Hi everyone, I'm in Chiang Mai in Northen Thailand at the mo.
I travelled north on the overnight train on Friday, and what should have been a 13 hour journey turned into a 17 hour train journey...i'm not sure what happened, we left Bangkok on time, but somehow the train was delayed for 4 hours along the way!!! When we asked the guards why we were late they just smiled and nervously laughing said "yes, we are late"...yeah, that was really helpful! But you have to get used to that in Thailand....nothing is ever on time or done in a hurry. The guard was really comical on the train...it was a really poor attempt of a lady boy...he called himself Natalie and wore a lot of make up and spoke really camp in a high voice, but hadn't even bothered to grow his hair or wear womens clothes!...I have found that the standard of Lady Boys in Chiang Mai is a lot lower than in Bangkok in general actually....!
The scenery is really beautiful up here, it rains a lot, so it is really green and lush, with lots of rainforests and rolling hills and mountains.
On Sunday we went White Water rafting with a group of boys we had met on the overnight train. It was such brilliant fun. Even the journey to the start of the rafting was an adventure...Once we got to the base, we have to transfer to a four wheel drive pick up, and ascend up a really steep and slippery track with a sheer drop along side the river, and i'm sure the driver was an aspiring rally driver, racing through the flood water and round the tight bends!!! There were times when we thought we were going over the edge, and he just turned round and grinned at us...he was loving it!!! Once we miraculously arrived safely at the start of the rapids, we had a 5 minute induction which scared the hell out of me!!! White water rafting was one of those things that I had always wanted to do, but hadn't really thought through all the dangers of, and the fact that I could actually fall out of the raft and injure myself quite badly on the rocks...so when they started telling us what to do when we fall out i started to get a bit worried!!!
It was a 10 km run, and apparently the rapids were a grade 4, which doesn't mean anything to me, but i think they are graded 1-5, so presumeably it is quite high!!! Anyway, all I know is it was immense fun, and really got the addrenelin pumping!!! There were 4 people plus the instructor per raft, and you had to sit on the edge of the raft, and lock your feet under the dividers, so you could paddle with two hands, and then hold onto a rope at the side with one hand while we weren't paddling. I wasn't so sure my feet were 'locked' so not holding on felt a bit risky at first, but I soon got into it! Then whenever we got to the fast rapids, the instructor shouted 'in!', and we had to jump into the middle of the raft and hold on for your life!!! At one point we got stuck sideways against a huge rock, and with the flow on the river couldn't get free for ages, and then once we edged it free we ended up going backwards between two huge rocks and the whole raft filled with water...I thought we were definitely going in then, but we somehow stayed in the raft....it was so exciting!!!!
Yesterday was more sedate...we did 1 day Thai cookery course. It was really good, we learnt 6 dishes, and they made it so easy....my food was excellent, if I do say so myself!!! We went to the local market first, and the tutor went through how to choose the ingrediants and the different fruit and veg avaialable in Thailand, it was really interesting. I was surprised at how many different fruit and veg they have that we don't get in the uk even now. All the dishes were really quick to cook as well. Probably the longest was the curry, and even that took less than 30 mins, including making the curry paste! My favourite dishes I made were fish cakes and Paneang Curry, it seemed really easy to make, but I'm not sure how i will get on when i try it again outside the cookery school.
The worst thing about Chiang Mai for me has to be amount of middle aged western men there are here picking up the young Thai women. These have become known by us as the "Shameless' and they are everywhere. They are all over Thailand in general, but I think Chiang Mai has to be the Shameless capital of Thailand!!! Jenny and I were going to go out drinking last night, but just felt so uncomfortable as every bar was packed by the Shameless, with young Thai women draped over them...it's not a pretty sight!!! We ended up paying a bit more and going to a plush hotel bar with no one else there...they served nice cocktails though!
Tomorrow Jenny and i are going on a 2 day hilltribe trek, which we are looking forward to. We trek through the national park, which looks really picturesque. It has been raining a lot the last few days though, so I think we may get quite wet!!!
Take care everyone...keep in touch.
Love Gemma x