Friday, 7 June 2013

Chiang Mai to Phuket

Wow Chiang Mai seems eons away from beachy Phuket paradise (even though I like Chiang Mai better… Phuket is heavenly, especially because we’re here during the off-season, but I prefer places without tourist buses). But I promised a report about Day 3 so here we go.  On the last full day in Chiang Mai, we did another combination tour but this one was quite different than the first.  We joined two girls from Minnesota and four British guys into the back of a “Jumbo Trekkers” vehicle, held together by bungee cords with a faded peeing elephant logo on the side door.  And we were off!  Bouncing off to the middle of nowhere.  The first stop was a butterfly garden and orchid farm- butterfly gardens freak me out more than a little bit but I was brave!  And we found our adorable tourguide from yesterday Moon (see below) and she promised to get me the postcards I left in the van, which made me extra happy.
Us and Moon outside the butterfly garden- cutest tour guide ever!
Next was a visit to a small hill tribe with a lot of Tibetan and Burmese villagers, which was different.  Unlike the previous day, where we primarily traveled on highways, all of these drives were on back roads in the middle of nowhere, with just the occasional scooter or tractor.  So just bumping along was an awesome way to explore the small farms and rural areas of Chiang Mai.
Our attempt at a jumping pic by the waterfall... at least we didn't bust through the bamboo haha
The second stop was a 45-minute trek to a waterfall.  Ken and I wore flip-flops and the trek ended up being more ambitious than we realized- rock hopping, crossing streams on planks and some steep inclines but we made it!  And the waterfall was a perfect reward to cool off before the journey back.  When we returned back to the camp, a woman made us pad thai and cut up pineapple in her little shack- totally different than the previous day’s tourist feeding hole. 
The next stop was river rafting which was absolutely hilarious.  We boarded an inflatable raft with Jonny and Joe, the two hilarious British guys covered in battle wounds from their previous few days in Koh Toa.  They were so much fun and now we have a place to stay if we ever go to London!  Our guide Jim gave us a rafting briefing on how to paddle forward and backward, shifting left and right, “shake it, shake it” then we wiggled down this river that barely looked passable, laughing as our companion boat got stuck in the rocks every two minutes.  As if we weren’t wet enough with splash wars with the other boats and getting doused through the rapids, it started to pour but it was a warm rain that felt amazing.  Three-quarters the way down the river, we switched to a bamboo raft and Jonny steered us home using a bamboo stick.  Certainly not the most expedient way to travel but being able to traverse the rocky river terrain with a watercraft that awkward was a pleasant surprise.
After river rafting, the weather cleared up for elephant riding, our final activity of the day.  Ken and I got the lead elephant who loved eating bananas, especially out of the mouth of the owner, and in general, seemed to follow its stomach instead of the prescribed path.  We just hung on for dear life, perched awkwardly on a wooden plank, hoping that this elephant knew what it was doing.  And trying not to look terrified as the guide was going click-happy with my camera, capturing all of our terrified grimaces as we headed down hills.  

Riding an elephant in Thailand is checked off the bucket list!
That night Jeng, a 20 year old architecture student, couchsurfing and Chiang Mai native picked us up for a little driving tour of his city.  He spent a year studying in the Czech Republic, two in New Zealand and he was taking off on Friday for a month in Europe.  He took us to a real local hot spot, by the university, which was a corner of the town we hadn’t explored.  We had dinner and good conversation.  He said I sounded like a country song, which makes me laugh because I think Connecticut has a fairly neutral accent and I didn't even say y'all!  After eating, we tried to go to a bar for free jazz but it didn’t start for another hour and Jeng had to be somewhere later that evening so he dropped us off for packing before in preparation for the early flight to Phuket the next day.
Speaking of Phuket, I probably only have energy to write about the first day right now.  With Ken’s transfer, we didn’t get reunited in Phuket until about lunchtime.  We went to our resort in Bang tao beach (an awesome deal for $70 a night) and pretty much immediately went swimming on our private beach.  The water was so clear, 86 degrees Farenheit and we literally had the place to ourselves.  We probably would have never left, except Ken got stung by a jellyfish just in time for buy-one-get-one-free cocktails at happy hour.  So we enjoyed a drink, got caught up on e-mails and I was chatting with a couchsurfer who told us about Cape Phromthep, the best place on the island to watch the sunset.
We rented a scooter from a flirty transvestite down the road and leisurely made our way to the tip of Phuket.  We stopped for some outlooks by a fishing pier, pizza for dinner by the water and camped out to see the sunset.  The couchsurfer had a last minute work thing come up so she couldn’t make it but it was a relaxing evening anyway, complete with a Thai grocery adventure on the way home.
Well, the sun is coming out and the beach is calling.  Talk to you soon!
Supposedly the best place to watch the sun set in Phuket!