A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about my future home

Sihanoukville (Cambodia)

Heading to the beach...

sunny 34 °C

I personally didn't mind our location in Sihanoukville, (Don't Tell Mama's Hostel, Otres Beach) but I'm less of a nightbird than Ricky and being at the end of the quiet beach, put us 10 minutes away by tuk-tuk to civilisation (and bars).

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Although we initially agree to change hostels closer to the town, we decided that we weren't really staying long enough for it to be an issue so just made do with the distance.

During the first actual day in Sihanoukville (given that we arrived at 6pm the evening before), we went to the beach.
The whole 40 or so steps it took to get there...!

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We stayed by the beach for about 5 hours, bearing in mind that we didn't go there until 12pm!
We came back to our hut, had a nap, and then went to Serendipity Beach around 9:30/10pm for beach BBQ.
It was scrummy - BBQ Tuna steak, prawns, squid and pork with a gorgeous salad, rice and garlic bread... not bad for $5

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Now in order to go to Vietnam, we needed to get a visa from Cambodia beforehand.
I had photocopies of our passports so was less afraid of leaving our actual passports with the nice man who got our visas for us for $65 each!
Phew! Pricey!
He told us to come back the next day around 5pm to collect our passports with the newly acquired Vietnamese visas in them.
Whilst sitting there getting all of this information, we saw a boat trip; 3 islands, 8 hours, breakfast and lunch included. $15 each.
Well obviously that had to be done.

I liberally applied sun cream to my face, chest and arms but somewhere in between ordering breakfast and passing the sun cream to Ricky, I forgot to apply any cream to my legs...

The first island we went to was for snorkelling, a hobby which, for anyone who knows me, knows I love very much, but sadly my mask leaked so I couldn't get a clean view but I did go for a swim anyway and there were so many fish swimming around me, I felt like a mermaid!
Ricky, given his previous encounter with the ocean on our trip to Thailand, decided he wasn't quite ready to get out of the boat into open (ish) water, so he stayed on the boat.

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We stayed for an hour or so, then went to the next island for lunch.
A beautiful stretch of white sand and tropical water greeted us.
We had an hour before lunch so Ricky and I ventured down the beach where there were no other people at all.
It was like our own slice of paradise.
We had a quick swim, then sat on the beach to dry off.

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We made our way back to the others for lunch; salad, a baguette and the most beautifully succulent barracuda steak.
I'd never had barracuda before, but after that, I'd highly recommend it!

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We got to stay for another 2 hours, so we found some hammocks and chilled out in the shade until our lunch had gone down.

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It wasn't until we moved along the beach in the other direction and sat down for a while that I realised how hot my legs were getting so I went for another dip in the sea to cool down.

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Of course, what I didn't acknowledge was that the damage was already done and by the time we'd gone to the last island for more swimming/snorkelling, my legs were the colour of the setting sun! :(

We got back to our beach and had some Lok Lak Beef (traditional Khmer food) and got accosted by a 12-year old girl (who I agreed to make some bracelets for me, she was quite the little business woman with excellent English), so we had a chat for a while and she gave me a free bracelet for Chinese New Year ^_^

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We went to collect our passports with their new Vietnamese visas in and made our way back to our hut for a much needed cold shower.
Sleeping that night was uncomfortable to say the least.
I felt like I was on fire and my head was spinning - you'd think after nearly 26 years on this earth, I would remember how little the sun and I get on...!
(And mother, if you're reading this, no "I told you so", please!)

Well our plan for our last day was to go to the iBall Adventure Park that we'd read about, only to discover that it no longer exsists :(

So instead, we went to the Casino Fortuna where I spent about $7 in total and I won $35 off a $1 bet! Not bad for someone who's never played Roulette before, and by betting on my birth day! :D

After chilling by the beach until 6pm (in the shade, obviously!) we grabbed a quick dinner and went to collect our bags to get on the night bus to Siem Reap...

Posted by Lady Mantle 02:08 Archived in Cambodia Tagged landscapes sunsets_and_sunrises beaches skylines children animals sky boats snorkelling food flowers travel cambodia adventure summer swimming tropical duck asia travelling sihanoukville body dying white_sand foreigners serendipity_beach otres_beach my_future_home rubber_duck natural_beauty 3_islands_tour don't_tell_mama Comments (0)

The last entry for "3 Weeks in Thailand"

Heading South and Island-hopping: Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao...

sunny 33 °C

We arrived in Bangkok from Chiangmai around 6am, hopped in a mini-bus to the airport where we bought disgusting, overpriced 'breakfasts' then found a quiet corner to sleep in for 4 hours, before checking in for our flight.

