Day Eleven

Got Lauren up at 06:30 to go get loads of muffins before the Americans came and ate ‘em all again. She wasn’t happy. Weather has been shocking today, so everything was muddy and there are big puddles and rivers all over the ground that make getting about hard. I feel bad on the dogs ‘cos a few of ‘em are scared of thunder. I also feel bad on myself because I haven’t been properly dry for ages; sweat, rain, half dried laundry, etc.

They weren’t cracking the whip as hard today, although we did get a funny comment at 12:45: “You do know we start at 12:30, right?” with a snotty tone. Lauren was nice and said that we thought we start at 1.00pm, but I’d have just ignored her or went for a half hour nap. The same woman also annoyed me again; she insisted I had to go into the disabled dogs tiled run to retrieve a pair of rubber booties that were being worn by the dog that had just bailed out of its wheelchair and was dragging itself across the floor at breakneck speeds through piles of turds. What she said was “You need to get the rubber booties! And make sure you take off your shoes!” I did ‘cos I was in a hurry to get the dog shoes back but a second later I thought, “Hang on a minute…I’m taking off my shoes so as not to get MUD into an enclosure smeared with CRAP?!” Are these people retards?! Well, this woman has a stray dog sleep in her bed, probably has rabies and uses her finger as a pipe cleaner when washing dogs rings. mentalist. I walked back to my room without my shoes on (so as to not get poo in ‘em) and had to scrub my socks and hands. Couldn’t walk my fave dog in the morning as there was a little wuss of a husky in the run that led to Woo Tong’s and apparently you couldn’t get it on a lead (I did, fairly easily, later on in the day when no one was looking). We started the normal afternoon routine and it started chucking it down. They made us wait about for another 45 minutes instead of just letting us go, for some reason.

Saw a praying mantis today. It jumped onto Sam’s arm. Also saw a lot of nice butterflies earlier and a dead beetle that was about five inches long.

Day Ten

Woke up today with someone rummaging around. Breakfast had already started and hey-ho, all the muffins were gone when I got there. Greedy elephant volunteers probably made off with ‘em all.

More of the same today really. Got in a bit of a groove though, so we know when to “go get some water” or “go to the toilet”. After getting crap on my clothes yesterday, I avoided walking the disabled dogs, cleaning them (they always have poo everywhere from dragging their legs around the floor of the run) and when the worst dogs need walking I look busy, walking about with a lead around my neck or scuttle off until someone else pops their cage open. I know I’m here to help but at the same time I didn’t think it was so much work and I feel that we shouldn’t feel like we have to do stuff. Like today I was walking a big dog called Bobo who pulls badly and always tries (sometimes successfully) to eat the chickens near his run, and he was so enraged he bit me twice. They can take a run and a jump tomorrow if they think I’m taking him. Dunno why they don’t just pop a muzzle on him. Probably think it’s cruel or something. I got to walk Woo Tong twice today which was nice, as he’s my favourite and we get on well even though he’s aggressive with other dogs and tries to bite the lead off to get to them, but I just bend down and stroke his face and he calms down.

Finished late as we had to do an extra-long walk after we were done with the normal stuff to help someone out. The dog lied down outside his fence when it was over, so I rinsed him with my water to get him up—it worked.

After dinner (which, as it’s all so similar, were getting bored of) we just came back to the room for fifteen minutes of privacy. We noticed that the doors have massive gaps underneath, so big that a lizard got through, and we realised that cockroaches could fly as there was one trying to get into Lauren’s net, hence why I’m writing this in my sub-par net. Lauren is sad ‘cos she keeps getting bitten lots at night, and we think that ‘cos there were dog hairs in the bed there may be fleas in there too. Not good times.

 

Day Nine

Felt sick when I woke up today cos I thought I had a disease of some kind so every time I had a numb leg or a dizzy feeling I thought it was rabies or dengue or malaria. I was probably just paranoid about all my bites that I’d got in the night and really tired. I didn’t eat breakfast even though I would usually eat loads of the muffins that they had, I couldn’t eat more than two bites.

