Trompe le Monde: A Round the World Tour Diary

An online travel diary so people can keep up to date with what I'm doing and where I'm going.

Location: Home, United Kingdom

You all know who I am, I assume.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Hill Trekking, Christmas and the perils of alcohol

Warning - this post contains frequent references to drugs and alcohol and should not be read by anyone under fifteen years of age.

That's got Mum and Dad worried...

So, hill treks. Basically, a bunch of honkies (white people, if you didn't know) go to the mountain jungle (think misty forested slopes, like a Kenco advert but not in South America) and wander around looking at stuff and going "wow". And, in our case, also ride an elephant (nearly falling off more than once) and a bamboo raft (ditto).

Also in our case, however, was our tour guide Pon, a twenty-four year old Karen hilltribesman who went to university as part of the Thai government's scholarship for tribesmen scheme, speaks about five languages, and now makes a living sharking western women who come on the trek. A hilarious man who refers to women (in fact refers to almost everything) as 'chicken'.

He is also a bad influence. On the second day of our trek, at around ten in the morning he stopped in a small village for a break. He then went in to a hut and got some locally brewed firewater that he referred to as "corn whisky", though it tasted more like weak vodka than anything else. Then we drank three bottles of it between four of us (me, Trev, Si, Pon) in about three quarters of an hour to the disbelief and astonishment of the other (middle aged) members of our party. The thing is, it was free drink. I couldn't very well turn it down - it might have been offensive to the tribesmen. Needless to say, the six hours of walking we had to do up and down hills the rest of that day was... eventful.

Having said the tribesmen may have considered it offensive to turn down free booze, it seems unlikely that they would even have noticed, since they were all permanently caned. On the second day, I got up before anyone else, since I couldn't sleep anyway. On blearily stepping out of the hut at about six on a freezing cold morning (we were at quite a high altitude) I saw one of the tribesmen starting the fire. And in his mouth was an enormously fat spliff. They'd been caning the previous night, but at six in the morning!? Pon says they all used to be opium fiends but the government cracked down on it three years ago. Lots of people got shot and stuff and many of them had to go to Chiang Mai for a special cold turkey scheme, but it's worked cos now there's next to no poppy produce in North Thailand. When we asked why the government hadn't also outlawed what they referred to as "green leaf" they just laughed. All the locals basically chain smoked draw all day. Goodness knows what they'd do if it was banned...

Anyway, the trekking was grand, considering that I hate walking (thanks Mum for all that early "let's go for a walk" talk) - the scenery was brilliant, very reminiscent of "Predator".

The second night we drank more corn whisky and sang alongakaraoke round the camp fire to various Oasis/Beatles etc songs. And some great singing was indeed done. Particularly me and Trev's Johnny Rotten version of "Eternal Flame".

The next day (Christmas Eve) we came back, and decided to go out in Chiang Mai that night with Pon. As I believe I have mentioned elsewhere. My this is getting confusing.

So, you already know about that day. Now for Christmas Day. Bear in mind that by this point what with all the above alcohol abuse, walking, lack of water and lack of sleep, I am not at my most alcohol-tolerant, but figuring it was Christmas Day, I was miles from home, homesickness is nasty, and it was Si's birthday we cracked open the rum at about half noon.

Yeah, basically, not a good idea. So that's how I came to be so hungover that I didn't even know about the earthquake until I was travelling and thus unable to comment upon it.


Blogger Dan said...

While flying home from México on Monday/Tuesday I took my mind off fearing for your life by (glad to hear you're (relatively) well, by the way) reading Hunter S. Thompson's the Rum Diary. Which is a good read, but this blog is better. It's Gonzo-la!

December 29, 2004 at 9:57 AM  

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