The morning came too early after our karaoke evening at Loco Elvis. We had breakfast next to our hostel and then checked out and were ready for Piroon to pick us up.
He came with one of these tuktuks with benches in the back. Christina and Robert from Cologne were already seated with their backpack to their feet. On the half hour drive to the market we had some time to get to know each other a little. They are actually on their honeymoon here…Well, well, this was not exactly going to be a 4 star quality time trip. But they will go to Koh Phanghan for a week after this to relax and get the real honeymoon deal 🙂
We stopped at a market, where we could buy flashlights or spray against mosquitos and leeches and Piroon bought some food for the trip. This was the first “more” Thai and less touristy market we got to see. To me, it was disgusting. Fish were flopping around on tables, waiting for their death (at least you know they are fresh…), meat was fanned by circulating washrags, there were insects you could eat, lively insects on the meat and fish and just a weird smell to all of it.
At least, we had a very funny driver who always had something to laugh about, so being back at the tuktuk was quite entertaining. They drove us to a parking lot, where we changed into our bathing suits. Unfortunately, there was no waterfall in the jungle, so we started with the waterfall. It was a 5 min walk from the car and already on this short way, Piroon told us many facts about the nature. In these three days, I learned a lot about banana trees, teak, orchids (best time to see them is at the end of March or beginning of April), the big bamboo grows 5cm (or was it 15?) a day until it reaches its full height. Everything Piroon told us was very interesting and moreover, it was directly there to touch. Like we were on a field trip and attended forest school J
We enjoyed the cold water pool below the waterfall for a while. The current where the waterfall hit was very strong because the water fell at least 30m.
After the waterfall, we went on another ride with the tuktuk, up steep hills and around many curves. We were on the road to Pai and Piroon told us that there are more than 1000 curves until Pai. However, we stopped after a few to have lunch at some hut/restaurant place. Already here the lunch was good and they put a lot of fruit (pineapple and watermelon) on the table for us. And there was even enough food for Moritz, who can eat for three people. They even made a special dish for him but it was so spicy (for Thais probably a hint of chilly) that non of us could eat it.
Then, our energy was refilled and we were off on another 40min drive up very steep roads. I wonder how the tuktuk made it because we saw some vans breaking down and a postauto probably wouldn’t have fit on the road. But we made it and so we reached the point where our walk started. Piroon had given us some small backpacks to take on the hike but mine unfortunately already ripped and after he tried to fix it twice, he just gave me his good backpack and took my ripped one instead.
He quickly cut us some bamboo walking sticks with his machete (we badly needed them on the slippery ways!) and finally, we were ready to go.
For 4 hours we walked along paths through green plants and trees, tried to escape the leeches (we always spotted them soon enough :)), jumped or balanced over small rivers, learned how to blow bubbles out of leaves, picked up all the weird looking animals (we were like kindergardeners) and lit a tree on fire. The mountain tribes use these trees to start their fires or the resin as wax because it burned really well. Of course, we also put it out afterwards. No forest fire because of us. But it started to rain anyways. Piroon’s walking tempo was rather fast. I would have liked to stop and stare a bit more and it was also quite exhausting to stomp up the hills and then slither down again.
So, I was glad, when we finally reached the village where we would spend the night. But before we reached our hut, Piroon wanted to show us how the people made rice and so we also made a short tour through a rice field. All the pigs in the village where so cute and the dogs were much prettier up there (a mix of a dog and wolf). I also saw a woman killing and taking out a chicken in front of my eyes. Still eat meat…
Like in almost every house in Thailand, we had to take our shoes off at the entrance (this time it really made sense, they were so dirty). We all slept in the same room on thin matrasses with mosquito nets. Piroon first had to show us amateurs how this works.
Then, I had another one of the most amazing showers of my life. It was in a cabin without a roof. An openair shower in the middle of the jungle, how cool is that? And who needs warm water anyways. There was another shower in the toilet hut but outdoor was way more fun.
