Trekking in Chiang Rai

Houy Kaew WaterfallI feel the spray of the monsoon-swollen waterfalls on my face. The Houy Keaw waterfalls roars all around the large boulder where we take a moment to appreciate magnificence nature, well, not Mr. Bean, he is napping.  I close my eyes and just listen. I think to myself how just this morning we were guests in a Lahu village atop one of the many mountains in northern Thailand. Extending from the bamboo house where we slept a large bamboo deck presented me one of the most beautiful views i have ever seen: the morning fog drifted over the mountains barely touching the trees that dress the mountains in a gorgeous jungle green while the pinks and oranges dance through the clouds.

Mr. Bean calls me over. We are on day two of a three-day trek in the jungles of Chiang Rai province and our charming guide, nick-named Mr. Bean, reminds us its time to continue to an Akha village nearby. My mind begins to wander again as I pick up my backpack. I think about all that has happened so far in the last couple of days. I think about the sad faces of the elephants. I think of the leech that made it’s way into Davide’s sock. I think of how strong the waterfall current was and how I was afraid of swimming too close to the edge. I make my way across the bamboo bridge leaving behind the waterfall and looking forward to what the rest of the day may bring.

This entry is part of a series of posts on my trip to Southeast Asia in August of 2008. You can see all of the posts in this series the post: A look back to my trip to Southeast Asia.

Orphanage

Men's Volunteer DormIt’s barely six o’clock in the morning and I begin to hear the hustle and bustle of thirty children getting ready to go to school. I stumble my way out of the mosquito net that surrounds the bed. The bed is made up of two or three long cushions that are usually placed on a wooden frame. In this case, a handful of cushions have been stacked on each other on the concrete floor. The rainy season and the leaky metal roof has made it so they are damp and sometimes smell of mold.

The noise outside continues as I reach for my glasses and peek out the door across the courtyard where the kids are running around taking care of last-minute details or eating their rice porridge breakfast. Some of the boys have not managed to get into their school uniforms yet while the girls were helping each other with their hair. As the breakfast bowls are put down, the kids make their way to the back of an old pickup truck. Some of the older kids drive off on mopeds, while others drive off on their bicycles. As the pickup truck drives away there is a silence left behind that reflects the mist of the early morning that has settled on the orphanage.

Since I arrived in Chiang Rai the weather has shown to manifest in any one of the variations of rain. From light drizzles to pouring monsoons, the season is wet. Your senses adjust to the diffused daylight and the moist air. This afternoon, for just a couple of minutes, the heavy clouds part to make way for the sun. The sun brings a bright, lovely color – painting the landscape in vibrancy. This experience is best described by the sensation of taking off very dark sunglasses after wearing them all day. The contrast was such that it felt feels like a different place all-together. Moments like this increases my appreciation of the simple things I often overlook.

I fall asleep with the sounds of heavy raindrops hitting the metal roof of the men’s dorm. The evening sky just finished an encore performance. A fantastic show of lightning and thunder that keeps replaying in my mind as I close my eyes. As I feel sleep take over my consciousness, a large dense fruit falls from a nearby tree. The fruit bounces off of the  metal roof causing a very loud noise that echos within the small shack. I smile as I am reminded I am not home anymore.

This entry is part of a series of posts on my trip to Southeast Asia in August of 2008. You can see all of the posts in this series the post: A look back to my trip to Southeast Asia.

Trip Planning and Preparation (Part 2)

This is a continuation on my first post about trip planning and preparation.

Reading List

It turns out that the best airfare deal I was able to come up with sets me up to do a lot of solo travel. Between air-time, connections, layovers and all that jazz I am looking at about 48 hours of round-trip traveling. Some great books will make that time pass by faster, though I want to avoid getting so caught up in the books that I miss out on some great experiences.

While it may be a bit of a cliché, I have a bit of a theme for the books I’ve chosen so far. The theme is something along the lines of “Traveling and how it changes you”. The first book on my list, is The Motorcycle Diaries. The book is about Che Guevara’s travels through South America during his youth and the ways that it changed his view of poverty and the “South American” way of life. His itinerary is one that I would love to one day imitate.
While The Motorcycle Diaries follows the story of a man traveling throughout South America, Into The Wild follows a man traveling throughout North America. Watching the movie and doing some research on Christopher McCandless, I’ve really fallen in love with his story of adventure and tragedy.

I would like to bring two more paper-backs though I am not sure which ones. Suggestions would be most welcome! I would like to pick two more books that fit my little theme, though I would be happy to venture off the theme for a strong recommendation.

See Part 1 of this post in Trip Planning and Preparation (Part 1)

This entry is part of a series of posts on my trip to Southeast Asia in August of 2008. You can see all of the posts in this series the post: A look back to my trip to Southeast Asia.

Trip Planning and Preparation (Part 1)

It’s always pretty unbelievable all the details that go into a month-long trip half-way around the world. It makes me wonder how the RTWers do it! This post will touch upon various pieces of trip planning and preparation but will not go into detail into any of them. Each of these topics are very important and would require their own post to do them justice.

Looking for the Best Airfare

Bangkok SkytrainAs with all parts of this trip, sticking to a tight budget is very important to me. I spent quite a bit of time in Kayak playing around with the dates, destinations and comparing results against independent airlines such as AirAsia. I have never found travel hacking quite as easy as some of the travel blogs make them it out to be, but it’s certainly worth the effort! I found that my best option was to fly via a traditional airline (in my case it was via ANA) from Boston to Bangkok and once in Bangkok to move about via AirAsia, which has prices that are very hard to beat.

My experience has taught me that two of the most important parts of finding cheap airfare is to be patient and be flexible. When it comes to patience, even when you think you have found the cheapest airfare around, keep looking! Don’t settle. All of the travel hackers out there agree with flexibility. The more options you leave yourself for airports, dates, connections and so on, the more leverage you have to get the best deal around.

Trip Planning

Booking the flights is just one of the steps in planning a trip of this magnitude. Now, there are folks who say that planning takes all of the fun out of travel. One of the great things of travel is the unplanned encounters that you could never imagine or plan for ahead of time. When I plan my trips, I try to get enough of it figured out so that I have a rough idea of some of the major points of the trip such as how to get there, where I am staying and other tidbits that might be helpful. This is where Tripit comes in.

TripIt is a great web application where you can forward you confirmation emails from airlines, hostel or hotel reservations, even car rental confirmations and TripIt will parse the confirmation emails and start creating your itinerary without you doing much work at all. The most practical part of TripIt is that you can print your itinerary and it will include all of the reservation and confirmation numbers from your reservations, so you only need to carry one piece of paper instead of printouts from your airlines, hostels, car rentals and so on.

See Part 2 of this post in Trip Planning and Preparation (Part 2)

This entry is part of a series of posts on my trip to Southeast Asia in August of 2008. You can see all of the posts in this series the post: A look back to my trip to Southeast Asia.

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