Haven't really updated that often because been busy with the group and so haven't had time.
We stayed in Bangkok a little while longer once they had arrived and visited a few temples. We also paid to go on a day tour to visit the Floating Market (literally dozens of stalls on boats and you sail down the middle visiting them, and if something takes your fancy they pass over a long stick and pull you in close) The bridge over the river Quay, and Tiger Temple where you can get up close with tigers and take photographs with them.
The night before we left bangkok we had a bit of a run in with one of two nutters who were staying in our hostel dorm. One we called 'Spirit Guy' because he carried a walking stick he called his 'healing stick', he kept nunchucks in his bunkbed, he would start meditating at any given moment and he claimed to be in Bangkok as he was the star of an Indian movie and was just waiting to get paid (hence staying at a £3 per night hostel)...The other guy was called Patrick and was a French New Yorker who would speak REALLY quietly to himself (or to you but you couldn't hear him) and then laugh to himself for a while. At about 3/4am on the last night Patrick burst into the room when we were all in bed and flicked the lights on, he then sat down and started to eat the most foul smelling food I have EVER smelt - which was then wafted around the room by 3 fans that were on full blast. He then got up and started to mutter things to Becky who was trying to sleep and just randomly swearing at everyone and storming around. In the end I went down to get the owner who proceeded to kick Patrick out and cleaned up his stinking food which had spilt everywhere. At about 5am, just as we started to drop off asleep again, there was a massive banging on the door and Patrick was trying to get in. Spirit guy was back at this point and so went outside to sort him out and never returned!
The next day we started the journey up to Chiang Mai and to break it up we decided to stop off on the way up at both Ayuthaya and Sukhothai (a night in both places). Both had numerous temples we could visit, however many were closed because of damage caused by the flooding in Thailand a couple of months earlier. To be honest, if I was in my own I probably would have just booked an overnight train/bus from Bangkok straight up to Chiang Mai as I don't mind the long journeys and have already done a few sleeper trains in China. This is one aspect of group travel that I don't enjoy as much - having to agree on things to do/see and ways to travel. Because I feel as though I've come in as an outsider and joined the group, I don't want to cause too much of a fuss in stating what I do or don't want to do, especially if it goes against the grain or general views or everybody else. I'm actually writing this after a week and a half of being with everybody and luckily I've started to change how I approach situations and feel as though I've found my voice a little bit more. At the end of the day this is my trip that I've saved hard for and I don't want to waste any more time or money that I haven't got doing things that I'm not interested in doing just to please everybody. Because of this I'm tempted to split off from the group and go alone for a while... or I've at least definitely decided to leave after Cambodia as I have less time in Asia than the others and so I plan to race ahead and do the islands alone and then down to Indonesia like I originally planned. Steph & Barry - I'm also really keen on coming to see you and so have been checking out flights to Seoul!
When we finally made it to Chiang Mai we were super excited as we're had booked a hotel with a pool! After the first afternoon of exploring ad relaxing we decided to go on a jungle trek for 3 days and 2 nights. The first day we walked for around 5 hours in boiling heat, with a welcome break for lunch by a river which we could go swimming in to cool off. That evening we reached a small hill tribe which had a large room on stilts for us to sleep in. The room was made entirely from bamboo and different types of wood, and we were each given a mattress on the floor, duvet, sleeping bag and mosquito net. Derek - thank you SO much for lending your sleeping bag liner to me, it was such a life saver. I didn't want to sleep in the bags they provided so took the liner with me and just wrapped the duvet over me when it got cold in the night! I've actually used it a couple times on the trip so far and it's been a massive help :)
We had two Thai guides walking with us, Harry and Pon, who kept singing and making jokes which made no sense the whole time which was funny and instead of the expression "oh my god" if someone fell or slipped, they would shout "oh my buddahhh!" That night at the hill tribe they cooked us some food (separate vegetarian Thai green curry for me!) and then made a bonfire for us. Harry caught spiders and roasted them on the fire before eating them as well..
The next day we walked for about the same length of time and we stopped off at a waterfall on the way. The next small village we stayed at we met up with another group of walkers, 9 germans and an Irish guy! Out of all the people I've met travelling so far Ive found German and canadian girls to be without a doubt the friendliest and so i sat with them and chatted for a while.
After the worst nights sleep ever we woke up to a day of bamboo water rafting and elephant trekking! This was by far the best part of the trip and we were placed 3 to a raft but everyone spent the entire time hopping from raft to raft trying to tip each other in. All the locals were lined up along the river edge trying to splash us all and at one point I fell in trying to catch a can of beer that they threw to guys in front. We then went elephant trekking which I was a bit unsure about because of stories you hear about the animals being mistreated. I think if I wasn't in a group I would have picked somewhere else to see the elephants - like a sanctuary where you know for sure they are well cared for. Either way it was an amazing experience but unfortunately my camera had ran out of battery by the third day so I will have to rely on everyone else's pictures. We were two to an elephant, I was sat on our elephants back on a bench/seat and becca got to sit on his head. We walked with them for about 40 minutes and then got off to watch them play/wash in the river nearby. After this we all piled into an open backed van and were taken back to our hostel in the centre of Chiang Mai.
All in all I wasn't as impressed with Chiang Mai as I hoped i'd be. In my head i'd visioned it to be a lot less touristy than it was, and although it was better than Bangkok it was still a tourist honeypot. I think if I'd had longer than the 4 days we spent there then I would have enjoyed it a lot more as I'd have had time to explore even further afield.