Courtney. August 8, 2010 @ 15:38
We are now on a bus coming back from the Buddha Park, which was totally worth the bus ride I b****ed about 3 hours ago.
Chiang Mai, Thailand, however, was a few weeks ago now, but I write a blog about every city and that's where I left off when I got side tracked by Vang Vieng.
I don't remember as much as I would have if I had written earlier but there are a few things that are still fresh in my mind.
First, Chiang Mai is in Northern Thailand, away from the craziness and the party islands. It is the jungle. It's isolated, and it's beautiful. The entire town shuts down at 10 PM so it was the perfect place to detox after 3 weeks of toxic indulgence in Paradise.
From the moment we stepped off the plane in Bangkok - our first moment in this part of the world - what we heard was "Where are you come from? Where you go?" Those are tuk tuk drivers soliciting you. But when we got to Chiang Mai we found 2 new ones.
#1) There is a Thai word that sounds EXACTLY like 'Kaberly.' We asked and asked and asked (locals, Thais, God), and still have not figured out what that word is or what it means, but it drove us mad thinking that someone was yelling at us every 10 seconds.Although half the time it really was someone yelling for us that we had met on another island or in another city.
#2) The other phrase that we heard 500,000 times was "same same but different." Anyone who has been in Southeast Asia knows exactly what I'm talking about and can skip this part.But if you haven't been here yet I think I can explain it more with a couple of examples.
If I am at a Thai restaurant and I order Pad Thai, I ask, "Is there meat in it? Because I do not eat meat. VEGETABLE only please." The Thai person would probably nod his or her head yes and say "same same but different." When the Pad Thai would come it would likely have a chicken foot or fried puppy in it. That would be the 'same same' as what I had ordered, 'but different.'
Another example (a real life one) is when we asked the tuk tuk driver to take us to our hotel, which is next to an organic farm, and he took us 20 minutes away from our hotel to a bar called Organic Farm.We wanted to go home to relax, but he took us to the center of the Vang Vieng debauchery, where every single patron is drunk as s*** and there is no possible way to relax.Same NAME but different PLACE - 'same same but different.' I might start a log of same-same-but-differents and list them on this blog at the end of the trip.Some are greatly different and not 'same same' at all which, on this trip, usually makes a great story.
Even better real life example:Kaberly decided to get the word 'loyalty' tattooed in Thai on her side.On more than one occasion when we have shown a southeast Asian local, many of whom speak Thai, they have responded like this: "Oh! Royalty, like King!"I know the Asian accent has trouble differentiating the 'R' sound from the 'L' sound, and the Thai people are LOYAL to their King…. BUT - (as Kaberly will deny) she may or may not have gotten the word 'royalty' tattooed on her rib cage.Same same but different.
Chiang Mai is one of the places in Thailand that is known for its activities, such as jungle hill tribe treks on elephants. We had a short amount of time so we only did a few things.
We went zip lining ('Velium' - same same as Valium, but different - is over the counter here) so yes, I did it, and I was NOT scared this time. In fact, I was hanging upside down taking videos and photos.
We rented ATVs, which, in Chiang Mai, the terrain is much more rugged than it was where we did it in Australia.First of all, we were ATV-ing through rice paddy areas in monsoon season with 4-foot grass, so when you ATV-d through a 3-foot mud puddle you had no warning until your face and clothing was caked in mud, or when your ATV stopped moving and your exhaust pipe looked like it is smoking a massive cigar.
I almost drove off a 10-foot cliff, but thanks to the fact that Walker traded me my little baby red go-cart for her black monster of an ATV, I was able to pull a sharp 90-degree turn and jump the curb before I fell off the other side and to my death.
The all terrain trip was the first time we saw the real Thai countryside and it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.I wont try to describe it because, once again, I feel like I would be doing that landscape and the people who live there a huge disservice by attempting to put it into words or media.However…I do have some photos… Sorry beautiful Thailand countryside!
I noticed that in the more rural countryside everyone was smiling.From my understanding, they work much harder (as far as physical labour goes) but are still poorer than the people in the cities.However, almost every single one of them smiled and waved as we drove past them…They looked happier than the rich people I see walking down the streets in Venice Beach. I would say that that was the highlight of the ATV adventure, but it was not: Kaberly rolling her ATV (its on film, don't worry) is undeniably the highlight of my day, and maybe even the whole week.
After ATVs we went 'white water rafting.' I saw the raft but I did not see the white water.Even if you were an agoraphobic who couldn't swim you could have taken a nap during this 'rafting' trip.It was an experience similar to if you were to put a floating device in your bathtub and splash your hand around a bit so that the water moved from side to side, and sprinkled on you.I am not complaining because it was fun regardless.We were in Thailand, we were with our four best friends, and we got to watch a group of tourists who were floating on a bamboo boat sink.
About one and a half minutes before we reached the place where they pull you over to get off the river a monsoon hit. So that took care of our shower for the week.And we were DIRT-E from that ATV adventure, so thank you, monsoon season.
The next morning Walker and I woke up and attempted to go to meet with the owner of one of the only Elephant sanctuaries in Thailand.That morning we had another SSBD (same same but different) incident.We hired a tuk tuk to go from our hostel to the sanctuary.We left at 7:00 AM because it was an hour away and we had an appointment with the owner at 8:30.About 40 minutes later the driver told us we were there.We got out and found that we had been driven to a local market, 40 minutes in the opposite direction of the place that we had asked to go.Anyway, SSBD, we called Ms. Dao, told her what had happened, and asked if we could come tomorrow morning instead.She lives in Thailand so she understands SSBD and was incredibly accommodating.
That night we planned our route and driver for the next morning.6:45 this time in case of any more SSBDs.And guess what? We made it.It was a beautiful place and the owners were beautiful people.Elephant tourism is all over Thailand but most of the companies exploit and torture the elephants, and add to the endangerment of elephants as a species in this part of the world.In their defense, these people's own 'species,' or race, may be 'endangered' themselves, due to the extreme poverty in this part of the world. So they don't have the same means of supporting their families as many of us in the western world do.But either way, none of these 4 Cali girls ever knowingly condone or advocate animal abuse or unethical tourism (although I'm sure we do it ignorantly everyday).
As I said before Pat and Dao are some of the most interesting people I've ever met, and in 3 or 4 weeks I will be writing an article about their sanctuary, sharing some info and statistics they gave me and some organizations that they told me about which are working together to slow down the seemingly inevitable degradation of this world that we are destroying everyday. So on that happy note, I'll catch you up on the news once we conquer another city.