So dear readers, 2 blogs in 2 days ain't bad and hopefully this latest one will bring you almost up to date. After the sanctuary, I guess anything is going to be an anti-climax, however it has been anything but, just different.
Usual breakfast at the Old Clay House before an exchange of presents with Charlio, the 'Mae' of the house(I'd bought some Harrod's jams at the airport), followed by a photo shoot. One strange phenomina in Thailand has been that you see almost every girl do the V Victory sign in photo's. Transpires this means 'Power' and for the Japenese it represents 'Fight' or something after some cult moview. Point being that Charlio in her pictures does the V - quite funny.
Journey north to Chiang Rai was going to be about 3-4 hours and en route we stopped at a quite stunning temple. As Elliot is not here I cannot check the name but locally it was known as the Wat Temple - it was different to everything else in that it was sheer brilliant white and in place of multi coloured reflective glass on every other temple, the glass on here was silver. Imagine this temple in bright sunlight - stunning.
We arived at our new homestay 'The Lazy Moon', so called because the C moon as we see in the northern hemisphere is always on it's back in Thailand. Our hosts were Laetitia and Yui, who it turns out are both travel guides, Yui specialising in trekking and with whom we would trek the next day. They also had a dog called 'dog' (brilliant), cats, 3 ducks (I love ducks) an injured baby falcon, a chicken with 8 chicks and......fighting cocks! More of that in a moment.
We were given the proverbial tour of the viallage and along the way I was introduced to 60' Rice Whysky and after four shots, I was shot. I was strong enough to decline some of the other delicacies and it was funny to see Elliot have a try, after all he has been accepted into the club (previous blog!). We also saw how they grow just about everything from Mango's to Lemongrass to Bergamot and all local fruits in between.
The next day, Yui took us for our Jungle Forest trek, up a mother of a mountain and boy, was it hot and sticky. Along the way, he showed us many different things that were just naked to the eye or unknown. It was like being in Kew gardens.
Lunch was served at the top with a fire we built; chopsticks made from bamboo; mushrooms collected along the way. You get the drift.
After getting home they took us to a local prawn farm for a fantastic feast in the company of ......Karaoke parties. They love it.
Next day, was a bit of a wash out as the weather closed in. We were due to go to Fu Chi Fa, which is their Stonehenge/Solstice as 50k people descend there on New Years Eve to watch the sunrise. The climb was huge so I bet the effect would have been brilliant - had we been able to see through the clouds.
Along the way we visited the Hill Tribes who make their living from growing cabbages and lychees. Cabbages at the equivalent of 16p a kilo and lychees for 22p. You ain't gonna get rich up here. Some of the people were in traditional dress which was nice and they still worked the fields in the rain. (Another phenomina we have seen is the millions of scooters and people riding them four abreast, including babies and children and, one of the riders, normally the driver holding an umbrella whilst steering , to keep them all dry. Could you imagine that in the UK?
Back down via some waterfalls, heated through thermal rocks. Elliot and Yui went for a swim in the middle of an almighty thunderstorm, which didn't seem to matter but was quite hilarious to the locals.
After lunch and a good soaking, we called in past this market - well this was real 'upcountry' fare with all sorts on show - snakes, frogs - alive and dead - all manner of fish and crabs and meat but the piece de resistance was....Ants. Huge ants that were like a small dog, ok not that big, but not quite the type you clear with stupid ant powder. Anyway, Yui buys a kilo for his Mum who fancied roasting them that night. Seen it all now.
Back at the Homestay we asked to see Yui's fighting cocks, quite beautiful creatures as it turns out. They are bred for Sunday fighting but not as a bloodsport like I was led to believe. There is no sharp spurs etc. and the fights are until one cock decides he has had enough. Huge sums of money are bet on these fights and the Thai's in fact bet on everything. Even the kids are at it with Ants.
If there is one thing I am learning it is that this culture is diverse and strange and beautiful and it hasn't disappointed. You have just got to take it in as one big experience. Tomorrow back to Bangkok to check Elliot in for his flight home. Gonna miss him.....