We left Cambodia and the roads were much better than on the way in! However we had to cross 4 rivers by small car raft, at either side because of the amount of rain the track had turned into a muddy swamp and at the last river we all had to get out of the minibus and walk up the hill while the driver tried to free the van from the mud. 10 minutes later after a lot of smoke a revving it came free, the rest of the journey was uneventful but very long.
After one night in Bangkok we set off on another 12 hour bus journey for a few busy days in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand. We both managed to sleep a little which was good as this was one of the most cramped buses we had been on. We got picked up by minibuses at a petrol station outside of the city and shuttled to a guest house, I think that most people were so tired that they decided to stay, we also stayed for only 250 Baht per night which is really cheap as we had the luxury of hot water. We went straight to the nice clean room and slept, when we woke we spoke to the lady on reception about the tours on offer, she was really friendly and helpful. We were then pointed in the direction of the Sunday Market, I have never seen anything like it before a street about 2km long with stalls selling everything. When we got further through the market it did only go down one street but off in to lots of side streets it was huge. I think in the 3 hours that we spent looking around we didn't ever cover 1/2 of it. We managed to buy some presents and some bits for us to send home. We also had lots of street food as there were stalls everywhere selling, BBQ chicken, kebabs, homemade Sausages made with noodles, savoury bits, lots of sweet things and lots of drinks freshly squeezed or with jelly in - we had a feast.
Day 2 - We were off on our first trip - the Golden Triangle, where Burma (Myanmar), Thailand and Laos meet. We left early and hour first stop was and hour later at some hot springs which were not very inspiring, but it gave us time to get a toasted sandwich for breakfast. We then drove on to Chiang Rai to see the ancient city of Chiang Saen which houses one of the areas ancient temples. There was also a big Bhodi tree, which is a sacred tree, apparently if you try to climb it you will not succeed. We were then taken around the corner where we took a small boat over the other side of the Mekong river to Laos. We were able to visit this small area of Laos without our passports although the guard tried to charge us but we just walked on by. After a good look around some of the stalls and purchasing a golden triangle souvenir we taken back on the boat. We travelled a little way up the Mekong to the point where the 3 countries meet. Laos is defined by its rolling green hills, Burma has a big resort casino which attracts lots of Thais and Thailand has a big Buddha on the banks of the river. The river here is really wide and we were on a small boat so we felt really small, which is quite ironic as at this point the world feels quite small as we are standing on 3 countries. After a buffet lunch we headed off to the Thai border town on Mae Sai, where we could have crossed in to Burma to get our passport stamped. We decided against it and instead had a look around the market. On the way back we visited some traditional hill tribes who live up in the hills of Northern Thailand. The first tribe we went to was the Akha tribe who originate from Tibet. Their villages are distinguished by their carved wooden gates and raised houses with low roofs. This tribe is easily recognized by the black caps covered with silver coins, worn by the women. The second tribe we visited were the Lahu tribe which were located practically next to each other. The Lahu tribe originate from China and have houses built on stilts, made of bamboo and grass thatch roofs. We also had the chance to visit the Karen long neck tribe, which are characterised by their golden neckbraces, hich look as though they are stetching their necks. We decided not to take the trip to see them as we are off on a hil trek to see more tribes tomorrow. The journey back was really long and we arrived 2 hours later than planned, a very long day but a worth while trip.
Day 3 - This was our first day apart from each other since we had been away. Wayne had decided to take himself off for a days fishing with his birthday money. He was picked up at about 9am and taken to Bor San lake about 8km outside of Chiang Mai. The guide was on hand to help Wayne and one other guy to set up their rods, the bait was out of date sandwiches from 7-11 which had been chopped up. After about 15 minutes he was in to his first fish of the day, it took about 20 minutes to land and was a 17lb catfish, which was the smallest of the day. He continued to catch steadily all day averaging about 30lb per fish. 10 minutes before they were due to pack up, he hooked another fish, which took 30 minutes to land and was the biggest of the day at 48lb. He had a really good day and thoroughly enjoyed it. I had a day of breakfasting, updating the internet, lunching and then I finished the day off with a traditional thai massage, which was excellent. The ladies were so friendly and after my massage they sat me down with them and poured me a cup of green tea, it was a really nice gesture and I came out feeling happy and relaxed. In the evening we headed to the Night Bazaar, a road lined with stalls selling handicrafts, handbags fakes and clothes. There were a lot of food stalls so we had a quick thai curry before heading to a bar for a few Chang beers.
