Contiki is one of these touring companies that drags lazy back packers around showing you things you wouldn’t see if you are traveling on your own. Cause if you are a lazy backpacker traveling on your own odds are you are simply going to see the inside of your hotel room, the cheapest restaurant within a 5 minute walk and then the bars.
The wonderful, wonderful bars.
So @thesquireyeg and the incoming President of the Dan Tencer Fan Club set off with 31 people on a 14 day tour of southeast Asia.
Average age of a tour member: 23 years give or take. Gender composition: 5 guys, 26 girls. One could say that the numbers are working in our favour and one would be correct.
Our tour agenda was to be in Thailand for a spell, starting in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chang Rai (not to be confused with one another) and then head into Laos and Cambodia.
This was to be especially fun considering we have been to none of these destinations and would most certainly lack the courage were it not for a tour guide taking us by the hand and showing us the various sights, sounds and smells along the way.
Our knowledge of riding trains consists of having watched “Throw Momma from the Train” and several episodes of Soul Train on YouTube. With that in mind we were well equipped as we boarded an overnight train from Bangkok to Chang Mai.
We sat down on these little benches, played cards and chatted with our fellow tour members and couldn’t help but wonder where the sleeping cars were. Then at 9 PM a fine fellow came around and actually made the benches into beds, folding down a second cot from the roof, making little bedrooms for everyone right there on the train.
With lights out and a poicy of “shhhh” invoked at the early hour of 9:30 PM, @thesquireyeg suggested to our captive audience of Australians, South Africans and a lone American that we all watch his Justin Bieber: Never say Never DVD.
As we rattled through rural Thailand, we were busy exporting the best of what Canada has to offer to the unwashed masses of non Beliebers. It is truly a golden age to be alive.
VISITING THE HILL PEOPLE
On the fourth day of the tour our guide stood up at breakfast and said in her authorative way “this afternoon we will be going on an optional excursion to see the hill people outside of Chaing Rai. Only those who want to see these people need to come as it is quite remote and lacking in facilities of any kind.”
When we heard “visiting the hill people” we couldn’t help but interpret this to mean “be murdered by the hill people.” Blame the movie The Hills have Eyes or the fact that we recently drove from Dallas to Edmonton through some of the most armed redneckiest lands you ever have seen.
Either way we couldn’t help but think that this was going to be high on the list of things we can’t believe we have done.
And so we signed up.
The hill people of Chaing Mai have the infamous long necks you may have seen in a National Geographic. Memo to Steve Tambellini who we regularily imagine reads these articles late at night: these plates would be a cheap way to make Sam Gagner into that 6’3 player you have always wanted.
Walking around in this tiny town was probably as close to being back in time as one could be without actually operating a time machine. No roads, no plumbing and no electricity. Strolling about taking pictures on a BlackBerry and tweeting them live made us feel like Spock on an away mission.
And yet despite being “beyond dirt poor” by Western standards and having uncomfortable neck plates stacked up to the sky, these fine folks seemed happy as can be. This has been evident all over SE Asia and is starting to warp our fragile little mind to be completely honest.
But we will save that for another day, if ever. Anyways, these fine folks were more than happy to smile for photos, selling hand made scarves and doing a traditional dance for the doofus tourist group that had taken an air conditioned bus for an hour into the remote hills and considered themselves to be epic adventurers of the highest order.
Our boy @dwowzers tweeted us a shot of the very same village: "I bonded with the hill people in 2008!"
That’s good reppin right there my man.
The second half of our Contiki Tour. Do we eat spiders at a restaurant one night? Only reading part two will give you the inside scoop!*
*Yes we did if you can’t wait that long.