Monday, February 26, 2007

Chiang Mai, hill tribes and a language of grunts!

Tropical diseases can strike at any moment, dengue fever can riddle you completely with illness and malaria can be devastating. But what does old bengy get?? A bloody runny nose and a cough!!! Bloody typical if you ask me, get to a hot country and suddely the British cold hits you.
So now let me take you on a journey through time and space, to see events amazing and strange. Welcome to the adventures of a lone traveller, the oddities which await may chill the blood and send shivers up your spine, so dear treader prepare yourself for the worst!
I left the hunity of Bnagkok aftre Ally had departed for Australia the next day. Sitting on a bus all the way through the night to Chiang Mai, the northern capital. Sods law sat me directly behind an old bearded Danish man waering nothing but flowing white robes and in his lap there was an Indian man curled up resting his head. I could see this reflected in the windows, scary stuff eh!!!!
Chiang mai turned out to be a jem of a little city, no hecklers greet you apart from the occasional 'tuk-tuk' shout. The tempeture was feirce by day but cool and almost Vritish by night, where a jumper comes out of my bag for the first time I left England.
Chiang Mai has been invaded a few times in the past by the Burmese so the inner city is moated and walled. It also contains some of the most beautiful and striking temples, stupas, Wats and moneteries I have seen so far in Thailand. Wat chedi leuang was a strikingly tall temple that was half crumbling but still majestic. I walked around and low and behold there was a sign saying 'monk chat'!! This monk chat bascially encourages you to help the monks with their English while learning about Buddhism and asking them about their orange lifestyle, they are really smily chaps. When yoiu pass a monk in the street you alwasy bow and make tyhe Buiddha symbol, but some western traveller forget and get frowned upon by the locals!!!
I take in the wats and temples like a rag soaks up water. To me they are fantastically spectacular and I cant get enough of them. I wonder in a daze and a little old lady got me to light a candle for the day I was born.
My first evening in Chiang mai I went to a hostel called Nice place and there I boked myself onto a hill tribes 3 day trekking tour, leaving in the morning. At the hostelk I met the others whom I would be trekking with. All were either British, Canadian or Austria. The latter we got to repeat lines from the terminator, like 'I want your clothes your boots and your motorcycle'.
We all decided to go for some food togheter and had a spot of dinner by the river, wacthing Chinese lanterns decend into the sky. Then we checked out the Chiang Mai famous night bazaar!! This place was huge although it did repeat itself. With the stalls selling the same things over and over again. But we did get there at closing times so it was like an episode of bargain hunt with all the prices dropping all the time. Then who should wealk along the isile in all white robes looking like gandalf with his man in tow, yes you have guessed it the bearded Dane!!!
The next day the fun began!!!!!!!!
The trek would leave early and we all loaded up this shittly little van and drove through the hills complete with their controlled fires, although to me they looked anything but controlled. The roads bent and curved in awkward ways and some of the ledges looked down on perilously deep drops that seemed to go on forever in some sort of blaze and smoke filled fantasy.
We arrived in a village way up and this is when I first discovered the eniptitude of our guiodes. I asked what the village name was and they juts say 'village' or give you some stupid story about muay thai boxing. As soon as we pulled up at the village and jumped off the roof from where we had sat the journey these little children appeared from nowhere at all and jumped on us. They started to put bands on your wrists and if you wewre not looking you would have about 8 on your arm before you could say stop!!!! Then they demanded money.
This is where we met our guides, the self styled Crazyman and indeed he was, he was the only non bald man I have ever sen with a Bobby Charltonesque combover, why? Then there was a guide who called himself Beckham, obviously I refused to call him that and he henceforth became known as 'Dave'. He was a shady charecter whom I instantly had a distrust for and was later proved right as he got drunk and burnt my playing cards in the fire!
Then there was the man with no name, a deaf guide whom having no sign language training or any comprehension of any known language or dialect spoke to us in grunts and wild gesticulation. He was too over bearing and would be jumping out at you and throwing food at you and always stopping to try and shoot birds with his catapult. After 3 days of loud grunts and wild eyed craziness I was ready to throttle the little smelly bugger!
The first day we set off up hills and through vast areas of scorched blackness, as the evening came we settled at a small villlage called Lehu or Laso, the guides when asked a question would never answer. Then out of no where Crazyman wold appear in his MC Hammer trousers and get the entire village to dance for us. He shouted 'do you want to see the village people dance'. What folowed was a spectacle of randomness, people dancing in this tiny shack that rumbled under the weight of 20 feet andthen it was our turn. ASfter that a strange game started where the locals wold chgarcoal their hands up and chase babies to muck up their faces!!!!!