After yesterday I knew that they wouldn’t give us any breaks so I put loads of sun cream and bug spray on to last me. I donned my bandana on my forehead to keep the sweat from dripping down my face and had my straw hat to protect my head from the sun. I knew I was in for a hard day. Sure enough it was so. They really got our money’s worth, if that makes sense. They had us doing all sorts of stuff, including walking dogs that were nightmares: one had back legs that only worked half the time; one was taking me for a walk; one curls one out and tries to flick it at you so you have to always have eyes on his bum-hole; scabby ones; fighty ones that should be muzzled; a disabled one that craps all over its little wheelchair and then as they clean it with their bare hands I have to hold it up and get skid marks on my t shirt and shorts. I honestly think that some of these dogs should be put down as they have no quality of life. There is honestly a dog who has heartworm so it can’t get too excited—no walks, sat in a small cage away from all other dogs otherwise it will die. Lauren asked why they didn’t put it down (you know its bad when Lauren’s saying that kinda stuff) and they just looked at her like she was a monster. You know that RSPCA advert (or whatever it is) where they say they never put a healthy dog down? These guys never put any dog down, regardless of whether that animal lives a pointless painful life.

Saw lots of animals today; insects with funky coloured shiny backs, a giant millipede, a big green snake trying to eat a lizard, a dung beetle thing and loads of cockroaches.

Day Eight

Up at 7.00am to leave for the elephant nature park. An AC van picked us up and showed us a sad, short film about how elephants are abused over the country in riding treks, circuses and painting shows etc. We got to the park after about an hour. It was very hilly and green all over.

The first thing they did was make us drop our bags off outside the dog clinic. I wasn’t happy about this as it had my laptop and Kindle in and stuff and it could have easily started raining and wrecked everything. We were then driven down some dusty paths with trees on either side and led to a large wooden platform area which is the centre of the park. The guy from the van took us around the park which is a flat bit in between all the hills. It was quite big and there were families of elephants dotted about the place. Each one had a Mahout (carer) to make sure they stayed out of trouble. The guy made us touch the elephants’ sides and get pictures with them. He did this for lots of them as he told us about them. It got a bit samey after the first couple but it wasn’t bad to know about them and have some shots in my pretentious straw hat/bandana combo. There were some weird little leaves on the ground that shrivelled when you touched them.

Effalump

Then it was lunch time at the platform. All the food was vegetarian and there was a lot of choice but as the park was crowded there was a big line to get your food—just a buffet style thing, but everything I had was tasty and well cooked. We had to leave our passports when we paid for some reason which I don’t like doing. One of the long-term volunteers came and sat down and talked us through a load of really obvious stuff and things I didn’t care about. It took ages. We were then palmed off on someone else who took us around the dog parts of the park and told us where a lot of things were that we wouldn’t need, said that there was nil chance of getting rabies as well as where all the runs were. Most of them looked quite good. Loads of space for the dogs to muck about in, trees, huts, climbing frames etc. Not a bad life compared to the PDSA back home—plus they get walks too. Not every day, but it’s a change of scenery for them every now and again.

We were also taken to a small village(?) area just off the main road down a little mud path where there were more runs and a few shacks dotted about where all the Mahouts and their families lived. It was their version of a council estate I suppose, and there was rubbish everywhere with chickens eating it, broken bits of wood and plastic lying about and elephant-people laundry hanging everywhere. It was horrible. Especially that they could make it nice if they could be bothered. A lick of paint, recycling in bins, couple of nails, voila!

After the tour we just got right into the action. We were in the clinic area which was where all the mankiest dogs were. I didn’t wanna touch most of them cos they were covered in scabs, blood, had broken legs, mental issues or a tendency to curl one out and then flick it at you (not even messing). I know I came to help the animals but this is pushing it. I just muddled my way throughout the day trying not to get germs. We walked the clinic dogs, swept and scrubbed the floor while a couple of others cleaned the little cages they were in and put fresh water and food down for em. There was some spare time so we walked a couple of normal dogs from the runs. It’s quite hard work and doesn’t feel very rewarding but I suppose it still kinda helps.

