A Travellerspoint blog

Chiang Rai

chian house

Then it was time for us to go Chiang Rai, a town north east of Chiang Mai. Along the way their we stayed in a small town, in a guest house called Cabbages and Condoms! haha. It is set by a Thai chairity that funds Thai people in need, and all of extra money made from the resturant/guest house goes to this foundation. There was a huge billboard that they had painted out front that consisted of personified condoms. When we were going the next morning we blew up condoms like ballons and took pictures with the 'ballons' and the billboard. As we were doing this a large double decker tour bus was pulling out of the parking lot. They stopped to take pictures of us being rediculus and waved at us! It was embarasing but hillarious. Along the way to chiang rai from here we stopped at a new wat that was all white with tinny mirros on the outside. It was very beautiful and had a grand apearance but very hard to look at. On the inside of the wat they were still painting it. The artisit who designed the wat was also the sole painter of the inside. The wall paintings were modern, with depictions of the twin towers going down, a guy from Xmen, superman, coca cola and things like that all mixed into a colage style painting which reminded me of my dads art. It was very impresive and only one wall was painted! In a near by building there was an art gallery containing the mans art. All of the paintings seemed very captivating, extreemly detailed and shocking in their beauty. We continued form here to and ended up in Chiang Rai that eveing, staying at a guest house where we had to wake up the man working their to get a room. We checked out the night market and saw a band consisting of all lady boys, so a waiter told us, but I would have never guessed. They perfromed the song "Beautiful Thailand"; it somehow seemed sad to me though, they looked so strained up there, in their rediculusly elaborate costumes. I kept wondering if they were also prostitutes and if they really thought that Thailand was am amazing place for them.
Ben left the next day for Laos and suddenly I found myself without a travel buddy which was strange but good at the same time. I quickly met more people at the new guest house though, the Chiang House. I was lying in a hamock reading a murder mystery book by Lawrence Sanders, unaware that I was in the hangout area of a group of friends that worked, visited and lived near and at the Chian House. Some of them started to gather at the chairs near by and a Thai guy brought over a few buckets of food, looked at me and said 'you eat some this food' smilling and pointing at the food. They are extreemly friendly at the Chian House, and in this area of Thailand in general. I didn't want to eat the food and left to read in a more quite area, still keeping an eye on the area so I could see what type of people were hainging out there. Later that evening I walked by the area and one of the Thai guys said "you, we caught fish, you come eat it with us". I decided that I felt like hanging out with people so I sat down and hung out with them for the night. The group consisted of people who went to this guest hosue every year around the same time for 1-6 months and met eachother there, an expat man (retired in Chiang Mai), and several local thai people who worked at the Chian House or lived near by. The travelers were older european men, a couple from sweden, a woman from sweden, a couple england with an adorable baby named manie, a brother and sister from england and a guy from england who lived there more than at england. Most of the local guys worked for the Chian House. These Thai men seemed very taken by me and to my great discomfort took up the habit of staring at me for long lengths of time when I was writting or talking or doing anything. Of course men are bad at picking up subtle hints so when I attempted to give a "stop staring at me look" they didn't pick up, which eventually stoped bugging me and then humored me. When I returned to the hang out spot from my room I sat down in a chair and they all looked at me funny and the Thai man said 'see what I tell you, very beautiful'. I went shifty eyed, red in the face, squirmed uncomfortably and squeeked out "ahahahahaha um thanks hahaha" in a high pitched quite voice. haha
The group of friends were very friendly and easy to hang out with. On the first night there I ate bbqed freshly caught fish with three of them and I made myself eat an eye ball. It was oily and fishy and not a sick I had anticipated it to be.
Over the next several days I was lazy and it was fantastic. I ate, layed in the hammock, swam in the pool, tanned, read and hung around. On my last night there we all went out to dinner at a korean cook house. We all went into one truck fitting sixteen people in it! The cook house had all of the tables outside and we shoved four together. How it works is at each table you have a cooking thing. The cooking thing works like oil defuser, with hot coals heating a protruding semi circle bbq and a moat around it. It is about a foot and a half in diameter and height and yuo would get all the food to cook on small plates from a buffet area. On the bbq part you put strips of seasoned meat and in the moat seasoned water and leafy teared up veggies to. You take off strips of cooked meat with chop sticks, dip it in sause and then eat some of the cooked veggies after, in rotation, while adding more veggies and meat. We had watermelon for desert and wisky with water to drink. It was a three hour afair and a very nice time.
The next moring I left for Chiang Mai and got a ride with the english couple with the adorable baby. He adorably pucked in the car and I felt car sick so it was a bearbale ride. Four nausiated hours later we arived in Chiang Maiand that is where I am now. Tomorrow I am going to Wat Dio Suthep to do my three week mediation retreat. I am exited and nervous, not so sure about what to expect.
Three weeks!

