August 20th, 2006

Day 27: Actual trekking in Chiang Mai

We were woken up early by the incessant crowing of the fowl in the village and were treated to an American breakfast of hard-boiled eggs and toast before heading out for the day at eight am.

Today was the polar opposite of yesterday. We didn’t see any motor vehicles until the very end of the day. We first walked about an hour to an elephant camp where we boarded a pack of elephants and traveled with them for about an hour. There was an 8-month old elephant with the group as well and he walked along with us having fun in the rivers we crossed. states that an elephant ride is about three nanoseconds of fun. I would extend that to about 15 minutes, but after a while you realize, “Hey, I’m just on the back of an elephant.” One thing that was a little sad was that the trainers that were walking with the elephants were constantly prodding and urging the beasts on with yells of “hua hua,” and sometimes they would pinch their ears and yank them to move them. Some of the seats we were in had long chains connected to them and as we saw the elephants dragging the chains along I couldn’t help but think of the chains slaves being dragged along by their angry masters for the pleasure of the happy foreigners.

It wasn’t that bad, though, and the elephants were playful when we left them to go on our way. The next part of the trip was long and the terrain was rough and steep. We took a few breaks and some of us struggled to keep up with our fast-paced guide. Our pay-off was sweet, though. After about two hours on the road we arrived at a nice waterfall and pool. We all stripped to our bathing suits and jumped in to bathe and play for a while before lunch. This was, by far, the best part of the trip for most of us. Tired and sweaty, going into the pool and bathing under the stream of white water was fantastic.

After lunch at a small camp where, no doubt, the 3-day trekkers would be staying the night, we headed off again for another hour and a half to a small river where we would be bamboo rafting. This consisted of large bamboo shafts bound together to make rafts fit for about four to five people. Mateo and I boarded a raft with the Buddhist Swedes and a Burmese guide and headed off the extremely shallow and slow-moving river. We were on it for about 45 minutes when we got to an actual rapid part of the river with a little drop. Instead of going down it like other rafts, our guide stopped our raft and insisted that we get off and walk as he took the raft down the simple rapid. We thought this absurd and sat there urging him to go on the rapid for a full five minutes before finally getting off the raft and letting him go it alone, save one of the Swedes. This really pissed me off. The only part of the trip that would give a little excitement and we were made to walk around it. Afterwards the man, who has said all of two sentences to us the entire hour, had the tenacity to ask us for a tip.

I was a bit miffed but got over it pretty quickly as we climbed on to the pickup and headed on back to Chiang Mai. The guides took pictures of our raft, Disneyland style, and had them ready in cheesy frames at the end of the trip, but I didn’t want to pay 100 baht for an awkward memory at best. I had a good time with the Swedes, though.

All in all, despite the very last bit, I had a great time. The people we were with were really great and we all clicked together to have fun on our short trip. We said our goodbyes and exchanged email addresses and went our separate ways.

After we got back to the hostel we checked in and headed off to the night bazaar again. I had a mission in mind. There has been a Thai pop song that has been playing on the radio a lot recently that I really like. I was bound and determined to buy the CD at the market. I went to three different CD shops and sucked up my embarrassment and hummed/sang the tune for the employees who, each time, could hardly hold in their laughter.

The first place gave me a band name, but it turned out to be wrong. They stated that they didn’t have the CD after trying for about ten minutes and sent me on my way. A while later, after Mateo bought a totally way-awesome LED headlamp for reading, I went to another CD store that couldn’t identify the song I was humming at all. Finally, right before we were about to leave the market I tried one last CD shop. The attendant called her friend over and they listened to me hum/sing the song two or three times before it clicked in the friend’s head. She started singing the song with the lyrics. They didn’t have that exact CD, but the girl wrote down the name of the song in Thai and told me that the second shop I went to would have the CD I was looking for, by the band “am fine.” A went back and it was a success!

Having succeeded in my mission for the trip, we headed back for the night and prepped ourselves for a full day’s trip back to Bangkok tomorrow.

Until then, take care.

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