Dates: 4-12 November 2013
DAY 1: “One Night in Bangkok” (4th Nov)
We landed around lunchtime and took the airport train to Makkasan, walked to Phetchaburi to get another train to Si Lom where we thought we could walk the rest of the way to our hotel… Ha! A lovely Thai couple took pity on 2 red-faced dishevelled looking girls who were doing a very convincing impression of the Hunchback of Notre Dame and were insistant on hailing us a taxi. To ease us into life on the road, we treated ourselves to a 4* hotel which even came with a free upgrade. Get in! Spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool, contemplating how we were going to lighten our backpacks and get up to Chiang Mai tomorrow. Thanks for looking into that for us La, you’re a legend. Enjoyed a delicious dinner and Singha at Tum Thai Food off of Charoan Krung Rd followed by a 1 hour Thai massage (bargain price of £6, “cheap cheap”). About to have a stress free horizontal sleep now so over and out!
Today’s little laughs and lessons learnt…
1) Backpacks are NOT for sissies! These things are heavy and when friends advised we halve what we thought we needed, we should have listened. Screw you hindsight. 2) Don’t attempt to go on your haunches or sit on the floor with said heavy backpack ON… You WILL end up like a beetle stuck on it’s back with legs flailing in air. 3) Sarah, commenting on backpack contents: “Let’s get ruthless with our stuff! Who needs an iPad?!” 4) Sarah, frantically searching in backpack: “I think I lost my Guardian Angel pendant. Do you think that’s a sign?”
DAY 2: “VIP Bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai” (5th Nov)
Leaving the comforts of Silom Centre Point was hard as we knew what lay ahead was far from 4 star. After a torturously slow taxi ride to the bus station we met our fellow North-bound travellers. An interesting mix of your stereotypical English backpackers, your professional dreadlocked-hippy folk and a strange German named Dennis. We intended to take the sleeper train up to CM but they were not running due to “engineering works” on the line and the bus was the quickest option, or so we thought. We boarded our “VIP” bus which was actually a lot more comfortable than we’d expected, to the only 2 seats left thinking we’d hit the jackpot as they were right by the stairs with no one in front of us allowing for ample leg room. We soon discovered that these 2 seats were the last available for a reason…. they were right above the toilet which let us tell you, after an 11 hour bus ride can get pretty smelly. Anyway, we settled in for the night after a few episodes of White Collar (thanks Charms!) – looking forward to sweet dreams of Matt Bomer. Unfortunately that didn’t happen as we got woken up an hour later for dinner which we didn’t even have. We then hit the road again hoping to wake up in CM without incident and all was going swimmingly until we came to a screeching halt, pulled over to the side of the road, and sat there for 1.5 hours wondering what the hell was going on. Eventually the poor travellers from one of the other buses in our fleet (?) which had blown a tyre had to squeeze onto our bus for the last leg of the journey. So all in all we were the lucky ones to have had a seat for the entire 14 hour journey albeit a smelly one.
DAY 3: “Thailandwow” (6th Nov)
Arriving to chaos in CM we loaded our 2 ton backpacks onto our backs and set about finding our way to our hostel which was quite a task after a night of no sleep and neither of us speaking Thai. Standing around looking lost seems to work though as an old man in a red taxi kindly took us to our hostel for what we thought was the bargain price of 100 Baht (£2). We were greeted by Khai and were happy that the TripAdvisor reviews of Thailandwow Guesthouse were not fictitious and it did become our home for the next 3 days. After catching up on some sleep we hit the Night Bazaar that evening and had great fun looking at all the really cheap stuff we couldn’t buy for fear of increasing the weight of our 2 ton backpacks.