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The irony being that AirAsia charged us for our baggage, but had we checked in 4 hours earlier it would have been a lot cheaper.
Livid.
I paid for our baggage on the way back right there and then - £20 to Surat Thani, £5 back - Ridiculous!
We bought our bus and ferry tickets on the plane so we didn't have to faff around when we landed.
Within an hour and a bit we arrived in Surat Thani, then had to take a 2 hour bus to the ferry port.

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We arrived about 5.30pm and boarded the ferry just before 6pm.
About an hour and half after that we docked in Koh Samui and were bombarded with people charging 800 baht for a taxi!
We hopped on a red bus again for 100 baht and half an hour later we arrived at our hostel.
Knackered and hungry, we showered, grabbed some food, walked along the beach for a while then went to sleep.

I'm not going to lie to you, we stayed at The Wave (nice enough) on Chaweng Beach on the east side of the island in what can only be described as the offspring of Falaraki and Benidorm, with equally annoying clientelle.
Not my idea of an island getaway.
Upon reading my guide book, I discovered that the whole of Chaweng Beach is the party district of Koh Samui so I forgave as much as I could of the gaudy, over-westernised chips and gravy restaurants as possible.
Everything there was very expensive as well, when a few streets over there was authentic Thai food at half the price - that's more like it!
We got some food and Ricky and Mish got some cocktails from a little street kiosk and we walked around.

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After a day on the beach and my skin being fairer than fair, I was suitably sunburnt and ready for bed so I went back to the hostel and those guys headed to the bars.
Another day at the beach and a hearty rescue by me later and we met up with the other girls in their hotel for a pool party right by the beach - so many scrummy men in tiny pants!

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Om nom nom!
The best part about going away with a girl and a gay is that you all appreciate the same scenery!
We wanted to go to Laen Din Market, and not knowing entirely where it was, we hopped on a red bus, told him where we wanted to go and off we went.
Now we knew this market was only about 10 minutes away and we were reasonably close to where we'd already been that day so after 20 minutes and no more town, we figured that something was wrong.
Naturally our first thought was 'this man is stealing us...'
Our second thought was 'I wonder how much I'd sell for in a Hostel (the movie) style situation...'
Tanya stopped the bus and Ricky got out to investigate.
Yep.
He was taking us to the south of the island to Laen Don Beach....
O_o
After we turned around and headed back towards town, he tried to drop us off by loads of closed shops and restaurants;
Tanya quickly ran into the 7Eleven to ask where the market was and then told the guy to go up the road some more.
We eventually found it, only to the realise it was the exact same market we went to before and it was literally 5 minutes away from our hostel.
300 baht down the drain!
We got some yummy street food, they got cocktails, we jammed out to some music and then headed back to the hostel.
We woke up the next day about 11am, had some breakfast then went to rent some mopeds/scooters for the day to go exploring.
2,000 baht deposit and Ricky's provisional driving license later (as we certainly were not going to leave our passports with them) we hit the road.
Mopeds are awesome for independent sight-seeing; you can stop where you want, buy gasoline from the side of the road and drive off into the sunset.
Following a map as best we could, we found a beautiful beach that led to the island of Koh Fan.
And of course, we saw a man with the most impressive moustache I have ever witnessed...!

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We walked through the shallow warm water for a little while - Choeng Mon was much more my type of an island getaway!
We played around in the sea and explored the miniature island just off of Choeng Mon beach then after writing some messages in the sand for our wives and partners (what with it being Valentine's day) we got back on our mopeds and carried on around the top of the island.

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We got to Bo Phut pier and Fisherman's village, grabbed some lunch and a drink at the Karma Sutra Cafe then headed in land through the jungle to try and find one of the many waterfalls.

Then we almost died.....