It was amazing how Piroon created a several dish meal for us with just a wok. While he was cooking, we could also try some of the banana whiskey the village people were making. Piroon told us it was supposed to raise the virility of men. Did I mention that we all had to sleep in the same room? So, no proofing that declaration that night.
Dinner was absolutely delicious but Piroon never believed us because we had no other options to go eat. But it really was great!! And we got more and more courageous to use the spices with every meal.
After dinner, a man from the village played a few games with us where we had to move tooth picks around but everyone was so tired that we went pretty much straight to bed. I don’t remember the last time I had my head on the pillow by 9.30pm. The jungle was extremely loud (water, crickets, cicadas) but I didn’t have any troubles falling asleep. I only woke when someone had to go to the bathroom and pointed their flashlight into our mosquito net and then again, when Piroon told us to come have breakfast.
There were so many jungle noises during the night that I never even noticed a bamboo wood that was filling with water and then flapping to the ground every few seconds to keep the animals away from the rice fields.
We had an amazing breakfast (banana spring rolls with honey from wild bees, scrambled egg, toast with marmalade and coffee or tea). Piroon extra organized fresh Thai tea leaves for me and he even cooked tea with them. However, it tasted above all like the smoke from the stove, so I’ll have to try at home again. The people there were so nice to give me a bag as a gift 🙂
It rained a little when we finally started walking but soon stopped and was beautiful and hot for the day.
Today, Myri and Piroon were collecting mushrooms on their way and we found some very hairy caterpillars. We were all relieved when we reached the river and saw that a man who might have been waiting for us with rafts was still waiting there. It was our luck that he was transporting bamboo sticks for rafts on exactly the day we were passing by that river section, so Piroon arranged for him to maybe pick us up for the last bit. We were very tired by then and were glad we didn’t have to walk the last hour.
Piroon and the man finished the raft (they really just tied bamboo sticks together and it floated!) and we put our bags on the holder (they also built that one).
Since Robert is such a tall guy he and the other man had a raft to themselves and the 6 of us took the other one. The half an hour rafting was very exciting because we were all standing behind each other on a bamboo raft and Moritz and Piroon were steering. Tomorrow would be even more exciting since this was only the “tour for babies” and tomorrow would be the real action. I was happy that we would get to raft twice instead of just once :).
We floated to a riverbank and already saw two elephants flapping their ears. I LOVE ELEPHANTS!!! And there they were standing, not behind a fence or anything, just in the nature…We first had lunch and had fun observing the cute puppies and afterwards we could watch how the elephants devoured whole tree (that one Thai man carried to them (young, topless, tanned, if you get the picture…)).
The elephants seemed to take a lot of pleasure out of the tree. They anyways seemed very happy over all. And then one of the highlights of my life so far followed…3pm was bathing time for the elephants and I was allowed to go in the river with them and help wash them and then I could even climb on the neck of one and ride back to the “people loading station”. When he first stood up it felt like it was really high but it actually was just amazing and a lot of fun! I want to go work at the circus KNIE now, I’m pretty sure I’m the born elephant woman 🙂
Then, the Mahoons put the seats on the elephants and Myri sat on the neck of one elephant with Moritz and Hedi on the seat and Robert on the neck of the other elephant and Christine and I on the chair. The elephants pretty much walked the way on their own, while Piroon shipped our bags along on the raft and one Mahoon accompanied us on the elephants. The elephants would always stop when they got too far from their master and just wait for his command. It was really majestic seeing the jungle from the back of an elephant and just wonderful how these gentle big animals seemed to live in harmony with the Mahoons.
After a while, Robert and I switched places. I felt more secure directly on the elephant and also, my legs were falling asleep on this hard wooden bench. He was glad to sit on a more even ground again 🙂 Win-Win situation 🙂
I was sad when we reached the station to get off and had to say goodbye to the elephants. We got on the raft again and floated the last 10min to the next village. This time, we stayed in an even more village like hut. That means, that the toilet was just a hole and about the rest, I will tell you now.