DAY 4: “Day-trekking” (7th Nov)
Having heard that the things to do in CM were trekking, elephants and bamboo rafting we decided to kill 3 birds with 1 trip and book a day tour which covered all of these. An early start introduced us to Leo (Argentinean), Lucas (Taiwanese), Edith and Nicole (German Mother and Daughter), Alex and Olga (Spanish couple) who were our new friends for the day. After whizzing through the Orchid and Butterfly farm (tourist trap!) we stopped and met some Hillside village people (who have satellite dishes on their huts by the way) and then made it to the “Panda” Elephant Sanctuary. On arrival we met Josh, a naughty monkey (see photo below) and Marie, our ellie. Marie took us, with her mahout, on a lovely walk, posed for a couple photo’s and ate probably the weight of our backpacks in foliage on our 1 hour walk. Our next stop was the river for the traditional bamboo rafting which was a wonderful experience floating down the Maetang river, which was stunningly beautiful. Then the fun really started, we had to trek to a waterfall. Those of you who know Tam well will understand that this is definitely not her idea of great fun but we made it there without any tears, sjoe! We got back to Thailandwow to a bit of a party so made a plan to paint the town red with our new hostel friends after a shower. We lined our stomachs at the Food Market and then hit Reggae Bar where a Thai version of Bob Marley (dreads and all) belted out all the hits. The rest of our time in CM was spent chilling, went back to the night market to torture ourselves once again before making our way to Pai on Saturday.
DAYS 6-9: “The Life of Pai” (9-12th Nov)
Pia was described to us as a quiet hippy village and this is exactly what it was. We arrived on Saturday afternoon to a beautiful little town nestled in the hills. How apt then that our hostel “mama” was an eccentric Thai lady who goes by the name of “Darling”. We need to dedicate some more time to Darling…married to a German man, Darling is all things…the cook, the match maker (every new guest gets introduced to all the other ‘darlings’ of the opposite sex!!) and the entertainment, on some occasions she seemed more hammered/high than most of the guests – quite a feat if any of you are familiar with hostel life. Words can’t really describe this crazy chick so be sure to ask us more when we next meet.
Ok, back to the actual hostel… Darling Viewpoint was on the hill above the town which offered one of the best views of the Thailand sunset. It also, offered some of the best parties. All the socialising centred around a campfire which was laid and set every night. Here is where some of our strongest friendships thus far have been cemented. Three travellers that we met in Chiang Mai were staying with us at Darling Viewpoint and the 5 of us had a whale of a time. Caro, our Belgian friend, Joel, an English guy and Anna, an American from Washington DC. After chilling in the pool with some Changs, listening to Ben Howard, we set ourselves up around the campfire and met 2 guys and a girl travelling together (Chris, Corey and Charly)… our group expanding… how popular we are! After a few more Changs and the music migrating from Ben Howard to something a little more upbeat we decided to hit the town. Ended up at a place called Sunset Bar which is honestly one of the coolest places we’ve ever been. Played a few rounds of pool, had a few more Changs (you get the point) and even made friends with the bar puppies.
Every day seemed to be paradise in Pai so with another perfect day ahead of us we decided to partake in some tubing down Pai River. A group of 13 of us hit the water with our tubes for what we thought would be a relaxing float down the river. This unfortunately was not the case. The river was not that deep which caused issues for our derrières. Our fellow “floaters” ahead would scream “lift” and we’d all have to lift our bums out of the tubes to avoid a painful fate. There were also a few obstacles en route namely, bridges, chairs, trees… you get the picture. This was quite unfortunate for Tam as she did not have a bamboo pole to steer herself and Sarah being the good friend that she is would try in vain to help as she floated past, usually with little success. Luckily Joel saved the day on numerous occasions otherwise Tam would probably still be stuck under some bridge.
That night we were lucky enough to experience a traditional festival celebrating the anniversary of the building of the town’s Temple. This involved heading up to the Temple with all the locals carrying their lanterns and offerings, drums and bells. We managed to get some local food at the top and even a few beers, of course! (Photo below is of Joel/JJ as we’ve nicknamed him and the infamous Darling)