Posted by auby 08:03 Comments (0)

Mae Hong Son loop

motorbikes thrill and scare me

So finally we were off around the Mae Hong Son loop (MHSL)!
The loop does a rough circle starting in Chiang Mai and ending there, going through the most beautiful lands of Thailand north of Bangkok (so I heard, have not gone through the whole area). The route goes through the most north eastern area of Thailand. Along the loop the towns that you pass through are generally not too spectacular in my opinion (alothough Pai is hippy-ish and cool and Mae hong son citie is quaint)-it is the nature parks along the way and the road itself that are the attraction. The MHSL is called the "A motorbike drivers dream-The road of a thousand hair pin turns", according to the map front.
The scenery along the road was intensly beautiful, especially as the sun was setting. The road goes through the lowest regions of the Himalayan mountain range. The many mountains are roughly 1000 m high, covered in green and red/brown trees. The road was postion in such a away so that much of the time I could have a view of the passing moutains. There are many look out spots offering sweeping views along the way aswell. I amde alot of videos and pictures that I will be adding soon.
The first place that we stayed at was in some tinny town that I don't remember the name of, but I know the place was called the Sappong River in. We stayed in a tinny bungalow, I wrapped myself like a borrito joint to keep out the cold. I was woken by the freezing cold and the roosters crowing and the dogs barking from all of the surounding farms. They really make a racket, never heard anything quite like it, you could really hear them echo. The noice of the animals went in a wave, much like the cheers at shambhala went in a wave, group to group (no wounder I felt so animalistic at Shambhala haha).
We had our breakfast at the lodge (very nice place) and went on the road again, headed to Pai. Pai was a nice town, quite the hippy central. I had never imagined that there wouldbe a dreadlock-bob marley community of Thais, but there certainly was in Pai. We went all over the tinny town looking for cheap accomidation adn found nothing close to our price range. So we settled on the supper cheap tent in some yard that had a bunch of tents for travellers. There was a huggge bed in the tent and tones of blankets, so I again borito jointed myself at night. It gets dam cold at night in the north! We walked around the night market, one of my favorite aspects of Thailand. Got some of the best food I had had so far (seasoned steamed fenel and seasoned fish/pork with rice mmmm).

Posted by auby 06:06 Comments (0)

Chiang Mai-Bo Sang, relaxing, bordem

hmmm lets go now!

Chaing Mai part three

Bo Sang- ten km out of chiang mai-after a few days of rest from the jungle crash and lake

Bo Sang is well known for its umbrella making. It is a town that is there almost soley for the porpose of umbrella painting art. They sell fans of all sizes, umbrellas and other items like toys all hand painted by the local painters. It was cool to see so many artfuly decorated items in one place but the town seems sort of barren. It was also the hottest day yet and I felt like I might pass out from heat exhaustion. I got some shirts painted by an artist and some fans aswell.

