Chiang Mai

Trip Start Mar 09, 2008
Trip End Dec 10, 2008

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Where I stayed
Smile Guesthouse

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

March 20th 2008 10:38 AM
Well what a few days we've had!!
So we took the train up to Chiang Mai on Thursday night. It was okay. As Keir said before we got the top and bottom bunks in a second class car. (all the 1st class were full) Kinda rickety but what do you expect. There was no intercom system so the guard went down the aisle with a megaphone. First in Thai, then in English (barely) and the funniest thing was his French. "Bonjour bonjour...salut, va ca va ca va...Merci" Yep...very descriptive. This was supposed to mean, "the man will come by when you are ready and make your beds for you. Just let him know" Anyways, he made our beds and put up the curtains for us. Then we both huddled in the bottom bunk for a bit and read our books, then I decided to go up to my bunk...oh gawd...first of all this was an air-con car...the vents were right above my face blowing consistently on me, the lights for the whole car were directly above me, the "bed" part was about the same as a yoga mat, and I seriously felt like I was in a really cold, hard, ultraviolet coffin. After tossing and turning for a bit I snuck down to the bottom bunk and woke Keir up and crawled in there. NOW I know why the top bunk is so much cheaper! It is horrible!  Keir's bunk was all cushy and warm and dark. Ahhhh. ZZZZZZZZZ In the morning they woke us up with the megaphone.
We got to Chiang Mai around 10am ish. As usual there were a whole bunch of taxi drivers and tuk-tuk drivers wanting to take us to the "best place in town". But we saw the hostel rep we were going to stay at and went with him. Off to Julia's place in the taxi. When we got there it was full. with the free ride in we wandered across the street to another hostel. Simple but seemed fine. Only 150 thb a night (that's $3) It was right on the main drag so was quite loud during the night, we didn't get a very good nights sleep. Next morning we went to find yet another place we could call home while we were in Chiang Mai. The Pirates cove...seems okay, big room, free wireless...but as I found out that night in the wasn't just mangy dogs and cats everywhere, but cockroaches too. I had the unfortunate pleasure of having one of them run up my leg. Ewwww. We left the next day...this time we found an awesome place...sorta motel style...BUT WITH A POOL!!! Oh baby this is the oasis we have been looking for!! Comfy bed, our own bathroom, and pool. Sweet.
So Chiang Mai is a pretty cool place. The "old town" is surrounded by a moat. It is 1 mile squared.  I think we have walked around this like 5 times. At night there are a lot of markets and people selling their crafts. On the weekends there are like 3 roads that are pedestrian only, that have so much stuff to look at! I think Keir got sick of markets after the first day!! Haha. So many more to see!!! There are massage places and reflexology places everywhere!! Like I mean EVERYWHERE!! We haven't yet indulged but I am so up for it right now. My body aches...but that's because we just got back from a 3 day trek up north. That's why we haven't had a chance to write in here for the last little while. So tomorrow I think we are going to head up to Pai, I think it is about a 3 hour bus ride from here. Then work our way over to Laos.
We had already decided earlier that we wanted to do a trek in Thailand, but wasn't sure what kind. We came across a lady who sets up tours when we were getting our clothes washed (30 baht a kg by the way). There was a few options...elephants, visiting hill tribes, waterfalls, white water rafting, bamboo rafting, caving, cooking, etc. and from 1 to 3 days. So we went with the full meal deal. 3 days 2 nights. In the end, the way we worked it out, it saved us money by going!! Crazy!!  There were 8 of us in total. We met at 8:30 on Monday morning, and had our stuff put into lockers. Only bringing minimal stuff, off we went. It was about a 1 hour bus ride and we stopped at a little market to buy toilet paper and water and anything else we might have forgotten (still reasonable prices). Back on the bus again for about another 30 minutes. They stopped on the side of the road and we all get off. Lunch time! We eat fried rice on the side of the road that they provided, then the trek begins. The first day was all hiking. And I'm not meaning, a nice meandering trail where you can stroll along looking at the sights. The trail went from switchbacks to directly vertical in a matter of minutes. We went through bamboo forests and through wild mango forests. But pretty much uphill. We get to the first village where we stop for water. Not much to see there. A few kids playing, and mangy dogs biting at themselves and chickens roaming more up hill!! Burn baby burn! That's the song my legs were screaming!!
Around 4:30pm we get to the village were we were going to spend the night. It was the Karen long-neck tribe. The ones with the rings around their necks and legs) We were all covered in dust, sweat and ash. Ash because they continuously burn off the bamboo leaves that have fallen on the ground. Everywhere we walked it seemed to be smoldering close by. The tribes people were still out working when we got there so we all took turns dumping cold water from a bucket to try and clean ourselves off as best we could with very limited facilities, although cleaner then some bathrooms in Bangkok. Then we all sat around and played cards until the tribe came back. When they did, it was kinda weird. We hadn't been told what we should or should not do. Pictures or no pictures. So they sat by their huts selling their crafts and we would go by and look but then eventually came back to the card game. For dinner we had chicken eggplant green curry and rice. We slept in huts with mosquito nets and bamboo mats. Very simple but pretty cool. The next morning we were awoken by a VERY talkative rooster at 4:30 am. Then it was a day full of walking. We hiked for about 4 hours. The beginning was tough as we were sore from the day before, and it was uphill, but the last part of the hike was downhill into the village we were staying at. Halfway through we stopped for lunch in the bamboo and had awesome Phad Thai, complete with the limes, chilies and peanuts to add to taste. When we got to the village we all jumped in to the river/stream/pond that was going through, it had enough room for about 5 of us at a time. Sooooo nice to chill out in the water and cool off.  