Plug for Street Pizza!!!

After our arduous few days in the mountains I felt that I deserved some lovely tasty dough based food.

Hence a pit stop at the best pizza restaurant in Thailand – Street Pizza! I have to say, hand on heart, their pizza was actually better than some we’ve had in Italy . . .

It’s tucked down a little back alley, all bare brick and chalk board wall simplicity. (We got to write on their wall, so our witty thoughtful feedback is probably still there . . . )

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Then having scoffed our faces on pizza we headed onto the final Saturday market before we left for the beaches of Phuket.

Here’s some final glorious market shots!!!  Here’s my favourites of the bunch – traditional Thai ice cream in dinky little metal moulds.

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Plenty of flavours from the recognisable such as lemon, cola and orange to more exotic such as green tea, Custard Apple and Durian!

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Then there’s the adorable little baby shoes in every colour of the rainbow and a spectrum of gorgeous light shades.

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Then there’s always the meat in ball format, all types of animal on a stick. And Neil braving it . .

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Wat Chiang Mun

Ohhh found another Chiang Mai temple I had forgotten about! The beautiful Wat Chiang Mun with its incredible, multi coloured wall murals.

P1150182  Photo frenzy!!!!!! The temple has gorgeous delicate red and gold paintings.

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The murals were repainted in 1996 and depict the founding of Chiang Rai and Chiang Mai

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Chedi Chang Lom is the Elephant Chedi – the oldest construction within the temple complex

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The more modern, colourful murals in the second smaller wiharn in Wat Chiang Mun depict the Lord Buddha’s life and the last ten lives in the Jataka Stories.

These are stories that tell about the previous lives of the Buddha, in both human and animal form. The future Buddha may appear in them as a king, an outcast, a god, an elephant—but, in whatever form, he shows some virtue that the tale  explains.

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The murals are a technocolour riot of fun. Here’s just a few snapshots of them in all their glory!

Finally here’s a painting of Phra Setangkamanee on the left of the outer wiharn wall and painting of Phra sila on the right of the outer wall.

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Umbrellas. Just umbrellas.

We took a brief trip to see one of the traditional crafts of the Chiang Mai area – umbrella making! So the man had to try and look even vaguely interested in this particular outing!

Here’s one of the workers mashing up the mulberry pulp to make the actual umbrella shade.

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Creating the bamboo spokes that pop the umbrella open.

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And here’s the next stage where the spokes for the brolly are put in place, it all looks very sculptural!

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The wooden bamboo spokes make very striking photos. Naturally I had to be bodily dragged away from them . .

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There’s every colour and pattern to be found in the umbrella warehouse, from traditional birds and flowers to stark, modern skulls.

From plain white brollies, these patient ladies transform them into flights of colourful fancy.

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I particularly enjoy this lady’s choice of work wear – a purple shower cap!

P1140921And here’s where the brollies get packed up and shipped off.

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I enjoy this shot where the umbrellas look like giant crayons! Plus these grinning colourful skulls are a slightly sinister souvenir.

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You can also get a traditional design painted directly onto an item such as a t-shirt or bag. Here’s my little Khao San bag getting the make over treatment!

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It took FOREVER for me to pick “one or two” trip mementos . . . so so many colourful bulky items to chose from.

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P1140982 Garish but just delightful!!! These fans are an eye watering riot of colour. Why can’t I have them all!!!

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I ended up with a fair few of the lovely little painted fans, a lime green brolly with flowers and a very bulky suitcase.

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And of course, being as there was a photo opportunity, we never miss the chance to humiliate ourselves in public  . . . .

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Having a nightmare trying to get these pictures to sit in the right place, stupid wordpress theme!!! Or maybe stupid me

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Next up, Phuket, beaches, epic rip offs and tuc tuc mafia!

White water and white knuckles!

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After conking out at the river camp we headed onwards to our date with adventure! White water rafting on the river, something I have never done before, so why not try it in the middle of nowhere with relatively little health and safety . . .

