Running out of time

15 Mar

My last week in South East Asia was jam packed. I tried to fit in as many activities as possible, as I realized we hardly did a thing. To some of you, that may seem absurd. I mean, yes I did loads but in comparison to South America, Stefanie and I pretty much chilled the entire time in Asia.

So, in Luang Prabang, Laos – we visited a waterfall and hiked up a hill. Yes, hiking!! It was a lousy 10 minute hike, but ridiculously steep. I realized how out of shape I am. Then, it was back to Thailand. We had only had a few short days before heading back to Canada.

Stefanie and I met up with Adam, the Canadian and Scott, from Manchester. It’s funny how you see the same people again – we really need to pick a road less traveled next time. We stayed at this dingy, but friendly hostel. We had 4 single beds, all aligned with each other along the one wall. You could roll from one bed to the other in one swift action. We were that close – but thankfully, we’re all friends.

Stefanie and I booked an array of day trips from Chiang Mai, Thailand and ended up getting free accommodation and a few discounts for booking in bulk. On our first day, we participated in a Thai cooking class. It was a full day event and we cooked a lot of dishes. I’ve never taken a cooking class before and this was amazing. Thai food is so easy to cook and so fresh! There’s also few ingredients, which makes it easy on the wallet. We also visited a market beforehand and learned about produce, spices, rice, etc. Very helpful information, considering I want to start cooking with fresh ingredients more.

The next day, Stefanie and I went to an elephant training camp. We learned commands and rode on the necks of elephants. We bathed the elephants in a waterfall and fed the them bananas and watermelon rinds. There were three elephants – one baby, its older sister and the mother. They seemed like they were treated well – but you never know. Everyone at the camp was friendly. I hope that’s a good sign.

After the camp, our driver took us to Tiger Kingdom. Here, you can pay a bunch of money to go  into tiger cages and pose with the tigers. The cubs are the most expensive to visit. You can pet them, take pictures with them, lay on them, etc. Some claim that the tigers are sedated, because how on earth can you get up close and personally with a tiger?! They looked pretty tired, but it was the middle of a hot, sunny day. Tigers spend most of their day sleeping and are more active during the night when they hunt. They are either drugged or bred in captivity – not sure. I wasn’t going to pay to rub a tiger’s belly, so Stefanie and I just watched from the sidelines. It all looked too depressing and unnatural for my tastes.

That night, we rented motorbikes. Our motorbike was a Yahama Fino – similiar to a Vespa. Besides my brief 10 minute stint in Krabi, I have always rode on the back of a motorbike. I have trouble with balancing the bike during stop and go-s. Stefanie suggested I try riding the Fino by myself and she rode on the back of Adam’s motorbike. I revved the little darling up and hit the pavement. It was incredible! Once again, my turns were a little wide but by the end, I managed to swing around some tight corners. In Thailand, there are few road rules, so I was basically weaving through traffic, in between tuk-tuks and buses. We even got stuck in a traffic jam and I had to squeeze in and claim my space. Sometimes it’s so slow, you have to walk your bike through the chaos. I managed pretty well. Now, I want my own little Vespa for Toronto. How amazing would that be?

The next day, Stefanie and I left for our overnight hike to a hilltop minority village. The trip also included an elephant ride, white-water rafting and bamboo rafting. Before we started the hike, we visited a ‘long-neck’ tribe. The women, similar to the ones in Africa, extend their necks using a coiled brass ring. Some of the older women have abnormally long necks, while the younger ones wear only a decorative piece. The village has turned into a tourist attraction, where the women simply sit in their souvenir shacks waiting for tourists to buy something. It’s sad really. They now have to rely on tourist money to survive and lose a bit of their culture each day. I felt guilty – but I still wanted to preserve the memory. I’m sure in 10 years, this tribe won’t exist at all.

After the village, we had lunch and started the trek. It was really steep and at times, difficult. I really enjoyed the scenery. The village had no electricity, so we had a nice fire during the night. It felt like camping, but way better. We slept in bamboo huts and had a perfect view of the sunset.

At night, the children sang songs. It was like nails on a chalkboard, but we all pretended to enjoy it. One baby kept walking over to Stefanie wanting to be held. It was fine and dandy until the little thing bit her! The baby wouldn’t let go, so we both had to pry her little mouth off Stef’s hand. There were teeth marks and a bruise, but no blood. Vicious child…

Most of the kids stuck around after the singing and went ga-ga for our cameras. We let them take pictures of each and posed with them – peace signs a plenty. One little girl was particularly keen on going through EVERY photo on Stef’s camera. It took her most of the night, as Stef had photos on there from last summer, in addition to South America.

The next day, we woke up early and trekked to a waterfall. The heat was insane and we weren’t used to hiking in that kind of weather. Cooling off in the waterfall was a godsend. We then hiked to the elephant riding camp. I absolutely hated it. Our mahout (elephant trainer) was so mean to the elephant and kept poking him with a sharp nail. He yelled at our elephant and kicked him in the face. Stef and I started to devise a plan on how to kick our mahout off and let the elephant trample him – making it look like an accident. Thankfully, the ride didn’t last long and we didn’t have to resort to such drastic measures.

The white-water rafting was a snooze. The water was barely a metre high. It was more like a slow pursuit down a stream. The scenery was nice, so at least there was something to look at.

We made it back to Chang Mai with only an hour to spare before our bus to Bangkok.  Unfortunately, my chair was broken and could not recline. Actually, my chair was so vertical, it felt like I was leaning forward. I was downright depressed. We made it to Bangkok in one piece, said goodbye to Adam and Scott for good and took a taxi to the first hostel we stayed at. Unfortunately, we soon realized something was terribly wrong!

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