Chris n' Mel in Thailand
After a surprisingly comfy night on the train we arrived in Chiang Mai and headed for a hostel, the one we had thought of was booked up and listening to our taxi driver trying to sell something as they all are actually paid off when he took us to his mate's place called SK House with a room with private bathroom and fan for 300 baht (about 4 pound). Absolutely shattered we crashed for a couple hours then sorted out the next couple days with the travel agent downstairs in the hostel. We went for a 2 day jungle trek inc waterfalls, elephant trekking and bamboo rafting with an overnight stay with a Karen Hill tribe, which left in the morning. With that sorted we headed out into the city for a wander after a much needed feed from Miguel's Mexican, something you don't see too many off out here. Once we'd figured out where we were on our map we headed across to see one of the main temples (wat) and after a very sweaty walk through streets of smaller temples, shops, schools and many stalls with overpowering Thai food smells we arrived. This Wat was actually more impressive than some of the main ones in Bangkok and apparantly those here in Chiang Mai are much older, 700 years versus 200. Feeling justified that we'd done our tourist bit we hotfooted it back to the hostel pool and bar as it was blazing hot. There aren't many hostels with pools so this place was a nice treat and after we'd cooled down we met up with the rest of our group going on the trek with our guide for our 'briefing'. Knowing we had to be up pretty early for a trek in the heat we opted for a quiet night and after getting a tuk tuk to the night bazaar, picking ourselves up a further few bargains, eating more delish Thai food and heading back, we got to bed at a decent hour. The Trek: Day 1 After packing, breakfast and all 12 of us piling onto the sangtheauw (jeep with seats and open sides) we headed north for our trek. In total we had me n Chris, an Irish couple, 3 english lads, 3 french girls and a welsh lad with his mate who was a German girl; who soon became the bane of all our lives with her incessant questioning of the guide and snooty attitude, grrr, anyway 1 or 2 out of 12s not bad, the rest were a cool bunch. After a stop for supplies, plenty water, snacks and the all important loo roll, we had a bumpy ride to our first stop at a waterfall which we reached the base of by going down loads of steps. We all thought it would have been nice to get soaking wet a little after starting the trek once we'd worked up a sweat but it was fun anyway. Despite thinking we'd slip all over the place, our guide led us up the waterfall, climbing over the rocks while the water splashed down on us. The rocks were surprisingly easy to walk on although I managed to get wetter than everyone else as i scrambled up on hands and feet, balance has never been a strong point of mine. Piling back into the jeep that we'd climbed back up to we headed off to start our trek. It was pretty mild at first and we were all raring to go and keen to get off the path and into the fields of corn that led between tribe camps and into the jungle. There were lots of photo opps along the way with mountains surrounding us. Then it started to get a little steeper, and a little hotter, and a little rockier, and a little steeper, and a .. you get the picture. Until we were sweating from places you never normally sweat from and huffing and puffing thanking god we hadnt had a big night on the beers last night. Our guide waited until we were all jut about to pass out then let us have a break, and not a minute before, while he sat there in his jeans dry as a bone. By thisd point we'd all started to get pally and chatting with each other inbetween gasps for air. After about 3 hours climbing our guide informed us we were done walking uphill and thankfully it would be flat or downhill from here on in. This was good news and at this high point we could enjoy some fantastic views of the lush countryside and laugh at each others sweat patches, which, sorry to be gross, had now covered most of our clothing and we were completely saturated, dont think the pics quite get that across, just so you know! We headed down the cliffside on a disturbingly narrow er, path, and after about half an hour came to a clearing, where we met our elephants! There were a few elephants to carry us all so me and chris climbed aboard ours and sat on its back while one of the english lads sat on its neck. The others got aboard theirs and we were off. It was a welcome break for a while and a nice cooling off when 'speedy', our nippy elephant who quickly took and kept the lead, sprayed us with water from the river with his trunk. We were on the elephants for about an hour, and just as the novelty was beginning to wear off they obvioulsy started to get bored too and decided to have a tantrum, ours as usual taking the lead. He started roaring when our child driver whod replaced the english lad persisted in smacking him with a stick to keep him under