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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thailand, Huck-Finn Style

Alright, so I promised you all that this week's post would be more fun than last week's. I came through on my promise of more photos, and hopefully that correlates to more fun for you all. So for starters, nothing really too eventful at work yet- Dustin left to Bangkok for half of last week and all of this coming week, so we're probably going to hold off on the Burmese intern plan that I mentioned last week. Friday was a big day, though, for the Burmese community. It was Aung San Suu Kyi's birthday, so there were various events going on around the city largely in honor of her, but also as an opportunity to raise awareness about the situation in Burma. This turned out to be a nice little break from work for me on Friday afternoon- Terry and I left the office around noon and headed over to Chiang Mai University where they were having a series of panel speakers and open discussion about Burma and Suu Kyi. The talks were pretty interesting- going in I didn't think of the likelihood that everyone would be speaking Thai, but the University hooked us up U.N.-style and gave English speakers headphones with a live translation. The only problem was it got a bit awkward when the speakers would make a funny comment here and there, because I would chuckle a minute after everyone else had by the time the translator finally got to the comment, and the speaker had usually moved on to the less-funny topics of burning villages and arbitrary imprisonment...Anyways, one kinda cool part about the afternoon was that I got to meet the three English-speaking panelists: Parliament members from Singapore and Malaysia, and a Congresswoman from the Phillipines (sorry Adrian, can't remember her name). Very interesting to hear them talk, but at the same time a bit frustrating because a lot of their time was spent skirting the issue of taking direct action. When talking doesn't work with Burma...why not try more talking?

Anyways, after the talks, Terry and I headed over to Tha Pae gate where the Burmese community had organized food, music performances, and speakers to celebrate and demonstrate for Suu Kyi. It was a pretty cool scene- didn't stay too long, to be honest, but I did stick around long enough to see the re-enactment of the American swimming across the lake (moat) to Suu Kyi's house. I thought it was interesting that they made it almost comical- I guess maybe making fun of the American(s) specifically, maybe because it was a birthday celebration after all and they didn't want to make it too somber, but the humorous mood of the whole thing did just sort of strike me.

So Friday night I got home and randomly decided with the Irish girls to take on a three-part adventure on Saturday- I'll take you through the day one adventure at a time- basically yesterday was the highlight of my trip so far.

We woke pretty early Saturday morning and got picked up by the company we booked with. After about an hour and a half drive out into the middle of nowhere in the Thailand jungle, we got dropped off at a river bank and got suited up for the first part of our day- a 10k mountain bike ride. I guess it wasn't your crazy intense mountain bike ride where we were like hopping over logs and cliffs, but there were mountains (hills at least) and we were on bikes, so...As you can see from the pictures though, we were cruising through some gorgeous dirt roads along the Mae Kaeng river. Not gonna lie, I was huffing and puffing a bit after a few of the hills (plus, let me tell you, after a month or more of the rainy season, those 'roads' were not helpin me out at all) but all in all it was good to get a bit of a workout, and it was really great to just be back on a bike feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere- highly recommended, even if it means just taking a trip to the Bugbee woods...

Alright so, we finally got off the bikes, sweaty and gross (and a bit sore), and headed down to the launching site for our next event: elephant riding! Yes, I finally had my first experience with elephants in Thailand. They really are amazing creatures. First of all, you can't really get a sense of their size from just seeing them from afar in a zoo or something. These beasts are seriously massive. Actually, Kiera and Naomi's ride was especially massive- they got the Hummer of the group, I got the Porsche. Once again, we had about an hour-long trip through unbelievable terrain along the river banks. One of the things I was most amazed about with these animals was how they were so...nimble (for lack of a better word). Seriously, we were climbing up some pretty steep, very narrow, and very slippery paths, and these elephants never missed a step. I'm talkin about up-hill paths that are no wider than the elephant's foot (singular) and are straight up mud (again, after a month or so of the Thai rainy season). Kinda random, but really impressive. The other striking thing is how much of a personality these elephants had. One of them was pretty stubborn and kept wanting to eat leaves and branches and other elephant delicacies from the side of the paths. We actually had (prepare yourselves) a little baby elephant walking along next to us the whole time (no one was riding him, he just came along for the company I guess) and as would be expected he was the cutest thing ever. At one point he was carrying a branch in his trunk and just kept smacking the ground with it as he walked along. Cuteness factor peaked when we stopped to let the elephants have a water break at the river, and the baby elephant looked up at me and kinda started tapping me with its trunk to say hello. Side note about the elephants- Naomi had been taking pictures of me on my elephant, but somehow all the pictures she took yesterday got wiped from her camera. Hopefully she'll figure it out, but otherwise I'll have pictures of me on an elephant later in the summer after my next elephant riding experience. Anways, amazing, amazing time, but still not the best part of the day...

Got off the elephants (not as sweaty but a little more sore) and had about a half-hour of the bumpiest ride I've ever taken (basically in one of those songthaew-type of trucks) up-river to our lunch spot. Mingled with a group of Polish and Scottish tourists for a bit, had some lunch and delicious fruit, and got a little training sesh for the day's main event: white water rafting. Yes, I was extremely extremely excited. I've been wanting to go white water rafting for as long as I can remember. This was really an amazing introduction to the sport- luckily no injuries or mishaps, but thrilling enough to make me really want to do it again (perhaps the Colorado River on my trip out west?) A lot of the rapids we were riding were level 4 (out of 6)- the brochure said levels 4 and 5, but to be honest I kinda doubt any of the rapids we were doing were level 5, but who knows. Our timing was perfect- the company is actually shutting down the rafting after next week because the rainy season is making the waters too rough, so we squeezed it in just in time for peak excitement (actually, the company's name was Peak Adventures...so...there ya go). Our total distance travelled was over 10k on the river, so we were out there for a good amount of time- another good workout, this time for my arms/back- to be honest the position you have to sit in is a bit awkward/uncomfortable, but the whole experience is so active and exciting because you have the skipper in the back yelling to you for when to row, when to hold on, when to "get in" (for the most intense rapids), etc. I was sitting in the front seat the whole time, which was the wettest and the most fun. We actually ended up swimming in the river for a few minutes at one calm part- tried not to think about what could be brushing up against my legs in the brown river in the Asian jungle, but it was nice to cool off a bit. Again, really an amazing amazing experience- completely lived up to all the hype (that had built up in my own mind...) and is another highly recommended activity if you haven't already experienced it and ever get the opportunity.

So I think I'll leave it there for this week- short and hopefully sweet. Molly and Ari get here tomorrow which I am super psyched about. Ko Samui next weekend, which I am super super psyched about- next week I should for sure return with some more fun pics and stories (but you all might have to wait until after next weekend- I know I'm throwin a monkey wrench into the whole Saturday-Saturday routine). A couple of random things real quick though- I put the link to my webshots in the 'About Me' section on the side of the page for easier access- some more pics are up, and the album is new and improved with captions for all the pictures that are currently in it. But for some reason, webshots refuses to actually upload all the photos that it says it has uploaded. Still working on this- I promise I have a bunch more photos of everything I'm doing than what's actually up on webshots, but for now at least you got a sampling.

Hoping to balance out this awkward farmer's tan I got going next week,

1 comment:

  1. That's 128% awesome man. I might go steal an elephant from the Houston Zoo and ride it to work.

    Waiting for my cuteness level to peak,