Just when I thought it coldnt get any more surreal with the crazyman playing the guitar, same tune ater tune for hours. Then out of knowhere out came the Opium pipes and we were encouraged to have a wee dabble, of course needless to say there was little encouraging needed!!
These where the nomadic Thai hill tribes people whom originate from Tibet, so there appearance and attire is vastly different from that of city or town dwelling Thais. They wear these massive MC hammer trousers, billowing out at every step and for a man to piss in one he juts rolls up the floppy leg and dribbles it everywhere, this I saw many times and it never ceased to amuse me one iota!
The next mornign in the blazig sun we played a football match againts the locals on a hard earth and stony pitch using sticks and rocks for goalposts. I was through on goal and out of nowhere a load of bloody potbellied pigs came on the pitch and I trod on a wee little one, next thing the Mother was bloody chasing me. Children ran everywhere and the game had many pitch invasions by little naked kids running upo to us trying to tie wristbands on to us again. No one cold actually calculate the score by the end of the game, we were all bruised and battered and looked a complete mess, with no running water we trekked on smelling of Roses into the hills for a few hours.
We encountered many tiny hamlets with just a toothless old waoman as its only inhabitant, then we trekked through the opium fields and along up, up, up til our faces dripped with sweat in the unimaginable humity. Allthe while the sun penatrated the canopy above us and a massive arch of light would lite up glades and amaizing, almost grotto like wooded areas.
We came to an old bridge and slowly dashed accorss its wobbling bulk, how it didnt collapse I just dont kmow. This bridge led up to a small hamlet where an old woman sat smoking cheroots made from bamboo and an old man of unimaginable years carried wood on his head, this area is also renoun for ther long neck tribes where like in places in East Africa they stretch their necks by using steel rings. But alas we didnt see ay that day.
What we did see and sample though was the wonderfully cold waterfall. We clambered up over some rocks and there was a tiny waterfall and straight in we went. It was colder than a Eskimos todger I tell you now. You gingerly get in and then go for the plunge only to leap up making bizarre animal noises as its so bloody cold!!! But a wash is a wash none the less. By this point the Grunter whom we had no chrsitened 'Chewy' was up soem tree howling!!!!!!! We had also lost 'Dave' the guide whom was so lazy and such a drunk could never keep up.
We walked on more and soon encountered an agry elephant, ears puffed out trunk raised as we had cornered the little calf by mistake, but we just skirted around them and soo were at the elephant campo from which they had roamed off. Here we would elephant trek along the mosquito infested river on the back of the massive lumbering beast. All the while as we trudged through mud with the elephants taking a trunk full of filth and showering us with it. The little baby even came along for the ride and ran around the feet of Mum and Dad, when it got to a hill from which It could go up as its legs were too stumpy old Dad just pusked him scrambling up the hill with his trunk. At one point crazyman whom said that the epehant in front of me was his wife asked me to stand up on the elphants head, I did, but felt a bit out of order doing so, standing on the big lumps head like a circus performer!
Then came the second night up in the hills drinking chang and copius amounts of sangsom Thai whioskey in a shack. We managed to play with some of the locals 'whoosh, ping, zap' and for hours we played that and entralled them, if you got it wrong you had crazyman put charcoal on your face. I was the last one with a clean face, so the sods helad me down!!!!! The next day as we walked to the river with black faces as there was no water we must have looked a state!!
The followig morning we walked to the river and bamboo afted along, smacking into rocks and falling off all the time. The rafts literally fell apart along our journey where at every given opportunity we pummelled the Canadians with river weed!!
At one point our raft juts started to complete fall apart and I fell through , what a sight it must have been as I was on the raft one leg on top and the other wedged between two bamboo poles, with me franticallt trying to free myself before I get crushed!
By the time we reached our destination with our battered jolipy waiting for us all 3 rafts were in such a state that they were worthy of the knackers yard.
Finally back in Chiang mai and washed and spruced up (it took ages scrubbing all the charcoal off my face), our little group decided to go out on the lash. What followed was a drunken spectacle of madness.
I also almost got ejected from an American saports bar as I was shouting at the league cup final too drunkenly. The yanks looked at me like I was a mad man, 'whats soccer' the imbred fools kept saying!!!!!
Then we discovered a bar with air hockey and we managed to break a window while playing it!!!!!
Wwell thats all for now my little readers, tomorrow I am off into Laos. I have my last day in Chiang mai and I wil once again check out the temples and wat and then embarked on my journey into a coommunist country.
Wish me luck comrades!!!!!!!


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