Rafting through the Jungle to a Mountainside Town

Trip Start Dec 18, 2011
Trip End Feb 26, 2012

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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day 1 - Rafting Down the Pai River
Woke up to find that everything was misted in. Walked to the tour agency where I was picked up at 8:30am and taken to the rafting office. Here we got a quick speel about rafting though given the likely water level not really needed. Also were told that the mist in the morning was normal for the area and that it should burn off by 10am to give us blue skies (which it did).

Definately seems like it might be an interesting river around the end of the monsoon season but at the moment likely to be very quite.

Learnt here that the french guy had started his operation here 20 years ago and at that time the town of Pai only had 2 guesthouses. Unfortunatley a bit more of a tourist town these days with over 100 guesthouses.

After a quick breakfast of coffee, bread and jam jumped into the back of the truck and headed to the river. While the river was low it did seem to have a bit of a flow to it. Must say that its the fastest flowing river I have seen so far in Laos. Looked like it might be possible to cover a reasonable distance without having to paddle continously in order to move.

During the day we hit maybe 30 rapids of reasonable size with the occasional bigger one where you actually dropped of a bit of a ledge. Still pretty small but bigger than anything I have had in Laos. Guessing it would have been more interesting and challenging to kayak through these rapids since the kayak is a lot less stable than a raft.

With the current helping us move found that we didnt have to paddle the whole time so could enjoy the surrounding jungle views. First stop near a stream running into the river. Here I could see a trail running along the stream so decided to follow it. Found it interesting to note the number of tadpoles I could see sitting in the water. Suggests lots of frogs which suggests a healthy water system.

After lunch more paddling and rapids and a stop at a hot spring. Not the swimming kind unfortunately. Rather the spring was full of mud where you could see the hot water bubbling in the mud. Found the mud here very (scaulding) hot. When getting out of the boat my feet started to sink and then started to burn as they sunk into the mud heated by the spring. Had to move quick to avoid the burning sensation.

Back in the boat for more rafting. along the way our guide point out some spiders. From a distance these looked like black moss. In actual fact (as seen in photos) it was a big mass of daddy long leg spiders. Seems they like to clump together (maybe for warmth or safety). Throughout the rest of the day could see lots and lots of clumps of these spiders on the rocks.

As evening started to approach we reached our jungle camp where I put some dry cloths on since it had been freezing the night before and was likely to be the same tonight. Here our guides had a kitchen area where they cooked dinner while we sat around a camp fire keeping warm.

After dinner sat around the fire a bit chatting with the south african guys who were in my raft and the aussie couple in the other raft before calling it a night. Given the night before in Pai, was pleasant surprised to find it wasnt so cold out here in the jungle (maybe due to lower elevation).

Day 2 - Another Day of Rafting, Temples and the Town of Mae Hong Son
Woke up fairly early and headed out to sit by the fire. While not as cold as Pai the morning before. Still not that warm. Sat here chatting while breakfast and lunch were being made, after which we headed to the rafts.

At the raft found that it had been taken over by spiders. Lots and lots of spiders and all my fault. he guide had mentioned the evening before not to leave the life jaket in the raft. I hadnt really been listening and had left mine behind. Seems the spiders like the shade of the life jacket and this attracts them . Not sure if what the guide said is correct since I would think the shade of the boat would also attract them if this was the case.

Spent some time pulling the clumps of spiders off the life jacket, the front of the boat and from withing the boat itself. Was basically grabbing them by the legs then throwing them out. Here I found it interesting to see how they clumped together in a big mass and that this mass moved around over the ground as a single unit.

Had cleared out most of the spiders before we were under way which was a good thing since one of the South Africans was scared of spiders. Even so ended up throwing a few more spiders out of the raft over the first hour or so of rafting.

Once again some nice jungle views from the river and similar rapids to the day before with a few big ones. At one point even heard and quickly glimsed some monkeys by the riverside. Unfortunatley they were moving away from the water so didnt really get a good look at them.

