.
I was happy as I figured out a few of them when others couldn't - genius child!
The night sky on top of that mountain is by far the most beautiful I have ever and probably will ever see. 360 degrees of an uninterrupted navy blanket showing every constellation available, each one clearer than a telescope could hope for.
Incredible.
I will never forget that sky or how I got to see it.
We climbed into our beds, pulled our mosquito nets over ourselves and settled in for the night.

~ / ~ \ ~

The sun came streaming through the gaps in the bamboo walls and palm tree branches roof as the multitude of cockerels announced that morning had indeed arrived.

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I was the first of our group to get up. I had a shower, popped in the jungle and got my stuff together.
Our guide was already up making scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast, we paid for our drinks from the night before, finished our breakfast and were on the move again.
We split into 2 group as some were doing a 3 day trek whereas we were only doing 2 days.
We got a new guide, a young boy, not older than 14, traipsing off ahead of us.
"It's very steep" he said, "so no crying; only happy faces!"
Down was easier than up for me, but was harder to get your footing - once again, my bamboo cane swung into action and prevented me from falling on my ass down a mountain at great speeds!
About 30 minutes in we had a few minutes rest and I felt much better than the day before. On we trekked down steeper and steeper parts of the jungle until giant rocks and boulders began protruding from the earth
- [ Now please don't misconstrue what I'm saying here; it wasn't an earthquake or anything, there were just suddenly rocks and boulder when there had been none before! ] -
My leg decided to try and make a break for it and got badly scraped down the left side of my left leg.
Me being sensible, looked at it and though it was just dirt and carried on down the mountain until our guide stopped me and told me to wait.
It was only then that I looked down at me leg to see it as pissing out blood, until our guide returned with a few leaves, used one to wipe the blood away, then crushed the other in his hand and gently rubbed the green pulp onto my wound.
Genius.
I just got healed by the jungle!
A little slowed now on our way down, we eventually came to a huge waterfall and took off our bags and shoes ready to get in.

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Bugger me was that cold!
We stayed there for a little while before pushing ahead with the downwards trek.
My legs felt like jelly and all I could hear in my head was my mother saying "have a banana, it will make you feel better" but I was bananaless so continued on my wobbly way!
We walked through the jungle, dodging rocks and the river as we followed the path that ran along aside it. After some strategically placed but poorly made wooden ladders to cross, we came to a tall tree that had fallen over the water and dubiously climbed across (all the while, fighting the temptation to re-enact that scene from Dirty Dancing!)
The ground flattened out after that and we eventually came to a regular road cut into the mountain.
Mish and I had a casual stroll as the others marched on ahead - we were just thankful to have made it to flat ground again!
I was particularly thankful that aside from the rock attack, I hadn't fallen down.
We took a turn and began heading down to some white water rafting boats ready to make our way down the river when it happened - less than 10 feet away and I slipped and fell on my ass!!
I was so disappointed!
I'd made it so far!!
After squeezing my boobs into a life jacket and my head into a helmet, we boarded our rafts and were off down the river - Stroke! Stroke!
The water wasn't very high as the rainy season isn't until May/June time so it wasn't particularly difficult to raft down the rapids.
We floated along for a little while until we got to some bamboo rafts that were awaiting us - we switched vessels and continued on the last leg of our journey - Frodo ain't got shit on me!
The bamboo raft was ok but it didn't float particularly well and at one point I was pretty sure we were going to re-live the sinking of the titanic!
The raft kept tipping up and Mish was clinging on for dear life!
Very amusing!
We pulled up next to a little bamboo rest stop, had some scrummy Pad Thai for dinner, got back into the truck we're come to the jungle in and headed back to our hostel.

If you're tired after reading all that, just imagine how we felt!!

~ / ~ \ ~

The next day we didn't move, not by choice anyway - our bodies were so stiff, when I woke up I feared I had become paralysed!
Getting down from that top bunk to pee may well have been harder than climbing down that mountain that day.
I could feel muscles in my legs that i didn't even know were there!
We bummed around the hostel for a bit in between copious naps and when evening fell, we ventured out into civilisation!
We went to a night market and bought some bits and pieces (mainly for ourselves!), saw some Chinese New Year dragons dancing through the street, then retreated back to the hostel to rest our legs!

