Hmm, I guess it's been a bit since I last posted. I got to Chiang Mai in Thailand last Wednesday via plane from Laos. I ended up meeting a Canadian guy who is a mean harmonica player and getting taken to a local blues jam session at a nearby bar. Was an awesome little place with a friendly Thai owner and a mixed local and foreign crowd. The music was fantastic and definitely a nice surprise. They are super into reggae music here and it seems like all bands exclusively play cover tunes of reggae music. So, yah, live blues was rad. I can't say that I was too charmed by Chiang Mai. In fact, it's far from a beautiful city but I think it's a city that's meant to be experienced. There's a little bit of everything in the city which is kinda cool. I took a jewelry making course on Thursday, and for $30 I got a 1-on-1 lesson with a Thai silversmith and learned how to work with silver and got to design and produce my own pendant. Was a really cool class and I totally enjoyed the meditative aspect of jewelry making. The instructor was pretty rad too as he reminded me of Mr. Miyaji - he had a wispy beard and would come over and tell me 3 words like "Use More Pressure" and then disappear for like 20 min. On Friday I rented a bicycle to explore the city which is doable in a day - lots of temples etc. On Saturday I went on a "trek" that was pretty ridiculous. It spanned about 9 hours and during this time we went on an elephant ride, did some white water rafting, floated on a bamboo raft through the jungle, and met about 4 different hill tribes. It felt like a tour designed for those with ADD. Anyway, was a fun day all in all, but I was sort of hoping for a less touristy excursion when I signed up. I left Chiang Mai on Sunday for a small town 3 hrs north called Pai. I had read in the Lonely Planet that Pai is a sleepy riverside town that is a haven for musicians and artists so it seemed like it would be a town that I would love. And, lo and behold, it is. It's totally a place that I could get stuck in. $5 yoga classes in the morning, great organic food, bungalows with hammocks beside the river, easily navigable on foot, super friendly locals, live music every night... I met some folks on my bus ride and explored some nearby waterfalls / chilled with them for a few days. On Wed. I left for an overnight trek into the jungle close to the Burma border. We walked for about 4 hrs on Wed. and it was definitely challenging. Some super slippery terrain and lots of incline, but totally rewarding. We passed several rivers, waterfalls, and hill tribe villages. Wed. night we slept in a Lisu (name of the tribe) village in a family's hut and got to learn a lot about their way of life. Our guide cooked us an awesome dinner over a fire and then we slept on the hut's bamboo floors only to be interrupted by numerous animal sounds during the night (there were tons of chickens, cows, pigs, dogs, etc. roaming freely around the village). It seems like roosters don't just crow at dawn, it's all night long! Anyway, it was a pretty enlightening experience. There are still thousands of hill tribe villages scattered throughout Thailand. The people speak their native languages and only some go to school. The Thai government has recently been helping the tribes out with solar power cells and creating roads/ school, but things are still nowhere near modern. It was pretty amazing for me to witness how things can be done without modern conveniences and how nothing is really thrown away - just re purposed. Anyway, on Thursday we woke up to eggs and toast then hiked for about 5.5 hrs through a variety of settings. We returned to Pai at about 5:30 PM on Thursday and we were all pretty beat, but definitely the most rewarding thing I've done so far on this trip. We didn't see another tourist the whole time we were gone and were definitely in the thick of the Thai wilderness at points.
So, today is Friday and I'm just having a mellow day in Pai and nursing my sore body before traversing the country to get in a few beach days on the Thai island of Ko Chang. I think I'll be there from about Sunday night-Thursday morning then off to cross overland back to Cambodia for my flight home on March 21st. Feels like time is flying by. Alright, time for some reading in the hammock! Xo.