motorbikes and jungles
Chaing Mai- Part one- The Guided Jungle Trek
Ben and I chose to not motorbike up to Chaing Mai. The scenery is not worth it unless you have alot of time to do detures, which I don't. A Thai motorbike enthusiast advised that we motor bike around northern Thailand instead, and visit the towns around there instead. So we took a seriously unpleasant, sleepless and overpriced bus up Chaing Mai. The bus arrived at 6 in the morning and since we had not booked beds at a guest house we waited outside while the sun came up. We are staying at the Happy House which has plain simple rooms and is on a backpackers road. I was so tired that I slept the day we arrived until about three. We thought it would be a good idea to try and ride motorbikes before we embarked and a self guided tour around Northern Thailand. The best way was to do a guided two day one night motorbike trek through the mountainous jungle to give the bikes a full test.
It was a good thing to do this as it turns out that I am quite handicapped in the abilities needed to operate a motorbike! We left the day after we arived, on 5 hours of mid day sleep (I usually need eight to function). In the morning one of the guides picked us up and drove us to the "Something different tours" headquarters where the bikes and two other trekkers where waiting. Since neither of us rode a bike before we where given impromptu lessons by the instructors. Of course I don't pick up things like this very quickly so the guide sugusted that I ride passenger with another guide until we where out of the city and onto a less busy road. We stopped to get snacks about half an hour out of the city and this is where I was meant to be taking over driving. On the drive up there I was paying close attention to how the driver switched gears, braked, accelerated, turned corners and avoided other fast moving vehicles. It looked exceedingly difficult and I though to myself "OK Aubyn, be honest now, you have strengths and weaknesses and no death wish so you had bettor not drive that bike!". I rode passenger the whole time and when we got to the jungle I was convinced that I had preserved my life by choosing to not drive as the path was insane. After the initial stop for a snack (two roasted chicken legs mmmm) we headed to the bamboo rafting. The raft was about 6 meters long and wide enough to sit on it single file. We had a raft man at the front guiding the raft, Ben, who hilariously fell into the river, guiding the back. The river was in the jungle and the scenery was serene and beautiful. As we floated along slowly for about a half hour we passed locals at the river bank. All of the waved and said hello, few taking pictures of us and some older woman threw us oranges. In suit with my tendencies, I fell into the river when we went over a rougher rapid. At the end of the rafting we all enjoyed a Thai lunch of sticky rice and an assortment of very spicy seasoned meats and vegetables. Then it was onto the elephant camp where we rode on the back of an elephant for about a half hour, feeding him bananas every few meters when he would pause and throw his gigantic trunk up at us. At the camp before the elephant ride, I attempted to learn how to motorbike well enough to ride the road, although I was sure I wouldn't do it anyway. I could manage to turn the corners alright but when it came to switching gears I would accelerate the gas instead of releasing it. I messed up the gears and fell off and bruised and scraped my shins, not too badly though. After the elephant camp we continued on until we got to the jungle. The path in the jungle was insane, I was certain that I was about to be hurtled off of my bike at every sharp corner. It was a completly uneven dirt path with many steep up and downs and holes. At one point the path was about a foot wide! Usually it was about 3 feet wide. We visited a hill tribe village consisting of one family. When we arrived at the village at mid day I looked into my back pack and discovered that the back pocket was open and the bag holding 800 baht and my passport where missing! I told the guides and they went back onto the path looking for it and we called the elephant camp but it did not show up. Then we all left, me and a guide where going to go look for it again and the rest were going to continue on the path. My guide and I were last in the bike line and the people ahead of us found the bag with the passport but the money missing. I think that the guides saw it the first time and took the money because the passport was apparently found by a man on the path and the guides that were just ahead of us apparently had time to pay him 100 baht for finding it. They obviously found it the first time they went and took out the money. The path was not close to any villages (other than the one we where at and I know the six villagers were there because I was with then) and if a villager was on the path that far form his village he would be on a bike. Either way I was just extremely greatful to have it back and not have to wait in Chiang Mai for a long time for a new one. After this we went onto another village with about 200 people in it, which is the village that the single village of