In the Jungle the Mighty Jungle

Sunday was Day 1 of our trek. We left the guesthouse at 9am and drove for about 40 mins to a village market where we were instructed to stock up on necessities (torch, junk food, liquor). We then drove a bit further unloaded the ute and got moving, starting with a three hour trek, nothing too strenuous really, but gee was it hot! That night we spent in a Karen village. The sleeping arrangements were ten of us in one large bamboo hut on thin mats and pillow things with mosquito nets around us. The shower consisted of a hose with cold water and one bit of sheet metal so you got privacy from one side! The toilet was in a wee tin shed and was a porcelain bowl that you squatted over and then scooped water into it to flush. Princess Hayley coped surprisingly well =) The people of the village cooked us dinner which was lovely and then we sat around the camp fire talking and trying to play the guitar. The village people sell the tour groups beer and soft drinks and they also must get a certain amount for letting us stay and feeding us. We only dealt with maybe four people from the village but they were all lovely, although “Handsome Harry” was constantly drunk I’m sure!

Day 2 we left the village at 10ish and hiked for two hours or so to another Karen village where we stopped for lunch, this place had tiny kittens and puppies running around. So cute! Probably caught something off them but oh well, just had to cuddle them! After that we walked another hour or so to a village of small huts near a waterfall. The huts were so cute and fit two people per hut. Our “shower” that afternoon was in the freezing cold water under the waterfalls. The villagers brought out some of their handmade souvenirs as well, unfortunately for them we were a male dominated group but I was the sacrificial lamb and “supported” the tribe by buying purses, bracelets and scarves. Haha shopping in the jungle. That night after dinner we played drinking games, including a lethal game of spoons! Surprisingly the temps dropped pretty low at night so I pretty much wore everything I had packed to keep warm.

Tuesday was the final day and we only needed to hike one and a half hours before getting picked up by a truck and taken to a larger village, where we had lunch at a “proper” restaurant. After lunch we drove a little further and came to an elephant camp where we got to ride an elephant! It was the coolest, craziest thing. Although some of the staff were dodgy and the way the animals were treated was a bit dubious. I had brought a bunch of bananas and the elephant’s trunks were all over me before we were even seated = Hayley covered in slobber! As we rode, our elephant kept lifting up his trunk and blowing air at us until I gave him a banana…so so cute! Unfortunately we didn’t swap our camera with the others so have little pics of us on the elephant.

Next activity was bamboo rafting which really was lots of fun. We had three rafts for our group and each raft was trying to crash into another and splash or push each other off. There were no rapids or anything so it was completely safe and just nice fun. It took about an hour to get back to the guesthouse and once there most of us decided to go out to dinner and have a decent steak as we’d had no meat for three days…no we wouldn’t make good vegetarians!

Chiang Mai

The sleeper train was another one of life’s lil experiences. As we had only booked one day in advance and it was Kings Birthday (public holidays) there was very little availability and we got rather lucky to get the last two top bunks. The seats get changed into beds by the staff as you want them to, it’s all very nifty! In our carriage there were numerous tourists so we felt pretty safe, but I can’t say we slept too well as the light was on, the tracks were rickety and it was just plain uncomfortable - but it was a cheap way of getting to Chiang Mai so we can’t complain. We arrived at 10am the next day and had a guy from our guesthouse meet us which was handy as we were half sleepwalking I’m sure!

The staff told us about the nearby tiger kingdom, which was such a bonus as we thought we had missed the boat on the tigers near Bangkok as our itinerary was so full already. Anyway so that afternoon we took a 40min tuktuk ride out to the tigers where we got to see and interact with both 4 month old tigers and 13 month old tigers. This was absolutely amazing to say the least. It cost 300B (£6 or NZ$15) per person for each age group of tiger and you get to stay in each enclosure for about 20 mins. The workers are great and happy to snap your photo and answer questions etc. The 13 month old tigers were fully grown so it was quite scarey being so close to them…but you soon loosened up and next thing we were lying on them pretending to sleep! The only rule was not to touch them near or on their faces and never touch them from the front. We’d heard about tigers in Bangkok being drugged but I really don’t think these guys were, they mostly lazed about in the sun but we also saw one swimming and playing with a ball. As you can imagine we got a CD with 200 odd pics on it – check facebook for some of these!

We were dropped back into town and decided to check out some of the temples where we saw plenty of Buddhist monks. A lovely local lady that we met at one of the temples suggested other places to visit and told us we shouldn’t pay more than 150B for an hour for a tuktuk (and proceeded to arrange one for us, yay). Considering we’d often been paying this amount for a single trip it was a good lesson to learn! The tuktuk took us to a few more amazing old and new temples and wats and then out to some souvenir factories before taking us home.

At 6pm we had our pre-brief for our three day jungle trek which was to start the next day. We met our guides (JJ & Al) and the rest of our group, four British guys, two Danish girls and two Dutch guys. Later we went out to have some dinner and then explored the famous Chiang Mai Night Market. I got a couple of bargain dresses and fabric handbags and wished I had way more room in my luggage for more!

Same Same But Different

Arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport at 6am on Thursday 4 December, we were one of the first flights to land since it was re-opened after the all days of protesting. The airport was eerily quiet but we had no trouble and actually felt perfectly safe during our entire stay in Thailand. At the airport we found the luggage storage department and proceeded to repack various bags so that we weren’t carrying a bunch of unnecessary stuff (ie winter clothes) around with us for the duration of our holiday.

We took a bus to Koh San Road which is a well-known street where all of the businesses (cafes, bars, clothing stores, beauty parlours) cater to the English speaking backpacker crowd. We quickly found a well-priced hotel and (even though you get told not to) slept from 10am to 2pm before dragging our butts out to explore. We had some lovely Thai food for lunch and then had our first tuk tuk experience, I think they’re kinda fun! The driver took us to a tourist booking shop, we were a bit weary of getting ripped off but the guy who served us was a kiwi and all the licenses and shop certificates seemed to be in order so we went with it. Thankfully it paid off and he was very helpful in giving us ideas and information so we could really nut out what we wanted to do and we left there an hour later with a significantly lighter wallet but with a jam-packed itinerary.

A lot of friends had told us to get out of Bangkok as soon as we could but we actually didn’t mind the place. There was just so much to see and as it was our first Asian country we were in awe of everything. Things like riding down a busy street in a tuk tuk and seeing an elephant on the side of the road are just mind blowing. It was the King’s birthday on 5 December so all the streets were decorated with banners, streamers and photos of the king. There was a real party feel about the place and we wandered through a concert ground watching lovely dressed up dance groups, kick-boxing demo’s, and saw lots of food stalls… including deep-fried insects and dodgy looking meat.

On Friday we went to a snake farm, which was free entry because of King’s birthday! They put on a bit of a demonstration and at the end we were able to hold the snake around our necks!!! It was so freaky but I’m really glad I did it. That afternoon we made our way to Siam Square and HBK which are shopping centres in the new part of Bangkok. On our way to the train station Niki stopped in for his first Thai massage…he loved them! We misjudged our time a bit so I was majorly stressing that we would miss our 7.30pm sleeper train to Chiang Mai but luckily we got there with 10 mins to spare, whew!
Unfortunately I haven't got the pics relating to this post off our memory card (due to the drowning of our camera), but wanted to get going so here it is without the snake pic sorry