Our matrasses were in one big room again, all next to each other. There was a huge spider near the door and many more smaller spiders inside the room. Brr, I just didn’t want to think about it so I went to take a shower when it was my turn. The shower hut had a roof today, but on the other hand, many gaps. These gaps were widely used by the house animals. For example, there was one water buffalo who practically stuck his tongue into the room the whole time I was in there and below the floor I saw a pig and a rooster pass by and the rooster really turned his head to look inside.
Before dinner, we played some card games. Dinner was delicious again (seriously, Piroon!). Sometime after dinner, I went inside the room to get some insect spray. When I started looking for the spray I noticed a weird clicking noise. I pointed the flashlight into the direction of the noise and what did you think I saw? A bat was hanging in our room, cleaning its wings or whatever! I’ve never seen a bat so up close and awake! I wanted to take a picture but it flew away while I took the camera out of the backpack. But great…another thing that might pass my way in case I had to go to the bathroom at night. Which was likely to happen because I need to drink so much water with these temperatures.
Later, we all assembled around a fire on the terrace and Piroon played the guitar for us (so many talents in one guide) and sang a few songs. The atmosphere was wonderful and it would have been the perfect timing to be there with a boyfriend.
At some point, we were all tired and got ready for bed. When I came back from the bathroom, all the pigs were sleeping in one row, from biggest to smallest. So cute!
We all fell asleep instantly but of course at some point my bladder woke me up again. Usually, it’s not interesting to mention trips to the bathroom but there, I was terrified to go! Everyone was asleep and there was no light what so ever. I pulled all my courage together, grabbed my small flashlight and pointed it in every direction to check if I already saw any spiders or bats (good luck without my glasses…). I climbed out of the mosquito net, opened the door, already shaking, didn’t see the big spider on its old place anymore, went to the gate and was terrified while opening it because there were still some stray dogs running around and they weren’t supposed to go inside. So, I closed the gate (for that I had to turn my back to the jungle) and finally, I went down the stairs. I pointed my flashlight into the direction of where the pigs were sleeping before. They weren’t anymore but now were just as afraid of me as I was of them. I sent them running around squeaking, and was anxious that one might run me over (I didn’t see anything but the small dot of my flashlight). I made it to the toilet hut, checked for spiders and worms but didn’t see any. When I came back out of the hut, I looked right into the eyes of a small cat and then, somehow and very quickly I made it back to my “bed”. I needed at least 30min until my heart started beating its normal pace again. Phew, I survived but I really prefer electrical light and no animals.
The day started with bright sunshine again. We had slept until 9 because Piroon was kind enough not to wake us, then had an amazing breakfast again and eventually got back on the rafts. Today, we were all on the same raft and the three men were steering. There was not a lot of water in the river for rainy season. The water surface was so low that we gritted over rocks several times. There were quite a few stronger currents and it was an adventure to do this all standing. We finally reached the landing where our driver would pick us up. Balance of the ride: one break for reparation, lost sunglasses and several small cuts on knees and legs.
Therefore, we could use a reinforcing lunch with Pad Thai and more fruit and then we started a long 2 hour ride over very bumpy roads back to civilization.
We first dropped off Christine and Robert at their hostel and then continued to the hostel Piroon’s wife organized for us. We could stay in a double room for 350 Bht instead of 500 Bht. Heaven to have a real bed and a private bathroom and electricity!!!
For dinner, we met up with our two friends from Cologne at Loco Elvis. The Mexican food there is really good and their slogan: “Come for the food, stay for the fun”, is true. We stayed until after midnight and sang karaoke song after karaoke song.
That was a long entry. Hope you enjoyed reading it. I had a blast during the last days and it was good to overcome some of my fears regarding all kinds of insects:)
If you ever come to Chiang Mai and are up for an adventure; book a tour with Piroon! http://www.chiangmai-trekking.com/ You just should be able to walk about 4 hours a day in a hot, wet climate. Sneakers are ok, just wear long socks to put your pants in or protect yourself against leeches. A rain jacket is useful too.