12.05.2008 32 °C
Oh my Buddha (a new saying which has me in stitches), it's been a long time since I've written anything so I'll try to get everything in and not make it too long.
Our bus journey from Phuket to Bangkok - a nightmare because the bus driver thought he was Lewis Hamilton, we did survive though. It was 2 hours of 'interesting' driving and we arrived in Bangkok at 6am. By the time we managed to catch a taxi from the bus station to the city centre (one that was metered at not a crazy price) it was 7am and we soon realised that nothing in the MBK/Siam Centre area opened until 10am so we killed some time eating noodles in a 24 hour restaurant. Then we got approached by another very friendly Thai lady who, of course, was very helpful and showed us where (her brother's no doubt) Travel agency was so we could get tickets to Chiang Mai (20
Baht Tuk Tuks are always a con, they should cost around 60 for legitimate fares).
However, we needed to find a travel agent to leave are bags in and get tickets so we actually made it a great deal. We got accommodation, bus, trekking, slow boat into Laos and a smile for around 100 quid each (for 10 days).
So we had around 11 hours to kill in Bangkok...we basically hung around the Siam Centre which was quite fun because it was the 2nd birthday and it was Japanese themed music and clothing so there were loads of kids dressed in some interesting stuff.
The bus to Chiang Mai was pleasant as was the guesthouse we stayed in. We got there at 4am and the next day was a 'free day' (not trekking, bus, boat etc) so we just walked around looking at the night market and admiring the moat and wall surrounding the city centre. The next day we were supposed to be trekking but the weather meant we couldn't go until the next day so Clare decided that we were both going to do a Thai cooking course (yes, I did protest...I was not happy). Actually, I will admit to having lots of fun... and the pictures of me proudly displaying my spring rolls say it all.
Clare then, unfortunately, spent the night being very ill...so trekking was postponed again whilst we took her to see a very friendly doctor. Whatever medicine (and shot in the bum) he gave her seemed to work so we went two day trekking (not three as planned) in the jungle. Firstly we got to do elephant trekking which I'm not sure I enjoyed as I've heard that the elephants are mistreated, but it was funny having the greediest elephant who refused to move unless he was fed 4 bananas and who tried to steal everyone elses with his long trunk.
Trekking was amazing, I absolutely loved it. Although, I was worried about Clare and her sickness (which was food poisoning by the way) and the 3 mile hike up hill and the heat but we both made it unscathed. We stayed the night in a shack basically with mosquito nets and a thin mattress and pillow. Having gone to bed at 9pm we were rudely awoken by the family's cockerel at 6am and by the time we all surfaced, they had all started their daily work in the fields. We stated next to a village which disappointed me somewhat as it was supposed to be some tribe who lived basically and it should have been like stepping back 1000 years but they had electricity from solar panels and cable TV.
We then had to start the trek back which was another 3 hours and our legs were already aching. However, it was really fun and we got to stop at a waterfall half way and go for a swim. It was beautiful and walking through a waterfall is really tough as the water pressure is immense.
The rest of the trek was easy going and we got picked up by the truck and taken to the river for some bamboo rafting. It started sedately but by the end we were soaked and laughing. Basically the bamboo raft is long and flat and 4 people plus a driver can fit on it. the driver uses a long pole to push us down the river...seems simple as a concept but when I took control I immediately got us stuck on a rock and when the water got bumpy I immediately found myself in the sitting position. Clare....oh Clare....she simply is no good with water vehicles (think back to the kayaking incident). She had us heading (at great speed) toward a massive rock, no evasive manoevers were employed nor did she try and save herself. Cue us hitting said rock and Clare being projected into the 'hugging rock' position (luckily she escaped any injury but I feared for her face when she hit the rock).
The following day we had to get a minibus to Chiang Khong. It was a 5 hour journey so it was a piece of cake to us and we arrived at our hostel for the night at a reasonable hour. There is not much to do in Chiang Khong at all apart from do the border run to Laos over the might Meh Khong river which we did the following morning. It took a long time to process the 3 boat loads of tourists. And get us organised for the slow boat (yes, I did buy a cushion). The first day was 7 hours on the boat, pretty cramped conditions (we were on the floor) and we had to stop at Pak beng for the night. This was a very small river town and the electricity only came on between 6pm and 10 pm everyday and was powered by a generator. Unfortunately, we picked the wrong guesthouse.... I was in bed by 9pm and by the time the lights went out at 10pm we were infested by flying bugs... literally thousands of them. I was woken up by the bugs crawling on my face. It was awful, we decided to sit outside as there were less bugs there for an hour. Then, dressed in hoodies and trousers we crawled back to bed and hoped for the best. In the morning there were dead bugs covering the floor. Nasty.
The second boat was 9 hours long. and has brought us to Luang Prabang which is truely wonderful. I will explain more in my next post.