Then we got changed and indulged in some much needed water. The 8 of us all pitched in that night for a pig roast. It ended up being an extra 200thb each. So worth it. We had dinner at 5pm which consisted of Masaman curry and green curry chicken. Quite yummy.  This is when our guide, Kay, started setting up our roast with the villagers. Huge firepit in the center of the village. But then came the thunder and lightning. Big time! All of a sudden it's a torrential downpour. We quickly grabbed all of our hanging sweaty clothes and bathing suits and towels off the branches and ducked in under a thatched roof. It was awesome! Huge drops of rain...and so warm too! The men moved all the burning logs from the first fire under our thatched roof and started cooking the pig roast right there!!! The grandpa of the village then got out his hoe and started making drain tunnels everywhere so the mud and water wouldn't get to us under the thatched roof. Then the rain stopped. It was about 20 minutes of rain and then clear sky with all the stars in sight! Wow! But that wasn't even the coolest part.
We sat around where the first fire originated and the women of the village came out in their attire and danced for us! Very neat. One man had a guitar, yuckalaylee thingy, a bongo drum, symbols, and the others had pot lids. There were about 10 of them. When the pig was well roasted we had platters and platters of meat! And a really wicked sauce to dip it in. (Soya sauce, limes, chili, garlic, fish sauce) We went around and offered it to the villagers as well. They were very appreciative and surprised. Our guide told us that no other group had really done that for them before. We also bought all of them beers. Lots of smiles! Speaking of smiles...there were these 2 little girls who LOVED the camera! They posed for us for about an hour. Making funny faces and giggling. I think I took about 15 pictures of them! The whole time people were singing and dancing. Between 2 Canadians, 3 Americans, 1 Aussie, 1 British and 1 Spanish we were trying to figure out a song we could all sing for them....What a difficult feat. First we thought "old Macdonald" then "happy birthday" but thought that was pathetic. But really...everyone always knows the chorus but never a whole song! We tried some Sublime, Cranberries, Pearl Jam, but again, just parts of the songs. I think the tribe thought we were insane. But they had so much fun! And so did we!! I hope we can put the photos on here to show how it was.
After they all went to bed we stayed up and played more cards. We went to bed around midnight and was awoken at 3am by another stupid rooster. I really don't think we could ever get used to those flippin animals. They were under the huts where we were all sleeping. I think they knew we were there and would do their horrid cock-a-doodle-doo under each one of our heads. Let's just say that we were happy to be having chicken for lunch the next day!
When we actually got up we only had another 40 minute hike to the elephant camp. Easy peasy!! We got there and rode on them for about 30 minutes, gave them bananas and took pictures. The one that Keir and I rode was 65 years old!! He was HUGE! The one behind us was pregnant. Pretty neat to see. Then we headed off to a water fall to go's dry season so really there wasn't a water fall at all. Mostly just a river with potholes to play in and wade. Very refreshing. Then off to the white water rafting!!! Ooooooooo...doesn't that sound fast??? And exciting? Well I'm sure in the wet season when there is water actually rushing it would be. This was pretty much pinballing between rocks...paddle for a bit, up against a rock, paddle for a bit...up against another rock. Pretty silly, but we made it fun! It pretty much ended up being a big water fight between the 2 boats of us. Then off to the bamboo rafts. They wanted 5 to a raft, but as soon as you got 3 on there we were completely submerged. So funny. And again since there was no water flow we were about 4 inches from the ground the whole time! But once again water fights and fun. Keir was the captain for a while, with a bamboo pole, he did pretty well considering he had never been down that river before. I think he should apply to do it in Venice!!!  By then we were all so exhausted...falling asleep in the truck on the way back to our guesthouses. All in all, it was a wicked trek. We could have missed the rafting and waterfall, and still would have left feeling satisfied and exhausted. The 6 others that we spent the last 3 days with were awesome! We are meeting up with them tonight for a Thai BBQ and drinks. We will probably be seeing a lot of them as were are all mostly doing the same little loop in SE Asia.

More later...sorry it took so long for an update!!
Miss you all!

Keir and Kylie
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johnmadsen on

Chang Mai
Hi KandK. What a great commentary Kylie. Sounds uber good. We watched the same OLN show as your parents and thought of you two. We look forward to your travelogues a lot. Have fun and stay safe.
Love Jand J

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