So after work we pottered over to our rooms. They just said that there were three rooms, and we have to make up our own minds where to go. What a kerfuffle, I’ll tell you. One girl Sabrina was whinging that she should get her own room cos she’d been in dorms for two weeks. How’s that our problem? If everyone else let her do this I’d share with her just so she didn’t get her way. We decided that it would be me, Lauren and Robbie in one room, the Frenchies (Sam, Ev and Fred) in one and Sabrina and Sarina in another.

The rooms were shocking. On the outside they seem okay: rustic looking and they have a view of the elephant pen and some mountains. Definite potential. Then we opened the door. Looking in, I turned on the light. Not much happened apart from my heart sinking. I looked at the four beds (two were bunks) as a big ol’ cockroach traipsed across the floor. My face must have been the same colour as the walls (sick green smeared with dirt) as I looked into the bathroom, which was attached to the main room but outside, so there were insects knocking about all over the walls and floor. Bad enough that we were sharing—we never share, not because we’re spoilt, but because we both like to have the option to hide away from people at times and have some privacy—but the door has no lock on it, the mozzie nets have great dirty holes in them, the floor’s dirty, there are gaps under the doors and windows so insects have free reign, there’s nowhere to put our stuff, the beds are hard, the room is roasting and only has one fan that points at the top bunk, so unless you’re there its useless, we have to throw our bog roll in a bin and the shower’s cold. There’s some lovely elephant pictures on the wall though….

It’s a nightmare. The mouldy cherry on the out-of-date cake that has been my day, if you will. It makes me want to leave. We unpacked and tried to make the place a bit more homely (it didn’t work) before heading out to a similar meal as earlier in the day. Got talking to Sam as he’s a bit of an outsider so we took him under our wing and had an expensive ฿80 beer and talked for ages to avoid going back to the room even though I was shattered.

Day Six

Woke up late again. (Idiot on bongos, hard bed, hot, etc etc.) Julie’s guesthouse for the win! Lauren was a bit worried that our original plan has been abandoned so she wanted to get some planning done. I felt like just lying on the cushions in the garden area and saying things like “Chill out maaan, you’re killin my groove…” but I stepped up to my boy-friendly duties and helped. Ended up getting some money off Laurens friend so we could spend a week looking after some dogs. I’m not too keen as I picture myself just shovelling turds for most of the day while dodging their rabid jaws but hey, it’s only costing me 45 quid for the whole week so I’m saving money overall as accommodation and food is included and that’s always good. There’s a chance to pet elephants too so it could go either way.

Reserved a bungalow in Pai (pronounced “bye”—who knew!) which is basically a toilet-less shed on stilts but its only ฿150/night. “Tony’s Bungalows” its called. I doubt his name is Tony. They need stilts ‘cos there are mudslides and floods all the time. Wiped out the village in 2005. It was my idea to go here cos it’s way out up the hills so there are views and we can save money by just reading all day and laying about outside. There are also walks you can go on as it’s in a place with loads of trees so it might be nice, assuming we don’t get swept away and drown in a tidal wave of dirt.

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We spent the rest of the day looking around for these cool vests I saw the other day as I only have two tops and I have to keep washing ‘em all the time. Turns out that after hours of walking it was in the opposite direction. I knew we should have brought a compass. We accidentally found a temple we were looking for yesterday (we thought we found it yesterday but it was the wrong one) among others. Probably go tomorrow and chat to a monk. They have monk chat sessions to improve their English. Didn’t really see anything new on the walk, although got a slightly more Thai feel I suppose on the west side. The wall is all the same, I’ll tell you that for free. Once you’ve seen one bit of its rubble-y remains you’ve seen it all.

We walked back and forth over one section like four times and it took ages. We nearly got a taxi but we eventually just found our way back to the hotel ourselves. The bongo man was still at it. We don’t know where its coming from but he’s got a friend with a guitar now. It’s not even good, it’s just a load of layabouts thinking they’re cultured and spiritual because they’re in a different city and know two chords and a little tune on the jungle drums. Unbelievable. There’s a guy who’s always in the garden area, never has his top on, has a little tribal number on his ankle and is covered in beads. If this were Cluedo I’d be saying I accuse the mentally-incompetent German on the rooftop with the bongo drums.

