The Things in the North – Part I

So I finished my summer teaching…:

Don't let the smiles fool you. These kids are monsters. Wonderful monsters, but monsters nonetheless.

Don’t let the smiles fool you; these kids are monsters. Wonderful monsters, but monsters nonetheless.

The newest class at Phanom Adun. Only got to know them for a few weeks, but I quickly came to love them.

The newest class at Phanom Adun. Only got to know them for a few weeks, but they had chutzpah.

Then left my town for ten days of adventure in northern Thailand. As an exercise in understatements, I will say that this last one and a half week period was one of the most fun and fulfilling endeavors of my short, beautiful life.

The adventures begin with several hours and methods of travel. A flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai with Jordan, then a van from Chiang Mai to Pai, where we met up with Shannon. After a few hours hanging out in Pai, we took a paid car to Pang Mapha. Pang Mapha is in Mae Hong Son – Thailand’s northernmost province – and is famous for its hundreds of underground caves. It makes sense, then, that the first thing we did the next morning was to go out and see some of those caves.

One of the many treks from cave to cave.

One of the many treks from cave to cave.

From left to right: Chaya, Lyndsey and Foued. Some great fellow cavers.

From left to right: Chaya, Lyndsey and Foued. Some great fellow cavers.

We left all of our things outside each cave so I didn’t get any pictures of the interior, but it was so dark that my measly phone camera wouldn’t have done anything anyway. We went through three caves, and while each one was unique (one was essentially an underground river path where we were crawling on our bellies in a stream for a few hundred feet, and another was full of loose, brittle rock – which gave me a nice gash when a chunk of wall that I was holding on to fell off), they each offered the same feelings of being under tons and tons of earth and being in a place so dark that, with our lights off, it was literally impossible to see one’s hand in front of one’s face. Awesome experience.

The next morning, we hitched a ride over to a local village to hang out with hilltribes. They turned out to be pretty much just regular people (we expected neckrings and cockroach teeth; they had both regular length necks and cockroach-free teeth) that were really good at weaving. I bought a shirt (picture forthcoming), whilst Jordan and Shannon got some scarves.

Once one lady saw us and set down her scarves for display, the entire village came out to sell their wares.

Once one lady saw us and set down her scarves for display, the entire village came out to sell their wares.

Village lady getting her weave on.

Village lady getting her weave on.

A wall painted by the students of the village school.

A wall painted by the students of the village school. Vegetables, mustaches, a turtle, Despicable Me, and Happy. “Five of these things are not like the others…”

Leaving the village, we set out back to the guest house for what was supposed to be a relaxing, two hour trek through the woods. We had been told to simply “follow the river.” After walking for about forty minutes, though, we got to a point where there was no riverbank, only river and dense forest. Lost, we then turned back and followed the road, a winding 6 miles of uphill and downhill exhaustion. At one point, we stopped in the middle of the road and sat to regain our breath, check out remaining water supply and bury those who had died of dysentery. When we finally made it back to the guesthouse and asked why the gods had forsaken us, we were again told that we were supposed to follow the river. Literally. As in, get in the river and float back. Heh…city folk. We don’t know anything/think of swimming as recreational rather than viable transportation.

Seems like a reasonable way to go on a hike.

City Folk Pictionary: Family hike.

Shout out to Cave Lodge for leading amazing tours (Uncle Wat, our tour guide, was a 60 year old man. Impressive and emasculating) and being the friendliest, most accommodating guest house I’ve stayed at here in Thailand.

Check out The Things in the North: Part II for the riveting conclusions of our journey.

Moses

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