Chang Mai

Trip Start Oct 16, 2008
Trip End Oct 15, 2009

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

As the song says, its been a while, so it's time for the update of destiny to get us back on track here. Arrived in to Chiang mai on the sleeper train around midday. We'd treated ourselves by booking middlin accomodation, so it meant there was a guy to transfer us from the train station. Name on a wee  placard  and  everything.  Quality. Second biggest city in Thailand but streets ahead of bangkok in the chilled vibe stakes. We had booked our three day trekking trip for the next day so we had to meet our guide to go over the plans and requirements etc. Mad fecker called Lan. He's the guy showing off his belly in the pictures. Met the rest of our trekking group. Jill, amiable American from texas who'd been studying in Australia and two Slovenian, mouthy, mad yock sisters who were great craic.

So, that evening we "reconoitred" the place as Dad would say. Night market, 7-11, Quality. 7-11s here have toasted sandwich machines and we've become addicted to ham and cheese toasties. A toastie van outside The Farmers Home is my idea of a recession-proof business venture.

So, trekking then. I just fired up nearly all the pictures. Started off with Bamboo rafting for about an hour down a placid wee, windy portion of river. Really peaceful and calm. I think the only thing that could have possibly improved the experience would be blasting some way too loud, bass heavy techno but sure you can't have everything. So then it's about an hour winding up dirt tracks in to the hills to the Shan village where we saw some hand weaving and ate. After lunch this is where the trek began proper. Packs on our backs we started off through the villages surrounding rice fields like a band of hobbits heading towards mordor. The first days treck wasn't too strenuous. The scenery was spectacular as you can see. Every 15 minutes or so Lan would stop and show us all some plant for treating mosquito bites or a centipede or blow bubbles by breaking the stem of a leaf. As the lone male trekker I was the proud recipient of some natural viagra root.

About 3 hours brought us to our destination and camp for the night beside a gorgeous waterfall. Water was cold as fuck but it was class to jump in and scrub the sweat off. Dinner was surprisingly quality with Catfish, rice and a couple of vegetable dishes. For desert we had sticky rice cooked in bamboo in the camp fire. Torie is now a huge fan. There's another young Thai guy there who's training to be a guide like Lan and it turns out he has an acoustic guitar at the camp. Nice. It's really feckin' cold out there at night. Myself and Torie were well prepared though, I especially had a bottle of the auld central heating for kids (sangsom thai rum). We've come across alot of these thai acoustic troubadors who know the chords to every western singalong hit but none of the words. Good craic for a while but starts to get wearing. He didn't take it very well when I asked if I could play a few songs and got a bit sulky. He may have seen it as codblocking since he was obviously attempting to woo the american girl via the medium of thai ballads. Gave him back the guitar after one song and the mopey eejit was back on form. Strange boy. Quality game of shithead later. By candle light. In the Jungle.

Sleep was a bit of a mission. Loads of blankets but none of them were really long enough so you're trying to arrange 3 blankets around your lower half and 3 round your upper half and not lose them during the night. The central heating for kids meant I think I did better than most.

The next day was a bit more hardcore. Lots of climbing. I think at one stage we were about 900 metres above sea level. Staggering views. Lotrs of centipedes on the route. Cool wee guys. We hit the village around 5pm and were really happy to get off our feet before exploring the village. Got a wee tour of the village by a guy called Wat. What? Aye Wat. Mixed feelings. Lovely, welcoming people but it's hard not to think of that line about holidaying in other peoples misery. Tiny school, with very little materials. They had a strategy guide book for the fantasy card game "magic the gathering" which is one of their language text books. Anyway I'm probably overstating but it's obviously difficult to put aside the feeling of being an interloper regatdless of how warm the welcome.

That night was another campfire job, this time with lots of latin american, meat packing glitterati adding colour. i.e. locals. That high up, when you turn your back to the camp fire and look up the stars are just breathtaking. One of the local guys kept the Slovenians entertained with those matchstick puzzles like, move three matches to put the square inside the triangle etc. Good craic.

A similar nights sleep to the last meant we were quite groggy setting off the next morning, All the villagers gave a very touching farewell and it was clear they enjoyed the westerner intrusion and sharing their way of life. The old downhill trekking is a bit of a balls. Combined with the paltry sleep and sore feet I think it's safe to say we were all feeling quite crapulent and happy to get to our pick up point and get elephanted off our faces. Scary shitballs hi all that going uphill and downhill on a "Mammoff" as Stephen would say. Definite highlight. Kept quoting shortround from Indiana Jones to the elephant to calm him 'You my best fwend".

The night before we had gone trekking we had eaten in a class wee Farang bar called Mad Dogs. It was there that we experienced the baked potatoes of destiny. The thought of returning here was one of our abiding thoughts all through our journey. So it was that without even a shower to battle our stinking shame we did drop our bags in the hotel and head straight for those vitrolineous vittles. And O how we did rejoice to taste again those merticutious morsels; the memory of which had stayed our hunger and guided our every step out of the jungle. We kindof ate there nearly every day after.

Chiang Mai was really cool. Great book shops. Scored Sir James Frazers The Golden Bough. Result.Womens prison where they give massages and bake cakes to make money. Walled in old quarter. Reading loads, chilling, drinking and eating. Such is life. Got our teeth cleaned as well since it's so cheap here and that's what people do it seems. On our last night we stumbled upon a muay thai boxing show and were lucky enough to be there early enough to score ringside seats. Bonus cabaret show after also we were informed. Started to figure out what kind of cabaret they meant when the laminated drink menu had a picture of a doll wi' no clothes on in the background. We were very pleased to be ticking off two thailand staples in one easy step.

Must have been about 8 matchups, from 8 yer olds up to a local title bout. Thoroughly entertaining. A few knee to the head knock outs were a bit hardcore though. And sure what else would follow a big sweaty, manly, thai boxing showcase but... a ladyboy cabaret extravaganza of course. The ladyboys insisting on getting a picture with me as you can imagine.

Current listening: Of Montreal - Hissing fauna you are the destroyer
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