I woke up early enough to make sure I got to Ignacio’s hostel in time for the trekking pickup but as you may or may not know packing up the luggage and getting from one site in a foreign city to the next, no matter how close, takes a lot of time and frustration. The time was approaching quickly so I took a red taxi to the hostel which ended up being around the corner but was worth every baht I spent to avoid the worry of getting further lost. After finding Ignacio, we picked up some water for the trek and I bought a banana leaf wrapped meal composed of a whole spiced mackerel (skin, eyes, and all ) as well as vegetables. A stray cat was particularly taken by my meal of choice, meowing and nuzzling itself closer and closer to my thoroughly delicious Thai breakfast, at a mere 25 baht setback. The trek company eventually picked us up and I sadly found the Frenchman within its confines. With a cheery smile, I hopped on and commented on what a pleasure and surprise it was to see him here of all places; gotta love chance! Even though I am traveling through Thailand, which I heard was a hotspot for Aussies getting away to go wild, I have found few Australians in my midst. Chiang Mai and this trek was no exception as it is filled with Spanish and French speakers as far as my experience is concerned. Once again I was the odd man out forced to stare outside the truck or attentively nod without a clue of what was spoken. They spoke some English but clearly they felt most comfortable speaking their native tongue. For those that speak next to no English I am amazed by their bravery to come to a foreign country, in Southeast Asia no less, and try to get around. Thais speak some English and I can understand it since it is my mother tongue but for those who do not hear it on a consistent basis the Thai interpretation of the English language must be difficult to understand. Family back home are concerned by how I am able to get around in foreign lands such as Thailand but it is easy when I have English at my disposal. Before our trek began we ate banana leaf wrapped food composed of rice, tofu, and veggies (tasty but a mere appetizer for American standards). As the trek commenced I met our tour guide, an interesting, odd character to put it mildly. The man known as Nicky Badboy has a personality unique to himself. I quickly learned that I should expect the unexpected when anything might involve this unruly character. As one of the few who could understand him since his English was a slurred, confused composition of speech, he generally talked to me and me alone. He talked about boom-boom as most Thais have and got serious about his desire and respect for having “one love” before transitioning into his comments about ladyboys and other weird homosexual comments. Being the guide of our trek, you would think he would be, you know, actually guiding the trek but I ended up being the one leading the charge while the out of shape mafioso-turned good guy (his words, not mine) brought up the rear and told me to slow down so he could catch his breathe. At no point did we run across any dangerous animals in this stretch of jungle with the exception of the native species Nicky Badboy but did see plenty of bamboo during this much needed respite from the city. Eventually, we found ourselves in a village filled with bamboo huts. The village sat near a river and had simply made huts with a bamboo-made bridge supporting the walkway to our hut, a small home filled with thin mats lined side by side for eleven people and mosquito hanging about. We met the elephants that would be taking us on our elephant “treks”. The scene was quite sad; these elephants clearly did not look healthy after the many rides that they had given over time, a poor quality of life. I had heard about these types of businesses and felt guilty about where I was. I heard from the Frenchman that he paid 1500 baht for this two day adventure versus the 1000 I paid and the 800 baht that apparently three Argentines paid. I was shocked by this but what could I do at this point. He on the other hand continued his complaining tirade about that, the huts, and so much more. I was losing my patience with him. While I waited my turn, I saw the hook that the trainers used to get the elephants to be obedient to their commands and it was a depressing sight. On the other side of the river, I saw many other elephants that were probably apart of a sanctuary and roamed the area freely without the carriages that our elephants had to support. I rode the elephant bareback but felt uneasy at the same time; the experience definitely soured with me and I regretted not paying the exorbitant price that the real, humane organizations charged to volunteer to be with and around their elephants. After getting back to the village which although is very meager in what it contains is still for the tourist in saying that the few locals living there are there for the tourists and not necessarily there for their own way of life. The village was loaded with chickens and dogs roaming freely of their own desires. Either way they served us a delicious meal buffet style with more than enough rice to complement the chicken and veggie soup and their cabbage heavy stir fry. For the night’s entertainment we sat around the fire while one of the trainers sang and played guitar. I occasionally knew the rhythm and beat of a song he played but for the most part none of the lyrics meant anything to me but did not take away from the experience. The Thai man simply played and sang beautifully, in such a way that put your mind at ease and, for that moment, you had no worries. Unfortunately and gladly, Nicky snuck his way into the night’s lineup. He had a bottle of Thai rice whiskey to rehydrate his weary soul and poured himself shots into a bamboo shot glass. Occasionally he offered shots to Ignazio, Richard (an Australian I met), and myself but they were mere drops to the rice infused liquor portions that soon filled his Buddha sized belly. The man called Badboy tried to lend his hand to the vocals, all entirely off-tune, by changing lyrics to his own liking such as “don’t worry, be happy when you have Thai whiskey”. Most of the things he said were only funny if you were there but he kept saying to one couple that “today is holiday, tomorrow is honeymoon!” Ignazio and I joked around that we need to make a TV show starring Nicky as the lead character and as the night progressed we kept trying to come up with various episode ideas based on the various things he said. I couldn’t guarantee much with the man but I can clearly and confidently say this guy has ADD; all his movements were energetically out of place. Either way, he made me laugh intentionally or not. The night faded quickly as my cold progressed. Using bamboo to make pretty much everything, they managed to manufacture a bong out of this native plant, a true engineering marvel.
Thailand Day 58: Nicky Badboy Live! On The Ping Pong Network