control, and wouldn't let him wander off path. He pinched some of the giant corn plants at the side of our dirt road and we were bobbing about all over the place but managed to stay on. A few of the others copied and by the time we reached camp we were quite glad to get off and give our butts a break from sliding all over the show. More importantly we were ready to get ourselves a cold beer and after wondering with everyone whether they would have plenty or not we were well happy to find a giant cooler full of cold ones. I know its gross but by this point we were all too grubby to care, really wanted a beer and to chill out and the shower was a trickling tap that didnt really promise anything other than smearing the dirt around ourselves, so we didnt bother. We were in the middle of a jungle anyway for gods sake, who cares! The beers went down well and we soon got everyone playing drinking games and when the 'cultural entertainment' of dancing and singing began we reluctantly joined in at first, but later were in full flow, getting the whole tribe and group to sing Wonderwall when I had to 'start a song from my country' when the game we were playing landed on me. After a few rounds of that we returned to our drinking games and polished quite a few huge bottles of beer of before heading to our big communal hut sleeping on covers on top of straw beds with mozzy nets above us, me Chris and the 3 english lads being the last standing. The Trek: Day 2 When I opened my eyes and realised 1. how rough I felt and 2.what lay ahead of us today, I felt baaaad! But soon felt better after waking up properly, getting breakfast, downing lots of water and chatting to everyone who was also thinking drinking lots of beer last night probably wasnt the most sensible thing to do, but it had been a good night. We paid our bar bill, bought double water than the day before as we were now hungover and headed off. Our guide must have known what to expect as todays trekking was much flatter and we could have actually gone for longer, but we arrived at our jeep after a couple hours and were taken to the riverside for lunch, swimming and bamboo rafting. After seeing the river I wasn't sure about the risk of swimming in the brown stuff but when the big snake we'd spotted slithered into the river, that sealed it for me. So I watched while Chris and the lads threw themselves about into the water and he swam to the other side through the strong current. After quite a long wait for our raft guides we got aboard our bamboo rafts and i soon realised i was probably going to end up pretty wet if not completely submerged in the river after all. The rafts were pretty rickety but it was a laugh watching us all clamber aboard four of them, people's legs slipping through them and getting stuck. me n chris shared one with Lou and Narl, the Irish couple and Chris lost at rock paper scissors with narl so had to steer standing from the back by prodding the muddy river ground while the guide did the same from the front. We were getting quite cocky at our first place in the race, willing the German girl to fall in, especially after a few near collisions with rocks, the riverbank, and trees that our Captain (Chris - yes he made us call him that) masterfully saved us from. But, karma got the better of us and after the current swirled us round backwards we hit a mound of hard trees in the middle of the river with the back end of the raft which was falling apart already. The thing split in two, taking Chris from under his feet, he fell onto me and i went down with him, then the rest followed. In between trying not to swallow any of the brown river whilst laughing our heads off, being washed away by the strong current and keeping hold of flip flops we finally managed to climb onto what was left of our raft, now in 2 long pieces. we were saved by the others while our guides rebuilt the thing and we climbed back on board, minus one of my flip flops. not much further we reached the end of our fun ride and climbed out to our jeep, a quick change and off we headed back to the hostel. Back at the ranch for Thai Boxing On the journey back we spent most of our time talking about the wonder of proper toilets, showers and jumping in to the pool - so when we got back thats what we all did, and it felt bloody good! We were all pretty matey by now and me n chris, Narl and Lou and the 3 english lads all headed out to the Thai boxing match at 9. The first match we saw was between what looked like 8 year old kids, with their dads acting as their trainers; they got a little older and more skillful each match and we also female boxers who kicked the **** out of reacfh other. The boxing was on till 12 and after that we all got a tuk tuk to take us to a club where we drank more buckets, danced with Thai people and ended up at our hostel bar till 5 in the morning in deep drunken chats before swapping emails and crashing in bed. Not such a great move as we had a flight to catch the next morning to Krabi, and hadn't packed yet, oops..