More of a catch up post than anything else today I'm afraid, but I have been somewhat lacking in internet resources since leaving Bangkok and so there is a lot to catch up on.
Tuesday 17th February:
The final day of our trek! We woke up early (and freezing), ready to embark on the final stage of our journey... the one that didn't involve any walking! Instead, it involved bamboo rafting down a river!
There were five of us (plus two guides) on each of our rafts and we had a lot of fun meandering gently down the river, splashing each other, singing random songs at the top of our voices (Oasis, the Beatles and kids songs were top of our bill) and indulging in some friendly competition and racing, all whilst just enjoying the scenery and being very happy that we didn't have to walk.
At the end of our rafting trip we had a pad thai lunch at a little cafe and then climbed back in the vans to head back to Chiang Mai. We were all utterly exhausted, but happy and proud of ourselves for completing the trek.
Following a well deserved shower or two we all met up in the evening for a farewell dinner as it was Melissa's last night with us. All of us girls dressed up, and the ten of us plus Rong and Song piled in Song's SUV to go to an Irish owned restaurant in the old town.
Some dinner and a couple of drinks (including a complementary cocktail bucket) later, we hit our first bar of the night: a reggae bar. There's something quite surreal about watching a Thai band sing reggae songs! The cocktails in that bar were almost criminally strong and we were all quite drunk by the time they started playing salsa music. I posted a few photos from our night out (although not all of them are captioned yet) if anyone wants to see!
The one downer of the night was the amount of small children who were being made to work in the bars (well after midnight) selling flowers and small trinkets. They can't have been more than 6 or 7 and they all just looked so tired. They wanted to play with us and kept getting told off by their bosses. It was such a sad reminder of how prevalent child labour still is in some countries, which is something we are so lucky to have (mostly) outlawed at home.
When we left the reggae bar, a few of us (Mel, me, Rebecca, Jasmin, Craig P and Sid) ended up in Heaven, a club across the street where there was another live band playing. This time we were treated to renditions of British and American pop rock songs.
Mel left early as she had her flight to catch the next morning, and so it was some time after two that the five of us piled in a tuk tuk and went back to the hotel.
Wednesday 18th February:
Woke up early when Melissa lef to catch her plane to Koh Samui. Wasn't exactly hungover, but felt a little delicate after all the cocktails the night before. A little net time and the collection of my nice clean laundry later and I felt better.
My free time that day was spent with Sid and Craig P. We walked into Chiang Mai's old town and went to the Arts and Cultural Centre, which was a museum of Chiang Mai's history. It was really interesting, and nice to get some insight into the background of the city and how it came to be founded.
The night train back to Bangkok was significantly better than the train to Chiang Mai. This was mainly because on the night train to Bangkok I actually got a decent night's sleep.
Thursday 19th February:
We arrived in Bangkok at around 6:30am. It was a morning of goodbyes, as we had to say goodbye to Amanda and Craig L (although I'm going to see them again in Sydney in April), and then Rong, Sid and Craig P as the first part of the tour was now over and they weren't staying with us for the second part.
Very little was accomplished on this day, although we did get to meet our new Intrepid group: Sarah, Kathryn, Gio, Hannah, Claire and our leader Joanna. Hayley, Noel, Jasmin and Rebecca were all staying from the first group. The next day we were also joined by Anne-Marie and Fiona. In the evening some of us went out to dinner and for some drinks, but I was so tired that I went home early and missed most of the drinking.
Friday 20th February:
Another mostly lazy day in Bangkok. I think the humidity was going to my head. I was woken up at 7:30am by the builders outside my window, and so got up and went to seek solace in the internet cafe round the corner from the hotel.
I met Jasmin, Rebecca and Gio for some lunch at our favourite coffee house, and then Gio and I caugh a tuk tuk to the MBK centre, one of Bangkok's indoor malls.
The shopping centre was immense: 6 floors of market stalls, shops and restaurants. I didn't really buy much, but Gio did his best to terrorise a sales girl with his haggling. The main hilarity of the afternoon came about when we went to buy a small present (as promised over lunch) for the girls, and ended up with a huge ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. Great fun getting that back to the hotel in a taxi and then onto the overnigh train.
Another night, another overnight train. This time to Surat Thani where we were to swap to vans for the drive to Khao Sok. I got to try out the art supplies I bought in Bangkok, and of course there was the ice cream cake to eat. Not a bad journey overall.
Saturday 21st February:
We arrived in Surat Thani at 6:30am and went to get some breakfast (or in my case, tea). We had a two hour journey to get to Khao Sok, during which I found out that the open air trucks are actually called Songthaews. Nice to give them a name at last.
The Morning Mist resort, where we were staying in Khao Sok was by far the most beautiful place we had slept in. It was like a little village of bungalows set in the rainforest!
In the afternoon, the majority of our group went tubing. It was like floating around the creek at Typhoon Lagoon in Disneyworld, only this time on a real river. It was so much fun, even though the fish at the entry point tried to eat me! It was a lot harder work than I expected, as we had to paddle with our arms as the current was mostly non existant, oh, and we also got rained on at one point! Brilliant fun though and I would strongly recommend it to everyone if you ever get the chance.
When I got back to my bungalow there was a cockroach on my bathroom door.... eeeew!
That's all for this update, but I will be back soon with more adventures from Khao Sok and also from Krabi. The next time I write, I'll probably be in Malaysia!