Now that we are far down south on Thailands beaches, it seems a long time ago that I was still in Chiang Mai - however, we did spend a very memorable week there, avoiding cockroach gatherings on street corners and throwing ourselves into the active pursuit of spreading top quality English phrases to the Thai people (more on that later!)
Chiang Mai furtherd the theme of the tour for me so far - challenging myself to do things I wouldnt normally do. For this I have been climbing dodgy bridges and hills etc in the past, but now it was something more stupid - mountain biking. A 10 kilometer ride up hill in the midday sun, avoiding elephants on treks and pot holes, oh - and people who stop in the middle of the road right in front of you, as Keith discovered to his peril, just a few minutes into the ride. It wasnt pretty.......... The reward for me at the end of such madness? A bottle of water and some egg fried rice - actually, rice with a fried egg - and the oppertunity to throw myself down a series of class 4 rapids on a rubber raft!
This was unbelieveably good fun - the adrenalin was really pumping as we went through the first rapid - only to be put back in place by our captain - this is not a very big rapid yet, calm down.......
The best moments on the rapids came when we got stuck - lots of instructions being shouted out by our Thai captain, "Left forward, right back" - or "Hang on" - or my favorite "Get down!" However when we reached the peak of one set of rapids - we wedged in hard into a perfect u-shaped rock. Using our paddles we were forced to push back hard against the rocks, and leaver ourselves around so that we were leaning backwards over a rock, trying to bounce the boat free with our weight. At one point only my head was above water as our team of 4 fought to free the boat, at the same time i was wondering how on earth we were going to navigate backwards! However, my fears were shortlived, it was then i realised how much our captain was doing for us in terms of guiding us down the river! That said, i was still exhausted and proud at the end of our efforts!
In calmer parts of the river we were allowed to jump in, or get pulled in - quickly being forced to deal with the fact you will be going into this swirlling mass at some point! We also got to see Elephants bathing themselves in the river as we went past - simply an amazing sight.
Later in the week Keith went to spend a day at a special elephant sanctuary, where they look after them rather than exploit them for tourist treks. In his absence Jammo and I did what we do best - drank Chiang Mai dry!
What began as an early afternoon drink and game of pool quickly turned into 30 frames and a headache. We did however take it upon ourselves to teach our barmaid some great english phrases - "Nice to see you, to see you, nice" for example, and "Cor blimey govenor" and my favorite "Its all gone Pete Tong...."
This also gave us our first experience of Thai Clubbing culture, with out barmaid, Nii as our guide - we ended up going to Chiang Mai's finest night spots - all of which looked like hotel lobbies. I did make the fatal mistake of taking a loo break, to return to see Jammo and Nii dancing the night away. At this point the hotel ported came along and offered me a bottle of whisky for 300 baht (5 quid) and that was the end of that..............
Still, was pleasantly suprised to end the evening peacfully and find my way home, and to sleep in what has become a very comfortable bed indeed! It is only now, 2 plane journeys later, as i sit in my fan cooled beachside hut that i miss this comfort - but having spent the last day and a bit travelling down here i think I will feel comfortable again soon!
But then, 5 hours in the new Bangkok airport with delays was probably enough to make even the hardiest of travellers feel uncomfortable! "Lets put loads of entertainment in international departures, bars, food, games rooms, and massage places! Yeah that would be great! Errr, you what? Oh no - dont bother with domestic departures, they can entertain themselves!!" Grrrrr