Trekking & the Elephant ride.

Pai Travel Blog

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I awoke early before the sunrose and had a wonder through the village. The villagers were up & going about their business, i expected they were up so early so that they could get things done before the suns heat made things a tad more difficult. I love the simplicity of how things operate within the village. I walked away from the village up the hill so that i could see the sun rise over the rice fields which was pretty special. The village only saw the sun a little later after it rose above the dense trees. I came across workers in the fields and women collecting food for the animals. I saw no men working but later found out that they had caught a wild boar the previous night which had made them very happy. They either use rifles or slingshots with a poision smeared onto the missle it fires, which sends the target to sleep much like the San Bushmen in Namibia do. I took an early morning shower in the stream & then joined the locals and guides in the cooking hut where they were preparing breakfast. Simply bread, eggs and fruit. I tried some local tea and coffee from the hills which was not a refined as the stuff from the supermarkets but still alright tasting. The sky was blue and the temperature high. We set off at 9am but within 10minutes we had already worked up a sweat but it got easy once my muscles got going. It was a great walk through trees and rice fields, up and down hills with at times spectacular scenery. 3.5hours long with one 30minute climb which caused much moaning. I found it alright. But I had to be at the front because I like doing those things at my own pace, I don't like lagging behind people and having to go slow. Nerat is really fit, obviously having done this so many times. Once reaching the top of the hill, he ran back down to releave Alison of her backpack and then ran back up. I then tagged behind with Sammi and Prasit, & got to help them look for mushrooms which was frustrating at first as I couldn't spot any but they were collecting quite a few however I was very happy when i began spotting some and came across a whole cluster. They were looking for the bright yellow and red mushrooms which I initally thought was odd as I would stay away from such ones as I thought bright colours usually meant poisonous and danger. But they come from the area so they know their stuff. They picked a series of different plants on the way and also had a clump of wild boar meat from the previous nights hunting. I got to know which mushrooms were good to eat, which were bad, which were young and those which were old. I felt right good. Elliots mind had changed again from going straight to Sydney to coming with me to Laos and seeing how things go. This was after a long talk with Susan, one of the older and wiser women on the trip. His mind has not stopped chopping and changing. Hopefully it sticks soon. Finally came to a clearing by the river where buffalo were cooling off in the water and elephants were walking about. One of the mahouts took an elephant into the river and cooled him off by splashing water all over his body. He seemed pleased by this and when he stood back up he appeared to have a fifth leg. They cooked up a basic lunch of pasta which was real good but i wanted to try what they had made as they always eat something else. They were eating something incredibly spicy and something else incredibly nice. I don't know exactly what it was i was trying but it was good and i loaded up on it. Half the group went off on the elephants while 6 of us waited for them to return. We just lazed in the shade, feeding bamboo sticks and banana to an elephant who was pottering about. Then came our ride. It was different to what i expected. Mainly because i didn't expect to nearly die. Maybe slight exaggeration there but I basically was clinging on for my life. I had to chuck my bottle of water because i needed two hands to keep myself on the elephant and prevent Gemma (the girl beside me) from being flung off. It was kind of funny when she started shouting at it like it could understand and calling it a "bitch". If i fell which I nearly did, unless i was flung back or to the opposite side of the elephant, I would go off the path and down a steep fall or under the elephants feet. I didn't fully comprehend this at the time, it was exciting and the mahouts were laughing & smiling most of time, but they weren't when it decided to fuck off and take a totally different route at full sprint. Bruises all about my lower back but i still got pictures. It turned out that it was a she, and relatively young so it tended to be naughty & not want to adhere to the mahouts orders. It's time of the month or something. I didn't like the sharp spikes which the mahouts used to sometimes control the elephants. I don't know how busy the elephant are kept but i felt kinda sorry for them, although when they get to chill it seems all good, being fed bananas by travellers and getting to bath in the river. Felt good to get off. Bit wobbly walking to our spot by the river. Locals were building our rafts from bamboo which was interesting to watch, using purely their hands and products of nature. Then i had a mud bath with Max, maybe sounds weird but well it started out as a muddy swim but I had urge to cover myself in the stuff. It didn't smell too good. But you get this stuff done in spas so maybe its good for my skin, you never know. It was fun though. Although the locals were looking at us a bit strange. Washed myself and we headed off to the local village which also had a school where kids travel vast distances from all around to benefit from the teaching. People are a bit football crazy and there was a game going on on a bumpy field. It was funny passing one hut that had a solar panel & satellite dish. I found out later that it was the only spot in the area that had a TV with reception so everyone crowds into that hut when the football is on - which is usually early morning. That night liverpool and chelsea were playing so at 2am people were heading off there. We met the children from the school who were incredibly cute but shy. We presented them with gifts via the teacher. They were too shy to show their appreciation and wouldn't touch the gifts until we had walked away. Looking back you saw them suddenly burst with excitement and rush around examining all the gifts we had given them. One young girl kept smiling and giggling whenever i looked at her and would hid behind a wooden pillar each time until i looked away before glancing back at me. We played football with the villagers as it grew dark which was so much fun. Anytime I did something good I got a lot of thumbs up and happy smiles from the locals who were running around like crazy, seemingly utterly content with everything. I had another shower before dinner, then had my second dinner with the locals who were in a seperate section cooking their food. The food was incredible. The wild boar curry they made was so tasty and they made a soup with all the mushrooms we had picked. I ate an insane amount. It was wicked once again to just sit with the locals, eating their food and listen to their chatting. We played this awesome game called Ping Pong Pang which is simple but too complicated to explain but so much fun. I haven't laughed as much as I did during that game in a long time. Nerat was laughing uncontrollably and it was great as everytime you made a mistake in the game you would get a black strip of soot across your face. I started off well, being the only one without a mark but then suddenly fell into a series of failings but i didn't care. Nicky, this plump smiling Thai who was blatantly drunk and enjoying his time, had left his other group to join us. He came over, told me I play good football and gave me a cup or rice whiskey which i struggled to drink after having such a big meal but i appreciated the guesture. I didn't have any beers and hardly much whiskey but i felt drunk - possibly of just happyness but drunk all the same. Some people insisted that I had been eating magic mushrooms but that's bullshit. But i did feel nicely strange that night. Nicky then started a song/dance while Prasit played the guitar. It was called "Chiang Chiang" (Elephant) and is a Thai song known by everyone one in Thialand apparently. It was so much fun especially because Nicky got so into it. Repeating it over and over again, getting quicker and quicker. It then became more chilled, Prasit played the guitar and people chatted in the candle light. The lure of sleep lessened the circle of people and soon it was just me and Nerat who i chatted to for about an hour. I don't know why some people would do this and that when they can take the opportunity to sit with the locals and learn more about their culture. The chat with Nerat was cool, difficult but good. I learnt that he travelled to New Zealand for two months to be a cook at a relatives Thai restaurant and that he won't ever leave Thailand again. He prefers the villagers with no electricity and loves being in the hills. He plays football for Chiang Mai and works 7 days a week, 4 of those on a farm and 3 of those in the hills taking travellers on treks to the villages. He was such a nice bloke and I loved the fact that he could be so happy with so little. But that makes a lot of sense as i find often that the more things I have in my life, the more difficult and complicated it gets. That's why i like the life of the villagers and monks in Thailand as their lives are unclutered and simple and I think that much of the time they are happier than those living in the busy developed world. Elliot thinks that if we took Prasit to England he would probably love it and not want to return, but i think completely the opposite.
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photo by: Stevie_Wes