And I’m back

Alrighty, I’m back in action after my bout of illness. Let’s just say the last 48 or so hours were a blur of bushes and bathrooms. I did, however, manage to push myself (quiet literally) through a bike ride around some rice paddies in Chiang Mai. A lot of which was torture, but once we made it to our destination for lunch – a magical little secluded bamboo shack beside a sparkling lake with an acoustic guitar playing in the background, it was pure bliss.

But finally it was time to head out of the city and into the mountains to be “monkeys”, as our bike tour guide so aptly described it. Arriving in the tiny, remote town of Sappong was a treat to the eyes. Finally, it felt as if we were on holidays and in an environment completely different from our own. Jumping in the tray of a pick-up truck, we ventured through lush forest to arrive at the Cave Lodge – our home for the next few nights. It’s an awesome set-up, owned and run by an Aussie. The main house is like a tree-house with a fantastic view of the surrounding forest and stream below. There is a fire place and a multitude of swinging chairs and hammocks. Posters cover the walls advertising the many activities and tours available to guests. And the bungalow we are staying in is like something out of the Lord of the Rings set.

For our first activity we did kayaking down rapids and through some of the most amazing caves I’ve ever seen. As an extra, our guides took us caving. It was so unlike anything I’ve ever done before. The caves were magnificent and I had to continuously pinch myself throughout the whole experience just to remind myself I was awake. My words really can’t do this justice so I’ll have to upload some pictures. While we battled on the rapids, it was so much fun, especially with a few drops included.

The plan for tomorrow is a sunrise tour, followed by a two-day trek through the forest and an overnight at a hill-tribe. Should
be exhausting but well worth it. Another ‘once in a life time’ experience to add to my life time!

Til then, take care.

E x

My Chiang Mai

Markets and temples topped our to-do list today. After learning from our mistakes yesterday, we hopped aboard a friendly truck and made our way to the local Warorot markets. A three story high complex, we sought out the bargains from the bull#*$t, before rewarding ourselves with an authentic meal among locals. Having to pay to use the bathroom but not being able to afford to get toilet paper and instead having to use the napkins from lunch almost felt like a kind of initiation into the “backpacker” way of life.

After that we went exploring the many temples scattered throughout Chiang Mai. All of the with their original features, but all adorned with gold, statues of Buddha and intricate detail. My personal favourite was Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, located in the mountaintop, 11 hundred metres above sea level and 700 metres above the city. While the view was spectacular, it was difficult to draw your eyes away from the temple itself. It was covered in gold, and decorated so thoughtfully and elaborately. The gardens surrounding were equally as magical, making the 700-odd stairs up to the temple well worth the climb.

To finish off the day on a high, we tackled Chiang Mai’s famous Night Bazaar where we grabbed gifts for both ourselves and our Kris-Kringles (which we have organised to help make Christmas all warm and fuzzy!). While Suzie helped herself to a much appreciated massage, the rest of us went to an interesting ‘roof-top’ bar located within the market, tasted some traditional Thai whiskey, while watching an in appropriately dressed, drunk middle-aged woman hit on almost everyone guy in the bar, and then proceed to jump up on stage and throw out some killer vocals and dance moves. Needless to say, she provided much entertainment for the night.

We wrapped the day up quiet early – most of us still blaming it on jet lagged, but also because tomorrow is Ali’s birthday and we have a lot planned!!!

Will try to get some photos up soon.

E x

“Bangkok has them now”

As Tatoo Joe famously quoted in the Hangover; “Bangkok has them now…and she’ll never let them go”. Thankfully for us, our story didn’t quite go like that. For a moment I thought it did, but alas I write now from the safety of the airport, waiting to board the flight, aiding in our escape from Bangkok.

But our day was not all lost in the wild maze of streets known as Bangkok. I did tick a few to-dos off my bucket list:

Visited millions of different markets. Check.
They were selling all sorts of goodies from local sweets, jewels, flowers, and odd forms of meat. I was offered a cooked scorpion, but decided to add that to my bucket list for when I return to Bangkok so that in the case that I become violently ill, I’ll be heading home anyway!

Ride a tuk-tuk. Check.
And what a highly eventful and exciting ride it was. With five of us squished ‘safely’ on board, we managed to dodge both scams and protesters (although at one point it felt as though we had joined the mob of motor-bikes flying past with flags and whistles). What better way to get in and amongst the culture…

Ride a boat on the river. Check.
As if fate, we wandered upon a jetty just in time for the boat to arrive. Boarding the already packed vessel, it was almost impossible not to start up a conversation with the unfortunate person who was to be squished up next to my sweat-covered body for the remainder of the trip. The trip that was to become more of a monopoly – a confusing mixture of attempting to see a sign on the approaching jetty through the crowd, finding that jetty on the map, and then working out where we were and where we wanted to go…a journey which ended up with us just jumping off at a jetty and hoping for the best.

Seeing someone I know. Check.
Catching up with James and Michael was lovely. Seeing familiar and fresh faces is always good, but the fact that these two had been away for so long made it double the fun. Plus they were able to impart some much needed wisdom! Have a safe flight home, boys!

And to finish the day off, we had a lovely taxi driver to the airport, who expertly dodged traffic and the protest, and just when we thought he was leading us off course in some sort of scam, he melted our hearts when he had to stop off at a petrol station for a quick pee stop!

See you in the morning, Chiang Mai!

E x

One night in Bangkok

Dear Mum,
Arrived safe. Found my phone. Lost the hostel. Found the hostel. Found the protest, and thankfully quickly lost it.

You’ll be impressed to hear that I ate food on the flight – three crunchie chocolate bars, a biscuit, cheese and crackers, and hot chocolate. Spent the rest of the time between my Lonely Planet guide and the latest episodes of An Idiot Abroad – both equally resourceful.

After finally finding our charming hostel (Born Free) we went for a walk along to Khou San Road – backpackers paradise! You’ll be happy to know that the hostel is also home to two adorably small and fluffy kittens called Peanut and Tiny. I asked the manager if I could steal one to sleep on my bed to fill the massive Harry-sized void that will surely be there tonight.

Other than that, there is not much to report. Spent the afternoon settling in and I’m sure the true adventure will begin tomorrow. Alas, we are only staying one night in Bangkok for the beginning of our trip, but let’s hope it doesn’t unfurl like the plot of Hangover 2…or 3? I forget which one was set in Bangkok…the distinctions in the storynlines is so blurry.

Will try to get some photos up on here or Facebook.

E.