More water fun, some heffalumps and advice for the readership

A few things about the place I’m staying. First of all, I’d recommend it though the wireless broadband’s somewhat flaky. This is possibly because I’m on the 3rd floor and the router’s downstairs. Secondly, no taxi seems to know where it is. The one I got here yesterday dropped me off two streets away.

“Soi six!” and then my bags left the boot while I sat there thinking “What the hell…?”

It was only 200 yards to Soi 8 and the B&B so I don’t know why he couldn’t find the street. The only thing I can think of is that the place is new and called “3 Sis”. “Sis” sounds like a Thai saying “six”. Also, in fairness, you find anywhere in the UK where a taxi will drop you off from the airport and charge you less than a quid.

Still, I’m here and settled in. The staff are fantastic and speak very good English. One of them has a friend at Newcastle University so I got talking to him over breakfast (tea, sausage, scrambled egg and salad followed by toast). It’s a new place, but if everywhere had staff as attentive and fun then staying at guesthouses would be almost as attractive as owning your own home.

I was picked up at 8:45 this morning for a day’s trekking to the south of Chiang Mai. After an hour’s drive, we pulled up and walked through some woods and over the world’s most ricketty bridge to a tribal village. Well, most of us did. There were some steep climbs and the two Germans (quite large ladies) in the group couldn’t make it. They stayed near the bridge and splashed in the water instead.

In honesty, the village wasn’t much to look at but I bought a handmade water bottle carrier for 70Baht and some much-needed water to put in it. The sorriest site ever was sat there as well. A little puppy about a foot long, almost utterly hairless and covered in mange. There were at least two open, sore patches on him that I could see. But still he walked up and licked my hand, enjoying being scratched behind the ear. I just wish there was something I could have done to help the poor thing.

We headed back down to the van and then on to the next stop – bamboo rafting. This was fun and definitely my highlight of the day. Unfortunately, a camera just wasn’t an option as te rafts aren’t exactly stable. I wasn’t risking the Fuji taking a dunking. Also, with it being Songkran there were a million Thai kids basking by the river at places, waiting to throw water over you. And tip the raft over.

At one point about halfway along I got talking to 4 older Thai, one wearing a knock-off Fulham shirt with the old Pizza Hut sponsor. Very nice people. They gave me a little bite to eat (which tasted like a lump of KFC chicken batter) and some whiskey. Happy new year!

I am glad to say that I only fell off the raft once, but by that time I was drenched from the kids anyway. I’d definitely be up for doing it again, and in more peaceful times as there were numerous opportunities for some great photos.

A lunch stop was next, which allowed us to dry clothing in the sun while we had some rather nice rice. And stuff. Fresh pineapple and watermelon for dessert. Luvverly. Then on to the elephant riding.

I found this a little disappointing, though I’ve kept the souvenir photo I paid 100Baht for as it’s not a bad piccy. I just felt sorry for the poor things as all the wanted to do was eat and courtesy of escapist tourists they had to wander around instead. Mind, they got their own back by constantly blowing their noses at us. Prior to 10 minutes ago when I got back and had a shower, my legs were coated in elephant snot.

They are magnificent beasts, snot or otherwise. They’re not all that comfy to ride, though going down a steep hill on elephantback is certainly an experience. A scary one.

We then took another village stop to see members of the Karen tribe who now number some 300,000 in Thailand and are classed as Thai nationals. Well, that’s debatable but it seems to be the case. I have a feeling they’re not “national” enough to be allowed to vote but that was something I overheard rather than was told. The originated in Nepal, moved to Burma and fled from there when warring broke out many years ago.

They predominantly make woven items and the quality is impressive. I watched one woman there working on a scarf which I’m told takes 3-4 days to finish. The end product goes for 200 or so Baht at the night market, or 100Baht from the village itself. £1.40-ish for 3 days’ work. Unreal.

Finally, we headed for one of the many local waterfalls. Unfortunately due to a lot of rain recently, the waters weren’t as clear as we would have hoped. It was OK to swim in (I didn’t bother) but was a horrible murky yellow colour. Still, a lovely spot to watch insects flit around. And foreign tourists in bikinis. *ahem*

Then back “home” seeing several near-catastrophes as gangs of kids threw or hosed water at anyone not fully enclosed in a vehicle. This included every passing moped.

*splash*

*wiggle*

*screech*

*thud*

Well, I didn’t see any screech or thud episodes, but two people in the hotel did earlier on. We did almost drive over a moped driver who’s bike had fallen over, though. That would have been messy.

This evening I did something that some would consider extravegant. After discovering that McD’s delivery stopped at 7pm (yes – McDs delivers over here), we opted to hire a tuk-tuk to drive me there and back. I almost died in the pursuit of junk food. My life on the line for several lumps of not-meat and a dodgy Oreo-flavoured dessert.

It was while I was on the way to get the “food-like substance” that I had one of those moments. A little flash. Some giggles. I can’t believe I’m doing this. Not just the tuk-tuk to get fake food, but the whole trip thing. It’s wild.

I feel so utterly and completely free. Not a worry, not a care that can’t be solved by just moving on. I’ve met and am continuing to meet some great people. I’m experiencing things I never would have thought I’d have experienced in a lifetime. Hell, in the last 3 weeks or so, I’ve seen more, experienced more, tried more than I think I have in the last 15 years back home.

Anyone reading this who’s jealous – all I say is save up. Scrimp. Sell things you don’t need on eBay like I did. Check prices. Anyone renting, you don’t need to worry about a mortgage and you can get somewhere new when you get back. Homeowners can sell or rent out. If you don’t have any major ties (kids are understandable) – do it. If you’re even remotely considering it, make the effort, get some cash together and do it. Take the plunge. I’ll admit I was somewhat fazed at first but this is the best thing I have ever done.

You only have one life. Don’t let it pass you by filled with regrets.

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