What else did we do today…oh yes, we had a couple of warm beers from the fridge while we read our books (Lauren, The Dark Tower; me, Sherlock Holmes), found a massive snail, ate a load of cheap biscuits from the 7-11, thought about buying a fresh coconut and drinking it with a straw and found a water machine that gives you a litre of clean water for a baht instead of about ten. Thing is though, there is no English on it. Almost like they don’t want us to know. It is a bit tepid though.

It’s about 3am here and I can still hear the drums going. At least I think I can. I might just be going a bit mad.

Day Five

Woke up quite late today as we both didn’t have the best night’s sleeps cos of the hard mattress (beginning to think that there isn’t a soft one in Thailand) and some d-bag was playing the bongos until gone 1.00am. We rushed to get ready as we wanted to fit in three Wats and the Lanna Folklore Museum. This was never gonna happen but we gave it a go.

We left aiming to go to Wat Phra Singh but ended up, due to our poor sense of direction, at Phan Tao which is on the other side of town. I wasn’t expecting much but it had a lovely outside area with trees, statues, hanging bells, wind chimes, a massive gong that you could ring (according to the gestures of a local guy) and a big golden pyramid with a Buddha statue in each side where people had laid offerings of flowers and incense etc. You had to take your shoes off to approach it and Lauren’s feet got too hot on the ground so she didn’t see it up close and to be honest it was symmetrical so it didn’t really matter. There were also little sayings hung about the place—wise words I suppose you’d call em, presumably taken from the monk’s holy book whatever that is. The temple was white, red and gold and was guarded by two dragon statues which I think are used to out bad spirits.

Before even looking around Lauren saw some postcards and was quick to grab a couple and leave a generous donation ( ฿5). The ceiling was high, there was a mauve carpet running the length of the building which was empty in the centre, had an elevated section to the right and a special “for monks” chair near the front and an altar of a giant gold Buddha with masses of offerings and carvings piled high against it. It looked like the pyramid from outside but with gifts. I’ve since learned that they give offerings to earn merit and to keep their families well, etc. It was a pretty building and I’ve never been in a ‘working’ temple before so it was interesting. Lauren was bored after five minutes but I think as I had the camera I was occupied taking pictures. There was also some artwork all over the high walls with descriptions of various holy places and stories, which killed some time reading them.

There was also a massive painting of the king. I haven’t mentioned before but they love their king. Well loved; he’s dead now, and they’re still in mourning. (They mourn for a year or so.) They have pictures of him everywhere. Not little ones either; I’m talking billboards and the lot. Anyway, the temple was free, nice to look at and had a good vibe. I was considering not going in ‘cos I only had shorts and there are some signs about the place that says no shorts but I think it means woman as there was a dos and don’ts as I went in and it looks like if your shorts are about knee height you’re okay. Just basically means don’t dress like a slag, which you shouldn’t do anyway as Thais find it generally disrespectful.

Next stop was the Folklore Museum. By the time we got there it was near the hottest part of the day and we were glad happy to pay ฿90 to get into the a/c building where the temperature was set only at 27 degrees but it felt relatively cooler. There were lots of plaques on the walls with lots to read if you’re into that, but not a whole lot of visual stimulus which left us feeling a bit disappointed. We expected a deep insight into the Lanna culture but instead—after reading about fifteen plaques about Buddhist rituals—we just ended up moseying through, looking at strange-shaped rocks and little carvings and such, as we had had enough of reading after five or six rooms with not much to look at. It spanned topics such as religion, traditional dress, basket weaving, food, superstition, etc. and there were about ten rooms or so. Maybe take you an hour or two if you read everything, but as I said it got a bit sterile after a little while and Lauren needed a wee and a sit down so we left and headed for the onsite cafe. We just wanted a water and a toilet but it looked posh and we felt out of place so we used their toilet and got outta there before we felt pressured to spend our precious baht.

