Just arrived in Chiang Rai, and will probably spend the next day or so writing up the last couple days of rafting trip…which were highly amusing. First, however, I’m taking care of the necessities of life: hot shower, laundry, ATM, hair conditioner, foot massage, gay bar, and email, not necessarily in that order. (If you must know, I actually found the gay bar first: on the way to finding the hot shower, aka hotel room. It doesn’t hurt to know where the good scenery in town is , though I suspect I’ll go check out the night bazaar instead–me being female, shopping comes before sex (sorry, guys ).)
Chiang Rai: Thailand is just like being back home! Why, the streets are paved, there are cars in the streets, there aren’t *any* random water buffalo wandering through town, and there are 7-11s and ATMs everywhere. They even have street signs! It’s all very exciting.
Even more amazing, they have electricity 24 hours a day…in Luang Namtha (electricity 6-10pm), the lone internet cafe in town operated on solar power during the day, so if the day was cloudy, you could forget your email. (But hey, they *had* email…which considering the conditions, was sort of amazing.)
anyway, I’m off again to take care of the other important bits…like contacting this very interesting guesthouse that was handing out fliers at the bus station: the Akha guesthouse, whichis run by the Akha hilltribe and features treks to (surprise surprise) Akha villages and also lessons on cooking/eating bamboo, making huts out of banana leaves, and other extremely useful skills to have, should you get lost in the trackless jungles of Palo Alto.
More to the point, the Akha have a very interesting weaving culture–Spin-Off (the handspinners’ magazine) did an article on the Akha spindles awhile back–they’re interesting because they’re mid-whorl, not top or bottom-whorl. I have no idea if this tribe still spins/weaves (probably not, if they’re runing a guesthouse) but I bet they know tribes taht still do…so I am off in search.
Btw, I’m glad I did the Thailand/Cambodia/Vietnam/Laos/Thailand loop in that order. Cambodian-Thai relations exploded whilst I was in Laos: apparently some prominent Thai woman insulted Cambodians, the Cambodians rioted and burned the Thai embassy (and three Thai-owned hotels, too), Thailand expelled the Cambodian embassy in retaliation, and (more to the point) all the border crossings between Thailand and Cambodia–including the one I used–have been completely shut down. So if I’d done the trip in the other direction, (a) I would have been around for the fireworks, and (b) I’d be stuck in Cambodia right now. Isn’t Asia delightfully stable?
I don’t have details yet on exactly what happened, but plan to go look at Yahoo! news once I’ve had a chance to read through the rest of my email. It all sounds thrilling, though. (I found out about it in Luang Namtha, about half an hour before leaving on the rafting trip–the guesthouse proprietor had been watching Thai TV on her battery-powered TV that morning, and told us.)
Btw, this morning, in Hoi Sai (the Lao side of the border), a random Westerner wandered up to us (me and the guy I was breakfasting with, a Brit bicycling across Laos) and asked us where the nearest ATM was. We said, “There are no ATMs in Laos.” Shock. Stunned. Culture shock on the hoof. Very funny.
Mind you, it was a delightful experience, and if you plan to travel anywhere in Southeast Asia, I recommend Laos as the best destination, by far. I plan to come back and see the south, if I have time after India. (Heck, maybe I’ll get a mountain bike in Vientiane, and do the first part of my AIDS Ride training in Laos…)
enough! off to write up the rest of the rafting trip. don’t expect it for a few days, though…I’m goign to write it up on the laptop tonight, so won’t be able to send it until I can dial in again.
In chiang Rai tonight, tomorrow going off to find the akha hilltribes, then 2/7 to DEPDC (the org trying to save hilltribe daughters from the sex trade) in Mai Sai, then to Bangkok to work out my indian visa/ticket issues. I expect to leave for India between 2/15 and 2/22, but India being India, only the gods know what will *really* happen.
Oh yeah…the bicyclist I was breakfasting with this morning told me that day before yesterday, he got stuck on the road in the dark and had to flag down a truck to take him into town. The guys in the truck turned out to be hunters–they’d been out shooting birds with their AK47s. (Sound familiar? ) He thought they’d probably been hunting something illegal, because they wouldn’t show him what they’d shot–they apparently weren’t supposed to have the AK47s either, as they weren’t too comfortable with his looking at them, either.
the funniest part was when they got near town the dogs started barking, and they stopped to let the dogs out–apparently, when they go hunting, they just stop somewhere random, round up whatever dogs happen to be around, take them off hunting, and then try to drop them in more or less the same place when they get back.
as I’ve said, Laos is a *great* place to go on vacation. I recommend it highly.
off to find massage places, gay bars, and food–