My overseas odyssey comes to an end
13.06.2011 - 26.06.2011 35 °C
I love the social atmosphere in hostels. Having spent a whole day stuck in an aeroplane and soulless airports, I arrived at 'a little bird' with one thought on my mind - I need to sleep. However, I was immediately bombarded with requests to join everyone for a few drinks. Of course, the questions were rhetorical, and I had no choice in the matter. So, off we went to 'Reggae Reggae Rooftop Bar' where I was immediately into the swing of things.
I decided to explore the city of Chiang Mai on my first full day there. Armed with my Lonely Planet, I set off on a walking tour, taking in just a few of the 'wats' (temples), of which there is at least one on every street. Rather shamefully, this was the first temple I had seen in Thailand, despite being in the country for over a fortnight. The culture vulture in me did emerge though, as I spent hours ambling through the streets gawping at the intricate details both inside and outside the temples.
Although I'd only been there a day by this stage, I had already developed an affection for Chiang Mai. Despite its status as a city, the fact that there are no buildings taller than three storeys gives the impression that you're in a quaint, small town.
That night, I headed to the night market with Tine with the intention of watching the infamous ladyboy show. We got so caught up in the superb market though, amazed by both the variety of products and the unbelievably low prices, and we ended up missing the show altogether.
The last few weeks had seen me lounging on the beach, by the pool and, rather less glamorously, in a hospital bed. With this in mind, I was intent on going on a day hiking and biking in the jungle surrounding Chiang Mai. Accompanied by a friendly French couple, Matt and Julie, and led by our energetic leader, Tiew, we set off on a three hour trek up to the top.
The humdity was unlike anything I'd experienced before and the arrival at a waterfall was a welcome respite. Although I wanted to stay longer under the cool water, we were soon trekking again. As we scaled the river to join the path, I slipped. I dug my heels in with all my might, but there was simply no friction on the slippery rock and I continued to career down the river towards the looming waterfall, performing an unintentional forward roll in the process. I remember saying aloud to myself, "I'm in trouble here'. By sheer luck, the river took me close enough to the edge of the bank so that I could dig my heels in and stop myself.
Danger averted, I took far more care on the rest of the climb, and stayed well clear of any rivers! Following a quick photo and some lunch at the top of the hill, it was time to mount the bikes and begin the descent. We took things slowly to begin with, but we were soon on single tracks where the path is only just wider than the bike itself! With my body aching all over, we peddled the final stretch around the perimeter of a tranquil lake, where we were treated to food and drink as we soaked our battered feet in the water.
As we had missed the previous night's show, Tine and I headed back to the night market to watch the ladyboy show. I was incredibly sceptical, but with the recommendation of many people from the hostel I went along to watch. And I'm glad I did! It wasn't quite a West End show, but it was far more professional than I thought it would be and the performers were amazing! However, there was one performer in particular who was as puzzling as they were brilliant. Split completely down the middle, this particular performer was the most literal definition of a ladyboy.
The Wednesday signalled my last day in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai, but before I got the night train to Bangkok, there was still time to squeeze in a morning on a Thai cookery course. I couldn't leave Thailand without learning how to cook some of the amazing cuisine the country has to offer, so be prepared to taste some pad thai!
The night train brought me into Bangkok for the last full day of my journey. Having heard many horror stories regarding Bangkok, I wasn't particularly enthralled to be there, especially as I was coming from a place as peaceful as Chiang Mai. There was no need to worry, and although Bangkok is nowhere near as nice as Chiang Mai, it is still a fascinating place to visit.
I checked into a hotel and headed for the Grand Palace, one of Bangkok's premier sights. Covering a vast area, the incredible array of temples, monastries and halls are symbolic evidence of the country's monarchy and the mindblowing architecture of Thailand.
To finish off my cultural experience, I headed to the 'Reclining Buddha', a huge gold plated statue of buddha. To put it into context, one of the toes alone was bigger than me! My time in Thailand was quickly ebbing away, but I squeezed in a Thai massage before one last meal of pad thai accompanied, of course, by a Chang.
The next morning, I boarded my flight home to England and after a 14 hour flight, I had landed back on British shores to be welcomed by miserable grey clouds and persistent drizzle. What happened to the supposed drought conditions?!
Despite only being home for a week, writing this final blog is bringing all the memories flooding back. It's great to be home, but I already want to be back travelling.
I've travelled for exactly 100 days through six countries across two continents, spreading the word of trueLAD and Gunther in every single country. I ascended 5,895m when conquering Africa's highest peak and saw all the 'big five' on safari. I've trekked in the Himalayas, surfed in Bali and partied on the beaches of Thailand. Even though I've had 24 stitches etched into my forehead, I've had the time of my life.
The reason for this has been the people I've travelled with. Be it Stringer, Molly and Alice or the people I've met on my travels, I'd just like to say a huge thank you for making it the best three months of my life.
For the final time, thanks for reading!