Hello again everyone, thank you for all your messages btw, it's so nice to read them; unfortunately Mick i've filled my rucksack up so much with shopping i don't think i'd be able to fit the three of you in!
So i'll begin with where Nush left off, as while she was off flying like a gibbon, Gareth and I did a Thai cookery course, which was so much fun! Originally i decided against doing one, as not liking spicy food or fish i thought i would end up having to cook one or the other, but Gareth found this course that gave you a lot of options for what you could cook, and i liked lots of them so we booked it up for both of us. We began the day visiting a market where we were shown different kinds of eggs, rice, vegetables and fruit, before heading back to the chef's house out of the city to begin cooking at our own workstations. My menu consisted of chicken in coconut milk soup, sweet and sour chicken, thai green chicken curry and pad thai (noodles fried with egg and vegetables in a yummy sauce). We even set our woks alight whilst making the sweet and sour chicken which was so cool, if a little scary! (see picture of me gingerly holding the wok handle) Together we also made fried spring rolls (vegetable ones and banana ones), mango sticky rice and papaya salad. The guy leading it was great fun and it was definitely one of the best days of the trip so far.
The next day (Tuesday) we were up early to begin our 3 day mountain tour in a massive 4x4 with a guide/driver called Ken who was sweet but a little creepy. We were also joined by another guide, Maki, who drove the jeep for two medicine graduate girls from Nottingham. Our first stop was an orchid farm (i took sooo many photos!), followed by a horrible snake farm - not purely because i don't really like snakes but also because they were kept in bad conditions and in the snake show they practically threw a deadly cobra at Gareth and I. After that Gareth took the wheel, and we headed to the Mae San river where we did some white water rafting! Gareth andI had never done it before, so i was quite apprehensive, but the rapids were so much fun, and they were massive ones as well! Our instructor did deliberately capsise our raft without warning us though which i did not appreciate, but i was just glad we didn't capsise on the sharp rocks in the rapids! It was 2 hours to get to the end of the course so we were shattered, and headed straight on to our hotel for the night just outside of Pai. After a few powercuts and a nice buffet dinner, we headed into the town where we went to a bar with live music until we all started falling asleep!
The next morning i took full advantage of the buffet breakfast as we had yet another busy day ahead of us, starting with an elephant ride! We bravely rode on one without a seat ( giving Gareth and i marks on our legs afterwards from the elephant's bristly skin!) and then went 'swimming' with her, which basically involved her tipping us into the river repeatedly, but it was all good fun. We then moved on to a cave, that we were guided around by a Thai woman with nothing but a paraffin lantern to light the way, as she showed us various rock formations whilst bats circled and screeched above our heads. From there we moved on to some real off road terrain where both Gareth and Nush had a go at driving and loved it. I had a go at driving it a tiny bit the next day but it was so weird driving something so big and powerful! Our next stop was a hill tribe village, that wasn't really how i'd expected it would be. As soon as we stopped the car a little girl ran up to the window and stuck out her hand shouting "money, money!" at us which shocked me quite a bit, and all around the village people had satellite dishes?! We'd brought a few sweets to give the children as we walked around but it all felt very surreal. After that we headed on to our town for the night, Mae Hong Son, on the way managing to overheat the engine so that the jeep cut out completely. Luckily we managed to qsqueeze into the other girls' one to complete the last 20 mins of the journey, and some other guys had to drive a new jeep from Chiang Mai for us to have in the morning. Once again we wandered into the town that evening, but there was nothing there really so we ended up heading back to the hotel.
In the morning, ready with our new jeep, we drove up to the top of the hill in Mae Hogn Son to visit a Wat up there and take in the view of the town. From there we headed down to the "fish cave" although to be fair it wasn't so much a cave as a pond full of big fish that led to the edge of a cave that we couldn't even get into. After that we visited the long neck tribe, the most popular tourist attraction in that area - this was evident as soon as we arrived. The village itself was entirely made up of souvenir shops and therefore seemed completely fake and contrived, which was such a shame. It made the previous village seem a lot more realistic. From there we drove back to Pai, where our final stop was at a waterfall, which was nice but not really comparable to the Kuang Si waterfall we'd seen in Luang Prabang. After that we found a guesthouse in Pai, where we had our own wooden bungalows, and said goodbye to Ken, Maki and the English girls.
Nush then went off to find the Australians she'd met on the flight of the gibbon trip, and unfortuantely Gareth started feeling ill, so i nipped out to get us some dinner and then we just stayed in our bungalow. To our delight though we had our own dvd player and free dvds, which helped us survive the next few days as Gareth didn't get any better! I got to know the ladies in the different restaurants well as i got take aways every night since Gareth didn't really want to be left alone, and after the first 2 nights Nush went back to Chiang Mai with the Australians. After four days rest in our bungalow (with our pet cockroach Jerry) Gareth was feeling well enough to get the bus back to Chiang Mai, where we arrived at about 4pm on Monday. We then met Nush and Thi (the only one of the Australians left) for dinner and booked our bus tickets to Sukhothai, which is where we are now! Tomorrow we will visit the old town, where there are lots of ruins as this was the original ancient capital. After that it's straight on to Bangkok where we'll have to sit down and decide exactly how we want to spend our last two weeks in South East Asia!
P.S Also, for those of you who don't know, our friend Nat is coming out to meet us for the second half of our trip, yay! so don't be surprised to hear her name being mentioned on here in the near future!