Sorry for my lack of updates, it's been a pretty eventful past couple of days with not much downtime or wifi but I just arrived to Pai which is a very beautiful laid back little down just north of Chiang Mai so hopefully get a little bit of down time here before I'm off to Laos.
Chiang Mai was amazing and has been one of my favourite places so far! There is just so much culture and the food and night markets are to die for. I wish I had a little more time there but I know I'll be back someday.
The trek to Chiang Mai from Koh Phangnan was quite a long journey especially the day train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, but it felt so good once I had finally arrived. I met some really cool people on the train and when we got off we all had the same thing in mind. "I need food and a need a DRINK!!!!" We decided to stick together and make our way to Kikie's Guesthouse where Eline and I had booked reservations. When the six of us all got there we met Kikie and wanted to know if there was room for us all to stay there. I booked on hostelwolrd.com but Kikie had not received my reservation so she was only expecting Elina and was pretty overwhelmed when 6 of us turned up at around 1130pm looking for beds. She only had three beds available one of which was Elian's, one she gave to me since she saw my confirmation but hasn't received it and there was one more up for grabs. She didn't want to send the other three away so she offered her bed up for them to stay the night or the rooftop patio which had cushions and mosquito nets. Of course no one wanted to put Kikie out of her own bed and everyone wanted to sleep on the roof because, why not, who wouldn't want to sleep on a roof. I was a little sad I got a bed because I reckoned the roof would be pretty sweet and she only charged 50baht for the night. Once we figured out our arrangements and all had somewhere to sleep at Kikie's we needed to get some food since we were all starving after our long journey. Kikie was also hungry so she joined us and took us to a nearby small little street food market so we could get good cheap authentic Thai food. After filling our bellies and getting to know Kikie we headed to a nearby bar for some much deserved drinks. Our little crew consisted of five girls and one guy; Marita (Scottland), Charlotte (England), Elina (Holland), Mariya (Holland), James (England) and myself. We are all travelling alone with the exception of Marita and Charlotte who met in Australia and had a couple weeks travelling together in Thailand. The bar we were at was pretty chill with board games and the music consisted of people taking turns dj'ing the music on YouTube. It was a perfect setting for us to get to know each other more as we played Jenga and talked about music while we took turns putting different songs on. The drinks were flowing and we were all getting along great! It was nice to have a good group of people I knew I could hangout with as explore Chiang Mai with.
We spent a few hours at the bar and then the girls all decided they needed to call it a night. James and I on the other hand were not ready to turn in and wanted to find another bar where we could go dance. We asked some locals where we should go and they recommended a bar called Lucky Bar just down the street. It was a pretty small nightclub filled with locals, lady boys and old Western men trying to pick up Thai women. Not the backpackers scene we were used to down south but it had a dance floor so we were happy but didn't end up staying home. It wouldn't be a night out in Thailand without getting some sort of street food on the way home so we went on a mission for banana pancakes. I think I've mentioned these pancakes in previous posts but they are super popular down south where we had both just came from and we had our mind set on banana pancakes with Nutella. Apparently Banana Pancakes aren't very popular in the North, or Chiang Mai for that matter. We searched the entire old city (area where we were staying) and all the locals looked at us like we were crazy when we asked if they sold or knew where we could get banana pancakes. We ended up finding a waffle cart and got creative creating our own version of banana pancakes. We each got a plain waffle and walked to the nearest 7/11 where we could buy Nutella for our waffles. Even 7/11 didn't have Nutella so we settled on peanut butter and a chocolate bar. We spread the peanut butter on our waffles and but bits of chocolate on top, folded them in half and ate them like a sandwich. I highly recommend trying this, it was delicious but still not the banana pancakes we were in search of.
The next day James, Elina and I rented motor bikes so we could go and see more of Chiang Mai. Kikie told us about a really beautiful temple at the top of a mountain with an amazing view of the city which we needed to check out. I was feeling a little rough from the late night out but was ready to explore once I got some food in me. We made our way towards the temple but decided to check out the national part and waterfall which was right beside the temple. It was so beautiful and we ended spending the whole afternoon there just trekking through the park and climbing up the waterfall.
When we finally made our way back to our bikes the temple was about to close in 15 minutes and it was still a 14km drive so there was no way we were going to make it. We were all pretty hungry so we decided to check out the local Sunday Night Market. This was by far the best night market I have ever been to. It was huge and sold everything you could imagine and the food was amazing!!!!!! Everything was so cheap as well. Elina and I spotted a sushi stand and both needed to get some because we haven't had sushi since we'd been travelling and it just looked way to good not to. It seemed a little sketchy eating sushi off the street but the guy was making it fresh behind the cart so we reckoned it would be okay and it was. It was more then okay. We didn't know what anything was so I just picked a few pieces that looked good and gave it a try. We stayed at the market for a couple hours before we headed back to Kikie's to freshen up and have a quite night out since we had two big days ahead of us.
