Date Thursday, December 05, 2002

Thailand, Laos and Malaysia 5 December 2002

It's now 12 weeks since we set off. We're still really enjoying the trip and feel really lucky to be able to see and experience so many new things. We've had a busy month through northern Thailand, Laos, a bit of r&r on an island off southern Thailand and then Malaysia.

We're now in Kuala Lumpur, staying with family (I promised Alistair & Sue that I wouldn't give too many details as she really doesn't want to get a mention in the Lonely Planet in case more of our type stop by with a rucksack full of washing!). Tomorrow we head for Singapore and then to Malaysian Borneo, before heading to Sydney for Christmas.

From home we've had more good news, this time some new arrivals. A big welcome to Bram Mosley and George Hooper-Greenhill.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

Chiang Mai is a walled town in the north west of Thailand. It's an ideal base for trekking, Thai cooking and massage courses.

After trying some great Thai food we decided to book onto a course. Mark now plans to be the next Jamie Oliver (watch out Ms Harrison at Hunters Hill - Marks after your job teaching Home Economics!).

Does this basket suit me?

We prepared Thai noodles (Pad Thai), red and green curry, fishcakes, hot and sour soup and banana fritters

After all that food we needed serious exercise so set off on a three-day trek in the Doi Inthanon National Park, the site of Thailand's largest mountain. A group of ten of us set out in a jeep: Carine and Jon (France and England), Kim and Nuno (Canada), Janne and Alexandra (Sweden), Marieke (Holland) and Dana (Israel).

The first day's trek was an easy walk on a mud track. We arrived in a small village where we stayed in a very basic long house. The village was populated by the Hmong Hill Tribe. One of between 10 and 20 tribes living in Thailand. Each tribe has its own customs, language, beliefs and mode of dress. The Hmong is the second largest group in Thailand and originate in Southern China.

We were met by a little boy who appeared cute, but after 15 minutes we saw his true colours and Kim christened him 'Chucky'.

Jedi Mark challenges Chucky to a dual

Our guide took us a nice present of not such a wee beastie

Bonfire night in the Meo tribe village

While we all sat around the camp fire, the guide explained a bit about the tribespeople who were around the longhouse where we were staying. Sadly this village was one which is still dependent on selling opium and Mrs M and Dr O, as we christened them, seemed quite keen to sell us their wares! We were also told that Mrs M's other 'job' was as a sex teacher... interesting...

Dr O and Mrs M - a 'just say no' advert

We had a freezing cold night in the hut and the blankets we'd all put to one side as filthy soon came out in the night. We set out for a three hour trek to get to the elephants...

We were amazed at how agile the elephants were, taking us a really steep climb

The trek took us through stunning countryside.

The rice harvest at dusk

Lynette and Carine cross a simple bridge

Our home for the second night - a Karen village

The Karen people originate from Myanmar and are the largest group in Thailand numbering around 250,000 people. This village is quite developed with running water and electricity, but they retain their traditions, language and culture.

In the evening the local girls performed traditional dances.

How it should be done - a traditional bamboo dance

Mark, Lynette and Carine demonstrate how not to do it...

Our last day, fuelled with delicious banana pancake, we set off on our final trek to where we went bamboo rafting. We then headed to the tallest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon (2,590m), where there are monuments to the King and Queen, last stop was a waterfall and we headed back to Chiang Mai - tired, dirty, but satisfied following a great trip.

We all arranged to meet for dinner and I expected that we'd all be in bed for 11pm - how wrong! We drank several bottles of Thai whisky and when we were thrown out of the bar at closing time, we carried on our little party until 4:30am by the side of the moat. We got to bed at 5:20am! Kim and Nuno's hotel had a pool which was a great place to get over sore heads the following day!


It wasn't on our original itinerary, but we'd heard so many great things about it, so we added Laos to the trip. Carine and Jon had the same plans so we travelled together.

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