The main reason for me coming to Thailand was to help the lovely Julie and Marcus to run their Ultra Running events; they have a Beauty which is 50k and a beast which is 100k. See their website, www.thailandultramarathon.com
I came earlier so that I could spend some time in Bangkok doing my own thing. Kate one of the girls also helping out at Cavelodge was flying in after me and we had arranged to meet on the 18th October and get the bus together up to Cavelodge which is no mean feat!
So we met up about 10 am, checked out of our hotels and made our way to the official tourist board office because they give you information on the buses and trains and all transport to various parts of Thailand which is part of the official transport system.
They have a very organised public transport system which is very cheap to travel on, if you use tourist buses etc. you will always pay more, a lot more. So we caught the number 3 bus from outside the hotel to the main bus terminal in Bangkok which was the other side of the city and took us over an hour to get there. We paid 11Baht which is about 20pence, we could have caught the 7 baht bus but this one came first.
While we were on the bus we got talking to a lovely guy who worked in the airport and spoke pretty good English, although Kate is very good at speaking Thai so there was a bit of both languages being spoken, the man loved to sing and his favourites were Elvis and Cliff Richard which we sang together, him with a prefect American accent, especially when singing the Elvis songs.
When we got to the terminal we decided to opt for the night bus to Chiang Mai which takes 12 hours and is supposed to be comfortable enough to sleep on, this cost about 500 baht which is about £12, it’s so cheap to travel here, it would only have cost us about £25 to fly there but Kate wanted to go by bus and I was keen to experience the night bus.
The bus terminal is absolutely huge as you can imagine in a city as big as Bangkok and you can get a bus to anywhere from Chiang Mai in the North to Phuket in the South. We put our backpacks in the baggage lockers and went for some food while we waited for our night bus at 9pm ish. I opted for the herbal soup with pork balsa and rice noodles, it was delicious then after I had coconut ice cream with lots of different things sprinkled on the top, not sure what they were but they tasted fine. We spent most of the day chatting and swapping traveling stories, not having met before we had a lot to talk about to each other. Kate is about 20 years younger than me but we hit it off and made plans for when we arrived in Chiang Mai.
Kate has lived at Cavelodge for a year previously, she came to help Julie and Marcus in 2014 and John the Australian guy who runs Cavelodge with his wife Nang offered her a job for a year so she went home sorted it out with her parents and came back to spend a year there, which she absolutely loved, she was so excited to be going back to see everyone again.
We caught our night bus, on which we had booked the front seats upstairs which gave us a lot more legroom. The hostess came round with snacks and blankets and we set off on our epic journey, I didn’t sleep much, it wasn’t too bad a trip but I just can’t sleep well on buses.
We arrived in Chiang Mai about 7am, went for breakfast then booked our ticket to Soppong which is the town we needed to get the nearest to Cavelodge. This we booked on a mini bus and it took about 5 hours on very windy roads, when we got to Soppong mid-afternoon, John who runs Cavelodge came to pick us up to take us the final 10 km to the actual lodge which is in the middle of the jungle in the North of Thailand near all the hill tribe people.
I loved it immediately on arrival, the structure is very higgledy piggledy having been added to many times over the years, it’s made completely from teak wood on stilts in a sloping part of the jungle leading down to the river, the roof is made from particular leaves which have to be collected when they fall from the tree and used at exactly the right time to prevent them becoming brittle, these leaves are woven into the bamboo roof sticks.
It reminded me of a treehouse I had seen in an article on alternative living, even though it wasn’t quite a treehouse it looked and felt like one, we had a very warm greeting and Kate introduced me to everyone who runs Cavelodge and then we met Julie and Marcus and got to work on the way markers for the race and enjoyed catching up after last seeing them in June.