The next morning we woke up fresh and ready to trek. We all got picked up at our hostel and a Chinese girl named Fay who was also staying at joined us, then continued to pick up four other girls at two separate stops. Two Dutch girls and an American lesbian couple joined us for the trek. They were all really nice and we all got along right off the bat. It was nice to have a solid group to do the trek with because I think it's the group that really made the trek all that it was. So we were one boy and 10 girls heading off to the jungle for two days. We made a quick stop at a local market along the way to buy water, snacks and alcohol for the night. Our meals were provided and cooked for us by the guides. When we made it outside Chiang Mai we stopped at an elephant camp where we were able to buy bananas and feed the elephants and trek through the jungle on our elephants for an hour. We didnt get to ride bareback which i was hoping for but it was still fun to trek through the jungle on a ginormous elephant. The view from up top was spectacular as you were up in the trees and could really overlook the jungle from such a height. It gave you a totally new perspective of the jungle and scenery. We then had some fried rice for lunch at the camp before heading off to trek by foot. We trekked up the mountain for about 3 hours until we made it to the hill tribe village where we were staying. Along the way we stopped at a beautiful waterfall where we were able to swim under the falls and slide down the rapids. It was gorgeous and felt good to cool off after trekking all afternoon. We arrived to the hill tribe just before sunset so we all cracked some beers and were able to watch the sunset past the mountains. When the sun was going down you could really see all the depth in the mountains and rice fields and it felt like being in a little dream world. Secluded from everyday life at the top of a beautiful mountain, truly at one with the nature around you. It felt like home. We waited for dinner and all talked around the table until we ate a delicious meal of masaman curry soup and sautéed vegetables with steamed rice. Once it got dark and the stars were out and so bright and visible we made our way to the Bon fire for some drinking cames and sing-a-longs. It felt like being up at the cottage with your closest friends because I was building amazing relationships with the others on the trek, especially the group I met on the train. We partied the night away, saw some shooting stars and fireflies and just had a really great night.
After not getting much sleep we all had to get up and ready for day two where we were trekking for an hour and a half to a waterfall and then taking a tuk tuk to a river to do some bamboo rafting before heading back to Chiang Mai. It took a little while for us to get going as I think our guide was the most hungover of us all. We had a very leisure breakfast of hard boiled eggs and toast before we left to trek two hours after we were supposed to. Typical Thai time. The second day was a lot more relaxing as the trekking was mostly downhill and traversing. The waterfall we visited was a lot smaller but had some pretty good rapids we could slide down. One of the girls got sucked in by the tide and we almost thought we were gonna lose her but she was thankfully okay. A little bit of a scare because we wasn't prepared to go down and just got taken by the current but it was okay to do when you knew what you were doing. It was also nice to cool off again and those that were really hungover enjoyed the refreshment. Luckily I felt pretty okay and was good to go all day. After the waterfall we had to wait for our tuk tuk to come get us and take us back to the elephant camp where we had Pad Thai for lunch and then headed to the river for some rafting. Elina, James and I all sat on the roof of the tuk tuk watching the scenery as we drove by with the wind flowing in our hair. I love drinking on top, so much more exhilarating and exciting and the view is insane. The bamboo rafting was nice and relaxing a very peaceful. We ranted down the river for about an hour and then all jumped by into the tuk tuk to drive back to Chiang Mai. Overall it was a great experience and I had a lot of fun and we all really bonded over the trek. I was a little sad coming back thinking about having to part ways with the amazing friends I made over the past few days.
Kikie told us before we left that she was going to have a rooftop patio for everyone staying at the guesthouse on the night we were getting back so we were excited to have a nice dinner together and see Kikie again. She cooked so much food and it was all delicious. We all hungout on the roof as Kikie kept feeding us more and more food. James was leaving for Laos the next day and I was going to Pai. The two of us had a lot in common and got along really well over the past few days so I was sad to have to say goodbye to him especially since I knew I still had a few days with the girls in Pai before we all went our own ways again. James's visa was expiring so he had no choice but to leave the country and was pretty sad he couldn't make it to Pai with us. He took the slowboat and should be arriving in Luang Prabang today so I'm looking forward to hear how his slowboat was since I will be doing to same trip on the 11th when I have to leave due to my visa expiring. Eline is leaving the day before me and Charlotte and Marita are heading back to Bangkok to fly home. This means I will be off on my own again but at least have a couple close friends in Laos that I'm sure ill be able to catch up with if I don't meet anyone on the slow boat to Laos. I've heard really mixed reviews about the slow boat as some people have had amazing experiences and met a lot of people while others had much quieter experiences and didn't meet anyone. I'm hoping for a good one but if not I have people to fall back on which is nice. As sad as I am to be leaving all these new friends I know there are new ones to be made and the change is exciting as I will be in a whole new country and will have to make new friends.
I am now in Pai and will try and write another post about my two nights here soon. It's been good but I'm going back to Chiang Mai for two more nights before I leave Thailand which I'm sure will be just as good.