We are now back down the mountain, having steadily descended the day before and we’re heading to the river.

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On route we spot more elephants (always exciting) and a large discarded snake skin (not so cool – for me anyway)

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Bit more of a scamble, a nice little beach and then we arrive riverside.

DSCF0167 All looking rather sedate and lovely at the moment.  .. .

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Then we’re helmet on, quick demo of how to hold a paddle and what to do if we tip out of the boat, then we’re off!

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Not too sure about it all to be honest . . .

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Although I am not initially sure about the whole idea (as evidenced by the face above) I am soon overtaken by an adrenaline fuelled competitive streak that sees me force our boat of four, into a race with all other boats (with more people in them!) and we win!!!

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After that we have a gentle float on a bamboo raft to finish off the day, before heading back to Chiang Mai.

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By the way, here’s how cool we looked from the shore!!

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Jungle assault course

As we head towards our riverside camp we can see and feel the landscape getting warmer and wetter. We definately feel as if we are in the depths of the jungle now!

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Everything is an incredible, vivid shade of green and a canopy of tall trees cast dappled shadows across us as we march.

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Of course it’s not all east going and we have a few obstacles to climb over, precariously balance on and duck under!

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Once again I am holding up the group as I nervously grope my way across the log. Not exactly action woman am I!

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And here’s a few more (one that ended in me getting wet – again!)

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As we pass by, the scenery just keeps getting more and more wild and beautiful.

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I can’t exactly be said to be at one with nature however . . . .

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We really felt privileged to be able to see it all, and for the majority of the trip it was just the seven of us and Abba. We very rarely saw any one else.

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Occasionally we’d come across some of the simple yet effective wooden dwellings that can be found in the depths of the jungle.

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In the middle of nowhere you’ll suddenly glimpse one of the bamboo stilt huts, hidden in amongst the trees.

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Of course, the draw back of being in the middle of nature’s vast wilderness is the distinct lack of amenities!

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Below you can see one of the more modern convenience stops we spotted. Number twos will cost you extra!!!

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Water power and goodbyes

Having eaten our fill at the previous waterfall stop we head onto another, larger falls. Here we’ll get the chance to swim (if we dare!)

However it’s quite a chilly day and, as some of us will discover, the waterfall is FREEZING!

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We also say goodbye to one of our guides who will make the journey back, alone, to meet the next group of walkers.

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Neil, having in a fit of bravado decided to go in, is now looking distinctly less fussed about the idea, having felt the temperature of the spray.

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However, go in he does, so here’s Neil braving the ferocious falls! They are rather big and they are incredibly cold!

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It’s like a cheap version of a TV advert for an aftershave or some other manly type item!!

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Here’s a few after shots of the brave boy . . looking distinctly chilly and not as full of macho-ness!

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After grabbing a kitkat (!) at the tiny little wooden hut shop that clings to the side of the river, we’re off again. With our next over night stop in range we’ve got some spectacular jungle landscape to trek through first.

Waterfalls and freezing feet!

As we head further back down the hillside the scenery begins to change. It’s getting wetter, greener and defiantly more junglely!

We stop for a brief refuel at another tiny village before ploughing onwards across rivers and streams. My fellow travellers manage to negotiate these things fairly easily, I however, end up feet first in the water and have very soggy trainers for the rest of the day!

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About a 1.5 hour trek bought us to a waterfall for lunch where we sampled some local moonshine and ate our dinner with chopsticks whittled before our very eyes. However it’s a steep scabble down to the pit stop!

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In the next installment we continue to walk through the jungle, farmland and foothills of the areas inhabited by the hill tribes to the jungle camp by the river. We also get the chance to swim in a very violent waterfall!!!

A few more random shots of us traipsing along!

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Farmland, jungles and foothills.

After having breakfast at our wooden hut home we were ready for the next stage of our little adventure. Making our way back down the mountain towards the river where we would spend the next night.

We say our goodbyes to the Lahu villagers and head off.

