Sleeping in the bamboo bungalow was less than pleasing. Every time someone rolled over to readjust their body, the entire bamboo creaked along with it. I was convinced that the hut would collapse at same point during the night and was surprised to find myself unharmed in the early cool morning. My cold had gotten progressively worse and I would have liked to gain some more rest but I could not continue lying there restlessly staring up through the mosquito nets at the ceiling. With the rare American from Missouri, who fled the U.S. to teach English in Vietnam, and an English girl, I had some company to get through the morning while everyone else continued to sleep. I am not much of a coffee drinker but I enjoyed this village’s version which had strong hints of cocoa and seemed like a blend between coffee and hot chocolate. Eventually, they served some breakfast but I was not very hungry. My throat was scratchy, my voice hoarse, and chills ran the length of my body. Most of my time during breakfast was occupied in their version of a toilet. My deepest fear in that moment was that I had the runs, which would have killed a fair portion of my Thailand trip. Their “bathroom” is similar to what you might find while camping but actually so much worse. I had to relive my days in the gym and get into the power position of a squat because this was an authentic Thai toilet with no seat to speak of. Flushing meant pouring water into it from a nearby bucket. I was dead to the world but I continued to keep my positivity because I knew at some point this was bound to happen as I moved from one standard of sanitation to another. Luckily I was able to use someone’s medicine but for the time being I had no desire to move or speak. Everyone went to the river where the elephants would be bathed. Very few people immersed themselves in this putrid water. From this standpoint I could see healthy, seemingly well treated elephants on the opposite side of the river, which made the experience of seeing these poor creatures in front of us that much more depressing. That elephant park looked like an actual sanctuary without a tourist in sight. The elephants looked happy, without the carriages and chained leashes our elephants had. I thought we would be doing some more trekking today but instead we went white water rafting. My boat had three girls from the U.K. and a Thai onboard to make sure we made it to the end of the river. We spent most of the time on the river stuck in between rocks so more times than I would have prepared we had to shake and shimmy the inflated raft out of place. I will say that it woke me from my sick slumber but I would have gladly traded that for a pillow and nice, comfy bed. For some reason they thought it would be a good idea to trade the inflatable raft for a bamboo constructed raft to finish the water based adventure and made me the captain of this ship as I steered it down the river with an extended bamboo pole. With the water being so shallow we constantly scraped the bottom of the river bed before I got off and just walked the rest of the way. After finally reaching our destination long after everyone else, we ate some more banana leaf wrapped Thai food before walking to a waterfall near another elephant park. Several people slid down the waterfall into a small pool below but I chose not to be the dare devil when my energy levels were so thoroughly depleted. I went over to pet the poor chained up animals, sad to see such a sight. Our trek with this poorly organized crew had ended and now we were to take a truck back to Chiang Mai. On the way there, we passed many more elephant parks catering to the tourist dollar. Unfortunately I got stuck with the Frenchman for two hours. He is not a bad guy but he most definitely taught me a valuable lesson: you meet some people that you love to travel with and form a strong bond with while others you wouldn’t mind pushing out of a moving vehicle. I got back to the hostel and needed to check in. After a mix-up with the room situation I got a room to myself with a queen bed for less than four U.S. dollars. Tomorrow I had a whole day Thai cooking class to look forward to but until then I needed to sit down and get something to eat, specifically two plates of food (I got some looks in the restaurant but I was hungry and one appetizer sized plate was not going to get the job done). As I sat down in the hostel courtyard, the two Spanish girls greeted me with open arms and could not have been happier to see me and Ignacio. When they heard me speak, they said I sounded like Barry White, which was not at all what I expected but I’ll take it. Being probably our last night together in Chiang Mai, we went to the Sunday Night Bazaar, which is a famous night market that takes over many streets in an area just outside the city center. At one of the first shops I saw I couldn’t help myself and bought a Chang Beer t-shirt. I could have bargained for an even better price but my eagerness got the best of me. For most of the night we were looking for selfie sticks to make taking pictures easier. We kept shopping around for the best price before we found something reasonable. For the longest time I wanted to hold out for a selfie stick but when I saw so many people using and enjoying the convenience of it, I folded. Asking person after person to take your picture can get tiresome and plus enough people have no idea of how to take a halfway decent photo. Once I handed over the money and had the selfie stick in my possession, I knew that a bit of my self respect and dignity vanished and went the way of the dinosaur. As much time as I felt out of the loop around these three Spanish speakers, I still enjoyed their company and loved making our own language through gestures and simplified English. The three of them were going to Pai, a backpacker town north of Chiang Mai that has become a hotspot and not as hidden as it once was but apparently still a relaxed place for hippies to go and explore the surrounding areas. They had been trying to convince me to go but when the night ended, I still had not come to any conclusion on whether I would go or not because it wasn’t in my original plans. Maybe tomorrow will bring such a decision.
Thailand Day 59: Through Hell and Back