Jenn and I arrived in Chiang Mai early on the morning of Saturday, May 26th after an 8-hour overnight bus ride from Lomsak. Lomsak is the closest town to Lomkaophittayakhom with a bus station.
From the bus station, we took a Song Tao to our hostel. Song Taos are trucks that have been converted into taxi-like buses. A cover is placed over the bed of the truck, benches are installed, and enough space is created that many people can share the cost of the transportation. These red trucks can be found everywhere in Chiang Mai, and it’s very easy to bargain with the drivers. We stayed at a hostel called Slumber Party that felt like a 5-star hotel compared to the Banana Cabana, mostly thanks to an indoor shower with a gorgeous view.
We arrived at our hostel exhausted after a mostly sleepless night and were still unable to check in to our room, so we decided to indulge in some pampering. It was a wonderful idea if I do say so myself. We visited the nearest salon to our hostel (less than a minute walk) and I had the BEST massage I’ve ever had from a man named Dome. It was a Thai massage – quite different than traditional massages you most are probably familiar with. Thai massage works your entire body. The therapist uses every part of his or her body—hands, knees, legs, and feet—to not only stretch you but also apply pressure on your muscles and loosen your joints.
Those of you who know me know that I have a lot of spinal injuries that cause constant tension throughout all the muscles in my back. When I try to get a massage in the States, it is rare that I find a masseuse who is willing to apply the amount of pressure I need. Dome did not hold back one bit – I got a wonderful pedicure, a deep (DEEP) tissue massage, and a hot cup of tea.
After our pampering sesh, we walked about ten feet before finding a cute little Thai cafe. When I say cafe… picture a nice Thai lady with a small menu sign in a garage-like room that could be featured on TLC’s Hoarding show with a few small dining tables in the center. Piles and piles of things sat next to fish tanks that desperately needed a clean. The “kitchen” was the front corner of the garage, boxed in by a fridge, and such a tight space that only she could stand there at one time. Surrounded by bottles of oil, ingredients strewn about and pans for stir frying. You’re probably turning up your nose reading that sentence, but I promise you, she cooked us some of the best food I have eaten yet in Thailand. We ate her food every day that we were in Chiang Mai.
When we came back to the hostel, they told us that they were about to take a Song Tao of people to Sticky Waterfall – a convenient offer for a fun adventure on a day that we had yet to plan anything. “Let’s do it!”
On the Song Tao, Jenn and I met Jesse, Tim, Eric and Ashley. We got along great with Ashley and Jesse and ended up seeing them both again. It was a fun group of people to spend the day with which made the long drive seem much less long. We jammed to music on a speaker and took turns standing on the back of the Song Tao, enjoying the sights and the wind through our hair.
When we first arrived at Sticky Waterfall, which is technically named Buatong Waterfall and Jedsee Fountain National Park, we hiked downhill to a spring. The spring is said to contain holy water. Young monks were collecting the water for use in the temple. Tim, who had been to the waterfall a few times before, said that if we pour the holy water over our heads, we are supposed to have good luck for years to come. In the afternoon heat, this was another offer that would have been difficult to turn down.
Back at the top of the hill, overlooking the waterfall, the sights were breathtaking. Though much of the actual waterfall was hidden in the surrounding foliage, all you could see for miles was rolling green hills. Earlier I mentioned that hearing the elephants trumpet sounded like dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, but this wasn’t the only thing reminding me of Jurassic Park. Much of Chiang Mai looked like these movies had been filmed there. Overlooking hills and hills of lush jungle, families were enjoying picnics at the top of the waterfall on this beautiful blue day.
We hiked to the side of the waterfall down to the base of the falls for a swim. When the path ended, we discovered why they call the falls Sticky Waterfall. The rocks making up this geological wonder look like mounds of dried mud – solid, light brown rock that is naturally sticky. Of course, wet rock is normally very slippery. This rock had so much grip that you might have thought you were walking on grippy sand paper. The only time the rock was slippery was if moss had grown over it.
Once the path ended, we continued the rest of the way down on the sticky rocks to the base of the waterfall for a refreshing swim. We climbed on the trees surrounding the falls and jumped into the pools of water. We climbed onto the rocks for breathtaking views of the surrounding jungle. We stood under pouring water, soaking in the safe haven from the Thai heat.
It was leaving the pools that we really experienced the reason why Sticky Waterfall is so famous. To get back to the top, we did not use the hiking path we used to come down – we climbed up the waterfall. When we first arrived, we saw some people doing this and I remember saying to Jenn, “Are they crazy?” but as soon as we started climbing up, I realized just how easy it was. The grippy surface of the rock made the climb seem even easier than a regular, dry climb – I felt like a frog!
In the areas where the rock was covered in algae, ropes hang to help you avoid slipping. Most of the way up, this was not a problem. When we were close to the top, the last twenty feet or so of the climb got very steep and was the most slippy section yet. Though ropes hung, it was still very challenging.
