Archive | Chiang Rai RSS feed for this section

Pigs bladder and whisky

6 Sep

We’ve been staying in the jungle just outside of Chiang Rai for the last few nights. After almost getting lost in the dark we returned back to where we were staying, to find out that earlier in the day the people who own the guest house we were staying in had slaughtered a pig.

One of the other guests had said, “They killed it right in front of everyone cutting through all the bones with a machete.” The meat would then be shared with everyone in the surrounding village/ tribe, and none of it would be wasted.

After we’d eaten dinner that night one of the local Chiang Rai jungle trekking guides offered us some home-made corn whisky from a plastic Coca Cola bottle. As we sat down at one of the nearby tables to accept the offer, I noticed some sort of bruise coloured, bloody animal part lying on a tray next to the whisky.

Apparently it’s traditional in northern Thailand to eat all parts of a pig once it has been killed. There is also an ancient Thai ritual which involves mixing the raw contents of a pig’s bladder with whisky, and drinking it before bed to cleanse the body for the morning. It’s also supposed to be a good remedy for back pain.

The Portuguese guy sat opposite us had already tried some of the concoction and said, “You can still smell the remnants of it from the empty glass.” It smelt a bit like strongly smelling feet.

The trekking guide added, “When you drink this, it makes you a real man.” I asked him how to make some which involved squeezing the bladder over a glass until fluorescent yellow liquid spurted out. About 2-3 teaspoons is enough for one dose. The mixture is then topped up with whisky and downed.

Having no interest in becoming a man, I cautiously tried a tiny sip out of curiosity. It was probably one of the most disgusting, bitter and horribly smelling drinks I’ve ever tasted!

After I’d finished, the Portuguese guy and the trekking guide halved the left over mixture, clinked glasses and polished off the lot between them. I dread to think what the after taste of a whole shot would be like. From now on, I think I’ll just stick to plain whisky.


Chiang Rai market animals

2 Sep

We were winding our way through this maze like market today which sold everything. I was quite enjoying soaking up all the different colours, smells, sounds… until I reached the alive animal section.

There were hundreds of fish swimming in tiny bowls, birds in only fractionally larger individual cages, and piles of turtles squashed inside small buckets of water.

I asked the woman how much one of the turtles would cost but she shook her head and said, ‘No sale’. I wanted to buy some of the animals, load them into a tuk tuk, then ask to be driven to a nearby lake so I could release them. I wonder how long I’d have to spend in a Thai prison for stealing animals.

Cycling around Chiang Rai (“Just one gear on my fixie bike”)

1 Sep

Yesterday we hired two bikes from our hostel at 50Baht each (1 pound roughly). Slightly too small frames and with fixed gears we set off in search of a cave we read about in our guide. Crossing a bridge and ending up in the suburbs we cycled past an arc by the river, apparently this full size building was a church…

After a 3km cycle through some nice flat countryside we reached the first cave. Down a track with abandoned huts down one side, the atmosphere was pretty spooky. A monk greeted us with no English and signed that we could go up this worn looking stair case. With Clare in front it felt as if this was some old spooky temple (which it half was) and we were about to steal some precious jewel after dodging a few ancient traps and shooting bats. And yes, there were actually bats in the cave way above where my touch beam could reach into the darkness of the main cavern.

After running out the cave screaming with a flock of bats in pursuit… well not really, we carried out towards another “Buddha Image Cave”. This cave was some how less impressive and felt more like a hollow in a rock wall. The resident monk in this place was pretty nice and obviously didn’t get many visitors. He took us through every ritual and got us to pose for a picture in front of one of the statues.

We decided that even though we had seen what we come to see the countryside alone was much more worth the time. With this in mind we continued up the road steadily getting deeper into the countryside. The views were pretty incredible and a light warm rain kept us going. We happened upon a sign saying there was a hot-spring 12km away, with no other real aims we decided this must be where we needed to go (after a small disagreement of “You REALLY want to go to a tourist elephant village along the main highway?”). This route lead us across a huge swelling river, up through mountain villages, over red mud slide covered roads and past smiling/waving villagers.

After a distance that felt way over 12km (I swear it took us about 5 minutes to do 3km then 2 hours to do 1km, according to the signs) we arrived at the hot-spring. The bubbling 87degC water, smelling of eggs, with pipes running into a pool… that was closed.

It was now around 4:30pm and it would be getting dark soon. From what we could tell it was about 20km+ back to Chiang Rai. We needed to cover some serious ground back as we had no lights and our map was pretty much useless out this far. 8km later we were exhausted with some huge hills still to go (remember we had no gears) things were looking a little sketchy. Its worth pointing out at this point pretty much the only vehicles we saw on the road (which only seemed to be every 30 mins or so anyway) were motorbikes or 4×4’s. Behind us I heard the deep rumbling of a vehicle, looking round I saw heaven… a pickup truck. Madly flailing my thumb out and waving frantically the vehicle stopped on the side. I pointed down the road and simply said “Chiang Rai?” hoping that would be obvious. He pointed and gave the thumbs up, we chucked our bikes in the back and pretty much flopped into the back with them.

At last, now we would get somewhere, even if it was not all the way. But after only 5 mins of traveling we stopped in a village I really didn’t remember passing. The driver and his passenger got out to a road side ‘shop’, pointing at a bottle of something and then motioning to us we realised he wanted us to drink with him. They paid for a shot of this white clear rum(?) topped off with a fruity/cherry/red stuff mixer. It was actually pretty nice and wouldn’t accept me paying for any of the drinks at all. In the end they did drop us on the outskirts of Chiang Rai and it was only a short cycle to our hostel. It really is true about the kindness of strangers out in the rural parts.

Thailand’s worst hostel room

1 Sep

We arrived in Chiang Rai 2 days ago and thought we’d check out the Lonely Planet’s ‘Top Pick’ hostel- The Easy House. They only had one room left. This is why we decided not to stay:

– The bed consisted of 3 old stained mattresses (looked like they were found in a skip), diping dramatically in the middle so your feet were raised once lying on it.

– There were huge holes in the sheets.

– Insects were crawling on the bed.

– There were actual holes in the roof. And it still rains in the night.

– The windows were boarded up.

– There was no lock on the door.

– There was a gap in the blinds covering the window from next door, so when the people from next door opened their cupboard, they’d be able to peek through into our room.

– The disgusting painting hung up wonkily on the wall only succeeded in making the room more comical.

After a 15 minute walk up the road we found a lovely hostel for an even cheaper price.