Approaching a massive hill deep in the jungle, we see two girls further up that have either given up trying to get up the hill or have fallen off their mopeds, and Mish taps me on the back and tells me that Ricky is waving at us to stop.
So I stop the moped half way up a hill.
Everything happened so fast.
Mish flew off the back of the bike, hit her head on the ground and started rolling down the hill towards Ricky who had stopped his moped to help her but then his bike started rolling backwards down the hill, so he jumped off and it skidded sideways down the hill.
Mine and Mish's bike tried to roll on top of me so I grabbed at the handles and accidentally got the throttle, revved it and flew with the bike towards the edge of the hill straight into the barricade and a very upset Ant Hill until I could reach the keys to turn it off.
Only after checking that everyone was alive and well, did we burst into uncontrollable laughter as some man in a truck with his family tried to help us!

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We stopped for 10 minutes or so after rolling our bikes down the hill, had a celebratory cigarette then decided the waterfall could wait and we headed back to the main road.
Ricky then mentioned he needed gas which was the original reason for his signalling us, so after purchasing some gasoline in an old wine bottle from a nice man by the side of the road, we went back to the hostel.
Funny day, funny, funny day!

We left Koh Samui and got on a boat to Koh Phangan.

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We met an English guy called Mike who we named Alan after a private joke mentioned in our shared taxi to the port in Koh Samui.
He taught English and was going to see some friends on Koh Phangan.
When we arrived in Koh Phangan, the taxi wanted to charge 300 baht to take us to our hostel - we knew it was close so we asked a local who confirmed our suspicions and within less than 3 minutes we'd walked to our hostel.
Kylie aptly described our hostel as Barbie's Dream House!
It was pink and purple with play boy bunnies everywhere!

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Ghastly, but oddly homely!
We checked in and went upstairs to survey the 20-bed hostel.... oh my.
A whole wall lined with double and single bunkbeds that were all connected to each other...

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When someone at one end moved, everyone else felt it all the way down to the other end.
I'm just glad no one had sec in there during our stay, I fear I may have got motion sickness!
After chatting to Alan (Mike) we knew which bars we wanted to visit and headed to the beach to get a boat to the less road-accessible parts of the island.
The boat ride was interesting - with nothing but a head torch to the guide the boat around the rocks, we arrived on another part of the island and jumped into the coarse sand of the beach.
The captain pointed to our destination that was partly submerged by boulders and jungle.
We headed to our first destination - Eden.
As we got off the beach, we found ourselves on a rickety wooden walkway precariously balanced on the rocks and boulders below, reminiscent of the wooden walkway in the Hobbit!
Although there were no orcs or trolls hindering our journey, every step was laced with dread as sharp rocks protruded viciously beneath us.
After walking the plank and negotiating a rock face, all the while questioning a drunk person's ability to not die out here, we found a bar.
Alas, it was not Eden, but we did meet a guy called Shawn who runs a TEFL programme in Taiwan that pays substantially more than China.... it's all about networking!
We got his email and he directed us to Eden - you guessed it, back down the rock face and across an even more rickety wooden branch walkway.
After safely passing this walking test and being deeply disappointed to have not won a crystal in this zone, we found Eden.
I found home!
Black lights everywhere, giant psychedelic UV posters and throws on the walls and squidgy cushion seats all over the floor, I joined my fellow hippies and for about 2 hours was totally at peace with the world and with nature and I let the music guide me.

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We were befriended by a beautiful pit-bull bitch who later would become our personal guide!
After Tanya had go her fill of chatting to some new people, we went to head out to Guy's Bar, only to realise we didn't know where it was!
Luckily, a marvellously hippy woman told us she was heading that way, so with her and our new dog to guide us, we headed up through the jungle...
A lot easier to do once you've climbed a huge mountain!
We went up and down and around the jungle using nothing but the torch on my phone for light until we reached a different beach.
This is where our hippy guide left us but our trusty pit-bull continued to show us the way!
A few minutes more walking in the dark and following the music (and the dog!) and we found Guy's Bar - a black light hippy Neverland of hammocks and cushions and moving wooden platforms with small tables on and dancing.
Oh the dancing.
To feel so free and uninhibited by social pressures and conformities so people, regardless of how it looked, let their bodies physicalise the music into visual poetry.
Even thinking about it again is bringing back the Zen in me.
No one was there to judge you, no one cared what you were wearing or if you'd fixed your hair properly; they were just there, to be... well, to be!
So we danced, quite controlled at first, trying to get a taste for the crowd, the atmosphere; then we danced.
Oh lordy lord, did we dance.
I think I lost 5lbs that night!
We danced in the jungle until 4am.
I got kissed by a random Iranian man who was so overcome with joy that he needed to share the love.
The girls and I found a comfy nook to chill in for a while before heading back down to the beach and the boat that would take us home.
Our pit-bull led the way back down the random stepping stones of the jungle to the beach, the ethereal weightlessness helping the journey down run smoothly.
Then the feeling of pure happiness slowly started to ebb away with each gentle wave breaking on the sand as the wait began.
Not the wait for the boat, oh no, the boat was ready.
We were waiting for enough people to fill the boat.
The boats on the island are privately owned so they wouldn't leave unless at least 8 people were getting the boat.
So we waited.
Then we waited some more.
Then finally, people!
Damn, still not enough.
We waited some more.... until eventually the right number of people arrived, 300 baht each later and we were on our way to our side of the island.
As we walked away from the beach the the fire shows through the multitude of drunken fist-pumpers we found a very drunk and slightly burnt Alan (Mike), who had been playing with fire himself.
Resound to going to bed, we left drunk Alan with drunk Alan's friend and returned to our crowded but well ventilated room at the Moonstone Hostel.
We never did see Alan again.

