Awemaway, tastes like burning, and I’m FALLING!

The Wandering Nerd March 21st, 2008

Took the overnight train and ended up staying up waaay too late talking to the Thai staff in the dining car, and drinking entirely too much Singha. But I did learn a whole lot more Thai and when I did finally sleep it was one of the best night’s rest I’ve had in a long time.

I found a place in Chang Mai called Spicythai Backpackers, back to a proper hostel. Guesthouses are cool and all, but they got no soul, and I’m all about soul.

I’m just not feelin’ it right now though. Maybe it’s just late and I’m tired - which is true - or because I’m in detox mode for a few days - also true - but only recently have I felt like there are some things I’m missing, or perhaps just things I’m frustrated with constantly dealing with while traveling. The single serving friends get to be a drag after a bit, not too interested in getting to know someone only to have them vanish again in a day or two. Meh.

Chiang Mai has the best overall vibe of anyplace I’ve seen yet in Thailand. The beaches are great, don’t get me wrong, but up here is the type of place I could actually see myself living.

I took a cooking class while I was here, figured loving the food is a good incentive to learn how to make it, plus there was fire involved:

Then there was the 3 day jungle trek, in which ‘hot’ stops being an adjective and becomes a noun, bypassing adverbs entirely. The first night we stopped in a Karen Long Neck Hill Tribe village, the women that have all the copper rings around their neck to stretch them out. Overall we received a very lukewarm reception. I suppose they are utterly bored with a constant stream of tourists walking into their village and snapping photos.

In any event our group just sat around and played cards and talked with our guide for most of the night. The highlight being when the guide for the other crew (the two-dayers) got so drunk that, while trying to show them how to lift their legs from a seated position, he fell over backwards. Doesn’t sound too exciting, but when he was sitting on the edge of a table about 5′ off the ground it makes for a better story. There was some concern involving death or major blunt head trauma, but the other guide said he does it all the time and that was that. We were all glad to have our guide.

The next day the trek took us 4 more hours walk into the Thai jungle and deposited us at another village. This tribe doesn’t really get that many visitors due to the distance and remoteness of the place. They were well happy to see us and much enjoyment was had. We had a pig roast and sat around a fire while they danced, sang, and played music for us.

Elephant rides were on the agenda first thing in the morning, after another hour or so hiking. Cam and I got sat on the big bull of the heard. Plenty of torque, but the top end was sort of lacking. He also had his own notion of where he was going and on what schedule. The guy driving him - if you could call it that - was about the size of a 14 year old and generally just nudged the giant pachyderm occasionally but let him do what he wanted. What does a 2 ton animal do? Anything it wants. At one point he decided some foliage looked pretty tasty far up the bank of the river, so he just stood up on his back legs, put his front on the bank and reached out to grab it. Problem being, while Jumbo was enjoying the Sizzler salad bar that meant his back was perpendicular to the ground. This meant that we, the passengers were now horizontal to the ground, and about 12′ away from it. Good times.

On the way back the little Thai guy said, “Change driver!” and hopped back onto the seat with us and pushed down onto the neck. I must say a giant bull elephant doesn’t handle as well as a Ducati, nor even as well as a 1972 1/2 ton GMC pickup. I couldn’t find the clutch so I couldn’t get the damn thing out of low gear. It was fun though, just like riding a giant horse with grey leather skin, giant ears, and a trunk….okay so not much like a horse at all really…

We hit a ‘waterfall’ after that, more like some pooled water with bit of rapids rushing over some rocks. One of the guides said we could swim/body surf down one of the rapids. What he wasn’t aware of - and I became all to aware of being the first one to try (who else did you think it would be?) - was a nice big fat rock just about a foot under the water. Luckily this time it was just a bruised rib, and on the opposite side. :/

The second time through - you thought I’d give up? - I was ready for it and deftly avoided it to find an undertow that bobbed me back up quite a ways away from where I had anticipated coming up. I guess I’m over that whole drowning fear thing. Now I truly am indestructible.

Then there was white water rafting, and a slow bamboo raft ride down a river back to the pick up point. One of the bamboo raft guides and I got in a water splashing contest that culminated with a lost pair of sunnys (mine) and me tackling him into the river.

No pics from the water exploits, cameras stayed with my gear, but plenty of others:

When we got back I had a night of westernization, went out for a good burger - Mike’s Burgers are the second best hamburger I’ve ever had, the first is Fat Mo’s in Nashville - hit a movie: 10,000 BC - don’t bother, it’s kinda’ crap - and played some vidja games at an arcade: Guitar Hero and Burnout. Kinda’ helped, kinda’ didn’t. Still feelin’ a bit out of it. Having some of those moments where I’m wondering if what I’m doing and where I am are where I’m supposed to be. How about you? You doing what you’re meant to?

Tomorrow I head into Laos and will be heading back into the jungle for a while, gonna’ try to find one that goes deeper in, some sort of tour not so touristy as asinine as that sounds. I’m not sure when I’ll be back, probably a while, don’t wait up.

to what the world and everything anger to
brace yourself with the grace of ease
i know this world aint what it seems

3 Responses to “Awemaway, tastes like burning, and I’m FALLING!”

  1. Noxyon 21 Mar 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Just wanted to say we miss you. Thanks for the movie recommend, I’m waiting for Iron Man and Speed Racer m’self. So how did teh shimp soup turn out? Have you tried the Thai version of ice tea yet? I would pour out some Dew for ya, but you ain’t dead and there’s carpet in here.

    Peace in your corner of the sky.

  2. The Parentson 23 Mar 2008 at 11:09 pm

    The pics were exciting. I don’t think I would be riding an elephant though.It looks awfully big to me. I’m afraid of big horses, so I know I would be afraid.
    Glad to hear you took a cooking class, can’t wait for you to get home and do some special dish for us. We miss you. Hope you had a wonderful Easter , and you have been gone 8 months now. Love The Parents

  3. mariettaon 02 Apr 2008 at 10:40 pm

    just hang in there with the whole traveling thing–i know its hard work, but think of the rest of us, getting up every morning for work, reading your blog at our desks. you may be getting fatigued on hostels and too-brief friendships–but what about the rest of us? plus, if in your travel meh’s, you still get to do things like cooking classes and elephant rides, just remember that your not so fun days are waaay cooler than anything we’re doing back here in the homeland. now head out there, eat a few gallons of tom kah soup for me and quit your whining ;)

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