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Heath’s Travel Diary

Wednesday, 28 Mar 2007

Location: Chiang Mai, Thailand

MapPlanes, Trains and Automobuses

I got up to Chiang Mai a few days ago after a bus ride from Phuket to Bangkok, and a plane ride to Chiang Mai, and now I'm just waiting to jump on a train to take me back down to Bangkok. I'm really utilizing all of Thailand's modes of transport.

Since I've been up in up here, I think that someone turned the thermostat up... or that's what it feels like. It has been hovering around the +40 mark for the 4 days I've been here. It might have been that hot when I was at the beaches in the south, but I never noticed. Here, it's uncomfortable hot.

Chiang Mai is an quiet city of about 150,000. They have lots of zoning restrictions here to stop the development of high rises within the city and keep the old world feel to the place. The city center is surrounded by a moat and a brick wall, that has mostly fallen down since it was built in 1800 to protect the city from invasion. It makes for a pretty picturesque city though. I came all the way up here because last time I was in Thailand I never made it up to this part, and everyone raved about it. So, I made the journey here.

I've been spending my time exploring the city, trying to find some of the old world charm while trying not to get too far from an air conditioned cafe or shop. There is a huge night market here, where you can buy every tacky souvenir, pirated DVD, and knock-off brand name thing you could imagine... so I've dropped quite a few Baht's there.

Two days ago I signed up for a 'jungle trek', which in hindsight was good to do, but at the time I was hating it. In my mind a trek is a nice paced walk through the jungle... I got with a group of eco-challengers or marathon runners or something because they were basically sprinting through the jungle. +40 weather, humid jungle, running... not fun. I was sweating so badly I don't think I could have gotten any wetter unless I was actually in water. Plus, I had to wear shoes! The first time I've had shoes on since I lived in that tree house like 2 months ago. Also, since it's their hot season over here the jungle was pretty dried up, so the scenery wasn't spectacular either. Day 1, we went to a neat tribe where the women put brass rings around thier necks starting from age 4 to age 45, 2 new rings every 4 years. In the same tribe were women who believed that they looked hotter if they put huge rings in their ears, I couldn't see it. Next we went to an elephant camp for a ride through the jungle. I got the bitchy old elephant who didn't listen to the guides and just did what she wanted to do, we went for a swim in a nice muddy lagoon where she soaked herself to cool off, along with me. Then we climbed/ran up a mountain side, for 3 hours to get to the village where we were to spend the night. There was a group of Thai tribes people that looked after us. It was nice to finally get somewhere to relax for a bit, had a nice supper, sat around a campfire and watched some traditional Thai dancing girls, to bed early... for a few hours. In the middle of the night we heard bamboo cracking as if it were on fire, sure enough about 30 meters from our bamboo hut (which is made with a grass roof) was a fairly large jungle fire. We started trying to put the fire out by hitting it with bamboo sticks, which pretty much did nothing, so we just sat and watched the fire to make sure it didn't come our way. Thankfully the wind was blowing in the other direction and it eventually burnt itself out. Made for an interesting night though.
The next morning we set out trekking/sprinting again, this time only for 2 hours and made it to a beautiful waterfall. Beautiful in the fact that we got to stop walking in the intense heat for a while. Went for a swim, jumped off the top of the falls, and there was a cool natural slide there that we slid down. Then we jumped in a raft and whitewater rafted down the river, the rapids where pretty small, I did manage to fall out though and skin my leg on some rocks. Finally my little 2 day adventure ended when we got on a bamboo raft and peacefully floated down the rest of the river.
At the time I was thinking this is not really what I signed up for, like when we were running through the jungle, or fighting a jungle fire, or skinning my legs on rocks... but now that I'm back and had a Thai massage, I think it was a good couple of days.

This morning I woke up in Chiang Mai and was not quite sure what to do before I leave this afternoon... I could have toured some more temples, but I think that I've seen enough temples to do me for a couple years. I just had happened to throw on a Callaway Golf shirt this morning (it was supposed to be a gift for McGregor but I ran out of clean clothes so I'll have to get him something else) Anyhow, since I had the shirt on I thought.. hmmm, maybe I should get an early start on the golf season and went for 9 holes at a really nice golf course just north of the city. I met up with an guy from New Zealand and we hit the ball around this morning, it was a great way to spend the day before I get on the train. I shot a 47, not bad for me, first round, and on a pretty challenging course. The hardest part of the course was trying to keep your hands dry from sweat in this 40 degree weather. I had a lady caddy that catered to me hand a foot, literally. She'd dry my hands for me before every shot, and at the end of the game, took my shoes off for me and rubbed my feet. I felt like a pretty big deal.

Off for a 14 hour train ride back down to Bangkok.