people broke off form. The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful the whole way and I was lucky enough to be on the back of the bike so I could look at it. We hung around here, ate deep fried pig skins and I petted a kitten most for the time. Then we continued to where we slept, which seemed to be an area set up for people doing treks. It consisted of a large sleeping hut for the tourists, a cooking/sleeping hut and two bathrooms. The bathrooms in most of thailand are really just little rooms with squater toilets and a detachable shower head, but no tub to direct the water into, you just have the water spray all over the toilet and sink and floor. At our sight I helped cook the food by cutting veggies and stirring them around when they where cooking. We ate vegetable chicken curry stirfry and mushroom fry. It was cooked in a massive wok over a burning fire. It smelt so delicious. We then ate it and drank beer sitting cross legged with the guides on a rug. After dinner we went out to the fire pit and sat around the fire, drank beer and smoked jungle weed rolled with banana leaf tobacco. Ben got a lighter from Jum that has a light on the other end that showed a picture of a naked porn lady when you turned it on. So the guys looked at that a lot which I found funny and then boring! After an hour or a bit less I was was exhausted from weed and beer and doing stuff all day and having little sleep the night before so I went off to bed on the thin hard cot in the thatch roof hut. Before that I looked up at the sky and admired the stars. I think that I have never seen the stars so clearly, it was mesmerizing and beautiful. I slept that night for 12 hours! The next morning we where woken by the guide and they had made us eggs and toast or breakfast. Ben and I ventured to the very close waterfall (the camp was right on a river). I chose to not go in because it look like suicide to me, the water was so powerful! Ben did and I stayed near so that I could run to get help if he was carried by the current into the rapids, as I was sure he was going to be (he didn't haha). Then it was off on the bikes again. This part of the path was far more insane as we where higher in the mountains on less traveled paths. We had to cross about three 'bridges' that were really four thin pieces of wood/logs. I thought that they would surly all fall in as the logs were not secured or held together in any way. They all did have their back wheel fall in on one but it was not a large drop so they where OK. We stopped at a rose and flower farm, several vegetable farms and a few sights called Royal Projects. The Royal Projects are sights where to King has instilled an alternative farming option to opium for the farmers. The most unique was the large pool, which was nearly at the top of the highest mountain in Thailand, which held Carpe Koi fish. These fishes are very expensive and are sold by the farmers. We continued to ride up the mountain and reached very close to the peak, as close as you could go I believe. It was a stunning view and it was very quite up there. Then we began to decennd the mountain using the paved road. Along the way we stopped at a few villages. At the last one we visited we went to their dear, ostrich and pig farms. We fed all of the animal, though the pigs were unresponsive. We also stopped for some noodle soup. I experienced the grossed bathroom thus far here. I am not sure if it was poo or dirt but the whole floor was covered in brown mucky stuff. After here we continued for a while until and stopped expectantly at a wat along the road. Ben and I went up and the guides stayed with the bikes. We didn't see the actual wat, we just looked at the many statues of Buddha. They where at a peak of the mountain where you could clearly see the mountains around and the valleys bellow. In the natural rock walls there were carvings of peoples faces. The many statues were connected by a string to symbolize the Buddhist belief that everything is connected. After the wat we continued on to a water fall. There where beautiful gardens around the park that the waterfall was in. I got into my suit and went under the fall with Ben and one of our guides. It was amazingly powerful, you could feel a strong wind coming off of it if you where just standing on the rocks near by. The fall was our last last stop and we drove straight into town after it. Once we got to the less scenic areas of the drive home I lost all concentration and completely zoned out from paying attention to things around me as I had been so intensely for a few days. My butt was extremely soar from the bumpy jungle! For the last part of the trip the guide was trying to ensure that I wanted to join him and Ben for a drink or two or three (as he put it) but the thought of it made me limp with exhaustion. I agreed because he wouldn't take maybe for an answer and then I just didn't go downstairs when he came to get us on the bike later that night after we were dropped off. I actually fell asleep on the couch at the head quaters while I was waiting for Ben and them to be done with some picture stuff on the computer. The experience was exhileratling, unique, scenic, eye opening and exhausting!