Kylie went home (NYC) at 9am the following morning and with no Ricky (who had stayed on Koh Samui with some new friends for an extra day, we were down to 3.
Tanya booked herself into her hotel so Mish and I went to meet her before heading to the beach.
The sun was so hot on Koh Phangan and my poor English skin couldn't take it so I headed back tot he hostel only to be greeted by Ricky chilling on the sofa!
He regaled his adventures during his extra day on Koh Samui and I told him about our expedition then we ordered a shisha pipe and relaxed on the sofa and watched films all afternoon!
Later that afternoon, UV face and body paint at the ready, we prepared our flesh for the half moon party with the other people in our hostel.
Painted up and ready to go, we got in a tin bus taxi and headed out.

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We arrived, paid our 500 baht, got our free drink (Which I gave to the others!) and entered party central.
A large collection of girating foreigners eye-fucking and grinding their way around the sand and mud dance floor, like a scene from the Serengeti, packs of males scoped out and hunted down their female pray.

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Too much for me, I much preferred the atmosphere at Eden and Guy's Bar, so I retreated into the jungle to enjoy the music without being subjected to the antiquated mating rituals below.
A guy from Cardiff of all places who works as a primary school teacher in Qatar plonked himself down next to me and we chatted for a bit then when the conversation dried up, he carried on with his life and I did the same.
The party ended pretty swiftly for me and I was in bed by 4am - the others rocked up at around 7am...!
The next day was pretty chilled, we got some falafel for lunch then Ricky and I wasted the day away in a Rasta Bar after buying some special cigarettes..........

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........

I went to bed after that - 'smoking' always makes me sleepy but the others went to a floating bar and the next day we hopped on another boat to our final island: Koh Tao.

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We'd adopted an Irish girl, Virginia, who we aptly named Irish, from our hostel and when we arrived in Koh Tao and got attacked once again by taxi drivers we just took her to our hotel as she hadn't booked anywhere to stay!
After we checked in we got in the pool and didn't really leave the whole time we were there!

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Whenever the rest of the town went to sleep, the party continued by our pool, so until the early hours of the breaking day, pool parties were rife and the music was blasted out...

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Tanya and I walked along the beach, through the shallow warm water right to the edge of the world and looked into going snorkelling but Mish twisted her ankle and could barely move it so we didn't go in the end which was a shame.

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To be honest though, at the end of our 3 weeks in Thailand, I was so knackered I didn't even want to move!
We did however manage to do a lantern on the beach for good vibes and our wives!

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Ricky and I were going to get tattoos in Bangkok but thought they'd probably be more expensive so we found a beautiful hippy boy and he helped design our tattoos then I got a bamboo one by Mama, and Ricky got an old tattoo covered up by machine by Papa!

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That hippy boy was so beautiful!
I'm so going to move to Thailand and have beautiful jungle babies with a beautiful hippy man!
We chilled by the pool then headed down to the port to get a boat to Chumporn (no that's not shark-bait themed adult movies!) then got a bus to Bangkok.

