Blurry Thai boxing.
Traveling to Chiang Mai from Luang Prabang was one of those fun experiences of being on an extremely cold and uncomfortable sitting up all night bus, followed by a tuk-tuk to a rickety boat to the border, then another tuk-tuk, to a mini-bus to finally Chiang Mai. Arriving in the town, or rather, city, was refreshing. I saw my first Starbucks and McDonalds in over three months, which for some reason was exciting?, and it seemed to be somewhat clean and metropolitian. Good start. We (Chris, Chandra and I) met up with Tim at the hotel and we immediately began planning our stay there. We decided on six full days of FUN! Haha that sounds lame.
But seriously, we were going to be active little backpackers for once - especially after the non-stop drinking and lounging in Laos. Day one included bungee jumping - no, I didn't go - and thai boxing, day two was zip-lining through a jungle, day three involved getting my ass kicked mountain biking, day four was sorta quiet with an ATV tour, and days five and six we trekked through a jungle and spent the night at an elephant sanctuary. For awhile my ATM card didn't work, which was really just so much fun as I spent hours trying to call at the correct US time and even tried having my sister call pretending to be me, but luckily it all got sorted out and I didn't starve or have to sleep on a park bench.
Thai boxing was a riot.
The gang ready for the trees.
I wasn't sure how I would feel about boxing to begin with, but it was actually quite entertaining. Some of the fighters looked more like kids then "men", but I especially liked the female boxers. They have more of that hateful lust in their eyes than the guys do. When girls fight, they mean it. I think my sister and I could have given them a run for their money, however, with all our practice growing up. The funniest part was at intermission when they had three guys go in blindfolded and they randomly swung trying to hit each other and often ended up trying to fight the referee unaware. At one point the ref even hit back! Pretty funny.
On the day of the mountain biking expenditure, we had to take these open car things up to the top of this massive mountain (duh, so we can go down) and we happened to be going up on the same day as Chiang Mai University's version of Slope Day.
This was the fun part. Look how badass I am!
Apparently all the freshman have to hike up this thing, God bless them, while the others ride up in trucks, drinking and singing, and just having a grand old time. It resulted in us getting stuck in hours of traffic, but it was really cool to see. I even got offered beer from more than one guy! Guess I just have that "white so you're different and thus pretty" look. Some girls got it, some don't haha. Anyways, despite Chandra's shouting of "sawadee motherf*ckers" as we passed by, it was a nice local cultural event to stumble upon.
We also celebrated Fourth of July here and dragged Austrian Chris into the party. We splurged and went to an "American" hot dog and hamburger stand, which was surprisingly good, then managed to watch some fireworks and drink some local Chang beer.
Me and Lupe.
Just like at home. All during the week were World Cup games, including the semi-final and it was crazy to see how many people form Holland there are in SE Asia. Seriously, it's a small country.. if everyone's here, who's left in Holland? Easily 60-75 Dutch people all decked out in orange and swarming the streets after their victory. Only wish I stayed for the whole game to see them lose in the finals.. haha, I'm evil. The trek the following day was fun. I was the only girl who wasn't falling up the mudslide trail and having to take 30 breaks on the way up. It felt good to feel in shape for once.. perhaps it was getting my ass kicked walking up that giant hill pushing my bike the other day that did it. Either way, I felt cool.
That afternoon we rode an elephant named Lupe (apparently he's from Mexico) and while it was fun, I felt bad when the trainer poked him with a spear-like thing to get him moving and not eating. The rest of the time the animals seemed to be treated very well so I didn't worry about it too much. That night the guides, Tom and uh, I forget the other guy's name, set up candles around the covered porch and we all drank, playing games, and at one point Tom played the guitar and we sang along. It all had a very kumbaya effect. The next day we left the camp, were herded into a standing truck like cattle and taken to go white water rafting, which I have to admitt was pretty lame after going in the states. And our guide sucked. But it was still fun and nice to go swimming in the river.
On one of the platforms.
Afterwards we went on a bamboo raft which was sorta cool. Then we hiked up to another waterfall where we got to stand under the powerful falls.
And that was Chiang Mai! Oh yeah, we also went to a "NY" Pizza place that was run by a guy from Westport, CT! My first Connecticutian (?) of the trip! So what if he was in his 50's and rather weird. After Chiang Mai, Chandra left us and Tim, Chris, and I headed up to nearby Pai (pronounced 'bye' but everyone says 'pie' even though there are no pies in Pai!..very disappointing), Thailand's resident hippie, laid-back town. We rented motorbikes and toured the area, hitting up a few waterfalls and random canyons, seeing cross-dressing men in the middle of nowhere, and meeting solo traveler David along the way.
haha our zip-lining guide.
That night we hung out at Nancy bar (yay, Mom!) which turned out to be a reggae bar complete with full posters of Bob Marley and marijuana pictures. Ok, not like Mom.. but it was fun and chilled out nonetheless. We also went to the Don't Cry Bar where some Irish friends told us there would be a huge party. We got there and yeah, not so huge. More like us and 5-10 other people? But we brought some fireworks with us and set those off and hung out around a fire, talking, and having competitions over who could take the best drunk picture. I think Tim won, as usual. The next day was Tim's 28th birthday so Chris and I brought him breakfast in bed from the awesome bakery down the street, and later got him the most insanely rich chocolate cake ever from the same place.
Getting ready for some ATVing.
even thought it was too much.. and everyone who knows me knows that that is saying something. We took our motorbikes out again and toured the countryside not really doing a whole lot. The next day, however, we decided to ride back to Chiang Mai instead of taking the bus and that was freakin\' AWESOME. There are 762 turns/switchbacks between the two towns and it was crazy fun riding up and down the mountain through the jungle. I wish I could travel like that everywhere on my trip! Definitely am looking into motorbikes when I get home.