Saturday, February 21, 2009

Up North!

We arrived in Northern Thailand by plane on Monday. (saved SEVERAL hours by doing plane vs. bus - our hour flight only cost about $45 per person!) The city of Chiang Mai (second largest in Thailand) is a vast difference (a pleasant one) from the bustling mayhem of Bangkok. This city is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayans not far from Burma and peppered with neighboring mountain villages. At the airport we were greeted by a 70 year old man holding a sign with our names on it ready to take us to our hostel via "tuk tuk"/a 3 wheeled motorbike vehicle. It was too perfect. We landed at the Libra Guest House (awesome recco from Brooke & Tydemans) with plenty of time to meet the family who owned the place and head out to explore the "Old City" (or the area INSIDE the 1.5 km of the city that we were staying in inside the square shaped MOAT that surrounds the entire town.) The day was spent exploring amazing "wats"/temples, and the evening shopping, watching live entertainment, drinks at dinner at the town's massive Night Bazaar.
We spent our second day in Chiang Mai attending the "Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School" owned and run by a famous Thai chef (think Bobby Flay of Thailand - this guy has his own TV show and everything!). The class started with a trip to the market to learn about the ingredients unique to Thai cooking, followed by open air classes and cooking of six different courses. Learn, cook, eat... learn, cook, eat. Eating left time for socializing with the other students - met some great ladies from both Australia and another from the Netherlands. (Everyone's first guess here seems to think we much younger, and Australian - as it's just a 4 hour flight from there.) Enjoyed the evening over a few "Changs" (one of the local brews) in the hostel courtyard as we planned our island travel followed by a visit to city Rooftop Bar (a cool bohemian bar where you sit on the floor at low tables). Days 4 & 5 - our overnight Jungle Trek!

Our group for the trek was amazing (these people made this adventure even more spectacular than it would've been) - 3 English, 3 Americans, 3 Germans and 1 Greek, all between 20 and 30 and up for a great time. Hilarious, fun people that were warm and welcoming and just amusing to be around. Email addresses and Facebook info was exchanged - neat group!

The first day started with a trip to the market to grab food for the trek, followed by a visit the most amazing waterfall dunk (Brett was brave enough to go in for a dip, it was early and I was cold - I know, cold in Thailand where it's been 90 degrees and perfect - but I was), then a visit to the hot springs (of course I was all about that) before our 4 1/2 mile hike through the jungle visiting various hillside villages (cutest little children and most amazing lifestyle - they live in huts and live off the land - yet they have small solar panels near their roofs to allow for night light.) The end of the hike left us in our final village where we were able to bath in the river, eat some great pad thai and sit around the fire for singing, exchange of travel stories, and beers - Toto, the guide, warned of a "Changover". We managed a couple hours of sleep despite the spiders Brett found nesting above our heads and the roosters that started up around 2am.

We woke a bit sore, but our work was done, time to play! As we head to the river to brush teeth and wake up we saw elephants drinking in the river, and our bamboo rafts being constructed for a mid-day float. After breakfast we hopped on our elephant for a two hour tour through the river and jungle. These animals are amazing. Our group rode on a family of 5 Thai Indian Elephants elephants, ranging from 8-43 years old. Next was bamboo rafting. The boys were in charge of steering via bamboo sticks while the ladies were there to relax... or so we thought until the water picked up and we were not so much floating but instead heading through rapids. Our guide had a bit of trouble keeping us out of the rocks and we hit one head on causing Katie and I to be thrown from the raft, hit against a rock (Toto said I got a "free souvenir" aka multiple cuts and welts to the knee. :) ) We managed to stay afloat the bamboo rafts for a couple hours 'til lunch then hopped in white water rafts and navigated through some very technical and adrenaline inducing rapids.

At last we made it back to the guest house with the ambitious plan to shower up and head out to a Thai boxing match... until the plan was interrupted when I lost my lunch. :( I'll spare the details but it got ugly, and worse before it got better. This is the Thai sickness that I was warned about. Dr. Brett was great and ran out to find the closest thing he could to "sprite and saltines" and the guest house even upgraded us to a room with a t.v. so we could relax in comfort while I fought the bug just in time to head out the next a.m. for our flight to the southern island of Phuket!
Thanks to everyone for your notes - we are having an incredible adventure. We could not have picked a better couple weeks to visit Thailand - the weather is AMAZING, and yet it's not too crowded. The people here are gracious and charming... yes they are after your money and trying to squeeze an extra buck where they can but they are not threatening and your money truly feels like the only thing they are after, not safety, etc. Everything is different here - the language the letters/characters, the food (yum!), laws (there are none), lifestyle, bathrooms (THANK YOU Brooke for teaching me how these work before I left) etc. and that is what has made this so incredible!

One more week - and all to bask in the sun down on the islands!

Hope this note finds you all well!


Jim Warren said...

thank you -- thank you for the wonderful detailed and fun update! It just sounds perfect -- except for the lost lunch part. We love you and are think about you!

Brooke Schlameus said...

Yay! So happy to hear from you guys! Bummer you got sick. I did as well and funny it was actually the night we went to the Mui Thai match (but on the way back to the guest house). So glad you enjoyed the trek--it was definitely one of my highlights too. Enjoy basking on the beautiful beaches. I think you're on Ko Phi Phi now. LOVED it--go to the fire show! Miss you both!

brian said...

Awesome update guys! Thanks so much for keeping us in the loop. With pictures, yay!

The Hunter Family said...

Love hearing about your trip on the blog! Sounds like you guys are having an amazing time.

Our Lives In A Nutshell said...

Sounds like you are having an amazing time. So glad you made a post! I've been dying to see what you've been up to over there!

Steph Tydeman said...

yea! I am so glad you stayed at the Libra guest house. This is making me crave to be there with you guys. Continue to have fun and I can't wait to hear about what you think about the islands. Travel safe... Max gives you both a big hug:))

Stephanie Allen said...

Your trip looks so fun! Thanks for updating the blog with fun pics...I can live vicariously through you two. Much love, Stephery