We arrived at 5am, checked in, slept until 11am, check out, then vegged out and watched Twilight in Thai on giant floor cushions.
This is the life, sat in hareem pants, on the floor under a fan, sweating away in 35 degree heat!
Ricky and I ventured out in the midday sun to spend what little money we had left on souvenirs and cigarettes! (Naturally!)
We were stood outside, not moving, under a shade looking at the niknaks and trinkets and the sweat was pouring down our backs.
We'd forgotten how humid Bangkok was.
We saved 100 baht each for the taxi to the airport, bought some food and water with whatever remnants of change we had left and went back to the hostel.
We resumed our positions on the floor cushions, chowed down and chilled out.
At about 4:30pm we went to book the car to the airport, only to discover that the 4pm bus has gone and the next one was at 8pm and our flight left a 7pm...

Balls.

So we walked towards the main road, away from the hustle and bustle of Kohsan Road and hailed a cab.
"How much to the airport?"
"500 baht"
I look in my wallet, I look back at the driver...
"I can give you exactly 340 baht."
It was literally all the money we had left.
He looked at me and said...
"400 ok?"
I took the 340 baht out of purse and said again...
"I only have 340 baht - this is it, this is all of our money..." gently shaking the tattered notes in his direction.

Eventually after sad eyes and begging smiles, he accepted and by 4:50pm we were on our way.
Now before we left, we were told that it would take an hour and a half to get to the airport...
We set off at 4:50pm...
Check in at the airport closes 45 minutes prior to departure....
This was going to be a close one.
We sat in traffic for a while and the panic set in. I know my credit card wouldn't cover 3 flights if we missed it but I could think of worse places to be stranded.
We get to the airport at 5:25pm - less than 45 minutes!
Winning!
Now we had no money and only a bottle of water each so we tried to ignore the hundreds of delicious food places beckoning us in and checked in for our flight.
Ricky got changed into his China clothes, ready for the cold -2 degrees on Beijing.
I much preferred the 33 degrees we were currently enjoying!
We headed to our gate and were in, on and up within the hour.
Free drinks, a delicious meal and a nap across the 3 free seats next to me and we landed in Beijing.

Holy hell was that cold, and when Thailand stole all of your shoes, leaving you with nothing but flip-flops, you lose feeling in your toes almost instantly!
Determined to carry on, me, my flip-flops, my hareem pants and my strap top headed to passport control and immigration.
Mish and I felt very Asian, what with our socks and flip-flop combos...

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After a painful wait for the woman behind the counter, who I'm pretty sure didn't even work there, finally checked us through, we went to baggage claim and departed the airport.
We knew the drill in China so when the taxi guy said 450 Yuan, we told him to do one, and 90 yuan later, around 2am, we arrived at our hostel for the night.
What a dump!
Mish and I had 3 quilts and still had to huddle for warmth.
I instantly missed sleeping in my underwear under a fan.
We eventually shivered ourselves to sleep, woke up at 10/10:30am and got the heck out of there!

Next hurdle, get to Beijing West Train Station, get tickets our friend had booked online, get on the train at 12:13pm.
We got to the train station at 11:45am only to be told we needed to go to a different booth.
11:55am we get to the front of that queue, she speaks excellent English, we eventually get our tickets and head up to the platforms.
Beijing Xi (west) is huge.
12:05pm we find out what platform we need.
12:10pm we get to the gate.
"Boarding closes 5 minutes before departure"
12:13pm, our train leaves without us.
12:15pm we head back downstairs to buy new tickets.
12:25pm we go downstairs some more to the the previous tickets refunded.
12:45pm we go for a much needed cigarette.
12:55pm we give up and go to McDonalds.
13:30pm we go to our platform and wait to get on.
By 2pm, we're on the train, music on, headphones in, pillows strategically made from scarves and jackets, eyes shut, world is gone.

Tired, grotty, dirty, bruised, twisted, beaten, we get home - our lovely clean apartment, showered, washing in the machine, jammies on, sleep.

Oh Thailand. Totally worth it.

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Posted by Lady Mantle 18:18 Archived in Thailand Tagged waterfalls mountains beaches adventure bangkok hostel beijing mcdonalds koh_tao cocktails cold half_moon_party koh_phangan koh_samui uv 3_weeks_in_thailand beautiful_hippies my_future_home blacklight rasta_bars choeng_mon koh_fan chaweng_beach party_central bo_phut moonstone_hostel lotus_resort the_wave kohsan_road Comments (2)

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)

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