A walk on the wild side

I’m back, safe and sound from my intrepid explorations of the jungle areas of Thailand, with only a nasty rash on my arm and back to show for my exploits. I think the one on my back was from contact with a pretty but rather devious hairy caterpillar. The one on my arm is more of a mystery – possibly a spider bite? (Don’t panic, mum – it’s fading fast and I feel fine!)

I’ve had a brilliant time – there were eight of us in the group. Myself and my train buddies, Ian and Melissa, plus three lovely British girls in their twenties who Ian had been travelling with before, and an Australian couple in their late forties who were great fun, and often put us younger ones to shame in terms of stamina – both with the trekking and drinking. We all got on very well as a group, and as such the trip went swimmingly well -literally, for much of the time, due to lots of aquatic fun in various beautiful jungle waterfalls and river pools.

We had three days of trekking through forest, swimming in waterfalls, exploring secretive forest temples, playing cards and drinking chang beers round the campfire, plus an elephant trip and bamboo river raft trip on the last day. It was so much fun.

Highlights/observations include: the insane noise of the ‘chainsaw’ crickets (my name for them) as we trekked through the forest; the beauty and peace of an old temple, where gold buddhas peered out through the vines and leering faces were rough-hewn into the rock, against the softly tinkling backdrop of windchimes – atmospheric and Indiana-Jones creepy, in equal measures; vista views across hazy mountains in the distance and verdigris green paddy fields in the foreground; sitting at the feet of a giant, knowing golden buddha, enjoying a moment of calm on my own; invigorating waterfall showers, feeling the water pound my back muscles; clambering up rock behind the veil of a waterfall, only to discover a small shrine tucked deep into the rocks; being followed on our treks by a loveable, but flea and tick-ridden puppy, who we christened James – can’t remember why; discovering weird and wonderful insects in the jungle (photos imminent); watching fireflies bob and flicker through the air at night; trying to sleep against the fire-alarm magnitude of the frog chorus following a rainstorm and the obscenely early calls of roosters at 4am; the wonderful serenity of floating down a shallow river on a bamboo raft, watching birds skim the water ahead and dragonflies zooming all around me.

So there you go – rather a brain-dump, but I am delirious from tiredness today, having arrived in Bangkok today after an overnighter train in the ‘cheap seats’ (all sleeping berths were booked, so I was in a rickety old seat for 13 hours – nice). As such, I won’t write much more now, except to say I’m safe and well. I have to return to Bangkok Hualamphong station soon to catch another overnighter to Koh Samui – luckily with sleeping berth this time. I’ve once again cheated the mania of Bangkok today by having a luxurious hour long foot massage and eating a prolonged lunch at the famous ‘Cabbages and Condoms’ restaurant (a non-governmental charity-run place, which raises money to help HIV sufferers – instead of after-dinner mints, you receive a condom each, and the place is decorated with mannequins wearing outfits formed entirely from condoms and pill-packets – ingenious).

I have some amazing photos of my adventures, which I will stick up as soon as I can when I get to Koh Samui, as the cafe wifi that I’m using at the moment is too slow to stick them up right now, and I need to head off shortly…

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