From Phuket we’d head north to a place famous for its mountains and greenery. Compared to the rest of Thailand, it’s visually quite different; not only the landscape and food, but the people are a whole different breed. This is Chiang Mai.
Parting ways from our dear friends in Thailand planning to re-meet again in Luang Prabang, Laos, we’d head north into the lush green of Chiang Mai. Not very much into tour orientated outings, preferring to do things on our own, we felt lazy and signed ourselves up for a guided tour – to include an orchid sanitary, the long neck tribes, a waterfall hike, white water rafting, bamboo rafting and another elephant ride.
Waking at the crack of dawn one morning we were welcomed by a stout, afro-haired, Thai guy with about as much energy as a kid after too much Kool-aid, a devil tattooed on his neck and an interesting habit of lifting up his shirt and rubbing down his belly. Let’s begin with the introduction. The big 35 year-old Thai kid told us his name was P********ng……exactly…..so we should call him Mr. Ping Pong instead. An unfortunate choice given our whereabouts and since ping-pong didn’t bring the nicest images to mind.
Setting off in the back of a truck with nothing securing us to our seats, we drove faster than the speed of light into the Chiang Mai jungle to find a hidden waterfall. Hitting a dip in the road didn’t seem to phase our guide who’d speed up for the dips sending us ping ponging around the back of the vehicle. Mr. Ping Pong, now sporting a pair of flashy women’s designer shades, would smile in the rear view mirror and say “Don’t worry…you never die alone.” Out of the truck, we’d set out on our hike. Now and then, Ping Pong would take off into the jungle and disappear for mintues on end…popping out from behind a tree to remind us “Don’t worry…you never die alone.” Mr. Ping Pong, I was worried…worried that we were all going to die in a Chiang Mai jungle because I murdered the tour guide for his painful attempts at humor. That, or the fact that he’d chosen to wear his grandma’s best slippers on a jungle trek.
A trip to the elephant sanctuary would be totally unsafe and one of the most memorable moments so far. We hopped on the back of an elephant, seated on a plank of wood that was better fit for small Thai people than Morgan-size. Just like Mr. Ping Pong had taken off on our trek, so did our mahout (an elephant driver). Wondering at least five feet ahead of us, Mr. Mahout would pull out his personal machete to cut off bamboo leaves for our snacky elephant. Mr. Mahout asked me if I wanted to sit on the elephants head, so I bravely stepped out of the wobbly chair and onto the prickly neck of the giant mammal. Note to self…don’t wear shorts while elephanting I thought as hundreds of coarse broom-stick-thick hairs chaffed my inner thighs. All was going smoothly until Mr. Elephant’s appetite kicked up again and he’d mozy into the brush with me nearly tumbling off head first…literally. This would happen a few other times, but only next time it would be at the edge of a cliff. Mr. Mahout was too busy finding more bamboo to fillet.
Hands down one of the unsafest things we’d do in Thailand was the white water rafting. The equipment they gave us fit one size of person, that’s man size, so I was already swimming in my gear and hadn’t even hit the water yet. The tour guide was interesting though. He sang and laughed to himself and kept reminding us that he didn’t know how to swim. He’d also hop out of the raft and leave Morgan to steer us on.WTF? Number One – Morgan doesn’t know what he’s doing…Number Two – you can’t swim?!. Morgan, two Italian girls and I floated aimlessly down the river forced to beach ourselves once we were told by someone on land that we’d gone too far….looking back we’d see our tour guide on a bamboo raft making his way down stream to us.
Back in the trunk, the crazy driving barely phased us after the days events. Pulling over to the side of the road numerous times without any warning and without telling us where he was going, Mr. Ping Pong would return with snacks and other interesting Thai treats – one including some rice filled sausage that tasted unexpectedly fishy.
Mr. Ping Pong, Lindsay and Morgan’s Excellent Adventure love you. If anyone should need or want a very interesting tour guide in Chiang Mai, let us know. We’ll get you in touch.