Deeper Into Thailand

A quick travel update.

I’ve been in the north – I couldn’t finaggle a last minute visa for Burma so I’ve been hugging the border pretty close. It’s pretty remote, but the landscapes are amongst the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and the people…well they’re amongst the most amazing I’ve ever met too.

Let’s see if I can fill some gaps from my first entry to now. An overnight bus got us from Bangkok to Chiang Mai. I found myself wishing for that little pill Alice took that made herself smaller ‘cause these were definitely not designed for tall people.   We spent a week in Chiang Mai. The main thing bringing us to this particular place being Songkran of course, but there was lots of other stuff to take in too.

Bicycle exploration is always the best way to get a feel for a new city – you can go wherever you want, stop wherever you like, and do it at a speed where everything’s not just a blur in the window. Such as the school children practicing their cheerleading in the yard. It was more like burlesque and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that!

We took some Thai cooking lessons, though I stand by that they were more Thai eating lessons.  We each made 7 dishes…so full! I learnt quite a bit, it wasn’t that hard at all. And the best part is we got a cook book from the school after our “graduation!”.  Now the real test will be to see if I can pull it off back home without the guidance and readily available ingredients. Over here though it is a lot of work considering how cheap the food is on the street.  I can see why not too many people cook over here.

We learned some Thai massage too.  But really you can hardly even scratch the surface in a one day course. I’m sure people who know massage scoff at these courses the same way I scoff at the ones that claim to make you an “expert yogi” after a 4 hour course. Ugh.

Louis, my guide for a day, took me up to a hilltribe village. It was just me and him (and the cobras and tigers he kept pointing out the signs of) on the long hike in, but it went by quickly with good company. He was super friendly, spoke great English, and was great at getting me involved up there.  The town drunk kept following us around – swinging his flask, stumbling around, playing us a tune on his homemade instrument, always smiling his toothless smile.  It was nice in a strange sort of way.

Itching for an adrenaline high one day I signed up for some downhill mountain biking.  I’m pretty comfortable on a bike so wasn’t expecting it to be too hard but i was pleasantly surprised by some tricky sections. I even took a trip over my handlebars once, haven’t done that in a while. We had a great group that got super close in the Songkran warfare on the snail paced ride back into the city. It was still a day early so we were unarmed except for what we could macguyver together in the back of our songtow. At least after completely soaking us our Thai attackers had the decency to pour us a drink and share a good laugh in the standstill traffic. Lots of night life was followed up with these friends, the best of which being the muay thai fights of course.

Perhaps my favourite moment of Songkran was sitting in on the big Thai ceremony at the east gate. I didn’t understand a single word that was spoken but it was still beautiful. Their dance and the focus on intricate hand movements fascinates me. As does their whole concept of beauty but I won’t get into that..

Lets see…after Songkran Chiang Mai went from the “warzone” to some sort of normal. Actually it was a little eerie walking the quiet streets Saturday morning, but oh so nice to be dry for the first time in days.

We moved on to Pai, taking the curviest road I’d ever been on (that is until we moved on past Pai :p). 100km took about 4 hours – I actually found it quite nice, but the poor boy behind me was suffering pretty hard from motion sickness so I think he’d disagree. This town’s a cozy little place where time seems to stand still. The food and music here are the best I’ve seen on the trip so far too. Renting motorbikes is the best way to get around and explore the countryside. And believe me when I say it’s worth exploring (waterfalls, hotsprings, caves, temples…it’s a good place to get lost).

Next was to move even further north, north of Nam Khong, to help out on an organic farm/lodge for a few days. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting but it was a great experience iin its own right. A place like that certainly attracts a certain type of person, and I was lucky enough to cross paths with several wise souls in the short period I was there.

I hitchiked back to Pai yesterday (a monk was my hitching partner – you would think it’d be easier to wave down a ride with a monk…it wasn’t :p ). A couple days of reorientation are in order here and then I’ll be shuffling east a little bit into northern Laos. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to hop online but no worries, all is well.