A Travellerspoint blog

Vang vieng to Hanoi

30 hours, two toilet stops, one white couple

overcast 18 °C

So it seems that people in Laos and Vietnam are extremely racist. As soon as we boarded the sleeper bus (after a four hour aircon- free and windowless bus), we were chased on by a driver and told we had to sit at the back. I said I'd sit at the side and kept gesturing to the other seats but no, he insisted that we sit at the back. We caught up with a couple of other British people at one of the stops who said they had the same thing- white people at the back. That annoyed me to start with. Then came the thirty hours of poorly dubbed English films (Arnold Schwarzenegger's voice over was a Vietnamese woman), strange Asian Kung fu films, a Victoria's Secret fashion show dubbed in Vietnamese and lots of extremely loud sporadic bursts of Asian pop! The seats themselves were pretty good- they are leaned right back apart from the head which is at a 45 degree angle, and there's loads of leg room, plus a pillow and soft blanket were provided which was nice. The main problems were these:
-The entire bus was openly staring at us almost all of the time
-We had two toilet/ meal stops during he entirety of the journey, due to the fact that most of the passengers and all of the drivers were men and could quickly stop by the side of the road to pee, whereas I had to hold it painfully to the point of tears and then pee in front of families of Asians, while the bus drivers openly stared at me and honked the horn to hurry us up and Brad had to hold his jacket around me to stop the whole motorway seeing me. This seemed ridiculous as we drove past loads of toilets and the drivers only stopped to smoke an take drugs.
-Our only meal stop for the first day was at at place with metal prison trays and swarms of flies, and we were so hungry we thought we would just have plain rice. I was first in line but all of the Vietnamese people got served before me and I was ignored so I just took the tray. I had three mouthfuls but couldn't eat any more as flies were crawling around in it.
-The drivers were suspiciously thin and sweaty and angry. They were all crowded round a car exhaust pipe on a table inhaling some sort of smoke. One of them fell asleep at the wheel while another slapped him and flicked the multicoloured lights on and off and turned the music really loud to keep him awake. They kept stopping and running out by themselves then coming back sniffing and red eyed. They drank beers and spirits when we stopped. So yes, every bus we have been on has been driven by angry drug users so far in SEA.
- Nobody really spoke English and we had loads of trouble at the border of Vietnam trying to sort our visas and passports, at 7 am, while 4 coaches of Asian people stood around us inside this tiny office which we walked to in the pouring rain, chain smoking , spitting all over the floor and stepping on us to try to shamelessly jump the line. We then got made to stand with some security guards in the rain while everyone else was allowed back on the bus, plus we found our bags had been dumped on the pavement in the rain and we weren't even told so they were soaked.
So all in all do I recommend travel by bus? No. It's horrific. But if you have hardly any money it's what you have to do and we are running pretty low. If you are a girl travelling on your own I would not recommend it mainly for the toilet reasons.
We did find a beautiful hotel in Hanoi when we arrived right by the YHA, called Hibiscus hotel. We managed to get really good rates and last night we sat in bed with the air conditioning, after an amazing shower watching ultimate fighting champion in our comfortable, clean bed. It really is gorgeous here although we have to walk up five flights of stairs to our room. Today we had a bit of a lie in and went to the worst ever English breakfast which was oily, hairy and disgusting. Then between us we ate 5 kitkat chunkys and are about to go next door to book our boat for Halong Bay which looks incredible!

