Permission To Join The Adrenaline Club

Today we finally roused ourselves from our cultural inertia long enough to decide that since we only had a few days left in Chiang Mai, we should probably Do Something. And I don’t know about you, but when I think about Doing Something, I usually think about going for an elephant ride. And then trekking barefoot through the jungle. And then white-water rafting. And then visiting several obscure hill tribes, who obviously aren’t that obscure, because even though they live in mud huts, they still have cable television—they do! I saw it!—and probably know exactly who Dr. McDreamy is and why Meredith should choose him over that scruffy vet. (Does she? Do we know yet? Can someone tell me?)

So today we did all of those things in one day. And we did all of them in the rain. And what do you mean if we wanted to Do Something, we could have just gone to a nice warm, dry, safe museum?

elephant riding

Here is something you probably don’t know about an elephant ride: it’s fun for, ooh, all of six minutes, and then the novelty wears off, and suddenly you’re on the bumpiest, most uncomfortable, nausea-inducing bus ride you’ve ever been on, except you’re doing it twelve feet off the ground. While holding an umbrella. And hanging onto the backpack of an incredibly tall Frenchman to prevent him from being thrown off the elephant, because there weren’t enough elephants to go around and so the guide deemed it neccessary to have the incredibly tall Frenchman SIT ON THE ELEPHANT’S NECK, where his long French legs got slapped every two seconds by the poor elephant’s enormous mud-covered ears. Sean and I, as luck would have it, were strapped into this seat-like contraption on top, with a very sturdy wooden bar to hold as the elephant lurched shakily—one impossibly gargantuan foot at a time—through a foot of mud set at a 45 degree angle. Downhill. For half an hour.

And then came the trekking. Oh, did you wonder why I said I was trekking barefoot? Did you, really? Well, ask yourself this: do I seem like the kind of girl who might own a pair of trekking shoes? Or, really, the kind of girl who might be willing to be seen in them in public? (No and no. True, I did buy a pair of insanely ugly sneakers for $6 when I had to climb the Great Wall of China, but I left them with an old Chinese woman when I was finished. She laughed. I think it was with me, not at me, but they were puke-brown with chartreuse laces, so who knows.)

After about three seconds of trekking mid-monsoon, I realized that my pink flipflops weren’t going to cut it, and so I took them off (MOTHER, I SWEAR, THE GUIDE TOLD ME IT WAS SAFER THIS WAY.) This was sort of like being at an expensive spa and getting some kind of mud massage, except there were fat, translucent, eight-inch caterpillars which needed to be avoided (”Touch! Feel like alien!” cried our guide, gleefully) and also I fell on my ass a couple of times while the tall Frenchman just laughed and laughed beacuse he, of course, had worn Sensible Shoes, and I thought whatever, buddy, you almost fell OFF THE NECK OF AN ELEPHANT, and I kind of wished that maybe I hadn’t held him on there as tightly as I did. It was also kind of like snowboarding—at least it was like snowboarding the way I snowboard, which is actually more like sliding—but without the snowboard. I just sort of skated down rivers of mud. Grabbing onto things. And screaming.

(Ask yourself this though: who do you think is more hardcore? A person who treks through the northern Thai jungle in poncy hiking boots, or a person who treks through the northern Thai jungle BAREFOOT?)


The best part of the day was undoubtedly the white-water rafting. Have you ever been white-water rafting? Picture the best time you ever had on a flume ride at a water park and multiply that by sixteen thousand. No, actually, picture the best time you ever had anywhere, period, and multiply that by sixteen thousand. The only downside was the fact that I stepped (barefoot) in elephant poop right beforehand, and elephant poop is about seven times as big as a normal poop, SO YOU THINK I’D BE ABLE TO SEE IT.

So yes, it was a good day, our last in Chiang Mai, but a good day anyway. And, you know, I think I may actually be able to turn 30 four years early now, since in the space of one afternoon I have crossed off two things—elephant riding and white-water rafting—from the list of things I want to do by then, the kind of list you make when you’ve either been reading too many Cosmos or drinking too many. If tomorrow I could just publish a novel, make out with Jared Leto, and fit in a spot of bungee jumping before we head to Burma, I think I could probably die happy.

UPDATED TO ADD: I have no idea where the comments on this post have gone --- there were 18 the last time I checked, and they seem to have just vanished into the abyss of the Internet at some point. Please feel free to re-post what you wrote last time. I'll laugh at it again just as much as I did the first time. (Or, you know, cry. Or frown. Or want to stroke your hair. Whatever my reaction was the first time.)

Oct 05, 2006

Ya know, that ain't right. They have cable television in the mud huts of some remote village and we don't in the civilized mountains of SW Virginia. On top of that we have no elephants to ride.

Oct 05, 2006

i have flipflops exactly like those!

Oct 05, 2006

oh holly! i wish i could afford to fund you and sean's travels around the world just so that i could read everything you write about them. i love your stories.

Oct 05, 2006

Trekking barefoot has to earn you more traveller points than wearing boring ol' sensible shoes. And now I'll be here waiting for you to come and stroke my hair.

Oct 09, 2006

Sweet Cracker Sandwich! How tall is that freaking Frenchman!!!

Oh, and if it makes you feel any better. I've stepped in elephant poop barefoot before too. Mine was wild and tree-fed, so I more or less stubbed my toe on it and felt like a moron. Who knows what those alien caterpillar eating elephants are pooping...vileness.

Oct 12, 2006

I don't remember my previous comment. But I think it might have been something about wondering whether the substance covering your feet was at all related to the elephant poop you stepped in.