Jenn was in front of me. When I looked up, she had suddenly stopped climbing. I assumed she was taking a rest since she looked calm, but when I approached her, she nonchalantly said, “I dislocated my shoulder.” She said it in such a monotone voice that I laughed, thinking she was exaggerating, but when she turned her other shoulder toward me for me to have a look, I stopped laughing. Her shoulder had completely come out of its socket, in a downward motion. This had never happened to Jenn before, so she had no experience with popping it back in. I could tell she was scared and that she was trying not to make a big deal out of it to calm herself down.
Ashley, Tim and Jesse caught up to us to see what was going on. We were standing on a ledge of rock brainstorming what to do. No one in our group had experience with dislocated shoulders. Jenn and I realized that while we are both CPR certified, we never covered this in our training. Jesse and Ashley took our things and climbed to the top to find help. Tim started to tell us that if we could not find help, Jenn would have to make the rest of the climb one-handed. We both knew that was impossible, but it wasn’t until later that I realized just how impossible that was – I almost slipped three times making that steep climb, and I was holding the rope with two hands.
Luckily, a nice man who was climbing behind us offered to help. When Jesse came back and told us there was no one who could come down to pop her shoulder back in, this man helped push Jenn all the way up. She held on to the rope with one hand and he supported her one step at a time. Without his help, I really don’t know how we would have gotten her to the top. I did not show it at the time, in an effort to keep her calm, but I was scared.
Jenn was so brave when we got to the top. Jesse researched how she needed to pop her shoulder back in and guided her through the whole thing while I held her hand. She laid down and slowly reached her arm above her head – all the way until her hand touched her other shoulder. Her shoulder popped back in without too much pain – we were very lucky. When we got back to Lomkao, Jenn had her shoulder X-rayed at the hospital to double check and fortunately she does not have any serious injuries. Because she is still experiencing pain and soreness, and to prevent a second dislocation, she will be wearing a sling for a few weeks.
After this ordeal, we were all ready to eat. We crossed the street and got some delicious vegetarian Thai food, and the day only got better from there. At the restaurant were two tiny puppies that the restaurant owners let us play with throughout our entire meal. They were so tiny and adorable – I could hardly contain myself. The cook also made me a fresh watermelon smoothie… my favorite!!!
As we drove back to Chiang Mai, the sun was setting and I stood on the back of the Song Tao almost the whole ride. The view was gorgeous, the wind dried me off. Our first day in Chiang Mai was an eventful, gorgeous adventure.
Later, in Chiang Mai, we found two of my favorite things: a vegan restaurant and a secondhand book store. I fully enjoyed both and was able to purchase some books I had been wanting to find. Though I have already read both, I purchased The Alchemist and Brave New World. I read these books in high school – I remember loving The Alchemist and hating Brave New World. I have grown into such a different person now that I am equally curious about the new perspectives I will bring to both books. I also found a book called Nature, Man and Woman by Alan Watts, a philosopher that I have recently developed an interest in.
Interestingly, our trip to Chiang Mai ended with the full moon in Sagittarius on May 29th. Jenn sent me an article that says the full moon in Sagittarius is related to the restless nature that comes with searching for truth. The article quotes T.S. Eliot –
“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
This quote practically describes the meaning of The Alchemist in two sentences. And I just happened to come across this book – that I had been looking for and talking about for weeks already – only two days before the full moon. Coincidence?
One of the best parts of this weekend also seemed like a coincidence, though you already know I don’t believe in those. Jenn really wants to get a Sak Yant tattoo – these tattoos are bamboo tattoos traditionally given by Buddhist monks and are said to contain a prayer specific to your life journey and path to enlightenment. Jenn read that Chiang Mai has a lot of Sak Yant tattoo opportunities, so this was one of the things she wanted to do while in Chiang Mai this weekend. Unfortunately, due to a series of misunderstandings, Jenn’s Sak Yant did not work out. We will be here for a year, so she is hopeful that she will be able to get one another time.
It is customary that when you get a Sak Yant from a monk, you present the monk with an offering – sometimes people give money or articles of devotion, or both. While at Doi Suthep, Jenn purchased a beautiful lotus flower to give the monk who was going to do her Sak Yant. Ashley was considering getting a Sak Yant as well, so she prepared some incense as her offering. When the Sak Yant tattoo did not work out, Jenn and Ashley did not know what to do with these gifts.
Remember that amazing Thai cook I told you about, with the hoarding problem? We ate at her “cafe” every day we were in Chiang Mai, sometimes twice a day, and we did not see her smile once. Her husband seemed to sit around every day while she did all the work.
The last night we were in Chiang Mai, we brought the lotus flower and the incense to Amazing Thai Cook Lady and she smiled. She smiled!!!! She spoke no English, so all we could do is say “Thank you” and “Your food is delicious!” We all think that the lotus flower and incense were actually meant for her and we simply did not know it yet.
We later found out that a common practice for Visakha Bucha Day (this holiday was the next day) is random acts of kindness – going out of your way to make others happy. What incredible timing. Amazing Thai Cook Lady probably thought we were giving her gifts for Visakha Bucha Day. Whatever the reason, she smiled, and her smile was her gift to us in return.