Saturday, 31 October 2009

More pai, lopburi etc

So, continuing from where i left off. The day after the whitewater trip was spent doing very little, except looking after my wound, lying in a hammock, eating, etc. I also booked an elephant trek for the next day. So i woke up early the next morning, got picked and rode in the back of a pick up truck with an aussie woman who was a teacher, who was going to be riding the elephant with me. It took about 20 minutes to get to the elephant camp, where we jumped out, and got given some banana's to feed to the elephants. Fun times. If you held one behind your back the elephant would wrap his trunk around you and pull you in, then yank the banana from you with his trunk. At one point i tried to walk across one to another, with a banana in my hand, but the closer one just grabbed hold of me and the banana!

So then we attempted to climb on. The elephant bends one of its knees, which you step on, then grab the top of his ear, which is all cartilage, and pull yourself up! Not the most graceful of things. It actually feels really high up, and there is no platform thing to sit on like in some places. So you are basically just sitting on his spine, and he had short, prickly hair. So it wasn't the most comfortable of things! But it was fun. First we wandered (slowly) around the hills for an hour. He seemed to be misbehaving quite a lot though, the guy who was......uh....steering him? got angry with him because he kept stopping, to grab some vegetation to eat with his trunk, and to do some business, if you catch my drift. But often, nothing was coming out, so our guide just tried to hurry him along. We got back down to the road and were walking past the other elephant camps when suddenly he turned 180 and tried to set off in a run! Now, being about 8 feet off the ground, with concrete below, was a bit of a worry. So we just grabbed on and the guide managed to stop him! I figured he was a moody teenage elephant going through a rebellious phase because his parents won't let him stay out any later than 10pm....or something.

So after this episode we wandered towards the river, which was fairly wide, with the usual lovely shade of brown water. The elephant slowly creeped into the middle of the river, and then walked up it. Of course we were nice and high up so were not getting wet. Result. We got to a point where the 'driver' said do you want to get wet? Me, of course i did, the aussie didn't like the look of the river so opted out. For shame. I had been swimming and slicing my knee open in the wonderful stuff already. So she hopped of onto dry land, and me and the driver headed back out into the river. The next 5 minutes was basically my getting sprayed down by the elephant who was sucking up water with his trunk and blowing it out at me on his back. The driver was also on board, but was using me as a pretty effective human shield to stay dry. Then he asked me 'you want elephant shake?' to which the only answer really is, 'Yes?' in a kind of 'I'm Ron Burgundy?' style. He told me to hold on tight. So i did. The elephant lowered its head down, then swung from left to right and back again very quickly. Somehow i managed to stay on. The next time, i went flying. Curses. I clambered back up, and then we noticed something that looked like a dead fox drifting past us down the river. Mmm, yummy.

We climbed back onto dry land, and now i could sit right behind the elephants head which was 100 times more comfortable. We slowly wondered back to the camp and jumped off. Then we were told we could go jump in the hot spring baths, so I did, but the aussie woman seemed to have an aversion to that as well! So i lay there for about 20 minutes in this awesome hot water, depositing all the stones i'd managed to collect in my shorts after being thrown off. Dried up and got taken back to town.

I spent the rest of the day just relaxing. I've become addicted to this spicy glass noodle salad, which is insanely spicy but so tasty. So i fight through the pain, every time thinking i'm not going to have it again, only to go and have it again. Mmmm. And roti from street vendors. Banana and chocolate. So good.

I was walking back to my guesthouse that night thinking how much i loved Pai. It was so chilled out, in a great setting, i was eating roti, thinking, yeah, this place is cool. Then i see a thai guy just randomly walk up to another thai guy and smack him in the head, he then falls straight over backwards and whacks his head on the ground, with the other guy just walking off. The guy stood up, with blood streaming down from the back of his head, looked at me and just shrugged his shoulders!! A couple of other guys ran after the guy who punched him, but i never saw what happened once they caught up to him. Was a wee bit random!

I left the next day and went back to Chiang Mai, where i spent two more nights. Trying to keep things a bit more brief so i can catch up, i wandered round some more temples, some of which were stunning, one which had donald duck standing beside it, which was a little odd. I remember one awesome meal i had, red curry with duck, lychees, cherry tomatoes and pineapple. Mmm. Most of this blog just seems to be me writing about food. It's so good! Met a few peeps from Spain one night at the place i was staying and went and had some drinks with them. Fun times.

I decided i wanted to go to Lopburi, so i booked a train ticket, departing at 8.45am and getting in a 6.45pm. Supposedly. Well, i got a ride to the train station, and sat waiting for the train. At one point some crazy old thai lady came up to me and said something to me, her family followed behind her, one of which said 'she said you have a very nice smile.' This happens often, its odd. A train turned up at 9am, but it was one that was supposed to have been there at 6.45am, so i wasn't allowed on. Eventually our train turned up and we left at 10.45, two hours later than planned. The train journey itself wasn't too bad. The train was only half full, the first five hours were pretty slow going and mountainous but once we hit phitsanolouk we flew. Plus we got a free meal, which was pretty tasty. I hardly even realised that we'd got to Lopburi, it was about 8pm and i was feeling sleepy. I jumped off the train and tried to figure out where i was/where i was going. I didn't have a map and only had a rough idea of where the place i wanted to stay was, but after a bit of wandering i found it. I went for a bit of a wander in the evening, there really wasn't a whole lot going on. The lonely planet book had only used about half a page to talk about Lopburi, and there was one main reason that the people came here. For the monkeys!!

The next morning i went an found an internet cafe so i could figure out where everything was. I went to this old palace first, which was fairly interesting. It had a museum inside the grounds, which was again, fairly interesting. But after a while it was just one very old Buddha statue after another, and they do all look the same...i was eager to see me some monkeys! I wandered towards this famous temple where they reside, and once the temple was in view, so were the monkeys. The temple itself was surrounded by grass and a wide perimeter fence, but the monkeys weren't just inside the fence. Oh no. They were everywhere. Sat on parked cars, crossing the roads, running around on telegraph poles, swinging on fences over buildings like it was their very own jungle gym, which i guess it was.

I waled in through the gate, paid the admission fee and for this i also had a thai lady follow me round with a slingshot. These monkeys, they were everywhere. It was crazy. It's hard to get across how strange it felt! I bought a bag of nuts at the entrance, and you could feed the monkeys these, just hold them in your hands and they'd grab them! Most of the monkeys were just chilling out, grooming each other, climbing up and down walls, with the occasional fight breaking out, and the odd spot of 'boom boom' which those of you who've been to SE asia will know, and those of you who haven't, well, it's pretty easy to work out what it is, isn't it! I sat down at one point and a few of them started to climb on me, sometimes they'd try and get a bit bitey, but the thai lady would threaten them with the slingshot and they'd scarper! It was quite a small temple, and we went inside, where a whole load of bats where hanging upside down having a snooze.

Once i'd finished, there really wasn't a whole lot else going on in the place. I went back to later to just sit and watch the monkeys which was pretty funny, one of them had managed to find an energy drink, unscrew the cap and have a drink. I though to myself, this could end badly :/ But he didn't like the taste, so passed it round his friends, who also didn't like the taste!

This is where i'll be ending now, hopefully i'll get some time somewhere to catch up on my last week or so in Kanchanaburi and Bangkok, which have been pretty crazy, but now i'm off to New Zealand for a month, and i think i'm gonna be away from the internet for a while!

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