Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Welcome to the jungle

Hiking in the jungle. How awesome is that?

Being from the Pacific Northwest, it is our birthright and obligation to crave a certain amount of hiking. Living in the Middle East, we are way, way behind on meeting our quota. This causes us spiritual pain. Even with his broken toe, Mike was game.

Like I said, what a guy.

Bethy and I had both drooled over the photo in our guidebook of one of the series of 7 waterfalls at Erawan National Park. Churning white waters and pools the color of cloudy turquoise. I figured that it was just a good angle and skilled photographer, that it couldn't possibly be that beautiful.

It was.

Incredible twisted roots and vines, thick jungle, and waters that strange but jaw-dropping shade of blue.

Thomas playing swing on a jungle vine

The kids were having a ball trekking along. We'd signed on with the same tour agancy that had taken us to see the elephants and were reunited with the same driver and guide. Bethy had insisted our guide's name was "Poo". I firmly retorted that there was no way, that she must have misheard, and asked the the tiny, darling Thai guide to spell her name.

"It is P-o-o, ma'am," she said.

Alrighty then.

As it turns out, Poo is a common nickname and means "crab" in Thai.

Twisted, chain-like jungle vine. Very cool.

Other common nicknames ("playnames") include Moo ("pork" -especially appropriate for a fat baby), Dum ("black") and Rat ("gemstone"), names lovingly given at birth.

A rose by any other name, I guess. Thais have real names too, but they are infrequently used.

Poo told us, enthusisatically, that we could get a "fish spa" at the first of the seven falls.

I assumed that that meant there would be some sort of New Age-y commercial thing where you would put your feet into a bucket of the "doctor fish" who would then nibble all the dead skin off in an exfoliating sort of process. I guess all the cool kids are doing it.

Not even. The first of the seven falls was breathtakingly beautiful. Not a commercialism in sight, with all sizes of fish in the waters.

Dutifully, I stuck my feet in and was immediately and in the most ticklish fashion, swarmed.

The fish lined up like piglets to a sow on all aspects of my feet and didn't so much as nibble but scraped on me with their mouths. It was somewhere on the spectrum between hilarious and unnerving.

Eventually I got used to it and could keep my feet still enough for the fishies to do their job. Before that I was giggling and squealing in a most undignified manner which earned me several alarmed glances from nearby Asians.

Bethy tried it too, and we were just a couple of girls getting our jungle spa lovin'.

When I figured my feet were beautified enough, I pulled them out of the water. Lots of red marks, but smooth, and besides, the fishies seemed happy.

Moving on, we gloried in the wild beauty of the jungle, keeping our eyes and ears open for wild elephants and tigers.

Alas, not even a monkey came to ransack our backpack or make scary faces and noises at us. I hear that often happens. It was not to be.

Both kids got to swing on vines like Tarzan,

and Thomas apparently felt some deep primitive pull from eons gone by and insisted on hiking barefoot,

much to the amusement of the assorted groups of Asians walking by in either direction who then (yes, you know what I'm going to say next) had to take his photograph.

I swear, there are more photos of our kids wandering around than anyone can possibly appreciate. And what on earth do the Asians do with the photos later? Scrapbook them? Show their friends?

There were shrines next to some of the falls by villagers, which we made sure not to disturb,

and by the time we reached this glorious waterfall,

well, see that speck where the water is cascading into the pool ?

Yeah, that would be me.

The water was cool and lovely and I had it pretty much to myself. Score!

I found a bamboo raft floating along the mud and limestone shore, and braving the insistant attentions of the spa fish, (and they were both impertinant and as persistant as frat boys!) swam it over to Bethy and Thomas and gave them a ride all around the pool too.

If only we had had more time. Sadly, we hadn't managed to hike up to all 7 levels of the falls nor gotten to see the limestone caves; time was pressing and our tour group had a schedule. After a tasty Thai meal with our group at a local place, and, in keeping with the sacred hiking tradition, beers, we had to move on.

Beers really do taste best after hiking, or physical activity in general. Ask the rest of our tour group. They saw us with ours and boy did that spark a flurry of ordering in several languages, including gestures and deep sighs of contentment.


Julia said...

Very cool! Hiking in the jungle is definately on the list of nifty things to do, even without the monkeys you were forewarned about.

Will & Cheyenne said...

Okay, that is about the coolest thing ever!! Those pictures are breathtaking!