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The world in a nutshell Lucy and Tim go wandering...

First taste of Thailand

THAILAND | Thursday, 23 August 2012 | Views [743] | Comments [1]

After what felt like a very brief couple of weeks in Laos, we found ourselves boarding the slow boat to Thailand. With Chiang Mai in our sights we set off on what was to be an incredibly long two days up the Mekong to pastures new. It turns out that once again we had boarded the local's boat and several stops were made to unload small villages and enough supplies for what appeared to be at least a year - I've never seen a woman with so many umbrellas!

Eventually we made it, and after a few delays and an extra stop in Chiang Rai to sample our first Thai food at the walking street (we may have got a little carried away - it was amazing!) we landed in Chiang Mai with a plan to climb for four days before Sophie joined us. Alas, just to make us feel at home, it rained for two of those days and so less climbing took place than hoped, but this just meant we had even more time to explore the city and hunt out the best food and drink spots for when Soph arrived.

A weary Soph landed on our door step a few days later and rather than letting her settle in we dragged her straight off to plan the next few days. An elephant trek and some Thai cooking were the order of the day!

We all felt quite strongly that our elephant experience should be as animal-friendly as possible and none of us were keen to see any sign of sad elephants, so we were pretty fussy with our booking. The following day we set off in a truck to meet our new friends. Our driver warned us that we would soon be out of the city and on some bumpy terrain, followed by some "bumpy bumpy rocky rocky" terrain - none of us believed him until we hit it. Whether it was genuine amusement or histerics I'm still not sure but Soph seemed to find the experience hilarious and so we bounced (literally leaving our seats at every rotation of the wheels) along to the sound of her giggles...until the tyres left the concrete track and we were perched precariously on the side of a steep, very wet and muddy mountain road. "Everybody out, everybody out...now we walk" we were told by our driver, as if the events had been planned to a tee. It's ok, he soon salvaged our ride home...with the help of the elephants. So much for being animal-friendly!

Soph's luck was in for the day. Having been giving our instructions on how to instruct the elephants, we set off on our first mini trek with them. It was an amazing experience, perched on their necks heading off through the jungle with the help of their mahouts... Until we turned back to cheer Soph on, and were confronted by an expanse of jungle, without an elephant in sight. It turns out you can't rush a 68 year-old elephant, regardless of how many times you shout "Pai" (that means forward) and offer her encourangement! After a yummy lunch and some quality time with the elephants, whereby they mostly made us look like idiots by throwing water over us and covering us in muddy kisses, Soph and I swapped elephants - from the oldest to the youngest - and at just 8 years old our new friend was determined to have some fun. This time we were last to reach the waterfall, having been whipped by branches that our elephant was insistent on tearing from the ground and stopping to eat at every opportunity. It was time to bath the elephants, and this was definitely a highlight of the day. After plenty of soggy fun it was time to say goodbye and I think everyone was reluctant to leave the crafty buggers behind.

Day two of Soph's holiday and there was no rest for the wicked! The two of us (Tim opted out having done it before) set off for a little instruction in Thai cookery. What can I say...it's one of the best things I've done while traveling around Asia! Sim, our chef was great fun - always ensuring we swiveled our hips when squeezing our lime, and pounded our curry pastes like good Thai brides (always with a smile) - and the food we produced was some of the best we've eaten (at the risk of sounding big headed). Tim didn't miss out either as we made sure we took part of our seven (make that 14 as there was two of us) courses home for him to sample. I think he approved...although competition for head chef in the kitchen may have just got nasty!

To top off our time in Chiang Mai, and at the request of Sophie, we spent our last day doing the cultural thing by visiting some of the many temples. However, this wasn't enough for us, and in search of the trump card we headed to Chedi Luang for a chat with some monks. As highly revered members of society it was a privilege to chat to them, especially for myself and Sophie as usually woman are a serious no-go for a monk. Whilst Soph was busy being star-struck, with jaw open and eyes glazed, Tim and I got the conversation going and it was really very interesting to find out more about their lives and understand a little bit more about their role in Thai society. With our Chiang Mai boxes ticked, all that was left was to hop on (what we later realised was a plush) night bus to head towards Bangkok and Ayutthaya.

We spent just one day in Ayutthaya (ancient capital of Thailand) and managed to persuade Sophie to hop on a bicycle to speed up the sightseeing process. Once the wind was in her hair and she became familiar with the traffic whizzing past at high velocity she was loving it! Maybe that's pushing it, but she did agree that it was a nice way to pootle around the city and see the many temples and shrines. 

Tim and I had managed to cobble our way through various language barriers thus far, but whilst in Thailand Sophie proved to be a bit of a local when it came to pronunciation. Feeling excited by the prospect of steamed buns - something we were happy to see the back off when we left China but now found ourselves craving - Soph and I set off in search of treasure whilst our stomachs growled at the thought of it. We found our bun man and the following conversation took place:

Bun man: "You want inside (?)"

Obviously he was asking us if we wanted to eat in or take away, so we responded: "To take away"

He looked a little confused, "I don't understand". "Bicycles" we said and pointed frantically at them. Obviously!

It was at this point that Soph realised he was in fact asking us what we wanted inside our steamed buns. As soon as we said "pork", we were back in business.

We were just one bun from the finishing line when I made the mistake of asking for a vegetable bun. "Black bean?" bun man said. "No, vegetable" I confirmed. "Ah black bean!". Hmm, I could tell this was going to be tricky. I glanced at Soph just as she winced and said: "Veg-get-tabel". "Ahhhh veg-get-tabel!" the man said smiling manically. Obviously my Right-click to copy photo URL pronunciation was all wrong. As it turned out, they didn't have any vegetable and I had to settle for Black bean instead, but thanks Soph!

Feeling slightly sheepish, we returned to Tim with our prizes feeling slightly bemused by our encounter but ready for the next one. Little did we know that Bangkok would be a law unto itself...

Comments

1

Yay! You've captured it perfectly!!! Ha ha, just relived the bun experience. Everyone is now wondering why I am giggling so much. How was Bangkok take 2? And macaroons...you like?

I've just been camping at greenbelt and it pretty much rained constantly. It was so muddy it was like camping in a large cow pat. I am very glad to be back in my house but I would rather be by a sunny beach with you guys. I hope oz is good. Let's sort a skype chat soon! Expect an email this evening, just need to get to computer because I cant write properly on this ipod. Xxxx

  Soph Aug 28, 2012 11:04 PM

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