04.09.2010 - 19.09.2010 27 °C
Almost a month on the road, I've officially broken the record for my longest trip/holiday ever. Where to start, we love Chiang Mai! The city is small enough to walk around, just about, there are great markets and a huge abundance of great food, the weather is a little cooler up here and if you want to get really chilly all it takes is a scoot up the nearest mountain, of which there are many. We also love scooters! Hopping on a scooter (FAO Mammy: in daylight only with a helmet and insurance) and getting out of the town and up the hills is the best experience yet and no amount of videos and photos will get that across although you.
We hooked up with a mate of Will's in Chiang Mai who is travelling with a friend and it was their idea to go to Pai, a tiny little town northeast of CM. Nice town (it reminded me a bit of Hoi An) but tiny and a total crusty hippy mecca, not our scene at all. We had one great night out in a tiny bar where we could ignore the crusty backpackers and hang out with the locals...and by hang out I mean them insisting on us trying the local booze and beating us at pool. Apparently we were there when it was extremely quiet, in a month or so it gets really busy so I can only imagine you'd find it even harder to spot a local person in town. The place is full of dreadlocked hemp clothed hippies (who like to stare a lot which was odd) either being drunk, loud and obnoxious (perfectly acceptable to drink and drive here too it seems) or droning on about travelling and trying to out do each other with their anecdotes of where they've been and where they're going....gets very boring after a while.
We did an elephant trek in Pai, something I wouldn't do again and wouldn't recommend people to do. We turned up to one of many places in Pai that do it to find these huge animals chained up. I can only hope that when all the treks are done for the day they are allowed roam about somewhere. Apparently also, I have read that elephant trekking is now so popular with us western folk that while originally it was used to give a home and a job to old logging elephants it is now leading to people poaching them from the wild (especially around the Burmese border) and putting them into these trekking services, many of which I imagine aren't cared for properly. Also they're incredibly uncomfortable creatures to be placed on top of...our arses are still recovering.
We also went fishing in Pai, in a small place run by a lovely English guy. He has a few ponds with a few thousand fish in them (so he says), including piranha. Great day out was had, I was champ for the day with my catch of two fishies which were promptly plopped back in the water. It seems like my kind of "sport", a lot of sitting around drinking and snoozing...
So we left the constant fight to resist shouting 'have a shower hippy!' at passers-by and we have escaped back to Chiang Mai arriving yesterday evening. We also left our two travelling companions who have stormed ahead into Laos on the slow boat so we're back to just the two of us. They don't have as much time as we do and are on a schedule to hit Oz on Nov.2nd, and they had us up and out early most days doing things....god forbid.
We're staying in the same guesthouse again with the best guy running it along with his niece, he's a local bloke and calls himself Sam (think it's short for Samoeng or something) but he's definitely our fixer here. He's done loads for us from organising scooters and buses, to directing us to the best meals in town and a massage place that was amazing. The massage place was set up by the old warden of the local women's prison to give women being released a job after receiving their training in prison - strong girls! The guesthouse even gave us an excellent unexpected fry up the morning we left for Pai.
Today is the 4th anniversary of the military coup that ousted the old PM Thaksin, so the place is overrun with redshirts. They're having a rally to mark the occasion this evening, with this area of the country being hardcore redshirt territory I don't feel as if there's any aggro towards them. There are a few cops about but they don't look too bothered. Everything seems to be going off ok in Bangkok so far today so I don't expect any trouble.
I think we'll stay in CM for a week at least before deciding where we're going next. It's gonna be hard to leave.