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 20:52 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bus vietnam hanoi Comments (0)

Pai to vang vieng

Never ending bus rides/ motor biking and waterfalls

sunny 26 °C

large_F39DE85A2219AC6817E2E906F81071B2.jpglarge_F3A590B82219AC6817EA638A0EA8FA4B.jpglarge_F3AA19922219AC68178B070F0482FE76.jpglarge_F3BAB6B72219AC681725353ED73B1862.jpglarge_F3B3C9282219AC68176F6B8547F529CD.jpgF3C359F22219AC68172ACDDA5D010C6E.jpglarge_F3C8A64E2219AC6817DC36FBCBEE4CB8.jpgF3D4CB262219AC681750D5E40AEF8785.jpgF3DF88722219AC68175DA609C2280F19.jpglarge_F3E637262219AC6817928E2CAD43B7E8.jpglarge_F3EE27F72219AC6817E930F68A883988.jpglarge_F3F0CDE82219AC681721CE323DC4CACC.jpgWe have been in vang vieng for three days now and are leaving tomorrow. The journey from pai to vang vieng was a 25 hour bus/minivan/ songtaew ride with a drunk drugged up bus driver and a local family who felt the need to climb into other people's personal space constantly. My travel pillow was burst and we left an hour late. Our driver compensated by speeding round the many twists and turns after his tumbler of whiskey so leaning on the window was out of the question, and I had to strap my seatbelt really tight to stop from flying into the aisle. It was cold and crampt, and impossible to sleep but vang vieng has been worth it. The streets seemed quite empty when we first arrived and we were worried after reading that people don't really go to vang vieng anymore. We took it easy and had a well deserved shower and a sleep in our hotel before going to have some dinner in a restaurant where you lay down on pillows at the table. 'Friends' is on every tv in vang vieng- they love it! So we sat and watched that while we ate and the next day we went tubing.
Tubing is still a big crazy party here in laos and it is cheap! You just rent your tube and get a songtaew to the river which is really near, then throw in your tube and go! The weather here has been amazing and the landscape is idyllic so I found myself floating down this river in an inner tube with the love of my life, in the sun with jungle, mountain and blue sky views, on my way to get very drunk! That's the dream! I decided to take it easy because I know I can get drunk very quickly, so at the first bar when we were pulled in by a guy throwing a bottle of water on a rope for us to catch, and then dragging us up, I decided to start slow. Then came the free shots of whiskey. The lady at the bar offered me a shot of some savage spirit with a massive centipede in the bottom but I declined. We were with a few guys we just met and we started getting the drinks in which are really really strong here. My whiskey and coke was a pint and half of that was just spirit! We played volleyball in the sun, had another shot and ordered our drinks to go for the journey to the next bar. By this point I was already a little bit merry so at the next bar I ordered a big bottle of water to slow myself down. I left it alone for two minutes, came back and one if our new friends was pouring it all over his head telling me "NO water allowed!". Not going to lie- I was a bit annoyed, I just wanted my h20! But in the spirit of things I downed a whiskey, and two vodka shakes. By this point we had been at the bar a while and brad was very drunk after too many shots and a game of beer pong. I mean smashed! So after some gentle encouragement and failing that some telling off, I managed to get him to drink some water with me and we moved onto the next bar. The third bar was good, but we didn't fancy drinking much more and it was going to get dark so we headed off back to the starting point in our tubes. It's a long way back when you're tired and drunk and can't see where you're going in the dark and by the end we were gettin really annoyed with it. Some guy pulled my tube in and told is we were here but then we realised we weren't, and he then tried to drag me off in the water and leave brad behind which was scary because we couldn't see eachother but after a while he got the hint and disappeared, and me and brad were reunited so we went to get some food.

We also ran away without paying because there was no staff to pay and we got sick of waiting, but half an hour after we got back, a waiter was with the hotel receptionist at the door of our room asking for money! Wtf?! So he wasn't around to pay for like half hour but he was still able to follow us home for the bill. Hahaha hilarious only in Asia! We just played dumb and paid but it was hilarious and embarrassing at the same time!