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We make our way through farmland, including a remote hillside cornfield where Abba shows us a sample of the freshly grown crop.

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As the heat starts to increase, we continue our march through the verdant green landscape. Scrambling down steep paths and striding along narrow, twisting paths that cling to the hillside.

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It might look grey and hazy but it’s already fairly darn warm! Above you can see a farm worker taking a break in the most picturesque setting imaginable.

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Lahu mountain village

Our mountain top village home felt truly remote from the rest of the world – we were so high up we looked down on the clouds!

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Over the corragated metal roofs you can see some of the scenery we’d treked through.

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Our home for the night is a communal room in one of the traditional stilt huts. Here’s an example.

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Leaving our mountain man guide to crack on with dinner, we went exploring the village. Despite being 1,200 metres above sea level, with a vertiginous winding track up as its only access, it was buzzing with motorbikes and trucks coming and going.

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The village had quite a few amenities with a school and shops, not to mention a breath taking view over the surrounding area.

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If you look very closely behind Neil, the man in the distance is carrying a gun . . .

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We saw the daily rituals of life played out just the same as everywhere else, from laundry to cheeky children!

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Then we have a chill out in one of the best located hammocks I think I will ever recline in (after taking about ten minutes to actually get in it!!)

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As the sun sets we get the chance to see the clouds beneath us and reflect on an amazing first day of wilderness exploration!

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Not sure if Neil’s expression is something to do with the fact that he needed to use the ‘facilities’ – see below!!

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Behind us you can see the evening clouds floating above the tops of the mountain ranges.

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I take a brief moment outside our hut. Possibly one of the best views from a bedroom ever!!!!

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Tomorrow we’ll be heading back down the mountain towards our next base camp by the river.

First taste of trekking

Before we start on the actual hike there is the small matter of crossing the river via a wonky cage on ropes!

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Wind it up and then release us!!! Cue some girly squeaks as I whizz along the wobbly rope.

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After arriving safely at the other side we faced a good few hours hike up some fairly challenging trails.

Of course, this couldn’t be straight forward with me experiencing my first ever panic attack before setting off! Truly terrifying – I thought I was dying!

My throat closed up and all that came out of me was an odd high pitched whistle whenever I tried to talk! Tears streaming down my face, the other half was rather perturbed and thought I was having an asthma attack . . .

However, after composing myself (really did need a paper bag to breathe into) we set off.

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Here’s some photos from our climb up the mountain!! Occasionally stopping to look at icky insects, remove icky insects off ourselves (Neil) and run away from icky insects (me).

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I might not look exhilarated but believe me I actually am!!!

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It really is a spectacular journey.We climb higher and higher as the day wears on.

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Thank goodness it is a relatively cool Thai day, probably a nice 25 degrees, any hotter and it would have been very uncomfortable!

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Late on in the day we briefly take a break in one of the smaller village settlements.

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We get a chance to really appreciate the stunning views from our high up vantage point.

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Slightly vertigo inducing however. Just don’t look down.

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As the light was fading we pressed on upwards towards our night time accommodation.

Our home for the night was a communal wooden hut in a picturesque Lahu village situated about 1,200 metres above sea level on a mountain top!

Here’s our first glimpse of the ramshackle collection of wooden huts that would be our resting place.

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Here we’d eat, shower and all seven of us would sleep in one communal wooden bedroom.

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Here’s our bed for the night, the eating area and the “facilities”!

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Unfortunately for us, it was one of the coldest periods they had experienced for quite some time, (in fact they actually declared a state of emergency in several areas and had to send blankets to the hill tribe people!)

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It got to about 4 degrees at night and we had to sleep in the fleece coats that luckily we still had in our bags from the airport!

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However, the amazing views and serenity of the village more than make up for any trivial complaints I might have had!!!

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Here’s the man having a chillax outside the hut. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a spectacular view from any accommodation we’ve ever had!

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Next up, a brief exploration of the village before a second day of trekking.