At this point of the trip Ben was doing a bunch of complicated paper work for his motorbike that we were going to take around the mea hong son loop. Since I really could do little to help with this, and had to wait for it to be done, I was left with some spare days to relax, which after a while turns into bordom! Even when you are on vacation. I did enjoy the oppourtunity to gve my nervs a rest from adventure. I spent my days sleeping in, reading, wandering around Chiang Mai's stores and moat, eating, napping, adoring the Happy House (where we stayed) resident baby girl Boa, talking on the computer with Dave and sending emails. The nights were spent eating with Ben for 2-3 hours at different resturants, drinking some large chang beers, swatting misquitos, stratching their bites, drawing and listening to music on my mp3. We went to the lake again, where a Thai man took pictures of me when I was turned away from him, then made conversation with me. I wondered as I was speaking with him if he knew that I knew he was a sneak photographer. We went to a movie theature, something I hadn't fathomed doing in Thailand, but they do have theatures. We saw Bed time story by adem sandler, because the only other english movie was quarentine which looked stupid. It was a good movie actually, cheesy obviously, but still good. I did some hearbal saunas (ant infestation!)and a thai massage. At the herbal sauna I met a late thirties Italian man and talked with him about meditation things. I was surprised to learn that this robust Italian man had just been to a month long mediation retreat. Guess things are never really what they seem to be on the outside.
Eventually I got rather restless about being in Chaing Mai still, waiting for paperwork things to go through. I was ever so thankful when we got the OK to go on our motorbike trip!

Posted by auby 07:20 Comments (0)

Chiang Mai- Self Guided jungle trek and lake

owch!

Chiang Mai Part two

After a day of recovery from the jungle trek with our guides we decided to go up to Wat Dio Suthep, where I will be doing my meditation retreat on the 12th of February to the 4th of March. We rented a motorbike and took it up there. Whne we reached the part of the mountain that is the entrance to the stairs that lead up to the wat there where so many people that we thought to continue to on to a sumit for a nice view. We went to the summit which had a nice view of a village bellow and some of the forest/jungle. We did not feel like going to the wat so we continued onto visit a hill tribe, following the signs. Along the way to the hill tribe we stopped at a hut that made coffee from the coffee fields right beside the hut- can't get any fresher coffee! The coffee was delicious, I never imagined that coffee could taste so great! We met two women from Austria who were staying at the guest house hut beside the coffee hut. We decided to not visit the hill tribe and go straight to the lake that we were planning on going to as well. To get to the lake you need to pass through the mountain pathways that were exactly like the previous jungle treks pathways-steep,sharp and uneven. It was quite a lot of fun until it wasn't for a moment when we crashed the bike! We were making a video of the ride and as I was distracting Ben with the camera in his face. He lost sight of the path for one second and we lost traction and slid the bike to the left, with us partly falling off to the side. I smashed my left knee which is still to painful to kneel on (5days or so later) and Ben got two nasty open road burn wounds on his elbow. Too bad we only got me saying "ow!" before I turned off the camera. Thankfully a group of bicycle tourists came along and had pain killers for my knee and disinfectant for Ben's elbow. I was shocked at first, it was painful but not the worst pain. Then after a minute when we realized that we were OK we started laughing a lot- it was a rush! We sat on the path for ten minutes or so to clam down and then got back on. It was painful to bend my knee and we went extremely slowly until we reached paved road a few hours later. The scenery was quite beautiful again along the way to the lake.
The lake was a most welcome reprieve from the bike of insanity. I got some ice for my knee, a lot of beer and a lot of food. The lake was lovely with free tubes to float in and small open thatch roof huts with a small low table for your food on the edge of the lake. There was a group of ten or so teenaged Thai boys who seemed quite interested in me, they went silent and stared and then yelled hello at me when I was walking to our hut from the bathroom in my suit. When I was floating in the lake on my tube they went silent again and started taking pictures of me. Hmm like a celebrity! We eventually left and when we got back to the Happy House I was extremely exhausted like the first jungle adventure. Another nutty motorbike trip!

Posted by auby 06:50 Comments (0)

Chaing Mai-The guided jungle trek

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!

Posted by auby 04:03 Comments (0)

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