No Paddle, No Fun!
Chiang Mai Travel Blog› entry 37 of 43 › view all entries
March 27th, 2008 – by: worldcitizen
I was the first to be picked up for the day tour I had arranged the previous day. We picked up four more people: a newlywed couple from China who were on their honeymoon, a guy from the Netherlands, and a woman from Southern California. I sat in the front row with the woman from California and we talked a lot about life and travel. She was Filipino and told me that whenever she visits her relatives in the Philippines, she always makes a side trip to visit another Asian country. She recommended that I visit Ayutthaya when I got back to Bangkok so I kept that in mind. Our first stop was an orchid farm. I had no idea we were going there because I didn't look much at the details of the tour when I signed up.
Long Neck Village
After leaving the farm we continued on to a long neck village. We pulled up to a hot and dusty shadeless village and I immediately felt conflicted by this portion of the day. Some of the little girls were heavily made up and put on big smiles for the cameras. But all of the women looked very serious and I wondered what was going through their heads as people got up close to them to take pictures. Were they annoyed? Bored? Frustratrated? I think maybe I was more sensitive to this after the way people reacted to me in Vietnam with the pointing, staring, giggling and taking pictures of me without asking. But then I think of the way many travelers, myself included, photograph people abroad, especially in the third world.
We were next taken to the elephant riding area. The woman from California and the Dutch guy went ahead with the elephant riding while I had delicious lunch with the couple from China. The wife didn't speak English, but the husband did.
Two Kinds of Rafting
Before rafting we stopped at a lovely swiming spot that wasn't too crowded. From there, we went down to the river where we would go rafting. We put on our life jackets and met our rafting guide who was wearing jeans, a beanie and nothing else.
It was the dry season and the water was low so we also kept getting stuck between rocks. There were often raft traffic jams along the river. One of the things that can help get the raft dislodged from the rocks is to have everyone in the raft bounce in their seats. We did this a lot. All the groups were doing it so we had company in looking like complete idiots.
We got stuck in front of a village were all the kids splashed us with water as our guide got out of the raft and tried to push us off the rocks.
This was by far my favorite part of the day, very serene. The man from China decided to stand on the back of one of the rafts and row while singing Chinese folk songs to his new wife. She eventually joined in. They both had beautiful voices and their singing was a wonderful addition to drifting slowly down the river on a bamboo raft.
Stumbling Upon a Kindred Spirit
After dinner I walked around town and hoped to eventually check out one of Chiang Mai's reggae clubs. I ended up on a dimly lit street and noticed I was being followed.
We drove across town to Moon Muang. I got out of the tuk tuk and the creepy guy was still there, he had followed the tuk tuk. Annoyed, I quickly walked to a bar down the street. I saw a girl sitting by herself. I asked if I could join her and explained my situation. The guy finally disappeared and she seemed happy to have company. She had just arrived and Chiang Mai and after parting ways with a group of travelers.
We had been to a lot of the same places and talked about anything and everything while nursing our Singhas. She said in one place she visited, some people told her that they are "not nice" to black people. Once again, I explained that there were a few sketchy situations, but many people had been nice. I told her I thought people often talked to me more because they thought it was strange to see someone like me by myself in Southeast Asia. She told me she thought it was "badass." I was still in one piece as I approached the end of my trip and I was beginning to agree.
We discussed how traveling through South East Asia can really turn your beliefs upside down. Even though it is a well traveled part of the world, I always felt like I was encountering subjects that challenged me.
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