After being forced to withdraw additional Thai Baht in order to pay for my Vietnam visa I had some extra cash on hand and decided to use it to join Amy in her Thai cooking course. I'm actually not the biggest fan of Thai food, shocking I know, but after a while all the curries start to taste the same and pad thai is like one step up from ramen. That being said I knew it'd be a fun last day with Amy before we both went our separate ways and help me learn some things so I can cook for my family and friends back home. Having already done a course in Cambodia I had something to compare this course to but still wasn't sure what to expect. Amy heard great things about Sammy's Organic Farm and cooking school so we signed up for a full day of fun with them.
After spending the better part of the day riding my bike around the city, doing yoga in the park, checking out cute cafe's and sweating for every second of it, Amy and I decided to give the night market one last go. I was forced to draw out more Thai Baht than had planned (thanks Vietnam), so I decided I had some money to burn and goodies to buy. I'm not sure if you've noticed but I'm really good at adapting the stingy backpacker role, on my last few visits to the market my thoughts centered around "I don't need it, have room for it, or won't wear it" but this time I decided to give in.
Although I was perfectly content in Chiang Mai I made the decision to pack up my bags and head north to the "hippy backpacker, come for 2 days stay for a week" town of Pai. Since before I even left for my trip to SE Asia I had been hearing stories of the beautiful little town, whether it was through travel blogs, Instagram or other travelers I met the message was the same "Do not miss Pai!". There's really only one downside attached to a trip to Pai and that's in getting there; the road from Chiang Mai includes 762 winding turns along narrow mountain roads. You basically have two options, pop some motion sickness pills and tough it out on the bus or hire a motorbike and hope you don't end up like 1/4 of the people walking around Pai with cuts, scrapes, and bruises. I was back n' forth between the two options but ultimately chose the bus, I figured I'd rather puke in a bag than wipe out on the side of the road.
No trip abroad can go completely without an interesting story; the same is true whether you’re planning to be gone for one week, or one year. Something interesting is bound to happen! Laura definitely had a good story to tell thanks to our eccentric trekking guide, Chet, but clearly Thailand wanted to give her one more memory.
Having one successful day out on the scooter in Chiang Mai we decided to give it another try. After all, Laura only had one day left in the city so we didn’t want to waste it by the pool, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I did some searching the day before and discovered there’s both a cave (Muang On) and hot springs located about an hour away, in the San Kamphaeng district of Chiang Mai. Laura and I had previously considered visiting some caves near Pai so this sounded like an ideal replacement. We were smarter about breakfast this time around and chose to buy some goodies at the local market, much cheaper and faster. Armed with our snacks and obnoxiously big Thai iced coffees we were on our way.
On our second day in Chiang Mai Laura and I decided it was time to get out and do some sightseeing, but not along the normal tourist track, we wanted to take things into our own hands. Laura was brave and trusted me as her driver for her first motorbike experience. We rented a bike from our hostel (mistake since it was 50 baht cheaper down the street) and departed early(ish) for Doi Suthep. The main purpose of trekking up the hill was to see the impressive temple at the top, Wat Phra, one of the most visited sights in Chiang Mai. Songthaews will make the trip to the temple but with Laura's potential motion sickness and my hatred of anything organized we opted to do it on our own, and what a wise decision it was!
Before you get started do yourself a favor and read about my first and second days with these goons
On day three I was up early enough to catch the sun rising over the mountains directly in front of us. I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful and peaceful morning and spent it doing yoga and daydreaming about this crazy life I've acquired. Laura was up soon after me and we sat drinking coffee (if you can call 3 in 1 mixes coffee) and talking. Chet came out with his gigantic smile and cheerful “goooooood morning” which was soon followed by another round of eggs, toast and candy spread.” Before leaving for our hike back to civilization we took a small walk through the village to get more of an idea as to what life is like here. Chet explained we should have done more of this the night before, but due to the rain and our tiredness, we didn’t get the chance. I met one man who spoke decent English and upon hearing I was from Milwaukee responded “oh famous basketball – the Bucks!” which of course left me laughing, I'm not sure I'd call them famous.
Continuation from Part 1 of my Jumbo Trekking Adventure:
Everyone was skeptical as to how well we would sleep, sharing one LARGE room with elephants, roosters, dogs and other wildlife as our neighbors. After a few months of travel I thought the conditions were fairly ideal, I had a bed, pillow, door that closed and most importantly (for me) it was nice and dark. I guess the other thing that helps is that I always come prepared for the elements of travel sleeping, my eye mask and ear plugs close at hand. I’m not sure who came up with the idea that roosters crow when the sun comes up because it’s not true, those retarded animals crow whenever the hell they want and 3am seems to be their favorite time. The earplugs were definitely used and I slipped my eye mask on as well when the skies began to lighten. I eventually gave up on sleep when the elephants started screaming (I’m not exactly sure how to describe it but it was loud)! Laura and I immediately broke into laughter but it appeared the rest of our roommates were unmoved by the noise.
I'm not sure what I may have done in this or a past life but somehow I have acquired the best luck when finding trekking tour guides. There was my first trek in Australia where the tour guides idea of "soon" were much much different than mine, not to mention getting lost and almost missing the bus home. Then there was the eight, turned 13 hour trek in Taiwan, although that one had bright turn of events. And now, my adventures continue in Northern Thailand; one more trek, another great story and one quirky guide I'll never forget.
High on the tourist track for a reason, home of good food (mostly) happy people, rich history and culture. Thailand as many tourist soon learn is just easy. Easy to visit, easy to get around and even easier to stay.