Friday, August 04, 2006
Rain and caterpillars and elephants - Oh My!
The rain in spain might fall mainly on the plain, but in Thailand it falls mainly on everything, especially the jungle.
After my nice little Bangkok / resort stay, I jumped straight into a three day jungle trek up in Chiang Mai (north thailand).
Short version = it was awesome.
Short version +10% = it was awesome and rained a lot.
Got off the VIP bus (a raher nice aircon coach) got the shuttle to the hostel and sat around waiting for the trek guy to pick me up. Got in to a songthaew (pickup truck with an semi enclosed back with seats in it) with two americans asnd a canadian, We went to a local market where I sampled the wares at the insect stall (all were cooked)
Grasshopers = squishy, and fairly disgusting because the legs and everything are still on. A little like eating slughtly old prawns whole.
beetle = a bit soggy and tasted like mud, not reccomended
caterpillars = tasted and felt like stale cheez puffs - 30 baht a bag, a high protien trail food but not likely to catch on in the west until they come in chocolate flavour and stop being dead bugs.
We ate lunch in a small village at the end of the road (there are little restaurant shops everywhere in thailand, even on raods in the iddle of nowhere. Then while eating our slightly old (it was picked about four hours ago) pineapple for dessert the rain started. Thailand takes rain very seriously, and I was soaked through within about ten minutes because I refuse to wear a raincoat when it's thrity four degrees (being wet from water is better than being the same amount of wet from sweat).
Young bamboo is a perfect material for walking sticks, lightweght and very strong (it also makes five storey plus scaffolding if you're in the bulding trade). Me and my walking stick made it accross several flooded streams, along with the rest of the group (about thirteen of us in all, mostly a dutch family).
Switched groups after the first night because one of ur guides got sick so the two of us on the three day version no longer had a guide. he new group were a bunch of awesome people - some of whom might get this email depending on how my address book works.
It's tough to explain why walking up a steep, wet, muddy hill makes me smile, but it does. The views were pretty nice. A lot of the group said this was the most beautiful place they have ever been, but I'm from New Zealand, and did spend some time in the rockies... It's definitely in my top ten though. Reminds me a lot of some of the ranges in NZ - steep river valleys, lots of vegetation, views of more hills and rivers. But maybe I'm just homesick a little and not doing the Thai jungle justice - it really is quite a nice place, and thanks to the english bug magnet girls and liberal applications of tropical strength deet I didn't get bitten more than once or twice the entire time.
Wildlife sightings were limited to spiders and a very small snake (more of a worm with attitude really), everyting else was staying away from us - we made more noise than the elephants we rode on the third day - especally when one of the arachnophobic girls was in panic mode (yes more than one of the group had fully fledged screaming attacks whenever anything insect like was near them).
Elephant riding is a bit like riding a horse, only less comforable and more scary. I am glad I have done it, but won't do it again. They're big, patient, stubborn creatures with skin that looks and feels like hairy concrete. Oh, and can fart for about a minute and a half without stopping.
If anyone is in chiang mai - NamKohn and Lanna house both have very good guides working for them (there are about a thousand companies seling treks from at least twenty suppliers) - Chang and Louie were very informative, cheerful, and pretty awesome at cooking for thirteen people (including quite a few vegetarians) over a fire in the dark.
Tomorrow is a cooking course and a fitting for my three silk shirts and a pair of cashmere trousers. Yes, the guy who lives in cheap t-shirts and shorts is splashing out on on fancy tailormade stuff, it's cheap, and I might need to look good for job interviews in the near future. I got a little manipulated into choosing the lace I did - I was aware of the manipulation - a friendly tour guide took me round the temples, I happened to bump in to another friendly thai man in one of the temples who brought up tailoring being cheap here and gave me the recommendation, but once there, the place looked nice, was mentioned in lonely planet and actually by a traveller I spoke to on the bus, and then the very polite Indian-thai man eventually offered me a deal I am happy with (it includes a free tie, which will look nice in my cupboard if nothing else, and shiping home). Thailand is great practise for negotiating skills, and it's instructive to watch undercover salesmen at work. Maybe I'm rationalising, but whatever, as long as the shirts check out tmorrow (I got a crash course in what to look for when discusing tailoring on the trek the day before.
OK It's stopped raining, and I've got some dried durien to eat (I figure it's safer than buying one of those large smelly fruit directly) then I'm going to go have a massage, and then probably a nice Thai dinner and a bit of sight seeing at the Night Market (I need to buy another pair of trousers since I destroyed a pair along with my nearly decade old hiking boots on the trek), plus I'm sure I'l end up with another t-shirt or two, and maybe some souveniers.