Some Chinese people doing their thing

I sat by a dead cockroach and planned our course to the temple we were supposed to go to before. We got there and it was busy so we decided to leave it until the morning when all the Chinese had gone. Not that I don’t like them, but while western tourists mostly just drink and play bongos, Chinese go places and make crowds. Curse them.

Day Four

We moved rooms today. They didn’t have a ฿200 room but they did have a ฿260 room that’s the same but also has it’s own bathroom. It’s not nearly as nice as the room we were in, which was nice to spend time in but it’s cheaper and all those baht add up and we need them at this point, especially that Lauren is wanting to do a trek to the highest peak of Thailand and to see the hill tribes. It does look good to be fair—it’s just that it costs ฿1300. the room is similar in decor to the last one but not as well maintained. The bolt on the door has nothing to bolt to, the window overlooks a narrow alleyway and makeshift wall strewn with plastic bottles, the bed has a dent in it, it’s smaller all around, there’s a picture of a child worker in a sweat shop on the wall and the toilet has vents above it that lead to the head of the bed. Nice.

Weather wasn’t too hot in the morning and we were able to walk down to Mickey’s Cafe where we got a tasty pad thai again, waters and a few sewer-esque smells wafting at us in the breeze. This weird middle-aged guy pulled up in a taxi and got helped out onto a zimmer frame. Usually I’d feel a bit bad on him except he was giving us evils and sat at the table next to ours and demanded that the fan be re-jigged to face him better. He was German and was trying to communicate with the waitress in German. He’s not English, so doesn’t have the privilege of expecting people to speak his native language.

After a lot of back and forthing and faffing with sun cream and jungle formula we headed to the museum. We got lost and ended up going down a lot of back roads looking for either the 7-11 or the museum. There were a lot of nice leafy roads but some scummy looking ones too. I didn’t feel unsafe at any point, which is good I suppose. There were plenty of swell heads knocking about to make fun of which kept us busy until we decided to go home and take a break anyway as it was really hot. Lauren looked after my mosquito bites, which were itching like hell and bright red, then we headed out to walk around the wall—well what’s left of it. It’s basically just the four main roads that make up the perimeter of the old town and follow a dirty moat type thing with small sections of what’s basically rubble on the corners. There were nice trees though. We got harassed by taxi drivers every ten seconds, so much so that we were having a sit down and moved cos it was that annoying them rolling past beeping and glaring hopingly out the windows at you.

On one side of the road on the inner side is a series of modern shops (Tescos, banks, bike rentals, etc) on the outskirts of town, and on the other the green waters in the moat ditch type thing. It wasn’t ugly to look at apart from a few areas with loads of litter but not pretty really either. There were some cool looking fish in there all gathered near the edge gasping at the surface. Beyond the moat were more roads hugging the square and more shops. Doesn’t feel very old-towny at all. there was a section of wall that was built up again that had a good picture up through the gate looking into the streets of the old town. Men with bags of seeds and cameras made pigeons flock over tourists as they snapped their pictures. There was some crazy American with a teeshirt made of dandruff who accosted us talking nonsense about a gathering in the square on the 28th about crowning people kings and queens of their home towns if they agreed with a number of vague, non-goals about freedom and stuff.

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At this point Lauren needed a wee and we decided that the walk was getting pretty samey anyway so we headed back. We’d toured through a little market obviously aimed at tourists but had some pretty cool looking purses and vests. There was a cockerel tied up by its leg by a little piece of string to a fence though. It crowed, and I imagined it was probably asking to be let loose. That old guy at the cafe was still there. He was sat with a beer and a pack of fags. He’d moved into our seat and had had the fan moved again. He was grouchily making the woman turn more lights on using hand gestures. I said to Lauren that it was so he could see properly as he cried into his pint.

After our wees we decided that we probably aren’t going to Laos and that we should go and spend the evening reading (and falling asleep) on the lounger pillows in the garden area. Oh, and when the wind blew the rooms smelled like a toilet. At least we didn’t bump into the latcher from the MBK.