Some trips are so memorable, that even if they took place before we started this blog, we wanted to go back into our memories and talk about them. Such was our first trip to Cambodia, and, in particular, a special trip we took out of Chiang Rai into the hill country.
The trip started with a long tail boat up the river to get to the place where we were to meet our elephant taxi ride. Why an elephant? Why not? We were in Cambodia after all. While riding an elephant sounded exotic, it really is not. If you have ever ridden an elephant, you might know that it is uncomfortable and smelly. While you are on a high perch and have a great view, the seat is not very comfortable for long. Elephants also…how do I say this…pass a lot of gas due to their diet. Hence the smell. Plus, every time they have the opportunity, they love to scoop up water in their trunks and spray themselves (and you in the process) to keep cool. Certainly something everyone should experience once, but once is enough!
The elephant delivered us and our guide into a mountain village where we would spend the night. And what a night it was.
Our “hotel” was really just a family’s home where, to earn extra money, the family would host guests. The “house” is not a house as we know it either. Homes are on stilts here, with the livestock living on the ground level and the family living higher up. It gets the family away from the smell a little as well as allows them to catch any breezes in this hot area.
So how does one get to the “second” floor? Well, there is a ladder of course, but our elephant dropped us off on the upper level. You see, the elephant was about the same height as the living area. So we climbed over the elephant’s head and trunk to enter the house. Easy!
The house was traditional in the sense that it had a lot of bamboo. Bamboo mats for flooring. Bamboo walls and bamboo roof. For sleeping, the family put out several layers of woven mats as a bed—which may sound hard, but they are really quite comfortable when multiple ones were stacked up. We were very comfortable in our room, although we were a little surprised when the father came home late at night and had to walk through our bedroom to get to the little room where the family was sleeping that night (since they gave us their bedroom).
We started our visit with the mother and daughter cooking dinner for our guide and ourselves. Dinner was served on the outside on the “porch” where it was cooler, with everyone sitting on the floor. To make extra money, the family also sold beer and soft drinks. As we recall, the food was quite good. They also offered to give us massages for more money. But the beer was making us mellow enough so we declined.
The daughter was continually coughing while we were there. We asked if she was sick but our guide explained that while she was in vitro, her Mom smoked opium, which affected the daughter’s lungs. So the daughter will be paying for her Mom’s habit all of her life.
The toilet was a “new” community toilet built about 50 feet from our house. I think it was a western toilet with a seat versus a hole over which you squatted, but to be honest, at that point we were so used to squatting that we can’t remember. To get there, you crossed over a small bridge. Not a problem during the day. But since Joyce always has to find a toilet at night, the route was:
- find her flashlight
- find and descend the ladder
- walk past the livestock…pigs do not get out of your way so you have to jump over them as well as their droppings
- go over a small bridge
- then, to the toilet
And then back again. Wish we had pictures. Thank goodness we travel with a flashlight as the pigs and dogs were especially active at night. Roosters too, but they are easy to maneuver around
speaking of pigs….pigs rule. They are huge (see the pictures) and they know they rule. If a dog encounters a pig, the pig wins….no contest as the pig outweighs the dog and it is much smarter. But the village rules over the pig. If the village is hungry and a pig is slaughtered, the entire village shares the food.
OK, let’s talk about the morning shower. Down the ladder, pass the livestock, over to the stream where a bamboo pole was diverting the water from the mountain that could be used for washing. Oh, and did we mention the water temperature? Cold, Real Cold. And, since it was in the open, one didn’t really take a shower, just splashed some water on your face and legs.
What a great trip and story. It ended with us hiking out (no more elephants) to our next stop.