One thing I really wanted to do on this trip was volunteer on a farm. Through helpexchange.com we found the perfect spot nestled in a glorious mountain valley surrounded by limestone spires in northern Thailand. The farmer, Peter, was a soft spoken old man from Hungary. He had a hernia and swollen foot and was not able to get around to much,
so our farmstay turned into a homestay with some farming chores. I was happy to cook and clean. Peter recently made a clay oven and I had the honor of being the first to use it. Too bad I had absolutely no experience baking in a clay oven. My first loaf of bread did not cook all the way through because I did not get the oven hot enough (this is difficult without a knob to set the temperature). My second try I heated up the oven too much and burnt some rolls. My third try was success with delicious wheat berry, peanut and sesame cookies. Yay! We had all you can eat papaya, bananas, wheat berries, brown rice and fresh veggies. When we weren’t busy with chores, we engaged in hiking, wildlife watching and spelunking!
The whole area was surrounded by wonderful bamboo filled forests. Unfortunately, the forests were devoid of large animals because the locals ate them all! However we did see some great birdlife there. The region is also home to one of the largest concentrations of caves on the planet and we did our fare share of exploring caves. We”ll be going to Laos in a few days. We have to catch a bus. We will try to post more pics later.
Accomodations at the farm. We had to rough it a bit with dirty thin mattresses on the floor, but we had clean sheets.
We spent the last 4 days on the highest mountain in Thailand, Doi Inthanon. While enjoying 50ish degree temperatures, we walked amongst tangled moss festooned groves of Rhododendron and enjoyed spectacular waterfalls spewing off the mountaIn, while studying fascinating Himalayan birdlife. We camped in a small village of Hmong people (immigrants from China who live on mountains and live off of small farms).
This Thanksgiving we are staying on a Farm in a remote town (this is probably the only computer for 50 miles and the connection is very slow). So, while you all are relishing a delicious Fall harvest, we are giving our labors to an ill farmer, planting wheat and eating homemade tortillas. We will post pictures soon.
Today was spent touring the city of Chaing Mai. We visited a couple of wats (temples) and took a stroll down the famous Saturday walking market. There were several vendors selling their handicrafts such as silk scarfs, jewelry, and wood furnishings. I think we did enough shopping to satisfy my urge for a long, long time! I just wish I had more room in my backpack.
We just returned from another camping adventure at Nam Nao National Park. We had a wonderful time there amongst the majestic open grown pines and oaks and bamboo filled broadleaf evergreen forest. Highlights included; ancient coniferous plants called Cycads, numerous birds including; Red-billed blue Magpies, Greater Flamebacks, Silver Pheasants and much more, 3 species of snake and the giant Tokay Gecko! We love staying at the National Parks here. You can camp for about a dollar per night, there are lots of great hiking trails and there are typically Thai restaurants there with cheap, delicious rice dishes. We have seen very few tourists at the two parks that we visited. We are in northern Thailand (tourist infested Chaing Mai) now and we will be going to another national Park (Doi Inthanon), where we will camp for a while and visit the highest peak in Thailand, while exploring a southern spur of the Himalayan Mountains.
People were preparing for the flood by using sandbags
A nice presentation of mole crickets. Ryne wanted to try them, but a lady said they must be cooked or he will die. They were a bit pricey anyway, almost a dollar for one.
Chang Mai Saturday Market. One of my favorite things to do is shop at local markets and see what goods they have to offer. We were the only tourists at this market despite being a few blocks away from a very tourist infested area.
It didn’t take us long to get out of the sweltering heat and high waters of Bangkok (it is as bad as it appears in the media!) and into pristine, lush jungle. We spent the last 5 days camping at Khao Yai National Park where we saw wild elephants, gibbons, macaques, hornbills, an indian rock python and much more. The campground was packed with Thais! We didn’t realize that they liked to camp so much. Although some were pushed out of their homes because of the flood. We took a bus through the floods and people were fishing and boating down the same road as us! Extreme flooding!!
The Rutherfords are officially in Asia!! We had a very nice, but exhausting flight. On the plane, we had our first Korean meal and rice wine, very yummy! We saw a red sunset over the arctic that lasted for 4 hours. We also saw snow covered mountains sprawling across the Siberian wilderness.
It is incredibly hot and muggy here. I am still in shock and can’t believe that we are actually here in Bangkok, Thailand! So far, we have had only pleasant experiences with Thais. They are kind-hearted, very helpful and thankfully, speak good English.
We are in Chicago enjoying some much needed down time before our 20 hour flight to Bangkok, Thailand. We depart Chicago at noon tomorrow, (Monday) and are scheduled to arrive in Bangkok at 10 pm on Tuesday (Bangkok is 12 hours ahead of us). This will be the longest day of our lives! 36 hours!
Thanks Mom and Dad for spoiling us and packing our backpacks full of a weeks worth of trail food!