Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trekkers (NOT Trekkies)

The bus ride from Pai to Chiang Mai on Tuesday was rather uneventful except that we met an American guy named Lloyd who hung out with us for the rest of the night. The four of us - me, Rhian, Marina, and Lloyd - found a guesthouse, plopped down our bags, and went on a search for banana roti (my new fav snack food). Later, after we'd showered, we all went out to the night market to do some shopping since I hadn't made it there my last time through CM.

On Wednesday the girls and I had booked a trek. We were picked up from our guesthouse a
t 8:15am and an hour drive outside of CM brought us to our first stop, Phutawan Elephant Camp. We went on elephant rides! There was a little bit of unexpected excitement when we first got there. The mahouts (the elephant trainers) were moving the elephants around and getting them in place. One mahout led a mama elephant away from her three month old baby and when mama realized her baby wasn't right next to her, she literally roared and ran back to her calf. It was kinda scary seeing this huge elephant run past you, but we all just got out of her way and were fine. (I didn't get pics of the baby, btw, which is very disappointing. Rhian got a couple, though, that she said she'd send to me). After mounting our elephants we got to ride for about an hour. It's a weird feeling being on top of an elephant. In some spots of the ride, it almost felt like we were gonna fall right off, but then you'd look at the mahout and he seemed cool as a cucumber. Once the riding was over, we got to feed the elephants bananas and take more pictures of them. Here's my favorite elephant shot:

Next was a quick ride to a Karenni village, but this was a White-Cloth village (so called because unmarried women show their status by wearing white clothing), not a Long-Neck village. It was almost more interesting than the first Karenni village because our guide gave us more information about the community instead of just dropping us off and leaving us be. We then trekked for about 20 minutes to a waterfall where we could have swam, but the water was way too cold. We got some nice pictures, though, and at least stuck our feet in.

Another 20 minute trek landed us in a Hmong village. This was a less interesting stop and seemed to me to be more about getting us to buy stuff than anything else. Twenty minutes of more trekking - very convenient chunks of trekking time, btw, as it's enough to give you a taste of things, but not too exhausting - and it was time for a communal lunch where everything is brought to the table and passed around and shared. We had rice, potatoes, salad, chicken and vegetables in a sweet and sour sauce, and fresh pineapple and watermelon. The food was so-so and geared more towards westerners than locals, but after all that walking we would've scarfed down just about anything.

We finished up our day with bamboo rafting which was very fun, but I don't have any pictures to prove it. We had been advised to leave our cameras behind because we (and they) would get wet and that turned out to be a pretty good idea. The raft drivers? pushers? steerers? were having a bit of fun and took every chance they had to splash us or otherwise get us wet.

One hour drive back to town dropped three very tired girls off at the guesthouse. It was the last night the three of us would be together, so we showered and met back downstairs for one last round of fruit shakes, dinner, and card playing. My bus to Udon Thani left at 8pm and was a VIP bus. This meant that passengers were given water, snacks, and blankets. I was also lucky enough to get a ghetto upgrade, so I got to stretch out a bit. Twelve hours later I was in Udon Thani where I transferred to a second (much shoddier) bus for the hour and a half ride to Nong Khai.

I'm in Nong Khai now, staying at the Mut Mee Guesthouse, at the bargain rate of 100B. One of the staff asked me if I wanted to room with another girl who was traveling solo, Cat from France, because we'd both asked for singles and they didn't have enough. All Cat and I really wanted was a bed and we didn't care if it was in a dorm, a single room, or a double room, so we're roommies now. :-) Nong Khai is my last stop in Thailand for this go around. My visa expires on 8 Feb, so I'll be heading into Laos on either the 7th or the 8th, but I will definitely be back for more of Thailand (and it's beaches!) sometime in April.


  1. Aw, I bet you're sad to leave the girls. They seem like great travel partners for you. They elephants are amazing. I loved all the Flickr pics, which I saw before your post. (-:

    The elephant ride is yet another thing to scratch off of your list.

    Love ya!

  2. couple thoughts -
    i love that even in CM (?- wherever you were while taking all the pix of you eating the banana treat) there is an "O'Malley's Irish Pub". and by love i sorta mean hate.

    and i love how in one of the pix of you feeding those elephants ( <3 <3 <3 ) these is one where the elephant is totally giving you a sideways stink eye look.

    and please make me one of those carnival fried banana treats when you get home bc they sound like they are right up my sugar alley. xoxoxL

  3. ToadMama - Yes, it was sad to leave the girls, but I may actually run into them again at some point, so that would be cool. I don't actually have a list that I'm scratching things off of, although if I did, petting tigers and riding an elephant would for sure be on it. What else should be on the list? Maybe I should start one!

    Laura - The banana roti pics were in Pai, but it's a snack that I've eaten in CM, MHS, and Pai. I think I could make the it for you and believe me, you would LOVE them! I'm totally with you on the Irish pub thing. They're so prevalent all over the world that I don't think I could even go into an honest-to-god real Irish pub in Ireland at this point!