As we headed down river we entered into a National park and had a short stop here. Found that this spot was also where another river joined the one we were on. This other river was the one that was being offered by the other tour agency in Pai and so would have meant missing out on doing a fair number of the rapids. From here saw the other overnight group and a group of day trippers come out.

Continued on down river and had a stop at another hot spring. This one actually had some water above ground (very hot but not scaulding) but hardly engough to do more than soak your feet in it. Also by the time it hit the river it pretty much cooled instantly since their was so much river water and so little spring water.

Paddled a bit more before having lunch and continuing on through a small gorge. At this point decided to jump in for a swim and went througha couple of rapids without the raft. While it was fun I definately was tossed around and unlike the south African, am glad I went through the first of theses with a life jacket. definately got tossed around and had my butt hit a few underwater rocks. also swallowed a fair bit of river water which I was hoping wouldnt have any nasty consequences.

After finishing the rafting had decided to visit the nearby town of Mae Hong Son (with another couple) since it was so close and would be less touristy than Pai. Was dropped off at a guesthouse near the lake and then wandered off into the town.

Started out looking at doing a trek but given there was any real group I could join (though not to exoensive to do alone with guide) I decided to give it a miss. Besides, the following day was Christmas eve and I was considering giving my family a call when they gathered at my sisters place.

Spent the rest of the day wandering the town and visiting the lakeside Wat. Seems like a nice small town though it definately had a more western type town feel to it than towns of similar or even bigger size in Laos. Saying that it was defiantely an asian town with it people, markets and street side vendors.

Also Headed up the hill to Wat Phra That Doi Kong Mu which had some great views of the town and surrounding mountains. Seems like this is a high central point surrounded by lowlands, which in turn are surrounded in mountains. Looking back I probably should of done a trek but given the time of year I also needed a bit of a break. Besides my body was feeling sore from all the treking, kayaking and biking I had been doing over the previous few weeks.

Spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the mountain top temple which had people praying and walking around a central Stupa. Since the sun was setting haung around for the start of sunset before heading back down and wandering through the night market that was selling souvineer like stuff. Found a few western tourists around but as in Pai there seemed to be a lot of local Thai tourists here as well.

Had dinner in a restuarant and grabbed a bit of streetside food before heading back to the gueesthouse. Prior to going to bed could see some floating laterns being released from near the Wat. Interestingly it seemed that some of these also contained fireworks and after having risen up into the air you could see the firework igniting.

Day 3 - Quite day
Woke up to find the lake shrouded in mist. Since I had no tour to do I decided on having a quite day. Need to bit of a break anyway and if I didnt have to be out of Thailand before the new year I probably would of found a beach somewhere where I could dive and not do much else for a week or so. Been on the road a whole year so a break would be nice. Unfortunately not to be. Besides being between countries for new years I am definately running out of time to do what I want.

Spent the day doing very little beyond looking into my dive options for Sipandan and Making a reservation for Mount Kinabalu. Thankfully doesnt seem to busy this time of year since it must be the off season. Found out later that the reason the demand for diving permits (and am guessing the mountain as well) is that the weather is unpredicatble during this time of year so most people give it a miss. Can only hope I get some luck with the weather when I show up.

Besides Borneo, also looked at firming up my plans for Cambodia and the Phillipines. Unlike the last few months I need to book some flights and the sooner I do it the cheaper it will be. This includes my flight home which is over $200 cheaper if I book it now compared to in a months time. 

Also had a quite day so I could call home for christmas. Family normally does something for Christmas Eve (polish tradition) so they were all getting together. Luckily didnt have to wait until it was to late in the day since Adelaide is 3.5hrs ahead. Chatted with people for a while but had a bad (slow) connection which made things hard. Also pretyy much got the same questions from everyone about when I was coming back.

Ended the day walking around the lakeside food stalls where I grabbed something to eat. Also started thinking about whether I wanted another quite (christmas) day or whether I would be better off heading back and chopping the return journey to Chiang Mai up.

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