Darkness falls across the land the midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood to terrorize y’alls neighborhood
Yes the title and lyrics are from different songs, but whatever, this post is about Halloween, and Halloween in Chiang Mai was fun. Putting together a Halloween costume on short notice and a tight budget when you’re backpacking though is a bit of a challenge and requires some creativity. Thankfully it was Sunday, and in Chiang Mai there is a huge walking market on Sunday. A large group of us from the Little Bird went costume hunting in the early evening. This market was huge. It was full of the usual clothes, crafts and food, but a lot of it was better quality then most other markets I’ve been to in Asia. It was also more expensive, and they didn’t really like to haggle. In Vietnam for example if you wanted something from a market you would ask a price, say “Nooooo, too much” and start looking at something else and get ready to do a walk away. At this point they would say “How much you pay?” and you would low ball them at a quarter of their starting price. After this the haggle was on. In Chiang Mai as soon as you tried to haggle they would laugh at your low price and turn around and let you go. The walk away was useless and you were lucky to get them to budge by 50 cents on something that cost $5.
Anyway, I wandered around with Andy and Chris trying to think of a Halloween costume. Plan B was for us all to buy silk dresses and go as lady boys. It didn’t take long till I lost the other guys and went off on my own. In the end I decided to go as Jack Sparrow and bought a white pirate-ish shirt. I figured in could piece together the rest back at the hostel. With my costume sorted I wandered around the market for awhile checking out other stuff. At one point I noticed everyone had stopped moving. This was unnerving as there were hundreds of people in the market. Not only that, everyone had also stopped speaking. The place was literally frozen, with all the Thai people diligently staring at their shoes. It was then I noticed that some music was being played through badly distorting speakers in the street. I guess it was the national anthem or something like that, and as soon as it finished the market exploded back to life as if nothing had happened. It was definitely a surreal moment.
Back at the Little Bird people started getting dressed up. The girls that worked there helped out with lots of makeup and fake blood. I ran around and borrowed some baggy pantaloons and a bunch of silk scarves which I tied around my waist to make a multicolored belt. I them attempted to straighten my hair with the help of Chantel and Shannon’s pocket sized straightener. It didn’t work very well but it was enough. All that was left was an eye patch, which I made out of some paper, a black marker, and some donated hair ties. I then started drinking on the decks while waiting for everyone else to get ready. Chantel came dressed as Cleopatra, Andy was a life guard who had been mauled by a shark, and Chris looked like a gay cowboy. There was an Irish guy, Kevin, who was dressed as a corpse cowboy with white paint all over his skin and blood all over his face. I suggested he could be Heath Ledger, and Chris Jake Gyllenhaal. Slightly in bad taste but oh well. Charlie and Owen wore matching outfits to look like twins, tubing Laos twins. There were also a couple of sexy cats, some aerobics outfits, a bunch if ghoulish looking types, a thai boxer, but perhaps the funniest was Dean and Tysons outfit. Dean and some others had wanted to go as Pacman ghosts and had spent hours looking for colored sheets to wear. They went through the market, then the shopping mall, and finally found some but they were ridiculously expensive. Instead Dean and an American, Tyson, just bought shower caps and sponges and wrapped towels around their waists. Another cool costume was a Chinese girl’s who went as the ghost from Spirited Away. She wore black and had the ghosts distinctive face drawn on some paper and stuck to the back of her head. She also had it drawn on a balloon she was carrying around.
Once everyone was ready we all went to, you guessed it, the reggae bar yet again. When we arrived the place was pretty dead, but 30 backpackers in crazy costumes can do wonders for the atmosphere of a bar and 30 minutes later the place was pumping. It was a great night out and at the end Dean won the prize for worst dressed, though apparently this was only because they had to give best dressed to a Thai person. The prize for best dressed was a free bucket, the prize for worst dressed was also a free bucket. Dean was happy. He told me his costume was getting him way too much lady attention, with Thai girls constantly trying to see if he was wearing anything under the towel. I replied “man, we should swap, I’ve been getting to much guy attention. All night I’ve had Thai guys run up and say “I love you Jack Sparrow!””. On the way home the Spirited Away girl succumbed to a little too much spirits. I found her wasted and slumped on the curb outside a bar crying like someone had just died. Apparently she had lost her passport in the bar. A group of us spent ages trying to comfort her and look for the passport. In the end she had never even brought it out, it was safely back at the passport all along.
