Blogging from the road proves difficult. My brain is constantly overloaded by an influx of stimuli and I'd rather not hole up in a dingy guest house typing away like GlitchCOM5, but playing catch-up is also a drag, so I time traveled to the land of pen and paper and chronicled my journey in a notebook, careful not to miss a beat. So for the next few posts, I will choose my favorite incidents and memories from the trip and update a blog daily. (Probably more like every two days, considering I managed to contract Bubonic Plague on my journey and one of my eyes is swelled to Asian status. fitting, really.) I guess I'll start two days after Wat-ing around Chiang Mai rolling down Pai River two deep in a tube made for one, deflated tube in one hand, beer and lone sandal in the other, legitimately concerned over the prospect of heading into Burmese territory.
After arriving in the beautiful hippie haven tucked between soaring hills, we decided to take a 'relaxing' tubing trip down the Pai river. A weasley whiskered Thai man with a brow ring and wife beater plops us and our tubes onto a random riverbank, takes our clothing and instructs us that if our tube is to pop, find a non-english-speaking local and ask to use their cell phone to call him. Mind you locals on the side of this particularly unpopulated river are fishing and farming and probably haven’t excelled in understanding the flailing hand gestures of the Farang.
The warning lodges a seed of paranoia into my psyche, knowing that with regard to unlikely happenings, I'm the exception. If it can be popped, broken, shredded, drowned or shattered, surely my fingers (or elbows, toes, bony knees, etc) will be the culprits. But I drink my way out of second guesses and elevate. Our tubes putz down the ankle deep excuse for a river, streaming over rock-shaped speed bumps, winding between farmland and mountains blanketed in foliage whose branches all seem to be ominously pointing in the direction we're headed. The lack of current leaves my tube plodding in the wake of the herd and Jamie and I find ourselves reliably banked on some portion of this inhospitable quarry.
The woodland creature in the white tank warned us that in some shallow areas incisive masses could potentially leave our bums scraped and tubes deflated, failing to reveal that these spots were actually the entire river and because it’s about a foot deep, they perform as obstacles in a jewel heist, beating the leisure out of our rears, spines and phalanges. Soon enough, the flow deficit meets swirls of torrents and I struggle to hold onto two bottles of Chang and my shoes while hip thrusting to avoid taking a cliff to an area deemed exit only. Jamie and I continue to pull up the rear and I'm in the middle of bruising my knuckle in a philanthropic attempt to open a fellow tuber’s beer for her by lighter, when suddenly I'm at a standstill a large branch and I merge forming one inanimate being, sending the riverflow curving around us on all sides.
I stand up avoiding razor sharp cliff rocks and realize that my once-inflated doughnut now hangs around my neck like a defeated boa constrictor. Suddenly the current wrenches me away from my branch and I struggle to hold onto the two beers, sacrificing my sandals and lifeless tube in the process, I'm propelled along in six inches of water, ricocheting off rubble like a giraffe-shaped gumball. A bewildered Thai fishermen retrieves my sandal from his net while his friend peels my comatose rubber tu-tu off a slab of stone.
Between diagramming how to best carry all of the necessities (beers) without surrendering the soles of my feet to the callousness of geology, I'm again torn from footing and into the current. I'm dragged along the rocks, hopping from stone to stone like their own human boomerang. Jamie attempts to paddle toward me holding out her altruistic, albeit undersized arm for my rescue. I turn in the direction of safety, battling against the current and shouting "I JUST WANT TO LIVE."
In retrospect, this exclamation seems a bit dramatic considering at any point I could've ditched the goods, stood up in the rocky 2 foot deep water and gracelessly marched my unhappy ass up the bank onto someone's farm and somehow communicated that I needed a ride back to town. Rather than risking the awkwardness of that wet, scantily clad conversation, I opted to doggie paddle through River Bedrock and hoisted my body, my beers and my encumbering flat floatation device into Jamie’s tube, leaving a two pink sandals and my dignity to the devices of the river.
We float the rest of the way two-deep in a historically non-durable tube made for one, hip-thrusting in unison to avoid creating two holes in our asses. Cutting our losses, we continue sipping our cheap beers and take each rocky blow in stride, even when we legitimately believed the group had shored hours ago and we were en route to Burmese territory—also a warning from our uber helpful guide. An hour later, we spot the faces of our friends, but not before a group of unnecessarily angry young Thai lads attempt to flip our tube and drown us with their vicious little talons. Luckily my long legs and Jamie’s shrill shrieks were enough to fend them off until we reached safety. Thailand needs to peruse the tourism section of leisure maybe once more, especially considering I was made to pay 100 baht for deflating my tube.