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The next day we checked out of our room but left our luggage at the hostel, hopping in a red bus and went to find breakfast - falafel and hummus!
Om nom nom!
Mango smoothies been and gone, bill paid and we jumped in a tuk tuk to go to the Tiger Kingdom.
About 20 minutes later, we pulled up at the Tiger Kingdom, paid just over 1000 baht (£20ish) after selecting the biggest and smallest tigers then headed inside.
The baby tigers were first - some of them were sleepy but others they were playful and running around.
It was like trying to photograph children, they kept running away!
We'd paid extra to have a photographer some with us to get the perfect shots.
The babies were so beautiful and little, we enjoyed them a lot!
On to the big cats; we had to wait a little while as there were quite a few people waiting to get in with the big cats. About 45-60 minutes later, we were in.
Bugger me, those cats were big!
We cuddled them and played with their tails and rubbed their bellies - they seemed to like that!

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Before long, our time was up, we bid our new cat friends adieu, picked up our photo CD's and got back in our tuk tuk which was patiently waiting for us.
We headed back to town, picked up our luggage and headed to the bus station ready to catch an overnight bus back to Bangkok - if I was going to live anywhere in Thailand - it would be in the North, probably Chiangmai - I've never felt so at peace.
We boarded the coach for the evening and began our 24 hour travelling spree to the islands in the south of Thailand....

Tune in next time for chapter 3: The Islands of Thailand

Posted by Lady Mantle 20:42 Archived in Thailand Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises mountains skylines animals sky trekking elephants adventure games chiangmai tigers pancakes dying night_market mosquitos 3_weeks_in_thailand bamboo_cane beautiful_hippies my_future_home deejay_hostel Comments (2)

3 weeks in Thailand....!

This is going to be a long one so I'll start with Bangkok and see where we go from there!

sunny 35 °C

With our bags packed and our sleepy but excited selves at the ready, we left our warm apartment and ventured out into the -5 degree weather of China and hopped into a taxi.
Half an hour later we were at the new train station in Xinxiang ready to head out to Beijing to catch our flight.
When we arrived in Beijing there was snow and slush everywhere so we trudged over to the airport shuttle bus, paid our £1.60 and chilled out for 40 minutes to and hour.
We got to the airport terminal then had to get another shuttle bus to our terminal - Beijing Airport is massive!
We got our tickets and checked in our bags then went to get some food, which is when I actually looked at our plane tickets..... our flight was at 19:45 but our boarding time was 21:00.... balls.
I look at my watch to see that it was only 18:07 - we were going to be here for a while!
So, in true British (and American) fashion, we found a bar, got a drink and played Uno! Within no time at all, well, within 3 hours, we were sat by our boarding gate... where we stayed for another half an hour... and a little more... and once the last person had gone through the doors to the transfer bus, then and only then, did we get up and proceed to the boarding counter and handed over our tickets.
Well the plane wasn't going to leave without us!
It then didn't leave until 23:17, just to spite us!
The flight was pretty standard; 5 hours, a little sleep, a little food, random sections of a film, the old "you have arrived in Bangkok".
We stepped off the plane into a wall of thick, warm heat.
Yes.
We had definitely arrived.
It was 5am and 34 degrees! Tasty!
We jumped in a cab and were on our way to our hostel [We Bangkok] - Naturally we were ripped off by the cab even though it was on the meter and paid about 400 baht more than was necessary, but it still only cost about £13 so I'm not really that hung up on it.
We were slightly worried that we were not allowed to fart in the taxi...

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We threw our bags in our room (quietly, as someone was sleeping in there!) then went up to the rooftop to chill in the heat of the night.

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About 6am, we got into bed and power-napped for about 4 hours, then we were up and out to explore our new surroundings...

