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26 December 2005

bananas and sugar cane: suck

had a killer time on a three day two night trek with eleven and then ten other trekkers (conor [ire], femka [ned], marcel [ned], linh [aus], miranda [aus], simon [swe], annie [swe], bill [usa], nok [tha], junko [jap], and akio [jap]) and our two thai guides, ray and kuad. christmas came and went as we hiked through the thai forests, saw beautiful waterfalls, visited two hill tribe villages, rode elephants, and navigated bamboo rafts down a small river. superkick. it was great to get out of the city.

i don't think i'd ever been as close to an elephant before we visited the huay poeng elephant camp. the animals were gigantic... far bigger than the elephants in my mind. giant heads, amazing grasping trunks, gracefully plodding tree trunk legs. all of the elephants seemed to be very healthy and were treated well... although i could have done without the trainers clonking them on the heads with big wooden sticks in order to spur them on. the march took us for an hour long loop on an uphill climb which looked quite daunting; the animals navigated the trail with purposeful powerful lumbering steps. bananas and sugar cane: suck. truly beautiful.

i unfortunately don't have any pictures of the rafting adventure due to the wet conditions... here's a pic i found on the web. the rafts were barely rafts; they were comprised of eight or nine long pieces of bamboo tied together in the middle and at each end. a shorter piece of bamboo laid across the middle created an elevated seat of sorts. a thai guide stood in the front with a long pole to push against the river bottom and obstacles. conor, nok, and i took turns on the back of the raft with the second pole. i had the prestigious honor of being the only one of our group to completely wipe out into the river when our raft got very close to the shore and an overhanging tree slammed me right off the back. i saw it coming... my mind began racing... lay down to try to get under it? try to push us away with the pole? jump over it? i'm not exactly sure what i did... whatever it was was the wrong option.

the dynamics of our group didn't make for a very tight bond unfortunately... nothing near the friendships that i saw while hanging with the other trekking group at the muay thai fight on friday. of the twelve trekkers, there were five couples... one swedish, one australian, one dutch, one japanese, and one american and thai. couples generally spoke their native language with each other and tended to stick together. i bet i'm one of the few people in the group who actually knew everyone's names and that's only because i introduced myself to each person. maybe we'd have bonded more if we'd been together a bit longer; on the second night many of our group had a great time playing cards and charades. [digression: i had the most difficult time portraying the word 'africa' during the game of charades. i successfully got the group to guess 'north america', 'south america', 'europe', and 'australia'... then i acted out 'south of europe'... it took about another five minutes for someone to actually get africa. oh my god. end digression.]

where am i going next? good question. i'm not really sure. i'd hoped to be somewhere ice cold for new year's eve, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen. chiang mai is supercool but not quite ice cold. i think i'm going to be heading into laos at some point next week and then into vietnam.

i've made another large itinerary decision... well, i think i've made it... about 90% there. i'm not going to visit australia and instead spend that time in new zealand. i picked up a second hand lonely planet new zealand guide in chiang mai and the country looks absolutely incredible. my plan is to buy a cheap car there and then sell it when i leave... six or seven weeks in the country would allow me to do that. like china, australia is gigantic and i really feel like i'd be cheating the country if i only dropped in for a couple weeks. like i said, i haven't committed to the decision... there's always the possibility that i'll just hit sydney or possibly melbourne. comments are appreciated.

i _definitely_ need to do something about my camera. the spots on the inside of the lens are really driving me crazy and are affecting my pictures. i'm sure most people would be hard pressed to pick out the two blurs in the photos... they're really only evident during zoomed in shots. but i know. _I KNOW_. in fact, that's _ALL_ i know when i'm taking pictures. i really don't want to go the remaining three months with this issue... i need to upgrade during the trip. one problem: i didn't factor in the cost of a camera upgrade during the trip. if you'd like to contribute to the global recon camera fund, you can send money to paypalATglobalreconDOTorg via paypal. in addition to getting an enormous heap of thanks from yours truly, each contributor will get a superfancy postcard.

sunday marked two months since the haircut and shave and my beard is yet again attracting negative attention. i can feel it. but i can't break down this time... i'm going to grow this biker beard until april and then ride like a heathen across the united states of america with the 'all your daughter are belong to us' motorcycle club.

if you're wondering what that red thing is tied around my neck in the trekking galleries, it's the indian gumcha i bought in varanasi. i've named it 'death from above'. death from above and i don't care what you think.

'i'm not afraid.' 'you will be. you _will_ be.' [source]

posted by paul on Mon 26 Dec 2005 at 00:00:00 est (-05:00)


I think it is so great that you took that trek. I would have loved to ride on an elephant and go down the river on a little bamboo raft! I'm so glad you decided to do that. I miss you! love, jenn

posted by sister on Sat 31 Dec 2005 at 14:14:38 est (-05:00)

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