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Monday 24 Jun 2013
Chiang Mai, Thailand

Flipping rafts and other silliness...

The next morning we had scrambled egg with diced onion and carrot (surprisingly good) and said goodbye to Ravi, Alisha, Cora, Phoebe and Stephen who were all on the 3-day trek. By contrast to yesterday's steep uphill climb, we spent the first 90 minutes going steeply downhill, although thankfully not by the same path that we had come up. This one had more steps and was less slippery in general, though it still had its moments. We came out at a much bigger waterfall which we could swim at. The climb into the pool was a bit precarious as there were a few submerged boulders that needed to be avoided (I learned that lesson from the one in Cairns where my bruise lasted for three weeks!) but once in the water was beautifully refreshing.

We had another hour of walking down through the jungle until we reached the river again. Our next activity was white water rafting, but with the water level so low we weren't anticipating many big rapids. We had a very quick introduction and set off with out guide, Chai, who looked about 15 but was deceptively strong. He was quiet at first, saying little more than the commands needed to guide the raft, but we eventually got him to smile and laugh with us. I think he was probably despairing as we were not exactly a well co-ordinated team. Lior did whatever he wanted and not what he was asked, which actually became quite annoying. We got stuck on almost every rock possible and spent most of our time lying on one side of the raft and bouncing to try and get the raft free. At one point we bounced so hard that we flipped the raft and dumped ourselves unceremoniously into the water. We all came up spluttering, laughing and clinging on to various rocks until Chai could get the raft ready for us to climb back in. Even Chai thought it was funny. Luckily the other raft downstream had picked up our paddles which we'd forgotten to hang on to. I was more concerned with checking I still had two contact lenses in.
Despite the lack of big water, we had a brilliant time. We transfered to long thin bamboo rafts made of long poles tied together with a few short cross pieces. By the time the five of us were sitting on the raft it was submerged completely, so we were punted along sitting nearly waist deep in the river, which just added to the fun. Chai hitched a lift by hanging on to the end of our bamboo raft and flicking water at Stacie the whole way.

There were showers and changing rooms, but the showers were made of one hosepipe running over the top of three stalls, so there was only enough pressure for one person to shower at once, which just made us giggle even more. Sometimes silliness is catching and takes ages to disperse! They'd made us a huge pot of pad Thai for lunch and we demolished two bowls each without hesitation. Then it was a long drive back to Chiang Mai and farewell to our new friends.

Stacie and I had checked out of Eco Resort and booked into Thailandwow, a hostel inside the old city walls. It was a bit of an effort, but we finally found a songthau which could take us to the right street. The old city is made up of streets and numbered alleys and our hostel was down one of these. When we arrived at the hostel, we were kept waiting for a while before checking in. Then we discovered our twin room actually opened directly off the dorm, so we had to walk through it to get to the bathrooms, which were downstairs and opened directly off the corridor - this included the shower cubicles which only had curtains across, not even a door! The fan was hanging precariously off the ceiling above our very uncomfortable beds and the whole place felt tired and forgotten. Stacie and I sat there feeling exhausted and unimpressed, before finally snapping out of it and booking back into the Eco Resort for the rest of the week. It may have been further out but the songthau price wasn't bad between us and the place was much much better than this dump of a hostel.
With that decision made, we perked up and went out to find a restaurant we'd had recommended to us. It was brilliant. The restaurant was upstairsand open on all sides with the bar andkitchen in the centre. The floor was polished wood with a low bench table running all around the outside. We sat on cushions and dangled our feet over the edge. They had more tables set in sunken pits around the room for bigger groups to sit in the same fashion. The food was excellent. We're both getting better with the spice level and managed to eat a good portion of the Tom Kah Gai (spicy coconut soup) but it was the fried Morning Glory that took us both down. Fried green vegetables in Oyster sauce is a common dish in Asia and usually has a few onions, garlic and a spot of chilli in. We carefully avoided the red chilli slices but got caught out by the small green ones hiding amid the green vegetables (seriously!? Hiding green chillis in green veg is just mean!) I got caught first and coughed, spluttered and shovelled down spoons of steamed rice before just sitting with an icecube on my tongue and whimpering. Having laughed at me, Stacie got caught 10 minutes later by the same thing and had a similar reaction. We had to order a bottle of beer just to try and take the heat level down. Definitely one of the hottest chillis I've ever been caught with! Despite the chilli, the meal was excellent and we loved the setting. A great end to a brilliant couple of days.

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