The next day I had to get up bright and early for my day trek. As always, I was slightly hungover. The trek was pretty strange as we didn’t actually do any trekking. It started by visiting a butterfly farm of all things, then we went white water rafting. The rafting was great fun and the cold water did wonders for clearing my head. After rafting was lunch, then riding a bamboo raft down a river, then elephant riding. The bamboo raft was slightly boring, and I felt bad about the elephant riding, especially after my chat with the girl from the rescue center on my Ring Ride earlier.
The elephants looked in pretty rough shape with scabs and purple stuff all over their faces. Some of the guides were whacking them with nasty sickle like tools to get them to behave. This looked awful but they claimed you needed it because of their thick skin. As for the ride it was quite bumpy. The whole motion was a exaggerated rolling action as the elephant plodded slowly along. It was like a boat in rough seas, in slow motion. People who suffer from motion sickness beware. We also got to feed the elephant bananas which was the only time they looked happy. They would throw their trunk over their head waiting with their mouth wide open in what looked like a cheeky grin. I also felt a guilty pleasure from sitting on the elephants head on the ride back.
Following the elephant ride we went to the “trek”. Which was a 30 minute walk up a hill to a waterfall. Hardly a real trek. The best part was at the top, which seemed to be a guesthouse, where multitudes of kittens came swarming out to greet us. One was so small it could it in your hand. I spent awhile playing with one of them with a piece of string that was dangling off my backpack. Overall the trek was a good way to do a bunch of activities in one day for cheap, but I was a little disappointed that there was no actual trekking, not that I expected much in a single day, but I expected some. The white water rafting was definitely the highlight for me. The other problem was it was a little lonely since I booked it my own. We had a big group but half was a group of Chinese who kept to themselves, and the other half were a group of Canadians from Victoria who were also pretty closed.
Back at the little bird I finally had a quiet night. I went to go to bed at about 9pm, but started chatting to this girl in the dorm room about dreams and other random things. Since people on malaria pills tend to have vivid messed-up dreams you hear some interesting ones, though I wasn’t bothering with any anti malarial pills myself this trip. She had had one bizarre one where she gave birth to a baby, and then sat it on a windowsill where it started transforming and turned into a snickers bar. Someone explain that for me. Another British girl, Emma, who had just checked in, came in an joined us. Emma had been in Chiang Mai for awhile learning Mui Thai boxing at a local gym where most of the other boxers were Thai gangsters. She had had some interesting nights out with them. One of them had been trying to hit on her, though she wasn’t interested, and ended up getting a lift home with another of the guys. The first one then claimed the second had cock blocked him and got mad and tried to ride his bike drunk and crashed. He wasn’t too badly injured at least. Don’t drink and drive kids.
I had two days left in Chiang Mai after this, the first I planned on going zip lining, the second exploring the old city and some of the temples which I still hadn’t got around to doing. Zip lining involves flying along a wire between platforms high up in the jungle canopy. I went with an Aussie nomad, Mel, and a yank from Colorado, Conner, and the company was called Jungle Flight. It was a fun day, but was no Gibbon Experience which I missed out on in Laos. The funniest thing was our guides, three Thai guys who were absolutely crazy. I swear they were half monkey.
The day after armed with my camera I went walking around Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai has the most temples of any city in Thailand, and some of them were very impressive. I was a little temple fatigued after 2 months in Asia however so I just went to the biggest ones to take photos. Emma had told me there was a temple called Wat U Mong, and I think I found it, but since it was small it’s signs were only in Thai. It would have been a funny photo if it was in English.
That night I had a flight down to Phuket where I was meeting a friend from Australia who was flying in for my last two weeks in Thailand, but the flight wasn’t till 11pm. I went out for one last Chiang Mai street food meal, and since I haven’t said how good the street food here is yet, I will now. For 25-35 baht you can get delicious chicken fried rice or stir frys like chili basil chicken, cashew chicken, or sweet and sour fried up fresh in front of you. For a little more, 60 baht, you can get a curry soup and bowl of rice. For 20 baht a fresh made papaya salad is yours. All of them taste delicious. For desert, gluttonous pancakes and creeps are about 20 baht or there’s always 7 Eleven where the same price gets you a delicious Cornetto. Incase you can’t tell I love street food over here, but anyway after eating my lady Chiang Mai meal I said goodbye to the Little Bird crew. They were getting ready to go to a midget Thai boxing show that night, the do a motorbike trip up to Pai the day after. I was almost tempted to stay and head back to The Ring for round two. Overall Chiang Mai had been my favourite place I’d been on my trip. The relaxed atmosphere, wealth of things to do, great cheap food and awesome company were a winning combination.