Saturday, May 30, 2009
Luang Prabang, Laos
“Don’t Worry, Be Happy”
Our busy schedule this last week and a half has not really been condusive to "blogging," as we've spent days (and nights) in the jungle trekking near Chiang Mai, ziplinging through national parks in northern Thailand, and preparing for the slow-boat journey to Laos. Now that we are on our way along the Mekong River, with 8 hours of motoring before us and a sore bum to look forward to from sitting on these wooden "pew" benches, we'll attempt to recount some of our more memorable moments from our last stint in Thailand.
Overall, Chiang Mai was a wonderful city to us, ad we did enough moving around and exploring that I'm fairly certain we could write our own guide (at least of places to stay and definitely of vegetarian places to eat!!! which were abundant throughout Chiang Mai because of the large population of practicing Buddhists). In fact, there are practically temples (wats) on every street and the arcaic image of the novice monk in a saffron robe wandering down the street is not uncommon in the least...
Anyways, of all of our experiences lately, our 3-day 2-night trek into the jungle was definitely the most laughs...On our itinerary: elephant riding, a one-night stay with the "Karen" hilltribe, waterfalls and cliff-jumping, bamboo rafting, tons of hiking through the wilderness (which we didn't know was really our thing!). We were fortunate enough to have an amazing trekking group - there were 7 of us total - and 2 hilarious Thai guides named Rambo and Nop. Nop in particular really "made" the trip, what with his constant singing of English tunes and his playful nature, which often backfired. In fact, Nop knew only 1-line of every song which may have gotten irritating if it had not been for his hilarious pronunciation of "Hey Jude" and his invention of Bob Marley lyrics "No woman, no cry - no whiskey, I die." This last part we think he meant literally as rice wine that is made by the hill tribes is practically lethal stuff! This is all in between exclamations of "Oh, my Buddha..." of course.
The first of three long days of living in the wilderness began with a scenic hike up-up-up into the lush mountains surrounding CM. In total, there are six hill tribes living near CM; while some of these hill tribes such as the "Long Necks" and "Big Ears" have continued tribal rituals for the sake of the tourists (after all, Big Ears couldn't actually be their name...and signals more of a freak show than anything else!) others have managed to continue living their lives relatively undisturbed. I supposed this can be attributed to the difficulty in reaching the village by motorized transport. Maybe this explains why Rambo was carrying all of the ingredients for our meal on top of his head this morning when we set out... The Karen village itself where we spent the night was rather small - a few wooden huts with palm frond roofs, a dizzying arrays of animals (and children) running around, and complete with an outdoor shower and squat toilet. The toilet deserves its own recognition being that it was merely a hole in the ground with two rivets to place your feet and water to wash down "the happy" as the Thai refer to you-know-what. The sleeping situation was the most shocking and hilarious...a hard mat on the floor with a mosquito net, the holes of which were patched together with band-aids. I can see the slogan right now: "good for more than human cuts and burns."
Upon returning to civilization and after a couple of showers to wash off the dirt and grime - wait, Ari was almost clean as she feel off our bamboo raft so many times! - we took the opportunity to hang-out with our trekking buddies in a normal bar setting, going on a rather improv pub crawl through CM. However, there were two things that signaled we were in Asia - first off, the abundance of old western men (like really old) with young, Thai girlfriends and secondly (and this would never happen back home)...while we were socializing with our new friends on the terrace, a young Thai rode up on his elephant, hitched him outside, and came in for drinks. And to top off that fact that there was a large elephant outside the bar seemingly free, the man had secured a beeping red light to the elephant's tail - "wide load coming through." I suppose that we used to tie horses outside saloons back in the days of the wild west but an elephant?!?! This large beast could crush a horse!
Anyways, the rain is pouring down and the crew have secured blue tarps to the side of the boat making it too dark to write at all on this slow-boat...Only another 7 hours until we reach Luang Prabang in Laos...but we love Asia! Really.
XOXO Ay and Ari