Friday evening saw us at the Night Bazaar (Bizare more like) Endless market stalls selling crafts, copies of designer clothes, food etc etc.. Everyone hawking their wares offering to make good price. Problem is with back packing we are limited on space to start buying lots of things.
We stopped at a seafood place in market and had the best food yet. Squid in thai basil leaves and seaford red thai curry and fried rice with fresh crab meat and deliciously comforting fat shiny soft thai noodles in a beautiful sauce with chicken and all washed down with Singha beer (Thailand's favourite allegedly) A short tuk tuk ride back to our area and we discovered a group of young guys playing the most incredible game of skill you have ever seen. A net with three hole in it (Sort of hoops) dangling about 20 feet off the ground and then a team of about 8 chaps who were trying to score using a hard plastic ball about 8 inches diameter. The were allowed to kick or shoulder or head the ball but not use arms or hands. Really cool to watch.
Did I mention that on Weds night the Queen had her birthday and it is a huge national event? We ended up joining in with that ceremony holding lit candles during the national anthem (a jolly ditty which goes on for about 20 mins)
Anyhow.... Saturday! An early start as we were picked up by our guide Q (Yes that's his name) at 8am. We were driven for about an hour and half into the mountains and into the jungle to Chiang Dao and the elephant camp there. Here we watched the mahouts taking their elephants into th river for a nice bath. It was fantastic and I cannot believe I ould ever see such things personally. There followed a show wher the mahouyts and elephants showed off their skills including the els painting pictures!!! We weren't too sure this was good for th animals but they used to be trained for moving teak logs around so I guess at least this keeps them useful and not left for poachers or completely abandoned.
Next up we were taken on a bamboo raft for an hour trip down the river. Amazing to see all thes little huts and people living along the river in the jungle (many had elephants in tall bamboo structures to house them) Simon had a go at rafting and after a promising start soon reverted to his early punting skills and took us hurtling towards the river bank and over hanging trees.
Apparently the river eventually flows all the way to BK.. so the boatman kpt making the increasingly lame joke that he would take us Bangkok only 100 baht. (I think it was the only english he knew)
After a buffet lunch where we ate too much and had a couple of beers (a very short sighted move considering what came next) we were then taken up on to a bamboo platform and promptly told to stand on an elephant's head and sit in th little seat they had thoughtfully strapped, somewhat precariously I thought, on the elephant's back. A mahout sat straddled on the elephant's head with his feet behind the ears and off we went. Within seconds we wer regretting our lunch time greed as the elephant careful;ly tiptoed down the steep river bank into the river causing a stomach clenching forward lurch for us. What followed was a 45 minute elephant trek up the side of a mountail through the jungle. It was absolutely awesome and I kept thinking oh my god Ellie would love this! Our elephant was calld Numbo and we had thoughtfully brought along a bunch on bananas and a bunch of suger cane so that every so oftn when he felt a little short on energy he would stop and trumpet, sticking his trunk back so we could lean forward and hand him a banana. What was incredible was how quiet these animals were as the single filed through the trees. The old saying you sound like a herd of elephants is obviously not very true. At one point our mahout got off Numbo to talk to a villager we passed and let Numbo carry on without him - so we felt like the real deal driving along on an elephant all by ourselves.
After a final trip back through a particularly deep bit of the river we dismounted and continued the journey back to camp on the back of a cart driven by a couple of ox.
Finally the day ended with a trip to a village to meet a hill tribe called the long necks. A strange burmese tribe who believed they had been cursed yars before to be food for tigers and to that end the women from about the age of 5 start putting metal loops around their necks. What happens is th weight from the loops pushes down their collar bones so making their necks look longer. I asked Q why the men felt they were immune from this threat of tigers and didn't have the loops and he shrugged and said I guess they can run faster! (Typical)
Anyway long post here sorry. Also sorry because this keyboard has a dodgey E so if you see typos with e's missing apologies.