Updated: Oct 19, 2018
by Nina Sabin - Travel
Our last blog, Thailand Excitement – Chang Mai, left us finishing our experiences at the Karen Rice Village in Chang Mai. After our incredible adventures through the Chang Mai jungle, the next day we did not know what we were in for. After waking up early to the sounds of animals and rice sifting, we packed up, had breakfast, thanked and said good-bye to all the villagers. We were off again on our journey, this time instead of trekking through a jungle, we walked along the banks of the rice fields. This is about where we ended our last blog.
Once through the rice fields, it was time for our next adventure on this two day one night tour. We arrived at a river bank to get ready for our bamboo boat ride. What we expected was a boat made out of bamboo. Instead it was a raft put together with bamboo poles. They had the raft ready for the six of us, but as soon as we started to get on the raft it began to sink. The guide told us to wait at the bank of the river as they added bamboo poles to our raft. It took a couple of tries to decide how many more poles were needed to be added to the raft. It took about 15 poles to make our raft sturdy enough to fit six of us and a guide.
We thought we would be sitting down relaxing on this raft. However, that was not the case. If you have ever gone paddle boarding, riding on a bamboo raft down the river is similar to that. Less than halfway the ride, my father-in-law was so exhausted he didn’t care about what may be in the water. He just needed to lay down and rest, even though his ears were immersed in the river water.
Along the water we waved to villagers and young boys jumping naked into the river. That was quite a sight for our four and six year old.
The bamboo ride was about an hour and a half down the Mae Wang River. Our journey wasn’t over yet, we then had a half an hour walk to the transportation that would take us to Wachirathan Waterfall and the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. On that mountain we visited the Royal Twin Pagodas at the top of the mountain, known as Naphamethinidon and Naphaphonphumisiri. They are two Buddhist structures that contain important relics. After our boat ride we were damp and on the mountain it was pretty cold. We were glad to have some jackets with us, but we didn’t stay too long at the top, due to wind and chilly temperature.
Our journey was over as we headed exhaustively back to the hotel for one day and night before we left Chang Mai to our new destination in Thailand. We were pretty muddy from the trekking and bamboo raft. We tried to clean our pants some in the tub to get off as much mud as we could. It is good it is not too hard to find laundry services around the city as we traveled.
Our last day in Chang Mai we needed a vacation from our jungle tour. We relaxed at the hotel most of the day, but we couldn’t miss the opportunity enjoy the culture of Chang Mai. We ate a special Khantake dinner of northern Thai food with dinner show of Thia/Hill-tribe dancing. We enjoyed the taste and saw the culture of Thailand, including a Thai Boxing demonstration. You can’t miss going to Thailand and not see a little of Thai boxing.
The food was amazing. It is common not to use utensils but your hands to eat. We were getting used to that experience, since in Saudi the most often eat with their hands. Using the fingers of the right hand, a small portion of sticky rice that is served in little woven bamboo baskets is kneaded into a bite-sized ball (it takes a little practice!) and the ball is dipped into the desired main dish (a portion can be melded onto the rice ball) before being popped into the mouth. The fingers shouldn't really enter one's mouth (the food shouldn't be crammed) as the movements are politely delicate. A rinse of the fingers and the process is repeated again and again. Thais from the humblest to the highest continue to dine in this traditional manner and they are adept at making it look easy and gracious. I wouldn’t say we looked gracious. This was a very fascinating experience for a four and six year old. Not to mention their parents and grandparents were in awe of the new way to eat food.
The next day were boarding a flight to our last city in Thailand. We waved good-bye to Chang Mai, sat back and relaxed on Thai air, as we flew about 2 hours to Phuket.
Phuket was so different than our experience in Chang Mai. Relaxed atmosphere and beaches. On the beach bathing suits were optional. This was a shock to our girls as we just came from Saudi Arabia where woman have to cover up in black robes (Abayas) and ladies on the beach were topless. We did observe that only the foreigners from the European countries tended to be the ones without bathing suits. Definitely a cultural thing that most Americans would not be comfortable trying.
Having your hair braided in little braids with beads was a common thing for young and older girl tourists to have done. My girls were so excited to get their hair braided. They had their whole head braided and they look so adorable. They liked the braids so much that they kept the braids for the rest of the Infamous Asian Tour. My mother-in-law even had a few braids done in the front of her hair.
We spent most of the time in Phuket, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere at the pool of our hotel and the beach. We did explore the city and of course as I mentioned before, you can’t go to Thailand without enjoying a massage. In Chang Mai, we were so busy with our trekking experience we didn’t get that massage. So we had to have at least two while we were in Phuket. John and I love the full body massages, while our girls and John’s parents enjoyed the foot massage.
You can’t walk down the streets of Phuket without seeing lady boys. Some of them were really pretty and besides the size of their hands, height, and feet you would know they weren’t really woman. There were many lady boy shows, but we didn’t think that would be appropriate to watch with our girls and in-laws.
Besides relaxing we also visited the Phuket was the zoo. We really enjoy zoos and seeing all the fascinating animals. Zoos around the world often have different animals that you may see at a zoo in the USA. There were two events that we remember the best from our zoo visit. One was the sign in front of the Emu’s cage. It said “Do not EAT the animals.” This was our first experience how other cultures misinterpret or misspell the English language. We assume the sign was supposed to read “Do not FEED the animals”.
The other excitement at the zoo was our youngest daughter was called down during one of the shows. They tied her up with rope on a chair and the monkey came and untie her. This was a thrilling and memorable experience for a four year old.
Our next blog we will be leaving Thailand and going to the next country on our Infamous Asia Sampler Tour 2002 (aka Around the World in 60 flight hours). This will be country number two out of the six on our itinerary.