Elephant. Rodeo. Two words that should always go together. I’m hanging on to an elephant’s neck, trying to keep my grip while he’s wildly shaking his head. He wins, of course, and launches me into the river. As I swim back to him, I can look directly in his eyes just above the water. I clamber onto his back and he splashes me with his trunk. I’ve never ridden a horse, but I’ve now ridden an elephant and it’s pretty awesome.
I stayed in the town of Pai, up in the hills of Northern Thailand. It’s one of those places with an abundance of tourists (200 guesthouses and counting) even though there are no touristy sights. People flock here for the relaxed atmosphere, and the lack of police presence to deter copious marijuana use. It’s anything but authentic, with restaurants advertising that they have ‘Thai Food’ on the menu. The only thing to do is to ride scooters through the countryside, bathe under waterfalls, and then spend the night drinking and chatting.
Originally I was going to be here for two nights max, but that ended up being six. I’ve met some good people and together we explore and do some serious advanced chilling. We also band together against the scourge of this town: hippies.
When I say that this town is teeming with hippies, I really mean that they’re absolutely bloody everywhere. Now I have a thing against hippies and It’s great fun riling them up in conversations. Want to rant about the evils of mass media? I love FOX News as a balance to the liberal media. Something something veganism/animal cruelty? Buddha himself ate red meat (this is actually true). Meditation and yoga clear a path to spiritual enlightenment, the way the Oriental people have found balance in their lives? So why isn’t it practiced by the locals then (they do meditate, but for two minutes max, and not outside in a field while stretching into unnatural poses). The funny thing is that the locals are also not too fond of them, and I now know a fourth phrase in Thai (after hello, thank you, and cheers): smelly hippie.
So when one night there was a big reggae party in town (dreadlocks get in free!) we declined and instead ended up at the locals’ fair. We rode the scariest, most unsafe rollercoaster I’ve ever been on. I’m pretty sure a rollercoaster should have some kind of belt or restrainer to keep you from flying out. I won a stuffed animal with prizeshooting, and we danced to the tunes of the local band fronted by what looked like a set of strippers.
This is good fun but it was time to keep going, and I’ve moved on to do the most irreverent thing I could find. In the town of Chiang Rai is a temple whose murals don’t depict the usual adventures of Buddha, but instead show Batman, Superman, Spiderman, a Nokia cellphone, birds from Avatar, the Twin Towers on fire, and portraits of Bush and Bin Laden in the eyes of a dragon. Completely nuts and totally awesome.
My next stop will be Laos. I’ll be heading to the border well before dawn in order to catch a slow boat that will take me along the Mekong river for two days, until I arrive in Luang Prabang. Adventure awaits…