The next day we took push bikes up to the blue lagoon which is an hour's bike ride on a very bumpy road- seriously I'm bruised! But all along the way we saw little baby chicks and chickens which were so cute! I got stuck on a bridge waiting for a herd of cows to get moving and they weren't even with anyone. Then we passed calfs and their mums in a field before we arrived. The water at the blue lagoon was clear blue and cold which felt amazing after a long bike ride. I slid in and dunked myself over and over again while loads of little clear fish swam around me . I plucked up the courage to jump off the lowest branch of a big tree which was about two meters above the water but I am a scaredy cat so I was still really proud afterwards! Brad swung off of the rope swing and we had a swim about, then sat in one of the wooden swings in the water. We had lunch with the group that we met the day before which was interesting. I ordered and paid for my food, and then twenty minutes later when brad ordered his I asked about mine, and the guy seemed to have no recollection of my order- then he just have me his bowl of chicken and noodles from the side which I had seen him eating! Obviously I just laughed at him and told him to make my veg pad Thai so he said ok five minutes and we eventually got our food about forty five minutes later, at separate times. Saying that though it actually tasted pretty good! We headed off shortly after and were planning to leave today but brads a but sick so we are staying another day. He's at home at the moment and I'm back at the lagoon for a bit on my larry but I think il take off soon and go back for him because I feel a bit guilty leaving him alone

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 20:48 Archived in Laos Tagged thailand laos lagoon biking tubing Comments (0)

The life in Pai

Motorbikes, tigers and waterfalls

sunny 28 °C

Have been too busy to write anything lately so I have to summarize the last few days as best I can. After our bad experience with elephant trekking, Eddy's elephant camp was really good fun for the day. We got loads of one on one time with the elephants and were able to feed them loads of bananas, ride them and bathe them. I still would advise going to the sanctuary instead though because I am not too sure on how they are treated when people aren't around, and they are still chained up when not being ridden or taken to the water. Because we were riding bareback, it was really scary sitting on an elephant's neck with nothing to hold onto, just resting our hands on his head. A new born elephant was tottering around a group of them while we were feeding them all, and when some tourists got too close he made a tiny sound and ran away, but then the big elephant near him made a really loud noise with his trunk and all of a sudden they were all going mad and crowded round him to protect him, and all of us tourists had to run out of the way. Apparently they always protect the babies which I think is really amazing. The water we bathed them in was cool but muddy, and our elephant attracted the attention of a male who kept trying to mount her so we couldn't really get near, and she got annoyed with it and walked off, so then we had a quick bathe of a little elephant called Jenny who kept rolling around and loved the water.
Since then, we have been to tiger kingdom after reading about it. That day was amazing! We saw baby tigers of four months and played with them, cuddled them and stroked their thick fur. They look just like normal cats really but bigger. From the we went to the slightly bigger tiger enclosure where the tigers were play fighting, and there was a pool for them to swim in. But the highlight of my day was the next enclosure where the huge tigers are kept. We were told to spoon the tigers for a picture, then lay on them and they didn't seem to mind. We were able to pat them and one rolled over so we could rub his belly for him. These tigers were not sleepy at all! they were running round all over the place. You don't really know how big one is until you are up that close but it is an amazing experience and I would definitely recommend it. We walked around waiting for our pictures to be put on to a CD and saw two tiny cubs in an incubation tank. It said on the sign outside that they are bottle fed- I'm not sure why but they were adorable! We saw the enclosures that people are not allowed in, and when we asked we found out that all the tigers take turns to work so they each have a day off to play with the other tigers without being careful of people. There was a pool in there, and all of the tigers were play fighting and chasing each other round. You can see their muscles when they are wet and they are huge!
