Pic source + featured image: Lonely Planet
Chiang Mai, Thailand
I’m still in Chiang Mai. Just moved into a new guest house last night called Mojito House… I was sold on the name to be honest ;). It’s not bad, not the best but will certainly do nicely. I’ll probably do a little review of some of the hostels I've stayed in at some point.
So, a couple of nights before moving on.
Thought it was time for a little trek - you can do 3 dayers, 2 day ones or simply 1 day. I went for the ‘day out’ package as I was unsure of my plans for moving on. On reflection I could have done the 2-dayer but this was cool…
I got in the van having been picked up at the hotel and there were a few characters in there already, we picked up a couple more and away we went.
Our first stop was the butterfly farm which also gave me a chance to meet the characters on our particular little excursion.
There were the 2 Japanese guys, youngish, who were there together. A couple who I’m still not sure where they’re from as they spoke a mixture of 3 different languages. They were probably in their 20s too and 2 French girls who were again of a similar age to the others.
Last but by no means least; there was the Frenchman. Little did I know at this stage the part this character was to play in this particular play. I’d say he was in his 40s. Reminded me a bit of the character René from the 80s British sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo. Really. I half expected him to turn round and say “you stupid woman”. He could also pass for one of the Mario brothers.
Pic source. There he is! Mr René himself, played by Gorden Kaye ;)
The River Wild
First up was the white water rafting.
This was good… not exactly white knuckle, edge of your seat exhilaration but there were some little moments of spice. At these times the French girl struggled to contain herself and kept falling in to me. Other than that it was a relaxing meander down the river…
Image my own: Pic not great, as it's a camera photo of the actual photo - I'm front, left!
The Bamboo Raft
Next, it was the bamboo ride. Not sure it should have been after the rafting but that it was.
The reason I say this is that it initially seemed a little similar but a step down… somewhat tame. Yes, we were in a bamboo raft, all very nice but there wasn’t much to it. At least before we were active participants, this time we just sat and meandered.
But then I realised, that’s probably the whole point.
It was chilled, pleasant, peaceful, some nice scenery. Maybe a little reminder that it’s ok just to do absolutely nothing other than be present… let go. Drifting down the river I felt a little like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now on his way to meet with Marlon Brando. Charlie Sheen more like.
Lunch was included, a buffet style deal at one of the centres where all the various excursions gathered. Essentially a bunch of potential food poisoning, lukewarm food sitting out inviting all sorts of lovely beasties. I was hungry though so I would have eaten it either way. Seem to be fine… my immune system is pretty strong… it’d take an elephant to bring me down. Speaking of…
The Elephant Ride
A contentious one here. Leaving aside the animal cruelty aspect for a moment. That’s not really the point of this article. These poor things are beaten into submission for a few bucks. I have read and heard various things, so always best to do your own research and travel ethically where possible.
However, it was part of the trek so I was happy to play along one but wouldn't necessarily do it again.
Anyway, on with the ‘fun’ part…
As we are approaching the elephants it dawns on me how things are going to go down. I notice that it’s a 2 by 2 scenario - ie. 2 people aback each elephant.
I didn’t need to be a mathematician or great visionary to see how this scene would unfold.
The 2 Japanese guys are friends and will go together, as will the French girls and the couple will also go together.
That leaves me and René.
Something I haven’t mentioned, is that our friend René is of a substantial size.
To be fair to René, he was having the time of his life that day. Threw himself into each activity with gusto. I can’t fault his enthusiasm, zest for participation and quest for knowledge and experience of a country. But this particular activity, for me, falls into the ‘lets just get this over with’ variety.
He got someone to take a photo of us… I can’t help but think I may be the subject of someone’s photo joke. When he shows his friends and family that pic they’ll say:
“the guy next to you doesn’t look too comfortable!”
… and they’ll all laugh… ha ha ha. I’m all for contributing to the comedy of the world but this isn’t quite what I had in mind ;)
Do feed the elephants…
There was a woman selling bananas and sugar cane that you can feed the elephants. Let me get this straight; WE pay to feed YOUR elephants. Ok, not doing that. René was however, he couldn’t wait… talking to the elephant throughout.
Thing is, René was quite amusing at times. A few little quips, some unintentionally funny but his accent helped with the comedy element. It was almost as though this character was created especially for the day. A fairly intelligent guy too it would seem.
I still don’t want him for an elephant buddy though.
What kept me going was that it’s all material. Probably write a blog post about this, I thought (oh, look!)
Lesson: always take a friend on excursions.
Something curious. At the end of the ride the Thai ‘driver’ was given a bag of rice which looked as though it had sauce/meet with fork. Am I right in thinking this is their payment?!
We were offered the opportunity to give a tip. I didn’t as I’ve paid for the day and he didn’t do much other than shout and hit the elephant whilst periodically clearing his throat and spitting.
No tip from me, other than to stop doing those things. I have a feeling that the tip along with the rice is the only payment they receive.
Other than the whole cruelty aspect, it really is a bit boring. Ok, it would have been better if I was with someone having some good banter and not squashed like on the ‘turbo twister’ (fair ride) but my advice is to ride a horse… or an emu, anything with a little more pizazz.
We then took a walk to the waterfall. A hike through the jungle, only an hour so all fairly easy. Although I did hear poor René keep falling over behind me. I was behind one of the French girls watching her trying to negotiate the tricky terrain, slipping and sliding… bless her cotton socks, I was ready to catch her should she fall.
This was under an hour until we reached the promised land…
We had been promised this magical, mystical land. An oasis if you will. A majestic colossus of water based land feature.
Walked round the corner, down the slope and as the French girl (really should have gotten her name at least??) so eloquently put it:
“What a disappointment”
There wasn’t much to it really, I thought it would be a lot bigger and you could swim around. I jumped in anyway for a little refresh.
As for René? He was in there like a shot. Stripped down to his pants, in the river and flapping around before he had even finished saying “shower time!”.
This was a little embarrassing really. You get taken to an ‘authentic’ tribe village. It was just a few huts and a few little market stalls catering to tourists. There were not really any other people there.
Personally, I don’t believe it for a second. It’s fake. And even if it’s real there is no substance to it and it is just another mini market selling tat to tourists, so if it is ‘real’ then they have sold out thus making it less authentic either way.
So, not a bad day out. Did some cool stuff, some not so cool. One thing that wasn’t included that I saw some people doing was zip-lining. That’ll be next time…
Next up, we take a peek at the life of Pai!
* All images my own or otherwise linked to source