So you may or may not have noticed our absence these last few days. But fear not. A two-part update is on its way. We went on a two-day trekking tour north of Chiang Mai… with some interesting results. Enjoy our re-telling of yet another disaster!
‘Wait a moment please.’
For a trekking tour, there sure seems to be a lot of that. Waiting. We’ve been sitting in a truck for the best part of four hours with our new trio of german companions. Three stops happen during the drive: one at a “butterfly and orchid farm”, the second a “local market” and the third a “local village”. I’ve put those terms in quotation marks because they’re very liberal versions of what actually happened.
The first turned out to be a 20 meter walkway looking at what looked like a disabled home for butterflies: every one of them a sad, lopsided little creature with wonky or broken wings. Five minutes was more than enough.
The second was nothing more than a glorified toilet stop.
The last was possibly the weirdest. The truck stopped inside a small village, nothing more than a few scattered bamboo houses, and the driver told us 15 minutes. We wandered around, dazed, yelled at by a couple of tiny Thai women decked in elaborate headdresses and leg warmers trying to sell us bracelets, and barked at by the dogs. Our slightly drugged up driver then took us on what we assumed was the start of our tour. It wasn’t, he walked us around in a loop and back to the car again. We asked him about the village, if he knew anything about it. ‘No. I’m from Pai.’ Silence. The whole village tour must have lasted five minutes.
Only when our “guide” rejoined us did we realise the whole stop was a farce to give him enough time to get high off his face.
Back in the car, we drove to what we thought was the waterfall promised. Nope, a little hut in the middle of nowhere with another german and a couple of bowls of rice. Confused, we ate in silence, our german friends in a similar state to us. Ben, the newest of the germans, confirms what we already knew: our guides are on shrooms.
Our bowls of rice emptied, we finally start trekking.
‘Waterfall?’ I ask one of the guides (who we’ve named Jip- he hasn’t bothered introducing himself), pointing at the road. ‘I’m flying. Helicopter. You see?’
I try the other one (Janneke). ‘Waterfall?’ ‘Waterfall! Waterfall!’ He imitates in a shrill voice. When Myrthe and I laugh, he imitates us laughing. Okay, I’m done trying.
We trek uphill. It’s steep, it’s slippery it’s tough, but hey, we’re walking. We’re suddenly very glad for our hiking boots. Jip and Janneke are dying. They may be flying high, but they sure aren’t moving forward. They’ve long since given up their guiding jobs. Every time we look behind, they’re stumbling from left to right on their flip flops, giggling and chattering nonsense to the jungle air. We’re forced to stop every ten minutes or so to wait for them to catch up. When they do, the most coherent thing we can get out of them is ‘you want mushroom yes?’
Only after two hours of trekking do we realise we’re headed to the village we were supposed to stay the night. The mountain village is charming, in its own, decrepit, insect-infested way. It’s wild. There’s no electricity, no internet connection, no running water. Huts are built on bamboo stilts, with bamboo walls, floors, and roofs. Pigs and chickens rule the place, along with mosquitos. The guides, sobering up slowly, lead us to where we’re spending the night. We dump our stinking bags on the bamboo covering and look to the guides for the next step.
‘Dinnah six. Yes?’
But. It’s two in the afternoon. We were meant to arrive at the village in the evening. ‘Okay, what do we do now?’ One of us asks.
‘You wait, you look to village, you showah, you massash.’
Oh. Well, we stink, shower is the first priority. I muster the courage to go first and get pointed to a little hut standing a little while away from where we’re sleeping. I soon find out why it’s standing so far away. It reeks. Worse than I do. Trying not to gag, I strip, and look at what I’m meant to be showering with. A garden hose, suspended from wall. Drops of brown water leak out of it lazily. Well, it has to be better than smelling like this.
Only mildly traumatised, I return to the group a little while later. Everyone is sitting on the bamboo covering outside in silence, listening very hard to someone chatter in Thai. I sit down next to them and realise two things. Firstly, the speaker is a tiny, tiny, heavy set Thai man with a broad grin (called King Kong). Secondly, what I thought was Thai was actually English, spoken so badly it took four germans and a dutchie to translate 30% of the content.
‘An I tok, notin da sam, some time I sa co sam is notin. No sam plase, no sam peoples, you noe? I sorri I no to englis verr goot. You unerstan?’
‘No.’ Myrthe replies honestly. King Kong sighs sadly, then carries on prattling as if nothing changed. Suddenly, his face lights up. ‘You wan guitar?’
He gets up and disappears into the jungle. We wait. And wait. Hours pass. When someone finally appears, it’s Janneke, not King Kong. ‘You help cooking?’
Finally! Something to do! ‘Yes!’ We happily follow him into a pitch-black hut, where a little pot stands over a fire. Despite tripping balls at this point, he still manages to cook up a storm with the few tools he has. We watch, hypnotised by the ease with which he cooks. Suddenly, he wheels on Ben with a potato peeler.
‘You big man.’
‘Uh. Yes.’ He replies, wary of where this is going.
‘Big anaconda. Big snake. In trousers.’
‘He wants to know if your dick is big.’ I reply, grinning.
‘Yes yes.’ Janneke doesn’t need an answer- he’s made his own mind up. He keeps stirring the pot quietly for a while. Then, thoughtfully, he adds: ‘I not very big. No, I quite small.’
‘Small, but spicy.’
As the afternoon draws to a close, King Kong reappears, guitar in hand. He doesn’t seem to mind that there’s a string missing, and entertains us by playing the broken instrument. We sing along as best we can to the spastic tunes, both in English and in Thai. A campfire appears out of nowhere as the darkness grows, and we forget that we’re gross and wet and tired. The beers help.
All of a sudden, a game of Never-have-I-ever springs up, and we all join in, King Kong included. He has no idea how to play the game, so we try to explain.
‘So, now it’s your turn, King Kong. What have you never done?’
We blink in silence. Well, at least he’s honest.
A while later, while swapping slightly filthy stories, he pipes up again.
‘Dis one time, yes. Firs time I ever had foreign woman. Oh my buddha! I put in, and boom! Errywhere. Firs time, firs put in. Boom! I go errywhere! Oh yes, yes.’
Again, we look at each other, wide eyed. I shrug, not knowing quite what else to do. ‘Who wants another beer?’
To be continued….