That afternoon we took a three hour bus to Pai where we have been staying for a few days. It's completely a hippy town, where everyone wears like baggy colourful clothes and has dreadlocks, and washes with soap made of leaves. But actually it's a really nice place! On our first night we saw a little pen full of baby goats, and you can bottle feed them if you buy the milk. I couldn't miss it so I had a magical time feeding them and touching their little heads where their horns are growing. It's so much fun I could have stayed there all night! You don't have to have a licence to rent a motorbike here either, and I learnt how to ride one a few days ago. I have hurt my toe pretty badly though so I am limping around. It's so thrilling riding around the towns and dirt roads with the wind in your hair, and all of these beautiful plants lining the roads with mountains in the background. Pai is such a beautiful place- no wonder everyone here goes all peace and love. We went to a small waterfall just out of the town and had a swim in the cold water. The next day we wanted to see a bigger waterfall so we trekked to Mae Yen waterfall. It was a three hour walk mostly uphill, through he forest and river, so you have to cross through the river around twenty times and the paths are not clear. This is definitely off the beaten track! There are hardly any signs, and bushes are overgrown into the path, spiderwebs line the trees and it is pure dense jungle. We saw lizards, one small snake and lots of spider webs but weren't too worried. Until we saw a massive pile of literally steaming dung. So that meant something was near. All along the way I had told Brad that I thought something was behind us because I felt like we were being watched, and big branches were falling off the tracks around us. I walked on a bit, treading carefully when Brad called me back, whispering to look up and did that look like a tiger? I looked up, saw something bright orange and stripey and ran back. Brad kept trying to rationalise afterwards and said that it was just a big orange leaf and we were worried about nothing, but I was really scared. I knew something big was there, and very close. Brad tied his knife to some bamboo and we had no choice but to keep going. When we looked back up, what I saw was gone but Brad insisted that it was just a leaf. A few minutes later we came accross the tracks of what we think was a wild pig, it was hoofed, going into the water. Whatever left that dung though, was going the opposite way so I think something was following that but obviously I will never really know. An hour later, we arrived at the falls. We ate our Pringles and nuts followed by a kitkat for dessert. We went in the freezing cold water and got out soon after, then built a fire and warmed up a bit. We left before three so that we would still have light on the way back, but it was still quite dark by four, so the whole way we were speed walking over slippery rocks and through the water, looking round the whole time like we were being hunted. Honestly the jungle is very very scary when you don't know your way around and you are not alone!. I tripped and banged the toe that I slice open yesterday, and fell over a few times which really hurt, and that's why we are jot leaving Pai today for tubing, so I can rest up a bit. We researched tigers in the jungle when we got home, and found that usually if they see a human freeze, they back away from it, unless they are in India near the villages. We also read that there are tigers in this area and that Trekkers have come across them before. We still don't know what was out there but I wouldn't be going back in there without a machete.