Day 4 - We took ourselves off for breakfast before checking out of the guesthouse and locking our bags in their store room. Today was the start of our 2 day one night trek to into the jungle to the hill tribes. We set off towards the market 14 trekkers, 2 English, 2 Canadians, 4 Australians, 3 Irish, 1 Israeli, 1 Dutch and a Japanese Girl. We stopped for supplies we picked up some water and ponchos in case of rain, we were then taken to our starting point, where we were fed mixed rice which was actually really nice. We set off in to the jungle at quite a steady pace, we seemed to go upwards then flat, then cross a river then flat, this lasted for about an hour. After our first stop at the side of a small waterfall it all started to get a lot tougher!! We had a further 2 hour walk ahead which turned out to be all up hill! Everybody was struggling it was such hard work, I don't think that any of us realised how far up the mountain we would actually go, this was very remote. We finally arrived at the Lahu hill tribe and we all just crashed out on the balcony of our big room, we would all be sleeping in the same cabin with mattresses on the floor. We all sat around and drank plenty of water and beer as the guides and the villagers cooked us a delicious vegetarian dinner in the room adjacent to our bedroom. The evening was really entertaining with everyone participating in drinking games, suggested by the Irish lads, this ended up leading to a game suggested by one of our guides, buffalo, a bit like Simon says but if you get in wrong you end up covered in Charcoal, most of us did. Later on in the evening more of the locals and guides came to sit around the central fire with us then the sing along started a guitar and a bit of alcohol encouragement and we were all singing!
Day 5 - The 6 of us who were doing the 2 day trek (us, the 2 Canadians, the Dutch guy and the Japanese girl) were woken earlier than the others and given a breakfast of boiled eggs and toast, we then said goodbye to the other trekkers who were doing the 3 day trek. We were promised that today would be much easier than yesterday and all the walking would be downhill. So off we headed surprisingly ache free. As soon as we set off down the slightly overgrown paths we realised that going down hill would not be much easier than up hill. The hills were quite steep and the ground under foot was quite damp so it was easy to slip. But it was still not as tiring as the uphill climb. We had a few short breaks along the way and our guide made us walking sticks out of bamboo to help us. On the way down we did manage to see a deadly animal, a funnel webbed spider, I did not realise it was dangerous until we got back. It was just on a tree about shin height, the guide pointed it out and then poked a stick at it to keep it occupied while we walked past! Our first full stop was at a lovely waterfall, there were a couple of other groups there, but we all got changed and jumped in to the cold water, it was really refreshing and the best waterfall I have seen. We trekked on for another hour or so, but it had got much easier as we were now virtually walking on flat land, although there were a lot of small streams that we had to cross, with bamboo branches for bridges draped over. We stopped at the Elephant trekking centre and were able to have an hours ride on one. These seemed to be much better cared for than the ones on Ko Samui, we brought some bananas and fed our big elephant, who took us down a track and then down by the river. This was quite scary as he was a little playful and the path was quite narrow, he didn't want to follow it and kept trying to turn around when it was obvious we would topple over the edge. Our handler was fairly good though and kept him in check. After the Elephant ride we had Phad Thai for lunch and then on to the white-water rafting. This was great fun, we were all given a brief introduction and then we were on our way, we got stuck on the rocks straight away but managed to get free and fly over the rapids. We paddled hard coming to the next set of rapids flew over them and all got soaked, Wayne joked that he was still had a little dry patch with that he was thrown in - very funny. We went through another 6 sets of rapids before we had to get out of the boat and geton to a bamboo raft, the boys on one and the girls on the other. The guys had to paddle their own raft while we were able to sit down and let the guide do all the hard work. A really fun day and in the end a good trek, even if it nearly killed us! After we had got back to the guesthouse and were getting ready to head out for some food, Wayne had come out on a red blotchy rash all over his body. We spoke to the receptionist who said that it was not common for this to happen after coming back form the hilltribes so we had to go around the corner to the local doctors clinic. We only had to wait aboyt 40 mins to be seen, he advised that is was a severe allergic reaction to a mte bite, recieved while we were up in the jungle! Typical, although apparently quie common. We had a quick tea and then back for an early night.
Day 6 - We arranged a late check out so that we could sleep in a bit. Wayne's rash had gone down loads but we headed out so that he could eat breakfast and keep topped up with his tablets. We came back and checked out before heading to get some sleeping pills for our bus journey and also to use the internet. We had a wander around the streets and had a look in a few shops before going for lunch. We picked an Indian restaurant which was serving a set lunch, I chose a vegetarian option while Wayne went for the Chicken one, both were lovely and tasty probably one of the better Indian meals we have had. After filling up we went for a Thai Massage at the place I had been. Today we were both very achy after the downward trek, the massage however did the trick if it was a little painful at times. We were then ready to leave and we were transferred from the guesthouse to the bus, which was 1/2 empty so we got to spread out and have 2 seats each!