Monday, November 22, 2004
We survived the trek thru the Thailandian jungled mountains without significant damage. Riding elephants did not result in my trampling, though the little guy did try to toss us a couple times. Actually, I am not sure he felt our insignificant weight at all. Sucker! The hiking was beautiful, the villages we stayed in filled with very warm and hospitable people more than willing to sit around and call out to us in order to get us to see view and hopefully buy some of their wares. Which we all did (the right thing to do). I ended up coming away with 2 bracelets and 2 necklaces (all very manly though approaching hippyish...) and a couple other unnamable things. There were 12 of us following our Thai guide around. A great group comprised of us 4 (me, R, Michelle and Kristine), 3 American chicks (a U of M grad? God help me! All newly grad'ed from college. Old jokes were made at my expense which was an amusing twist of irony), a Danish couple, a guy from the UK and one from Austria and an Australian girl (post HS, pre-college). Fun times.
What? That is all I have to say? You are probably wondering if some humorous story can be found from amongst my brain droppings to retell (in slight hyperbolic fashion, as far as you know). Ok fine, I'll indulge you.
The final phase of this trek was a 1.5 hour ride down a river on a bamboo boat. Cool enough. A guide up front poling, 3 sitters, and another one of us in back poling. I decided to be a poller, and joined R, M, and Kristine on the raft. As soon as my feet hit the rearward part of the ship, it began to sink. Not too much, but enough to sink me up to mid-shin and send R, M and K running off shrieking at getting wet (they needed it. They were dirty and stinkeriffic. I wasn't. Clean and fresh smelling as a newly cleaned baby's butt). In the process of fleeing they almost capsized the boat (still at the dock) but we righted it and sat them back down.
I also noticed that these thick bamboo poles were not tied together (as far as I could tell) in the back, where I was attempting to be useful with my 10 foot bamboo pole. It was tough to maintain balance on the shifting poles and effectively pole w/o hitting K or R in the head (only hit R once. Oops), but I did ok. It was fun. The guides splashed everyone, we rammed boats, and at one point M boarded one of the other boats, and the guy poling that boat jumped on ours.
So, with 3 people propelling the craft, we should have made great time, right? Wrong. Our new poler smacked our guide in the head (hard) with his pole which put us a man down for a bit. And the raft began to break up. Before long I was perched with a foot on either side of a 2 foot gap in the poles; that was the only place to set my feet and still manage to be useful. My feet cramped up now and then from gripping on, and half my time was spent pulling my leg back up from under the boat (slipping thru the cracks...) or trying not to fall off. Finally a rhythm was found and it was relaxing. A guy on the bank saw my tattoo and tossed me a thumbs up. I satisfied him with a "kob koon kop" and we went on. Finally, our guide told us that we had 3 minutes left. I was relieved because my feet ached and I was tired of trying to balance and all that shebang.
R decided that this was a good time for K to try some polling (R had taken over a short time previous to try it out). So they switched places, and it was all over. The boat feel apart completely. Thomas was left sitting chest deep in water on a couple rods, R and the guide were bent over in laughter on the more together right side (starboard way overcharges for a latte) and Kristine and I (it took some swimming on my part. Not easy while holding a 10-foot pole) knelt on 3 poles hanging together drifting off while I tried to steer us. It was like this that we came around the bend and into view of everyone (and all the other tour groups gathered). Our raft in shambles, all of us now in the water, the guide and I trying to drag the pieces to shore (I would have been more help, but my now bare feet were having issues with me trying to fight the current on the rocky bottom). It was damn funny and no one died.
That night we caught an overnight bus (comfy, but I didn't sleep. Oops) back to Bangkok, took a canal cruise tour (I slept a little there) and at 5 we grabbed a plane to Krabi where we are now (actually, we are in the next town over, but close enough). Unfortunately, M fell sick on the bus and stayed behind in Bangkok for a day or two to get better. That sucked. We got here last night and today has been nice and relaxing. For the first time in a week, we'll be spending the night in the same place 2 nights in a row! Very exciting.
It's hot here, the water is very warm and I am happy. Today was: reading on the beach, floating in the water, another massage (about $5 for an hour!), email, and soon some dinner. Good times.
I may be able to download more pics at this place (I hope). I'll let you know. If you missed the post I did get a bunch on line so check it out (see old posts for the URL).
Najima-good work cheating the system. I'll have to chat with you when I get back into China to find out how you managed.
I also have a new plan (for now) as to how I'm getting to west China in January. I think I am heading back to Chiang Mai (north Thailand where our trek was) and then boating into Laos and then up into China from there. Should be fun and interesting to say the least. We'll see how that goes. The place we stayed up there was amazing-the owner (?) got all our travel tickets and our Vietnam visas for us, and she said that if I go back there she can get my the ones for Laos and China. Makes life much easier.
That is all for now. I am sweating like a mutha in here so I am going to go off and...do something else.