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 16:45 Archived in Thailand Tagged pai_jungle_tigers_motorbike Comments (0)

Our two day elephant trek through Chang Mai

This is he one to read for responsible tourism

Arguably what makes us human Is humanity itself- the ability to differentiate between right and wrong and use our conscience to guide us. Unfortunately it seems that lots of people have developed the ability to push guilt, awareness and responsibility to their subconscious, and so they are not making conscious decisions to preserve the fragile ecosystem here. Wildlife is exploited in some cases almost to the point of extinction for tourists pleasure, yet most people visiting western zoos, when asked if animal preservation is a good cause will appear supportive and sometimes donate. Habitats are being destroyed and animals are becoming homeless, hunted or enslaved and false naivety is a westerners pitiful excuse. What's most disturbing is that abuse is barely below the surface at the best of times, if not completely out in the open. I saw a monkey today of only 6 months old in a cage barely big enough for nitro take two steps, no water, no toys and no stimulation. I asked when the monkey is let out to play and my guide was reluctant to ask the owner (who purchased the creature at a market for 1000 baht). She said never or he will run away. She claimed he was her pet. When I asked about the monkey's mother she told me that both her mother and father were hunted for meat, and the baby was taken and sold when it was even younger. This monkey struggled to eat mushy banana and will remain confined to a tiny cage either until it is big enough to eat, or for the rest of its miserable life.This is my account of the past two days trekking throughout he jungle. There have been incredible ups and heartbreaking downs, and now my mind is made up. Wild animals should be I. The wild

We were picked up from our hotel at 9.30 by our guide 'Bobo' who took us in a songtaew which is sort of like a truck with seats in the back and an open end with no seatbelts. We were driven first to an orchid farm where we spent twenty minutes. Orchids hung in multicoloured rows mainly in shades of pink and purple. There was an on-site butterfly enclosure where we saw lots of tiny butterflies in all different shades and shapes. One was lime green when flying, but when it landed it looked like a leaf! Shortly after that, we were driven for an hour to visit the Karen 'Long neck' tribe. We were told that these women add a ring around their neck every year on their birthday, and the aim is for them to stretch their necks as long as possible. Apparently this makes them more attractive to men and is desirable. This visit to the tribe was not as authentic as advertised, and we were led to believe we were meeting people native to this place from this tribe, however many came over around ten years ago when they heard about the tourist's interest in the people who were already there. Now they stay in the day in this small village where 500 baht is he admission price for visitors. We saw nothing traditional apart from one man using a wooden machine to take the husks off of rice. The rest of this village was simply Karen women sitting in market stalls trying to sell their goods. Each stall was almost identical to the next and it really was an unnatural setting for these people. Obviously tourism has had a huge impact here but what I think when I see this (as this sort of thing was common in Peru), is why do these people rely so heavily on tourism? I know they have little money, but before tourists started visiting so regularly they must have been surviving some way, and they would have been content surely? We came to see people from a tribe in their home, not just a market with people wearing strange necklaces so we did feel quite disappointed in that respect.
From there, we were driven another hour to our lunch spot, where we ate egg and vegetable fried rice which was nice tasting with fresh pineapple after. The itinerary stated that next up would be elephant trekking, but we were disappointed to find that in fact it was just trekking through the jungle for three hours. No elephants. The jungle itself was beautiful, full of lush greenery and tropical butterflies, and we had a sunny blue sky. The heat was intense, but thought he walk was really difficult (all uphill) it was absolutely worth it and still enjoyable. On the way up we saw a giant black spider in a hole with a thick white web surrounding it. The webs here are different to back home- they look like the ones we put up on Halloween. Our guide poked a leaf in to demonstrate how quick they are when something enters their burrow and it moves forward quickly with its front legs in the air. The ground here is very dusty and red. My favourite part on the way was a small waterfall, where we were able to slide down a rock slide into the murky cool water. Obviously it was murky with sediment so we were a bit reluctant to go straight for it without being able to see the depth, but once I saw a couple of people go, and Brad was cheering me on, I just went for it. I was really invigorating and lots of fun.
I had a shower when we reached camp in a little bamboo hut where there was around a 2ft gap at the top so the sun was shining on me and I could see all the mountains. The water came out of a pipe hanging at the top and came out cold; that was one of the best showers I have ever had. I took a little nap after that, then got up for dinner. In Thailand it is acceptable to smoke while eating meals even with a big group of people and we were lucky enough to be sitting with ten chain smoking French people! who literally through the whole trip just smoked and talked in French. I had vegetables and rice for dinner and a potato curry which was all delicious and I'm always excited to get some fresh veggies so I had two bowls! From there we sat around a bamboo fire (a bit awkwardly considering that everyone else bar one person was chain smoking and talking in French) until our guide came and said "ok so some children will come and sing for you and you pay them 40 baht each donation yes." Clearly that wasn't a question and he was not expecting for us to tell him no which we did. For one thing, it was eight o'clock at night and while this parade of young children was being dragged up to perform for us they should be asleep. Along with that, I have a big problem with people surprising me on tours with random things like this and charging us for it. It wasn't on the itinerary, we had paid already for the entire mis sold tour and it is incredibly rude to demand donations. So that was a very uncomfortable twenty minutes of children half heatedly singing, and the ones at the back were just having a chat, while the little ones at the front were shielding their faces and rubbing their eyes from the roaring fire in front of them. After that the dish was our in the middle and they stood expectantly like they had all done this a thousand times before. Is it just me or is this not natural? Why are parents exploiting their children like they are an attraction when they should be at home sleeping?
We felt really uncomfortable and tired so we went to bed in our bamboo hut which we shared with the entire group. The mattress was about two inches thick and made of something really hard wrapped in plastic but in fairness we had the best, as they were all doubles (bit weird for the people travelling alone) but ours was raised well off the floor and we were right by the door so we could leave for the toilet easily. We had big mosquito nets over the bed which served their purpose well and I slept through everyone coming in and out . I was dead to the world until 4 am when the cockerels started crowing right outside the hut really loudly, and dogs were barking. I fought the urge to pee and lost so I had to wander out with a head torch on and I didn't make it to the toilet before I was getting warning barks and growls from the local dogs (which we were told are vicious) so I stopped where I was, turned my torch off and peed next to the hut before getting really barked at and sprinting back inside.
The next day we woke at 7, got dressed and had breakfast. The coffee was good and it felt like luxury to have breakfast since we have barely eaten since being here. We set off on foot for half an hour downhill to a big waterfall. Only four of the group including Brad and I went in the water which was very cold but really refreshing and beautiful. We got dried off and the group leader had already taken off with all the French people without us, so we were rushing left behind. It was another half hour before we reached the elephant camp and had lunch. Once lunch was over, we went to ride our elephants. We were told before we booked that it would be two people to an elephant, but our guide insisted on this other guy coming on ours, so we were at the back on the basket with him directly in front, blocking our view. We told the guide before that we only wanted us two, but all of the group bar us had two people to an elephant. To be honest I could have been in a car and it would have been similar because I couldn't see the elephant, and the 45 minute trek was actually 15 minutes, with the elephant walking down this clear path, stopping for a minute at some water and then back with the elephant trainer shouting demands at him the whole time. I tried to make the most of it and smiled for pictures but I was pissed off. I tried to feed it a banana and the guy in front took it off me to feed him and I told him like no, I want to do it! I feel like our experience was non existent and it occurred to me that the only walk this elephant does is this same small circle every day. I assumed that it must be able to wander the camp in that case but when we got back I realised that is not the case at all.
I was horrified upon dismounting our elephant that it was pulled with a stick with a sharp hook by its eat over to a spot in the shade, then chained up around its foot next to another elephant. This chain was around two meters long if that, and that's where the elephants stay unless they are carrying tourists along that same path every day for the rest of its life. This made me suspicious about how well the elephants are treated behind the scenes so I left the group and went up close to see, and what I saw broke my heart an made me furious.
The elephant was scarred behind its ears from the bull hook. Along with that, it was scarred with tiny stab marks where it had been beaten with a bull hook either as punishment or during training. I felt disgusted that I had paid into this horrific abuse and in a sense encouraged it, as this one elephant would have been beaten, confined and worked on rotation every moment of its life, and it is such an impressive and beautiful creature. I cannot fathom how anyone could be so cruel and twisted as to do this to an endangered creature with no guilt, and sell the whole experience to tourists! We were so easily sold that we would be trekking through the jungle WITH the elephants, that they were treated well and we would get an up close and personal experience. Obviously these heartless people have no respect for their own nature and they are exploiting it unnecessarily. I would much rather not ride an elephant and just see it quite close in the wild, content and living naturally after seeing this, than the zoo type experience. What bothered me most is that nobody else in our group seemed to mind- all they were interested in was getting the perfect picture. At times I really do question mankind when so much focus is ticking the tourist boxes and not having your eyes open to what to are really seeing. Please if you are reading this- DONT DO THE TREK! It isn't even elephant trekking as you only get fifteen minutes, and you can easily get more of an enjoyable experience with a reputable company or elephant sanctuary. I have booked a day with elephants for us tomorrow where we get to bathe them and learn about them (I booked before this Trek) and researched the company quite well. I paid a bit more but the emphasis seems to be more on how well treated the elephants are so I really hope that is the case tomorrow.
I also watched as staff at the camp used slingshots to shoot and kill tiny birds. These birds were about half the size of my hand so there can be barely any meat on them. Over here in south East Asia it seems very common to need to either kill or confine absolutely anything that breathes and I can't make sense of it! We left after this for our hour's white water rafting, which was fifteen minutes rafting over only three rapids. The view from the water was amazing and the forest looked dense and green, and we were lucky enough to see lots of dragonflies and butterflies. The guide tried to make it more fun by steering us into a big rock, but the raft was barely inflated and with my feet in the position he told me to out them, I hit my foot really hard and was in agony as my big toenail spilt in half and started to bleed. Next was a twenty minute gentle bamboo raft to the end of the river which was supposed to be forty, but I was glad this was shorter as one side of my nail was flapping back in the water. We got out, and I got showered while Brad complained about false advertising to a guide who wasn't interested, and we left to come back here to our hostel.
So the decision is yours- do you want to pay blindly into the continuation of this abuse of the very animals you are apparently so amazed to see? Or will you listen to your conscience and cut the demand, stopping this from going any further? I choose responsible travel.

