Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tubing City!

So we have some catching up to do. We left for our trek early in the morning from Mae Hong Son with our first stop being the Karen Tribe/ long neck people. The long neck tribe seemed a bit weird, like a human zoo. The long neck people are Burmese refugees that can't work in Thailand and can't go to Burma so their best bet is standing around for tourists. And off to the trekking path, which started just behind our trek leader's home at the base of a mountain. We had two trek guides, Nok Nok and.... the sweet guy we can't seem to remember his name... they took us up the beautiful, sticky hot mountain for about 12 km. Brooke had barefoot running shoes, Tina had hiking shoes and our French friend, Pierre, had.... converse chucks.... probably not the best choice for climbing up steep loose rock trails. Poor Pierre. The sweet trek leader was quite an expert at several natural tools, such as his hand carved bamboo cups and spoons and tea kettle he made for all of us. Beautiful views from atop the mountain, tarantulas, banana spiders, and banana leaf hats culminated in a sunset behind the local village we were staying at that night. Nok Nok prepared a delicious feast of stir frys, tea, soup, and for dessert some mountain herbal whiskey. Strong stuff. We got our beds ready- a nice arrangement of blankets on the floor covered in mosquito nets, and went to sleep in the cold air with the pigs and dogs running around below the house. Woke up to the sound of pigs sucking on their mom and enjoyed some breakfast before taking off on our "downhill" hike. Basically straight downhill we ended at the local river and crossed it, for which we needlessly took off our shoes and socks, because little did we know the river would be our main trekking path the rest of the trip. The rest of the hike was probably one of the most gorgeous routes with a waterfall and tigers at every corner. It's kind of interesting because when you sign up for one of these treks, they don't really go into detail telling you what you are actually getting into... which leaves some victims such as our precious cigarette frenchman. Poor guy had it bad. But we think the local people just don't realize what badasses they are at these things. We got back to the city late in the afternoon, quickly took showers and spent our last night in Mae Hong Son. Not to forget to mention that we had a large Chang beer and some popcorn from the sweet yet odd Wisconsin expat who recently opened up a restaurant with a large "american icecream" sign hanging on the outside.
The next morning we caught a bus back to Chiang Mai, which was missing the window at Brooke's seat. We got there on the eve of the king's birthday, a national holiday. The ride was sooooo pretty. Even with the sardine packed, baby crying, crazy drunk tourists- it was still ridiculous. On the night of the King's birthday we were hitting up all of the 100s of vendors that line the downtown streets and right as we were getting some   tom yum soup and papaya salad, the King's national song comes on and everyone stops... for about 10 minutes.
Next day we took the long awaited Thai cooking class which turned out to be a quick over view of Thai cooking along with the fullest we have been in a long time. Tina learned that 4 chillis is too much. But it was a good experience and we got cookbooks, so get the palm sugar and chilli sauce ready. The next morning we left for the slow boat that would take us into Laos. The ride to the Thai border was long, and we ended up staying the night in a town called Chiang Kong with Laos just across the river. Chiang Kong turned out to be a delightful little city for which we can thank Malwaaen, our sweet Thai guesthouse owner. Got our visa for 35 bucks and jumped on the slow boat for Pakbeng, Laos.  Take a big motor boat, put a bar in the back, and line it with carseats taken from the back of pickup trucks and voila you have a slowboat. The first day was about 6 hours and ended at the halfway point, a just-for-tourists-stopping-by river town called Pakbeng. We were talked into having a free shot, for happy hour, at a nearby bar/restaurant where we had our first taste of Lao whiskey... which could have been our last because of the sweetness and overall taste. Unfortunately we didn't plan accordingly with our money and exchanging it so we ended up losing some money in having to pay in US dollars and Thai baht.
Just another photo of the MeKONG!
In the morning we searched out some sandwiches and fruit and headed on the boat for day two of the Mekong River. We got some "fancier" seats and set off on the 7 hour journey (aka they didn't have a hole on one buttcheek). We befriended some British boys and a Canadian and reached Luang Prabang just as the sun was setting over the river. The boat passed down the murky waters along side mountainous rainforest, bans (villages) and every mile or so the children playing in the water would turn at the sight of a boat and wave to all of the passerbys. Long but beautiful trip. When we arrived in Luang Prabang, the former french colony, we walked around with 2 boys we had met in search of a guesthouse for about an hour before we finally settled into one and then headed off to get dinner. We quickly stopped at a crowded riverside outdoor eatery that was serving a buffet styled d.i.y. barbeque. It wasn't the best meal we've had but it was more for the experience of throwing raw meat on fire. We spent the next 2 days in the very small, but unique and cute town. We were able to see the mountains and go to the Pak Ou cave that is a double leveled cave that houses hundreds of carvings of Buddha.
Scary Buddha Eyes!
The chilly boat ride then dropped us off at the whiskey village, where they quickly throw shots of their questionable whiskey's in your face. The whiskeys all have unusual creatures fermenting inside. Lizards, snakes, and even a small bear.
I spy .... a BUDDHA!
Unlike all of Thailand, it was too cold there so we decided to head to a small town named Vang Vieng, notorious for its drink filled tubing adventures down the river. The dizzying minibus ride was picturesque with its endless mountain ranges and dusty roadsides. We passed by several villages who are literally alongside the main road, so much you can see villagers urinating and taking showers.

We saw the most beautiful sunset and golden full moon and arrived 90 minutes late. We are currently staying at the Organic Mulberry Farm just before the city. The farm is known for its Mulberry Pancakes and the opportunity to milk the goats, teach English and protest the loud and over the top river bars music, due to the tubing that goes on here. We plan on going rock climbing and tubing tomorrow, and the rest we shall find out soon...

1 comment:

  1. sounds amazing; bring me back some tiny bear whiskey!