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We went to meet up with Mish's friends from New York who had also come to Thailand then headed into town.
Upon arrival at the million stories high mall, we went to the top and got some lunch, we left Ricky to shop his little socks off and fill his empty bag with summer clothes and us girls went to see some temples and the Grand Palace and have an adventure of our own!
We found an amazing street market with all types of food and had the most delicious mixed fresh fruit smoothie :) mmmmm!

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We then spent about half an hour bartering with different taxis and tuk tuks to take us home, eventually convincing one to take us all back for 250 baht - about £5!
We found Ricky at our hostel, suitably shopped out so we got changed and ventured into town to see what the night could offer us in Bangkok...

Holy hell!

We we not mentally prepared - we walked into Patpong Night Market [basically a long street with hundreds of stalls selling fake goods at 'good prices for you'....] with all the counterfeit goodies you could ever want and then BOOM!

"PING PONG SHOW! YOU WANNA COME PING PONG SHOW?"

Every 2 minutes another man was thrusting a laminated sheet of lies in our faces asking if we wanted to see a woman squirt various objects at us from her vagina... naturally, after a heavy discussion about the price [100 baht each for all the shows and drinks] we entered the house of Pussy Pong.
A seedy black room where miserable, almost unmoving lady boys clunkily swayed next to a pole, as a pregnant stripper slinked between them, caressing her rotund belly and uncovered breasts; then it happened.

A Tupperware box of ping pong balls was slid centre stage and a short, dumpy woman plodded on behind it in nothing but a bra. She preceded to lie on a towel on stage (cleanliness is next to Godliness...) and with her vagina poised, ready and pointing at us, the balls began to fly left, right and centre with a healthy coating of glistening discharge. Then the paddles came out for those of us not firing things out of our lady gardens and the game began - Pussy Pong Extreme.
Every time one of those juice-encased balls projectiled towards us, Ricky was there batting them away - at one point I thought he was trying to return them to their point of origin!

Anyway, after a ghastly shower of balls and moist vagina, a different woman came on stage with a box of her own. She took down balloons fro the poles that were still being belittled by motionless lady boys and handed said balloons to everyone in the audience.
She assumed a similar position to the other woman but instead of a ping pong balls being plunged into the void, a 6-inch hollow metal pipe, almost like a penny whistle, found its way into her iridescent cleft. She then placed a tiny dart into the pipe, ordered us to hold up our balloons and bang!
The dart fired out of her vagina tube with more speed and precision than an AK-47 and popped the balloons - first time, every time.

Now, throughout the course of the evening we'd noticed several foreigners arguing with what appeared to be the manageress of this establishment. We were ready for her and we were thoroughly aware of how these places made their money.

We finished our drinks, prepared our 100 baht notes and moved towards the door...
"No, no, please sit!"
We advised her that we wanted to leave...

"No, no, please wait a moment, sit, sit!"
No, we were leaving, and began heading to the door...

"Ok, ok!" she says and she goes to get what appears to be a pre-printed bill for 4,200 baht!

The shit hit the fan.

Ricky's telling her hell no, Mish is telling her the guy outside said 100 each, and I'm watching the money.
This woman really didn't like Ricky yelling at her and she got angry.
I stepped forward and told her she either accepts 100 baht each or we leave and she gets nothing.
"Ok, ok, 300 baht. You pay now."

Ricky hands her 200 baht and Mish hands over 100 - I didn't realise until it was too late and I too handed over 100 - she snatched the 400 baht, so I, quick like a cat, snatched it back, took the extra 100, threw the 300 back at her and walked out like a fucking boss!

A quick hi-5 in the street and we went to find dinner. Bangkok hadn't got us yet!

So after walking past countless more ping pong shows and lady boy bars we made it back to the main road and searched for food.
We didn't want anything huge and we didn't want chain food so we went down a small street with chairs and tables outside and local Thai people chowing down.

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We ordered some chicken and rice, Ricky got a beer - Ricky and Mish ate mine as I wasn't a fan and then the people we'd bought it from tried to rip Ricky off!
So far, Bangkok was behaving badly but we were prepared.

A little further down the road we found 'Boy Street'... On first reading, you're probably thinking a street of beautiful girls all provocatively gyrating for the passing men.

You'd be wrong.

This was a street of beautiful boys, provocatively gyrating for the passing men.

Neon signs boasted the "Sexiest boys in Bangkok", some were less classy but more to the point, like "Boys! Boys! Boys!" - either way, it was a sexual avenue of promiscuity and lust at every turn.

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Oddly enough, I felt safer and more at home in that homosexual wonderland than anywhere else in Bangkok!

Ricky went to the toilet, and when he started walking back towards us, he looked like he was trying to escape the River Styxx - swirling in and out of throngs of bodies and clawing hands, his face lit up like a kid in a candy store, as multiple, beautiful boys dragged him left, right and centre - at one point I feared that he might be quartered!
When he eventually got to us, all we heard was "I need more money" his eyes wide and wild - we told him we had money and asked him where he wanted to go first... "Oh, I know where I want to go!" he replied, raising his eyebrows, a sure indication of trouble!

Then he took us both by the hand and whisked us into a nearby neon hot spot with 10 to 20 boys lined up around a thrust stage and every 30 seconds or so they moved to the left like they were on a perpetual sexy carousel.
Each boy had a number and for 500 baht you could pick one and take him out of the meat market - we worked as a team; I handled the money, Mish discussed prices and services, and Ricky picked the one he wanted.

The deal was struck, the money paid, and the sexy cowboy-boots-wearing buff went to put real people clothes on!
Mish and I followed a few 100 yards behind the 2 boys walking hand in hand when our homo beckoned us to him - with the slip of a 500 baht note they crossed the street to a shady looking hotel - Mish and I waited it out nearby...

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Apparently, when you use Mish and I to negotiate prices and handle the cash exchanges, you also get added protection services as well.

About 20 minutes later, not even that, we saw our paid and saddled Thai boy scurrying back towards the bar we bought him from. Our cue had arrived, on our feet and across the road in less than 15 seconds, we headed towards the hotel to see an angry and confused Ricky walking towards us.
There just wasn't enough money in our pockets to pay for ass in Bangkok.
Bangkok - 1 : Us - 1

Tired and defeated by Bangkok's sexual frivolities, we went back to the hostel to chill out. There are a lot of rats in Bangkok, and cockroaches in the shower! Bleurgh!

The next day we went to Tanya and Kylie's hotel - it was beautiful, so naturally we stole their pool and preceded to fanny around like idiots for an hour or so completely forgetting that we should have checked out from our own accommodation already.

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A quick trip back to our hostel, our stuff crammed back into our bags and back we went to the girls hotel.

We ventured out to find some food, I had Pad Thai, it was scrummy :)
Ricky decided he wanted to be a bit more adventurous so ordered the grilled tongue.

Before I knew what was happening, I saw my fork going towards his plate, I was more surprised when it pierced a piece of grilled tongue and started making it's way back towards my own tongue (ungrilled!)

So apparently, I like tongue now. Who knew!?

This is my life - Ricky is adamant that we'd eat bugs on this holiday, knowing us, we probably would!

We went back to the girl's hotel, grabbed our bags, hopped into a taxi and headed to the bus station.
We got onto the bus/coach for our 9 hour overnight trip north to Chiangmai in the most luxurious seats and service I've ever experienced on a coach. It was better than some flights I've taken! We got fully reclining seats with leg rests, a blanket, a neck-loop-pillow thingy, water, snacks, some weird flavoured juice boxes and AC - not bad at all for £10!

Tune in for the next entry - Chiangmai and Death Mountain! xxx

Posted by Lady Mantle 23:54 Archived in Thailand Tagged temples bangkok pad_thai tongue lady_boys boys_boys_boys we_bangkok_hostel cheap_buses 3_weeks_in_thailand budget_travelling patpong_night_market ping_pong_show Comments (3)

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