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 03:01 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

The start of Chang Mai

Playing with fireworks- seems legit

sunny 28 °C

Yesterday we visited the floating markets. We had woken up at around 4 am and couldn't sleep, so we laid in bed watching catfish before getting up. It had been raining all nigh and did not show any sign of letting up so there I was, sat in my poncho and shorts with soaking wet hair at 7am waiting for our pickup. The driver took ages to get us to the other hostels, and kept disappearing for lengths of time for no apparent reason. At one point I saw him wandering across the street with a mcdonalds cup in one hand and a cigarette in the other! We people watched for a while to pass the time, and saw that the dustbin men have to pull out everything in the bin bags, and sort it into piles with their bare hands. I wouldn't want to be a bin man here. We eventually got going and arrived after a couple of hours at the markets. It was still pouring down as we took the middle seats on our boat which we rented (a seat each for 150 baht per person). The market itself doesn't run down one main strip, it is like a junction and each little side street had more to sell. Brad bought a big wooden hat which looked like a lampshade from one enthusiastic seller, so that he could keep the rain off his head and I think it's growing on him! I bought my parents a little souvenir- which since broke as the protective paper turned to mush and the airport staff manhandled my bag :(. We were rowed along by a lady at the back who stopped when we pointed at something we wanted to look at, and some sneaky shop owners actually hooked us in literally with a big hook on a stick! They dragged the boat to their stall and pointed to every item the sold individually! The boat ride lasted around 20 minutes and we rowed past lots of speedboats whose propellers frequently escaped the water right next to us. Some of these boats sold food such as barbecued bananas which I really wanted to try but it was the other side of the river. We took a walk around after that since we still had an hour, and i bought a rice noodle soup for lunch with vegetables. When we thought it was all over and we met at our designated meeting point, we were made to line up without explanation, and then shuffled onto a long, wet speedboat without the rest of our group. It wasn't bad- don't get me wrong but we had no idea it was coming and we got soaked as we tore through the water, and were taken past peoples houses. It's mad to think people live right on the water and even have dogs and cats just like a normal neighbourhood, except the doorstep is underwater! We got off the boat after 15 minutes feeling cold, wet and a bit confused with no sign of the rest of our group. They turned up next, and then we took the minibus back to Khao San Road, where we had a quick lunch then rushed back to the hotel for our airport transfer.
We arrived in Chang Mai yesterday evening. We had to fly because trains are not working from Bangkok to Chang Mai at the moment and Brad was worried about getting a bus. We regret that now since the flight was expensive, and then we had to pay an extra 900 baht each for out luggage at the airport. That had a huge impact on our budget. It cost 150 baht for us to take a taxi to our accommodation at Ben Guesthouse which was close by. I'll be honest- this was a cheap place and I didn't think it was going to be amazing but I was still a bit shocked when we went to our room and it was very dirty. The man on reception was lovely and very polite and helpful, and he explained that someone was going up to quickly clean the room before we could check in. This basically meant he used a shower to spray quickly over the toilet and bathroom. That's it. The toilet inside was black, the door looked like a land rover hand driven through the countryside and sprayed all over the side of it, and the sink was dirty too. So I got out my baby wipes and cleaned the sink, then had a shower and got into bed. We didn't trust the blanket provided as there was no top sheet, so I used my sarong from Rio as a sheet and Brad did the same. I felt a bit better once we had got washed and organised, despite sparks coming out of the plug socket and my hair dryer not working now due to the strange plugs.
I woke up at 4 am again today and tried to go back to sleep but couldn't, so I gave up and read a bit of my book and looked up what to do in the area. Once Brad was awake and ready to go, we went to get breakfast on the main road and shamefully walked into mcdonalds but only because nothing else was really open. Brad was pretty ill with a bad stomach so we went home to let him rest, he slept and I read and researched some accommodation for our next stops. Accommodation definitely isn't quite as cheap as advertised and being on a tight budget we are a bit worried now. Brad woke up at 5, so we went to get dinner near the old city, passing monks on the way. We stopped for a quick bite of watermelon from a street vendor who cut it quickly and put in in a bag with two sticks to eat with in under thirty seconds! The restaurant we went to was nice, decorated with colourful lights and was quite busy. Brad and I both had pad Thai but I was brave enough to put chilli on mine and it was so delicious with all the lime and tofu. It was a great dinner. From there we took a wander down to the night markets and night bazaar. These are two different places and if you don't walk both ends of the connecting road, you may not know they both exist. The bazaar is indoors, two floors and lots of art is inside including great wooden carvings and giant canvas paintings. Along with that you can buy clothes, massage, souvenirs, dead stuffed animals and even a photo of you dressed in Asian clothing! Brad worked his bartering skills and I got my elephant print purple trousers (so classy haha) to wear when we go elephant trekking so they will know I'm a fan :) then we walked to the night markets and saw some soaps carved into flowers which looked beautiful. The lady running one stall said it takes her eight minutes to carve one, then ten to paint. We saw some lady boys, someone getting a fish pedicure and a huge seafood selection on ice, alive. Brad asked if one crab was alive and this woman picked it up and poked it in the eye to show it was alive. I told her not to do that and to be honest I was really sickened by it all, as they were all piled on top of each other slowly freezing to death with some nut job market woman torturing them as a selling point.
On the way home we crossed the bridge by us and people were setting off fireworks and bangers which were flying all over the show and I was trying to run through them feeling really scared. There were a paper lanterns being lit and sparklers dancing around, loud bangs and flashes of light. We decided to go back to the guesthouse to grab a camera and then headed back. We bought a lantern for 25 baht and lot it, then set it free...into a powerline. We saw it heading the wrong way and tried to grab it back but it was too late. Luckily it brushed by and the panick was over. Until I realised that I was surrounded by mental health cases setting off rocket an all directions! One woman literally set of this rocket and was pointing it all around laughing like it was Harry Potters wand. Only Harry's wand doesn't shoot fire at pedestrians! There were people all over the bridge firing fireworks everywhere and anywhere, past peoples faces, across the water, into the bushes. Literally anything goes here. I have to admit it I was fearing for my life but it was a pretty big health and safety risk! So I ended up crouched behind my makeshift shield which was a road sign, covered by a car and underneath a tree. The path was no longer safe and I was behind enemy lines. I will add a video so you can see. Until then pray for us haha!

Posted by Kirstyonwroot 07:40 Archived in Thailand Tagged people night places thailand fireworks chang_mai Comments (0)

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