Tim and I crossed into Thailand via a Cambodian land border which went surprisingly well! We landed in a little town named Surin enjoying their local night markets and catching up on so much needed rest from all the moving around we had recently done in Cambodia. You can read about our travels in Cambodia (one of my favourite countries) by clicking on the following link: Backpacking Cambodia. (18/12/17 to 18/01/18).
Our three friends from the UK were coming to meet us in Chiang Mai. We chose to meet in this city as everything is fairly modern, it’s a great gateway to the north and you can purchase delicious Thai and western food on every corner. To prepare my mind for the carnage I took a meditation class at The Yoga Tree, (a centre set in lush gardens) along with a girl I met who is originally from Peru and has been travelling solo for a year and a half. After this class, I no longer think meditating with a bunch of strangers is for me. While trying to balance myself on a tiny cushion all I could think about, was the ‘rainbow rhythms’ episode from Peep Show. I had to swallow my giggles and felt like I was being so rude! Searching for more ‘zen’, I paid a small fee to spend the day at a five star hotel reading poetry and using their pool. As a backpacker, I felt like a total fraud sunbathing amongst the affluent clientele.
By the time the girls arrived, I had scouted out a pretty guesthouse for us to stay in, known as Sirikamsan Guesthouse, which is situated down a side street alongside a Buddhist temple. Other than the hard mattresses and the fact that the local monks get up at 4 a.m. EVERY morning to sweep the empty lanes, (I can still hear the sound of sweeping in my head), it was a sweet little place.
My friend Kayleigh was arriving first. I decided to meet her at the airport, thinking the walk would be nice, however it turns out walking to the airport is rather tricky with the lack of footpaths and I was actually walking down a dual carriageway at one point, dodging cars and motorbikes. The emotional reunion and my find of mango sticky rice was worth it. That night Kayleigh and I got drunk on cheap beer in a local rock bar however the night ended rather abruptly when we were thrown out of the bar at exactly 12 a.m. by terrified bar staff shouting at us, “the Police are coming”. They could have told us that before we ordered another round of drinks…
Emily and Lucy arrived the following day looking a little shell shocked from the overwhelming heat of Bangkok. Bangkok can do this to a person. You can read all about backpacking Bangkok by clicking on the following link: Experiencing bustling Bangkok. (06/07/17 to 08/07/17). To help us relax, we went for a group outdoor massage set amongst beautiful gardens. It was heavenly, (minus a Chinese girl making strange sex noises during her massage that caused us to laugh a lot). The following day we chartered a songthaew and headed off to Wat Pha Lat Temple where we planned to hike to a waterfall. As typical in Asia there were no signs for this waterfall and we all sucked at reading maps so we started heading off the beaten track. I can hear people shouting, “never go off the track in a jungle”. Well we did…so there. We got back on the right track following an incident with a cob web and a backpack being chucked down a hill by a terrified girl who shall go unnamed! From this experience, our number one survival tip is; “don’t throw your backpack down a jungle hill.” There is nothing like laughter to bond a group and this is one of my favourite memories of our time together. We were so proud of ourselves when we made it to the secluded waterfall a few hours later cooling down from the humidity.
Our next destination was to the remote town of Mae Sariang. This pretty little village sits at the base of the jungle, alongside Yuan river and is gateway to visit the Karen Hill Tribe people. The girls put Tim and I up for a few nights in a stunning hotel situated on the river where a farmer could be seen washing his buffalo daily. It was an amazing treat and the outdoor pool was heavenly. Thank you girls!
For me, visiting the Karen Tribe was the highlight of the entire trip. It was a two day hard and challenging trek over mountain after mountain to meet our guide’s family. The village where the tribe lived in was totally unspoiled, with children, dogs, piglets and chickens running all over the place. Our guide’s mother, a resilient lady who smoked a pipe continuously was ninety six years of age and loved to sing. There was a LOT of hand shaking. The family showed us how to weave and cooked us traditional food followed by steaming pots of jasmine tea. That night we all slept on the concrete floor together with a loud mother pig and her piglets next door. We woke up to a very curious child and rice for breakfast. The next day, our tired legs moved a lot slower crossing over rice fields and rivers followed by a pack of friendly dogs. We got to relax our weary muscles in a natural spa at the end of the trip and were taken back through windy roads via a pickup truck.
It was onto the town of Mae Hong Son next, a town which links people to the Long Neck Tribe. We travelled the hairpin roads by public bus which was an interesting experience for the girls. There is a pretty lake in the centre of this town surrounded by a night market and temples so it was really relaxing. We spent our evenings eating meat on sticks and drinking cocktails. The highlight of was taking a day trip to see the Long Neck tribe reached only by boat down a winding river which held an array of birdlife. The children seemed really happy here and had lots of questions about my jewellery and clothing and western life. They were so sweet!
Our time with the girls was running out and we all had onward flights to catch so we headed back to Chiang Mai to fit in some last minute banana and mango Thai curries and to do some last minute partying, stuffing ourselves into one rickshaw towards Bar Street for Mai Tai buckets and to dance until closing time.
Saying goodbye to the girls was really hard and for weeks it felt odd not travelling in a large group however I hope we can travel together again in the future. We miss you ducklings! xxx
You can read stories on our travels in south Thailand, click on the following links: